Marseille: What are the French city’s problems and what will Macron do about them?

Marseille: What are the French city's problems and what will Macron do about them?
Photo: Nicolas Tucat/AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron is to visit Marseille, where he is expected to unfold a multi-billion euro aid plan. Here's a guide to the problems that France's second largest city faces, and what the president intends to do about them. 

Marseille has been making headlines in the past few weeks after a series of shooting and attacks, mostly linked to drugs and criminal gangs – so far this year the city has counted 15 deaths linked to drug trafficking.

But on top of these problems, Marseille has long been facing serious issues such as failing public services, poor quality and dangerous housing and sub-standard public transport. 

Probably with one eye on next year’s elections, Macron is planning a three-day visit to the city this week where he is expected to unveil details of billions of euros in aid for the city.

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Three years after the collapse of two buildings which left eight people dead, the struggle against dangerous housing is progressing slowly in Marseille. Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP

Here’s a look at the main areas where improvement is needed.

Renovating 200 schools

Ceilings collapsing on pupils because of heavy rains, mould, clogged toilets, students freezing in the winter because of heater break-downs… For years, parents’ associations in Marseille have alerted local authorities to the decrepit state of the city’s public schools.  

Reports in Le Parisien suggest that the French state will give several hundred million euro to help renovate 200 of the 444 public schools in Marseille. 

This refurbishment also aims to address the inequalities students in Marseille are facing regarding education. “The young don’t have the same access to schooling. We can’t accept that in 2021”, a source told Le Parisien. 

Improving housing

Poor quality housing has long been an issue in Marseille, something brought into stark focus by the building collapse in 2018. Two people died and many more were injured when two city centre buildings in an advanced state of disrepair collapsed. 

According to BFMTV, the president will announce that decrepit buildings will be refurbished in the Northern part of Marseille, the city’s poorest districts, but also in the centre, with a further focus on creating new local housing. 

Extending public transport

Marseille, a city of 860,000 people, has just two metro lines which date back to the 1970s.

The contrast to the public transport network in Paris or the considerably smaller city of Lyon is stark, and it is expected that big investment will be announced for transport.

A new network should include added metro and tram lines as well as the development of extra bus routes and cycling lanes, according to Le Dauphiné

Crime

Regarding the problems of crime and insecurity, the French President is not expected to announce anything major, leaving this up to his Interior Minister.

Earlier this year Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced an extra 300 police officers for the city. However, Marseille mayor Benoît Payan, says this is far from enough, and has asked for 900 additional officers

A kite surfer in Marseille Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP

We should point out that it’s not all misery in Marseille – large parts of the city are thriving, particularly the recently renovated marina and Vieux Port areas and it remains a popular tourist destination thanks to its sunny climate, beautiful beaches and lively atmosphere.


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