Macron seeks to revive presidency with plans for schools, parents and healthcare

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Macron seeks to revive presidency with plans for schools, parents and healthcare
France's President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference to present the course for France's newly appointed government at The Elysee Palace in Paris on January 16, 2024. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron held a mammoth press conference on Tuesday evening in which he announced a pilot scheme for uniforms in French schools, a new form of parental leave, a national strategy to tackle infertility, tax cuts and more.


Macron held the press conference at the Elysée Palace with around 200 journalists for more than two and a half hours.

He tackled everything from education to immigration, healthcare, the president's new government and the response to the riots that rocked France last summer.

"I am convinced that we have the basis to succeed," said Macron, telling reporters gathered under the chandeliers of the presidential Palace "our children will live better tomorrow, than we live today".

Watched by his new cabinet team, Macron announced what he described as a "civic rearmament", saying that "every generation of French people must learn what the Republic means".

"France will be stronger... if we are more united, if we re-learn to share values, a common culture, respect in classroom, in the street, in public transport and in shops," he said.

Among the concrete measures announced were a school uniform trial at around 100 educational institutions with a view to making the measure compulsory nationwide if it is successful. Although the trial was initially announced last December.

"School uniforms - which erase inequality between families and at the same time create conditions for respect - will be tried out from this year in around 100 schools on a volunteer basis," he told journalists.


If the experiment shows positive results, compulsory school uniforms will be implemented nationwide in 2026, he told the news conference aimed at revitalising his second term in office.

Uniforms have never been compulsory in all state schools in mainland France. 

READ ALSO: Why is school uniform so controversial in France?

First Lady Brigitte Macron, a former drama teacher, has backed the introduction of school uniforms.

Macron said he would be in favour of ensuring all children learn the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise", from primary school.

The president said he hoped to make drama mandatory in school from next September "because it creates confidence, teaches public speaking and contact with great texts".

Entering even into the daily lives of families, he announced that he wanted to "regulate the use of screens among young children", although it was not immediately clear how this would be implemented.

Macron also promised order, by "better controlling our borders, by fighting against uncivilised behaviour with a doubling of the police presence in our streets, by fighting against drugs, by fighting against radical Islam."


With new figures showing France's birthrate has fallen to its lowest level since World War Two, Macron also announced a change to parental leave, which would see the creation of a new "birth leave" (congé de naissance).

The new form of leave would allow both parents to take time off for 6 months and it would be better paid than the current parental leave allowance, Macron said.

The president also announced the creation of a "national scheme to tackle infertility".

"France will be stronger with the revival of its birthrate," Macron said.

In other measures Macron confirmed €2 billion worth of tax cuts for the middles classes from 2025 that he had already promised last spring, the regularisation of foreign doctors to help with the shortage and more police operations to tackle drug dealing.

He also suggested the government would move towards introducing "generalised" universal national service for 15 and 16 year-olds, without giving more precise details and a desire for more labour market reforms aimed at achieving his aim of full employment for the country.

On international affairs Macron said France "must not let Russia win in Ukraine... because Europe's own security would be in doubt." He announced that France would deliver to Ukraine a new batch of some 40 SCALP long-range cruise missiles as well as hundreds of bombs.

The live press conference was the first time that Macron has answered questions since the appointment of his new prime minister on January 9th - Gabriel Attal, 34, became France's youngest-ever prime minister last week.



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