© Reuters. French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference to answer questions from journalists after naming a new government, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, January 16, 2024. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
By Elizabeth Pineau and Benoit Van Overstraeten
PARIS (Reuters) -French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced a wide array of measures – from testing uniforms in schools to overhauling parental leave – in a bid to reinvigorate a second mandate marred by his unpopularity and contested reforms.
One week after appointing France’s youngest ever prime minister, Macron, whose margin of manoeuvre is constrained by a lack of absolute majority in parliament, urged the French to be united to make the country stronger.
“I’m convinced that we have all the assets we need to succeed, and that we will live better tomorrow than we do today,” he told a news conference.
Macron started out by spelling out measures concerning children including regulating their screen time, in a way he did not specify.
He said uniforms would be tested in about one hundred schools, adding that there would be more civic instruction classes and that all children in junior high school should have access to theater classes.
Parental leave, he said, would be less long than now, but better paid.
Macron also said he would ask his government to launch a new batch of liberal reforms to boost the economy, saying the country needed to be encouraged to ‘produce more’ and ‘innovate more’.
“France will be stronger if it wins back its financial independence”, he said.
Five months before European Parliament elections which opinion polls say the far right is set to win in France, Macron also promised to do more to help the middle class and access to social welfare.
“There is a blind spot in France, that of all our compatriots who earn too much to get help but not enough to live well,” he said.
The appointment last week of Gabriel Attal, 34, a rather popular and media-savvy rising star of French politics, already signaled a desire by Macron to move beyond the divisive pension and immigration reforms that triggered protests last year.