New prime minister in France (Castex in place of Philippe) and change of pace for Macron. All the latest political news in France in the in-depth analysis by Enrico Martial
Gia at the beginning of the lockdown, on March 12, Macron had stated that a change would be necessary. Yesterday, 3 July, a stage was marked, with the resignation of Edouard Philippe and the appointment of Jean Castex as prime minister. The agenda has already been declined in several interventions, the last of which to the French regional press.
The sequence was inexorable: as if he had glimpsed the green result of the municipal elections on June 28, in the scheduled meeting on Monday with the 150 citizens drawn to participate in the Climate Convention, Macron collected 146 proposals for the environment and the economy. He then put on the agenda the preparatory meetings for the change of government, in particular with the presidents Gerard Larcher of the Senate, Richard Ferrand of the National Assembly and Patrick Bernasconi of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (EESC). While waiting for this passage, Macron nevertheless met in Meseberg near Berlin, on the afternoon of June 29, with Angela Merkel, then took a position on Libya, Russia and Turkey (France and therefore left the NATO “Sea Guardian” mission) and on Tuesday 30 June he went to Mauritania for the G5 Sahel.
In the change between Edouard Philippe and Jean Castex it is necessary to note at least two elements. First of all, the method: the reforms launched in 2017 were managed by Philippe with determination but also with some stubbornness, generating discontent, for example, on the limit of 80 km per hour or on the carbon tax. Macron had to respond to the problem of the gilets jaunes with instruments of participatory democracy and extensive consultation, as well as the government itself with internal security and police instruments. Castex, on the other hand, is known for being a great broker, capable of a steadfast hand at the same time. Philippe himself and even Julien Baraille, head of the opposition in the small municipality of Prades (6120 inhabitants) of which Castex and mayor since 2008, said so. The new prime minister seems more in tune with the instruments of participatory and deliberative democracy recently developed in France, such as the climate convention or the two referendums announced (one on the environment), or with a reinforced involvement of local and regional authorities. A renewed function of the Senate (which brings together mayors and local elected representatives) and of the Economic and Social Council (as a place for permanent consultation) as well as the dialoguing attitude of Castex show the desire to overcome the top-down model of the first phase of Macron’s presidency.
The second point is in effectiveness. Although the reforms are underway, for Macron it is still too slow. If we manage to involve more and generate fewer conflicts, progress will be concrete as on pension reform (remaining on the criterion of points with respect to the age limit) or on the basic reasons for internal security. On the “separatism” of some communities, such as the Islamic one, Macron gave addresses and produced speeches – the most recent in Mulhouse on 25 February – which however do not seem to give enough results. And security is one of the conditions necessary to face the autumn crisis and to implement the planned reforms.
Castex is a person known in the world, even if he is less so from a television point of view. Like many others, he has a technical-political career: in addition to having passed from ENA, the school of the French public elite, he was deputy secretary of the Elysée in 2011 at the time of Sarkozy, as Macron was with Hollande in 2012. He joined Xavier Bertrand when he was minister first of health and then of labor, and ultimately was in charge of phase 2, that is, the “deconfinement”. He has local political experience not only as the mayor of Prades but also as a councilor of the Pyrénées-Orientales department. Its slight southern accent reassures the active participation of local elected officials and proximity to citizens.
A new government will be formed in the next few days, in view of the program to be outlined for the French before mid-July, as said in the televised speech on June 14th. In line with the mechanisms of the presidential republic, the choice of ministers will be strongly influenced by Macron, who links them precisely to the things he announced to the economic and social crisis expected for the autumn, but also to consolidate and adapt the five-year term as president, which will end in 2022.
The points were taken up several times. They range from the recovery of European and French productive “sovereignty” – for entire industrial and service sectors – to the sustainability of the economic system (pensions and working hours), from the strengthening of the health system to the founding factors of internal security and stability. The European and international plan will also be relevant. Although traditionally led by the President of the Republic, it will require closer alignment on the part of the government – with no StopCovid apps going on their own with European partners or in the next Conference on the future of Europe, as well as on the theme of the “federalization” of costs for economic recovery.
Philippe exited Matignon to applause, with a consensus in the polls reaching 53%, compared to Macron’s 40%. On Sunday he will go to the first city council of Le Havre, where he was elected with a robust 58.8%. In the three years of government it has adopted specific measures – such as the one-euro school canteen for the children of the most fragile families – and other structural measures, such as on the labor code (five decrees of simplification and easing of obligations among a thousand discussions), on the sector railway, unemployment insurance, abolition of housing tax and local taxation. He managed the abandonment of the airport project in Notre-Dame-des-Landes (near Nantes but also the shipyards of Saint-Lazare) and the shutdown of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, right on the border with Germany.
The press has already glimpsed him as a reserve of the Republic or as a potential candidate for the next presidential elections, in any case with a role to be observed.
Meanwhile, to cool the enthusiasm, while a parliamentary investigation is already going on, on the Friday of the change of government, the judicial investigation on the management of Covid against him and the two successive health ministers, Agnes Buzyn, was confirmed and Olivier Veran, on the basis of nine complaints considered admissible out of the 53 examined, out of the total of 90 received so far.

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