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Macron Urges French Parliament to Prepare for Change

Along the way he ranged widely, with morale-boosting praise for France’s cultural heritage, a plea for “humane and just” treatment of refugees, demands for a less technocratic European Union, and a semidisguised dig at the United States under President Trump when he warned against those “democracies, longtime allies, now menacing the established order.”

By the standards of American speechmaking, it was abstract. But Mr. Macron was making a point: French citizens were demanding change after years of stagnation, change was needed and he was the man to bring it about.

“It’s about nothing less than reweaving, between French citizens and the republic, the relationship that has dissolved under the mechanical exercise of power,” Mr. Macron said.

“A contractual relationship,” he added. “From efficiency, representativity and responsibility, I want the emergence of a contractual republic.”

“Our democracy can only be nourished in action, and in our ability to change what is everyday, and real,” he said. “It isn’t five years of adjustments and half-measures that we have in front of us,” Mr. Macron said. The French were “expecting a profound transformation.”

For a start, he proposed shrinking by a third the body that was listening to him, France’s plethoric Parliament of over 900 members. Then, he told the lawmakers that they had to legislate less.

“Let’s try to put an end to the proliferation of legislation,” he said — which was not consistent with the rapidly changing economy and society that confronts France.

That plea was consistent with the disdain Mr. Macron has shown from the beginning for the world of conventional French politics.

He stunned the traditional parties on the right and the left, and he is now buoyed by the election last month of a big majority from his own political movement.

“The French people have shown their impatience with a political world made up of sterile quarrels and hollow ambitions in which we have lived up until now,” he said on Monday.

Polls show the French are now more optimistic than they have been in some years. Mr. Macron aimed to encourage this optimism about the future on Monday.

He called for France to become “the center of a new humanist project for the world,” telling citizens to beware “the cynicism that lies dormant in all of us.”

He added, “And it is within each one of us that we must shut it up, day after day.”

He got in a dig at the French news media, which he has largely shunned since his election, calling for “an end to these manhunts,” the “incessant search for scandal” and a “frenzy that is unworthy of us” — and that has already cost him several ministers, tainted by potential financial misdeeds.

However, Mr. Macron himself largely benefited from the most notorious such “manhunt” this year. He would probably not have been elected but for revelations in the news media about an embezzlement scandal touching his leading rival, the center-right politician François Fillon.

The Versailles speech was boycotted by members of Parliament on the far left, already taking up arms against Mr. Macron over his plans to overhaul France’s labor codes, and already casting the new president as the destroyer of the nation’s social protections. He touched only briefly on his labor overhaul plans on Monday.

But unusually for a French politician, he warned against the encroachments of the welfare state on the citizens’ sense of personal responsibility.

Mr. Macron has been criticized — most recently over the weekend — for slighting references to the less fortunate in French society, and to those who are not economically successful. That criticism did not appear to faze him in Monday’s speech.

“Protecting the weakest” should not make of them “permanent wards of the state,” he said.

“Certainly, we’ve got to recognize the essential role of public service, and of our civil servants,” he said. “But protecting the weakest doesn’t mean transforming them into helpless minors,” he said. “Every French person has a responsibility and a role to play in the conquests to come.”

Source: NYT > World

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