Macron’s focus on social solidarity, eco-friendliness and ramped up national industrial capacities is a departure from his traditional policies and the clearest sign yet of how he plans to reinvent his political program to regain public support. The coronavirus crisis forced him to suspend some of his most emblematic economic reforms and exposed France’s dependence on China, which weakened its initial response to the epidemic.
Early on in his presidency, he had urged more European sovereignty on issues like military capabilities and the rollout of next-generation 5G mobile networks which he qualified as strategic, but the push for national industrial capacities in the medical field started during the crisis and is now being expanded.
Macron on Sunday also advocated again for the European recovery fund as set out by a Franco-German initiative, saying it would be “an unprecedented step in our European adventure and the consolidation of an independent Europe that gives itself the ability to affirm its identity, its culture, its singularity in the face of China, of the U.S. and the global disorder we are seeing.”
Macron also promised to grant more powers to local authorities, without going as far as explicitly mentioning decentralization, in a country with a hyper-centralized governance.
And he tried several times to defend his track record in managing the crisis and persuade the French people that the country had handled it well, arguing the government had taken unprecedented economic measures that most other governments can’t afford, such as pumping €500 billion into the economy under various schemes.
“I want you tonight to measure this fully. In how many countries was all this done? That’s fortunate and it shows the strength of our state and our social model,” Macron said. “We can be proud of what was done, and of our country.”
Macron’s approval ratings have been steadily slipping after an initial bump at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with a majority of French people disapproving of the government’s handling of the crisis, and a widespread perception that Germany handled the situation better.
Macron is mulling a government reshuffle, among other options, and promised to flesh out his plans in another speech in July.