Published On: Thu, Aug 22nd, 2019

France news: Macron ‘looking for trouble’ with ‘Act II’ of social reforms | World | News

Mr Collard, a senior member of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement national (RN) party, told BFM TV he got “the feeling that the President and his government are actively seeking out conflict” by pressing ahead with their radical reform plans. The underlying conditions that sparked the anti-government yellow vest “conflict” still exist, he continued, adding that the upcoming reforms would only serve to “exacerbate social divisions”. He warned “more conflicts will arise” as he added the Macron government was taking a “huge risk” by refusing to drop its reform plans.

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye acknowledged earlier on Wednesday that errors had been made in the handling of the yellow vest revolt, but said it was time to relaunch Mr Macron’s reform agenda with what she called an “Act II”.

Speaking shortly after their weekly cabinet meeting, she told reporters the President had “reaffirmed his determination to carry out the necessary reforms to deeply transform France”.

Mrs Ndiaye added Mr Macron has asked his ministers to do their utmost to “respond to citizens’ fears”.

The 41-year-old centrist also commented on his reform plans, telling a press conference in Paris later in the day that his government would not “lower its ambitions to transform the country, but rather do more to include citizens in the process”. 

Mr Macron wants to reduce unemployment benefits for high earners to encourage the jobless to get back to work more quickly and offer incentives to those who work beyond the normal retirement age of 62, two major planks of his renewed reform drive.

He has also pledged to simplify the unwieldy pensions system to make it fairer and allow in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) for lesbian couples and single women. 

But the pension and unemployment benefit systems and the new bioethics bill are explosive issues that may spark fresh anger, even if the yellow vest protests have all but fizzled out.

The citizen-led protests, named after the high-visibility jackets worn by demonstrators and that all French motorists must carry, began in mid-November as an expression of public anger against planned fuel tax hikes.

But the movement quickly morphed into a broader backlash against the Macron government, widely perceived as arrogant and indifferent to the struggles faced by ordinary citizens.

In June, Mr Macron said that the social crisis had erupted just as he was going through a “death valley” phase: when the first reforms had been rolled out but before they had had a chance to yield results or show their worth.

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