Europe

The French Prime Minister presents her government program before a divided Assembly

Elisabeth Borne presented her general policy speech before the National Assembly. The prime minister, for whom “disorder and instability are not options,” called on the opposition groups to build “compromises” in the chamber. The left-wing coalition Nupes presented a motion of censure against the Executive; Borne ruled out submitting to the vote of no confidence.

Two and a half months after the re-election of Emmanuel Macron, Elisabeth Borne lived this Wednesday, July 6, her baptism of fire in front of Parliament. First in the National Assembly, then in the Senate, where she began her speech on general policy, but without asking for the confidence that the opposition already denies her.

Facing the deputies, the prime minister called for finding “compromises” and “building together” solutions to the challenges of energy prices or the climate, adding that “disorder and instability are not options.”

Elisabeth Borne assured that she wants to make a consultation for each law. “We will approach each text with a spirit of dialogue, commitment and openness”, she said and promised to be a “tireless builder”, while she called for the creation of “project majorities” to avoid political stagnation in the country.

During the speech, the head of the Executive also outlined various political perspectives for the new legislature.

Plenary of the Assembly listening to the speech of the prime minister in her first speech before Parliament.
Plenary of the Assembly listening to the speech of the prime minister in her first speech before Parliament. © EFE/EPA/Mohammed Badra

“‘Full employment’ within reach”

Elisabeth Borne considered that “full employment” requires a simplification of the “too complex” support for the unemployed through a “transformation” of work incentive programs in the country.

“Today full employment is within our reach. And work continues to be a great emancipation lever for me,” he said, although he did not set a date or a precise figure for this goal. “Full employment” in France is generally considered to be an unemployment rate of around 5%.

“During the previous five years we have already reached the halfway point towards full employment,” he said. At 7.3%, the unemployment rate is “the lowest in 15 years,” according to her, as a result of reforms in unemployment insurance, investment in training for job seekers and the plan “a young man, a solution”.

To achieve full employment, “we must bring back into employment those who are furthest from the labor market,” he said. But the organization of support for the unemployed is today “too complex” and “its effectiveness suffers”.

The pension reform

The prime minister warned that the French will have to “gradually work a little more.”

“Our country needs a reform of its pension system”, a reform that “will not be uniform”, that “will have to take into account long careers and hard work” and “ensure the employment continuity of the elderly”, he said, specifying that this reform would be carried out “in consultation with the social partners, involving parliamentarians to the greatest extent possible”.

According to Borne, the reform “is fundamental”, in particular “to build new social advances” for the country’s prosperity and the sustainability of the economy.

The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, wants the retirement age to be postponed to 64, or even 65, for four more months a year from 2023.

Participate in an “ecological revolution”

In addition, Elisabeth Borne affirmed her desire to initiate “an ecological revolution”, which, according to her, does not go through degrowth, with the particular launch of a consultation starting in September with a view to an energy-climate orientation law.

He promised “radical responses to the ecological emergency,” whether “in our way of producing, living, moving or consuming.”

“As of September we will launch a broad consultation with a view to an energy-climate orientation law,” he added, promising to define “sector by sector, territory by territory,” “emissions reduction objectives, steps and adequate means,” he said.

Renationalise the energy group EDF

The State intends to renationalize 100% of the energy company EDF, as announced by Borne in his statement.

“I confirm to you today the State’s intention to own 100% of EDF’s capital. This change will allow EDF to strengthen its capacity to carry out ambitious and essential projects for our energy future as soon as possible,” he declared before the National Assembly.

The state now owns almost 84% of the company, with 1% owned by employees and 15% by institutional and individual shareholders. Already heavily indebted, the group faces heavy financial burdens and is also being challenged by the government to launch a new nuclear reactor programme.

“The energy transition goes through nuclear (energy),” said the prime minister, returning to the position adopted this winter by President Emmanuel Macron.

EDF shares rallied on the Paris Stock Exchange on Wednesday after this announcement. Before the speech, the price had dropped considerably, by 5%.

No option to vote of confidence

Unlike most of her predecessors, the prime minister did not ask to submit to a vote of confidence. The latter, in accordance with article 50-1 of the Constitution, is not mandatory. On both the right and the left, seven prime ministers out of 27 since 1959 have not asked for it.

Elisabeth Borne above all “has no choice”, according to the political scientist Bruno Cautrès, because she would run two risks with a vote: that of “falling”, given that the Government only has a relative majority in the Assembly, or that of gaining confidence through of the abstention of the National Association, Marine Le Pen’s party.

However, “it would be very badly perceived by the public to have a vote of confidence, even with the National Group abstaining,” says a government source. In addition, several deputies were appointed ministers on Monday, and their substitutes will only sit in the Assembly in a month, depriving the presidential field of as many votes.

The four left-wing groups in the National Assembly presented their motion of censure on Wednesday as a sign of “mistrust” towards the government, just before the declaration of general policy.

*Article adapted from its original in French

with AFP

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