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23.04.2019 Europe

Macron to unveil long-awaited reforms in rare date with journalists

REUTERSChristophe Petit Tesson/Pool
LISTEN APR 23, 2019
REUTERSChristophe Petit Tesson/Pool

The stakes are high for French President Emmanuel Macron as he prepares to reveal his much-anticipated reforms agenda, which comes on the back of five months of Yellow Vest anger.

The French were supposed to learn how Macron intends to modernise France last week – a turning point that French media have dubbed “Act 2” of his presidency – but that plan was scuppered by the Notre-Dame cathedral fire.

Now he's set a new date with the nation on Thursday night – a press conference at 6pm local time – during which Macron is expected to announce tax breaks for the middle classes and the abolition of the ENA administration school for the French elite.

The measures are a response to more than five months of Yellow Vest street protests against perceived social inequality that have derailed Macron's presidency and seen his popularity rating fall to below 30 percent.

A key Yellow Vest complaint is the reduction in government services outside France's big towns and cities, but those protesting also say they pay too much tax.

Delays and leaks
Just hours before a pre-recorded address outlining Macron's reforms was due to be broadcast across the nation on 15 April, the fire broke out a Notre-Dame, forcing Macron to hurry to the scene.

Although his address to the nation the following day was focused on Notre-Dame, the reforms speech text was leaked to the media – revealing Macron's plans to finance tax cuts for the middle classes by cracking down on tax evasion.

He was also promising a 2020 review of his unpopular decision to cut a "fortune solidarity tax" on high earners.

The French news agency AFP has described the reform agenda as “important but not revolutionary”.

While the leak has been called embarrassing, some commentators in France say it also works to Macron's advantage by offering him insight into public reaction to the planned measures.

It's unclear if, on Thursday, Macron intends to rehash his original speech or start anew.

The speech will be Macron's first wide-ranging press conference with domestic media in France.