Delayed by Notre-Dame, Macron to answer protests next week

Photo: AP

French President Emmanuel Macron is to outline a reform plan drawn up in response to nationwide protests next week after the key policy action was delayed by the Notre-Dame fire, the presidency said Friday.
 
Macron will hold a press conference on Thursday at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) to make the announcements.
 
He had been scheduled to make an address last Monday but immediately cancelled its broadcast after the devastating fire erupted at Notre-Dame cathedral that caused significant damage to the Paris landmark.
 
It was to have set out his recipe for ending five months of often violent "yellow vest" protests that have rocked France.
 
It appears that Macron will now make the announcements at a press conference, with an initial speech followed by questions from journalists.
 
The format is extremely unusual for Macron, who has never until now held a formal press conference with journalists in France.
 
The young president, 41, swept to power on the back of hopes for major reform in France but then found the protests sucked the momentum out of his mandate. This is his key chance to regain the initiative.
 
In the wake of the protests, Macron embarked on a nationwide consultation with meetings across France to hear the concerns of ordinary French people.
 
The press conference will also likely mark the end of a political truce that has largely marked French politics since the national shock of the Notre-Dame fire.
 
'Everything can still be improved'

 
The plans, drawn up in the wake of the so called "Great National Debate", were leaked after the speech was shelved last Monday.
 
That never broadcast speech, whose text was seen by AFP, set out several measures aimed at tackling inequality - a key gripe of the "yellow vests" -- without a radical shift in policy.
 
In it, Macron vowed to lower taxes on the middle classes - a measure he said he would pay for by cracking down on tax evasion.
 
He also promised a review in 2020 of his highly unpopular decision to cut a "fortune solidarity tax" on high earners.
 
Another eye-catching measure was scrapping the elite ENA college in Paris for senior public servants of which he, like several former presidents, is a graduate.
 
However it is far from clear if the text and measures to be announced on Thursday will be identical to the speech that was shelved.
 
"Everything can still be improved or deepened," said a presidential official, asking not to be named.
 
The official said some key announcements - like cutting taxes and abolishing ENA - would not be changed. "But for other things, there is nothing to stop it being completed or added to."

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