60 percent ‘unhappy’ with Macron as French protests grow

French President Emmanuel Macron listens to a woman in a market on April 18, 2018 as part of his three days tour of eastern France. (AFP)
Updated 18 April 2018

60 percent ‘unhappy’ with Macron as French protests grow

PARIS: Sixty percent of French voters are unhappy with President Emmanuel Macron, a survey said Wednesday, with strikes and protests growing as the ambitious young reformer prepares to mark a year in office.
Some 58 percent of people declared themselves dissatisfied with the 40-year-old, who has sparked anger among some groups by announcing reforms to everything from the courts and education system to the national rail operator.
The Ifop-Fiducial poll was broadly in line with other surveys showing an approval rate at around 40 percent almost a year after Macron swept to power last May at the head of a new centrist party.
A majority — 57 percent — agreed Macron was keeping his electoral promises after a campaign in which the political upstart pledged to slim down the state and make France more competitive.
“I’m doing what I said I would,” he told TF1 television during an interview last week, part of a media blitz to reconnect with voters and defend his reform agenda ahead of the anniversary.
The poll comes as Macron faces three months of rolling strikes on the railways over his plans to shake up heavily-indebted operator SNCF, scrapping early retirement and other benefits for new hires.
The latest in a series of mass public sector strikes over his cost-cutting plans is planned Thursday, while students at numerous universities around France are blocking faculty buildings over his higher education reforms.
On foreign policy, where Macron has pursued an energetic role, from the Middle East to climate diplomacy, the verdict was more positive than on domestic affairs.
Some 67 percent agreed that his passionate defense of the EU had been “positive” for relations with the bloc, while 63 percent said he had improved France’s image abroad.
And 56 percent said the pro-business president had boosted economic growth and France’s attractiveness as an investment destination, following a wave of positive economic data.
But only 27 percent said they support increased taxes for retirees, and just 18 percent said he was improving health care.
Just 30 percent agreed that Macron was “in touch with French people’s concerns,” following accusations from leftwingers that his tax cuts for the wealthy make him a “president of the rich.”
The survey for Paris Match magazine, Sud Radio and CNEWS television questioned 1,200 people online between April 12 and April 16.

EU leaders’ decision on Brexit delay unlikely this week: Juncker

Updated 20 March 2019

EU leaders’ decision on Brexit delay unlikely this week: Juncker

  • The delay, nearly three years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, leaves the Brexit divorce uncertain

BERLIN: European Union leaders are unlikely to agree at a summit this week on a delay to Britain’s departure, and will probably have to meet again next week, the head of the bloc’s executive branch said Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to ask Brussels for a delay to Brexit, currently scheduled for March 29, ahead of the EU summit starting Thursday. Details remain unclear, but May’s troubles deepened when the speaker of the House of Commons ruled earlier this week that she can’t keep asking lawmakers to vote on the same divorce deal they have already rejected twice.

Britain’s political chaos is causing increasing exasperation among EU leaders. Asked by Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio what May would need to secure a delay this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker replied that “she must bring approval of the negotiated deal and she must bring clear ideas on timing.”

“My impression is ... that this week at the European Council there will be no decision, but that we will probably have to meet again next week, because Mrs. May doesn’t have agreement to anything, either in her Cabinet or in Parliament,” Juncker added.

“As long as we don’t know what Britain could say yes to, we can’t reach a decision.”

A delay to Britain’s withdrawal would require the approval of all 27 remaining EU countries. Juncker said that “in all probability” Britain won’t leave on March 29, but underlined the EU’s insistence that it will not reopen the painstakingly negotiated withdrawal agreement that British lawmakers have snubbed.

“There will be no renegotiations, no new negotiations and no additional assurances on top of the additional assurances we have already given,” he said.

“We will keep talking to the British. We are not in a state of war with Britain, we are in a state of negotiations, but the negotiations are concluded.”