‘Gauls, resistant to change’: Macron in hot water for ‘mocking’ the French

French president Emmanuel Macron's sense of humour and frank talking has once again caused uproar after he poked fun at his compatriots describing them as "Gauls who are resistant to change".

'Gauls, resistant to change': Macron in hot water for 'mocking' the French
Macron pokes fun at the French again. Photo: AFP

The French president was speaking during a trip to Denmark this week when he spoke of his admiration of the Danish economic model which combines both     flexibility and security (flexisécurité) when it came to jobs – in other words mixes a strong social security system with rules allowing companies to easily fire workers.

Speaking to French expatriats Macron went on to speak about the differences in the French and Danish cultures, which he believes have prevented France from following a similar model to Denmark.

“Let's not be naive,” said Macron. “What's possible is linked to a culture, a people who are the product of their history.

“These Lutheran (protestant) people (Danish) who have experienced transformations in recent years are not exactly the Gauls, who are resistant to change (Gaulois refractaires au changement),” said Macron, using a term for the ancient tribes that roamed France more than 2000 years ago.

Opposition politicians lined up to blast Macron for showing “contempt” towards the French people.

“The 'Gauls' will be happy to respond to his arrogance and contempt”, said Marine Le Pen.

Former minister for the right wing Republicains party Eric Woerth said Macron should not “complain”about his people.

Other politicians accused him of “humiliating” and “mocking” the French public.

It's not the first time Macron has had a dig at the French during a trip abroad for their apparent resistance to change. 

Last year on a trip to Romania he said the French “hated reforms”.

And then last September on a trip to Greece he said: “France is not a country which is open to reforms.”

“France does not reform … because we rebel, we resist, we circumvent. This is what we are like,” he told expatriates at a French archaeology school in Athens.
But the president hit back on Thursday, while in Finland where he is on the second leg of his Scandinavian trip.
He defended his latest rebuke of the French people's reluctance to accept reforms.
“You need to step back from the controversy and social media,” Macron told reporters, describing his remarks as “a light-hearted moment”.
“I love France and the French people, make no mistake. I love it in all of its components.”
“It's not showing contempt to say the truth,” said Macron. 
“I have always said it. I think we are a country, and I'm the first, that doesn't like change or to make permanent adjustments, but we are a country that in the most serious moments throughout history knows how to transform itself.
“Others say 'France is a difficult country to reform'. It's true. It's a country that doesn't reform.”
The 40-year-old came to power last May vowing to overhaul France and “pull the country into the 21st century”.
Macron quickly pushed through measures that his predecessors at the Elysée promised but failed to deliver, including controversial labour reforms that introduced greater flexibility to the jobs market by making it easier for employers to lay off staff.
However the reforms have hardly brought fundamental change to France's economic model.




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‘The people around me don’t seem to really care’: The French defying Macron

More than 800,000 people took to the streets across France on Thursday on the first day of a nationwide strike over President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms.

'The people around me don't seem to really care': The French defying Macron

Whether a postman, maths teacher, physiotherapist or firefighter, all said they were not just demonstrating over the shake-up of the pensions system but for better working conditions generally.

Better pensions

Claire, a 32-year-old firefighter from the southern Alpes-Maritimes region: “I'm demonstrating today to demand that our profession be recognised as hazardous, which would give us the right to better pensions.

“We also want more staff as our numbers are constantly falling.

As doctors become more scarce in the countryside, making it increasingly difficult to get an emergency call out, we're the ones people turn to.

“But when we come to the rescue, in 80 percent of cases it's something that we cannot resolve. So we send people to hospital, which clogs up emergency rooms.”

France's pension system: How it works and what does Macron want to change?

Against 'the whole system' 

Romain Rozat, 37-year-old maths teacher in a Paris high school: “The pension reform is just the spark that sent us into the street.

We're protesting against an entire system, including a reform of school curriculum last year which did not go down well. It's a disaster for students.

“The continuous assessment that was put in place makes it harder for students to get into college. There's not much we can do as teachers as schools' budgets for teaching hours are being cut.”

Police in Paris fear more violence at 'yellow vest' marches on Saturday

Public service pride 

Serge Wattelet, a 59-year-old postman in the western Paris suburb of Sartrouville: “I'm demonstrating against the pension reforms but not only. Our profession has been turned upside down. I was happy and proud when I joined the postal service in 1982 but it's less and less a source of pride nowadays.

“These days, we no longer provide a proper public service. A lot of postal workers are on short-term contracts, which has an impact on the quality of service.

“In the past, we used to prepare the mail and deliver it. Today, the tasks are divided up and mechanised. It's feels as if our profession is being taken away from us.”

Doing the 'dirty' work

Wahid Chouchane, a 29-year-old employee of state electricity grid operator Enedis: “When I signed my contract I was supposed to retire at 55. Now it's 62. But in our job, whether there's hail, wind or snow, we go out into the mud, into the fields, to repair electricity lines. The only thing that stops us is lightning.

“In the place where I worked previously, three of my oldest colleagues died before reaching retirement age.

“That's why I'm demonstrating, to show that our job is difficult and wears you out. Those who govern us don't understand the value of work. They're not getting their hands dirty like us.”

For the right to protest

Harold Herrou, 25-year-old physiotherapist from the western city of Nantes, part of the “yellow vest” protest movement:

“I came in my FC Nantes football jersey because the police took my yellow vest last week when I was demonstrating in Paris.

“Today, I'm not only demonstrating over pensions but also for the firefighters, the nurses, for people sleeping in the street at a time of mass tax evasion.

“It's also for the right to protest and because the people around me don't seem to really care.”

Our forefathers fought

Georges Miath, a 56-year-old employee of Otis elevator company in Paris: “I'm marching to defend our living conditions, which are being undermined. Between staff cuts and shortages we're being asked to do more with less but without any extra pay. Meanwhile, the cost of living is going up.

“Our forefathers fought so that we could enjoy better living conditions.

“Blood was shed but now everything is falling apart. Out of respect for them, and to ensure a better future for our children, we have a duty to be here. If not, at what age will they retire at? 70? 75?”