Macron’s approval ratings recently hit an all time low of 36 per cent in France. That’s a  drop of 13 per cent since his election. Is this because he is beginning to hit the right spots, getting on the nerves of people who thought he won’t touch them and actually doing what he promised he will do? Let´s have a look at that.

Tackling hidden European problems

The Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, recently  reported that Emmanuel Macron is pushing ahead with one of his campaign promises, which is to end the system of ‘posted workers’ in the EU. A “posted worker” is an employee who is sent by his/ her employer to carry out a service in another EU Member State on a temporary basis. Council Directive 96/71/EC defines a posted worker as a ‘person who, for a limited period of time, carries out his or her work in the territory of an EU Member State other than the State in which he or she normally works’.

In some cases, a posted worker can be people who are officially employed in a cheaper eastern member state for example, and thus receiving the local salary and benefits, but then posted to a richer western country, where native workers complain they are being undercut.

Macron is planning to visit the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania in the next few weeks where he plans to raise this issue. But he is not visiting Poland – the region’s biggest country and the largest supplier of posted workers in the EU (460,000 of them in 2016) – as well as Hungary, another perceived EU trouble-maker.

Should Macron succeed in bringing an end to the current posted-worker system, a large number of Polish companies providing such employees could go under and thus the taxes and social contribution paid by such workers in Poland will end. This could cost the Polish state a few hundred million zloty a month, Wyborcza estimates.

Last week, Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s finance minister, warned that Macron’s plans contradict the EU’s four freedoms, and hinted that if France tries to tackle this ‘social dumping’, Poland might have to do something about ‘corporate dumping’, whereby western companies operate in Eastern member states without paying their fair share of tax.

But I believe that this actually what Macron is trying to do which is to tackle both issues at once, because both of these issues are a big problem for EU states who are voicing their objections, but no one is really doing something against it. The EU is already on the way to tackle corporate tax avoiders like Apple and Google, but the problems resulting from different wages in the EU and the loop hole of a posted workforce are well known, yet so far, no one is really addressing them until now.

Marcon is also calling for a revival of of the French-German leadership machine of the EU and is believed to be pushing Angela Merkel to issue new statements regarding the Eunion establishing a common budget and appointing a finance minister – what I would call a little sensational.

French problems

He is also pushing through long needed reforms of workers rights and the labour market in France, which means that he will make no friends in the mighty French Unions, even though they know all very well that these reforms are necessary to compete on the international markets.

His new laws regarding the employment of family members of French politicians and officials brought him a petition signed by 300.000 people. The petition was asking to give no official position to First Lady, Brigitte Macron and to comply with these new laws, when all he intended was to clarify for once and for all, the position of a First Lady in France as it has been a messy and never officially declared post for a long times.

A lot of his nominated cabinet members have recently resigned because they wanted to avoid the touch of hypocrisy for Macron’s new Government as they have been accused of facilitating family members in employment themselves. It was an open secret that this was a usual practice as well, despite outrage from time to time, but no one really did something against it.

Macron is not afraid to touch the hot irons and to get some scars while he is doing what he promised during his campaign and it almost seems that he cares little about public image and much more about results. Reading through recent articles on him in several newspapers and online media describing that he is `under pressure`only made me smile.

Unlike many false promises uttered  by politicians, Macron is actually living up to the slogan, “en marche”.

Martina Brinkman
German businesswoman who studied political science, history and economy in Trier. Co Founder of Europa United.

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    1. I live in France, but see nothing changing, not even people moaning about Macron’s proposed changes. The reality is that whatever a government does has to reach the lowest level of governance, the commune. However, whilst mayoral powers are in decline, there are still places where mayoral power is more or less absolute, therefore change comes there and there alone when the sitting mayor and usually his, less often her, council rubber stamps what they want. The department has some influence but it is often tenuous, mainly because functionaries do not like to overrule each other and will seldom do so to elected officials. Thus on to the regions, but they are still not happy and settled in their new configurations so relationships with departments are fraught but do not penetrate as low as communes. The regions and central government, as too with the departments, are run by functionaries who do not like their cart tipped over, so they pass a few memos up and down, again not going down to the commune base because nobody wants to upset the population. So the government tends to huff and puff, make a lot of noise but often take much time going nowhere. Macron is stuck with that.
      People want change, better regulation of employment is opposed by the public sector and unions, they have a few allies like students, but not business, finance and where the support for a Macron type government is found. There is an endless ‘war’ between those working for the state and people who are not, most certainly among the many people like farmers and artisans who are badly paid, highly taxed and have miserable pensions to await, unlike functionaries. Thus the Macron plan has first to slice through liquid mud before the knife gets to anything solid. Whilst established politicians were too dirty to touch, Macron presented a possibility of a ‘clean’ regime. Indeed the resignations from cabinet posts do more to confirm that than show up the impossibility of the task.
      There is something of a hint of the euphoria after the election, then the hiatus before things happened when Blair was elected to his first term in the UK. It looks like the hiatus wormed its way into the summer break, now the new French parliamentary year is about to start, perhaps the electoral ‘honeymoon’ and now les vacances will have recharged REM and battle with the forces within and without will begin. The programme is too ambitious, the need to penetrate down to the not always democratic communal base is pressing but well beyond difficult. Now is the time to watch and also, because in EU terms this is important, with Merkel reelected and the UK floundering in its witless negotiations with Brussels, Macron could inject a lot of energy into pushing his country so far past the UK and closer to Germany that purse strings will be loosened and the ambitious French financial world will invest to win.
      On the other hand it could all turn into a total flop. I, for one, will watch with an open mind, after all ideologically I could never support Macron and REM but pragmatism says I hope they at least do reasonably well with Macron winning a second term and seeing the ‘dinosaurs’ of the political extremes into their doctrinal graves.

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