Prime Minister outlines French reforms agenda
The world is changing. And it is not waiting for us. So France must keep pace with this new trend. Our country is facing up to the difficulties – first of all unemployment, which is especially hitting young people and those in the latter stages of their career. Too many of our fellow citizens are having trouble coping, making ends meet. They are doubtful about their future and do not see how things can change.
So we must act and get France moving again. This is what reforming means. This is why we want to reform.
Reforming means changing. Changing not in order to give up what we are: our history, our values, our social model. But changing in order to move forward, to prepare tomorrow’s France and therefore our children’s future.
We have always acted in this way. Rarely without difficulty, but never unsuccessfully. France has always been the product of a identity that is constantly renewed and a modernity that is always embraced. The two go hand in hand. Never one without the other.
But in order to reform France, we must involve French people, explain to them what is being undertaken. To really believe in it, they need to see it clearly.
They want to be sure of the relevance and steadfastness of the direction taken, the fairness of the effort agreed on, the better life to hope for at the journey’s end. The direction is a stronger France. The condition is a fairer France. The better life at the journey’s end is the France of tomorrow.
This is the challenge of the reforms. It’s also the challenge of the reforms agenda which the French President and I have sought.
France has huge strengths: geographical, economic, scientific, technological, creative, cultural and above all human. They make France the fifth-largest power in the world. But in order to maintain its ranking, it must adapt to the new global order, enable its businesses to win and help them regain their lost margins, in order to invest and create employment. This is the whole purpose of the Responsibility and Solidarity Pact.
In an open economy, the good health of our businesses is crucial. The protection of our standard of living is at stake.
So everything must be done to ensure France creates more wealth and creates it better. This is why we must help businesses operate better abroad and attract even more foreign investors to our country. These are the two facets of attractiveness, which today is one of the most essential dimensions of global competition.
This stronger France is the one that takes the world head-on. It’s also the one that shows the ability to remove obstacles and brakes. The bill on economic growth and activity, which will be voted on in 2015, is the perfect example of a drive to free up creative energy, stimulate business and combat situations of unearned advantage.
We must also create a climate of trust between the two sides of industry. The countries that have experienced success are all those where employers and employees have shown the ability to agree on a shared project. So it is essential to make our social dialogue as good as possible. This is the hallmark of François Hollande’s five-year term. It is the purpose of the cross-industry negotiation under way on the quality and effectiveness of social dialogue in business. It is also the thrust of the vocational training reform negotiated in 2014, a reform targeted not only at those who aspire to on-the-job training but also at those who seek employment but cannot find it for lack of appropriate training.
Despite all these projects, we should not forget the tremendous silent revolution our country is undergoing: simplification. Simplifying individuals’ lives, simplifying things for businesses, easing the work of government to enable it to be redeployed towards more local action and more strategic tasks. This is the rationale for the various simplification mechanisms we have created, whose concrete results our fellow citizens will very quickly notice in their daily lives.
But let us not be mistaken. No effort at recovery can succeed unless it is fair and constantly focused on equality.
This must obviously involve the schools system – a system where the overhaul of priority education will enable us to redefine teaching according to the map of educational inequality. It will of course be complemented by a new procurement policy aimed at giving more to those who need it most, particularly rural areas.
Equality must also involve digital technology in schools, so that the exceptional resources generated by this new technological frontier do not create new divisions between pupils or regions.
Combating inequality means acting on health and access to treatment for all. This is the goal of the third-party payment system roll-out and the development of outpatient medicine. Equality means helping people find better housing thanks to the building renewal plan that has been started.
The third dimension of the reforms agenda is about preparing France for the world of the future. Of course, the best preparations for the future are the least immediately visible. This is all the more true in a speeded-up society that over-values the immediate, where present results alone seem tangible and measurable, and where people no longer think about the virtues of patience or long-term benefits. But this constraint should not divert the government from its efforts to prepare today’s France to become the France of tomorrow.
Major projects are linked to this ambition. The first to come into force in 2015 concerns regional reform. It is the largest project undertaken in France in this area for three decades. Regional reform will enable us to establish larger regions, create new, larger urban authorities, strengthen intercommunalités (1) and reform departmental councils. French people will discover a new regional landscape from 2015, a new landscape inextricably linked to the reform of state representation at regional level.
Indeed, the state must set an example when it comes to reform. It must do so especially because citizens still expect a great deal of it – not to do everything, but to set out strategic paths and enable all local players to move forward, progress and succeed. The modern state must take the initiative. It must be a driving force. It must also remain a guarantee of our cohesion, of laïcité [secularism] (2), of the protection of French people nationwide against risks and insecurity. It must act with the utmost firmness against the rise in racism and anti-Semitism. It must also be a bulwark against the world’s threats, particularly terrorism. France is at the front line of this battle. Under the Head of State’s authority, it is playing its full part, with ambition and a spirit of initiative.
In this preparation for the future, we are being offered one exceptionally large-scale opportunity: the energy transition. We are moving towards a new growth model that is more restrained and more sustainable, consumes less fossil fuel and therefore draws more on renewable energy. This new growth already involves new habits, new behaviours, new lifestyles. The energy transition bill seeks to create the legislative framework essential to this new, less production-oriented, greener growth, more respectful of the environment. In December 2015, France will have a very major responsibility, because it will be hosting the Climate Conference.
A stronger France, to maintain its rank in the world. A fairer France, without which no individual or collective effort would make sense. A France for our children. This is the destination of this 2015-2017 reforms agenda. Its aim is to carry out action in the long term. It is a guarantee of success. Success for French people. Success for France, of which we can be proud.
Together we are going to show ourselves, but also the rest of the world, that France is capable of reforming. And together, thanks to this drive that is getting under way, we are going to regain the most valuable thing: confidence.
(1) councils which group together several communes
(2) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.