France 'turning page' on coronavirus as schools, borders and workplaces reopen – Macron

Emmanuel Macron has announced that France is open and back in business.

In his fourth televised address to the nation since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the French president said the country was “turning the page on the first act of the crisis that we have gone through”.

“The fight against the epidemic is not over, but I am happy that we have won this first battle against the virus,” he said.

Macron opened by saying the whole of France, except for the overseas departments of Mayotte and French Guiana, were “turning green”, meaning restaurants, bars and cafes in the Paris area can now fully open, and that all schoolchildren except for those in lycées (upper high schools) will be expected to return to class from next Monday.

With the academic year due to end for the two-month summer holiday at the beginning of July, the announcement that the return to class is obligatory has come as a surprise to many parents and headteachers in areas where secondary school classes are currently closed.

Macron also announced France’s Schengen borders would be open as from Monday and its non-EU borders from 1 July.

“We can be proud of what we have done in our country. Of course this challenge has also revealed weaknesses, fragilities, our dependence on other continents to procure certain products, our cumbersome organisation, our social and territorial inequalities … I would like us to learn all the lessons from what we have been through,” Macron said during the 20-minute address.

He said the country was facing an economic crisis, but stated while coronavirus easing measures had cost the country €500bn, there would be no tax rises. He suggested plans for France’s economic reconstruction would include encouraging firms to relocate back to France and plans for economic “independence” that he would announce next month.

At EU level, the president called for the consolidation of an “economically independent Europe” to take on the US and China.

Macron made no direct reference to the widespread but largely peaceful anti-racism and anti-police violence protests in France at the weekend, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in America, but said “racism, anti-semitism and discrimination are unacceptable”.

“We are a nation where everyone, whatever their origins or religion, has their place … our battle [against discrimination] must continue and intensify,” he said.

However, he warned there would be no rewriting of French history.

“I will be very clear tonight, compatriots. The republic will not erase any name, any trace of its history. It will forget none of its artworks. It will tear down no statues,” Macron said.

He also issued a clear message of support for the police forces, saying they “take daily risks and deserve the support of those in power and the gratitude of the nation”.

The address received a mixed response in the French media. Libération’s front page headline read: “Macron congratulates Macron”, while Le Monde similarly accused Macron of giving himself a “certificate of satisfaction over his handling of the crisis”. The centre-right paper Le Figaro chose to lead on Macron calling the French to return “fully” to work.




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