PARIS, France – President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he would make France more self – sufficient, cut taxes, reform the labour market and get tougher on immigration if he wins a second term in next month’s election.
Opinion polls show Macron’s longstanding lead over rival candidates has grown in recent weeks, with voters approving of his diplomatic efforts over the Ukraine war. He is seen winning the first round of the election on April 10 and beating any opponent in a run – off on April 24.
‘We are at a tipping point where we can make a real difference’, Macron told a news conference, highlighting that war on the European Union’s doorstep and the global challenge of climate change.
Laying out his campaign platform for the first time, he said a key aim would be to make France more self – sufficient, with proposal ranging from ‘investing massively’ toward agricultural and industrial independence to building more nuclear reactors and strengthening the army.
France could be one of the first countries to wean itself off fossil fuels, he said, while adding that he wanted to build a ‘European metaverse’ to compete with U.S. tech giants and make Europe more independent on that front too.
Stressing his pro – business credentials is not without risk as households feel the squeeze from rising prices, but Macron still said he wanted to see through a reshaping of the economy.
A former investment banker elected in 2017 on a centrist platform, Macron’s policies have veered to the right during his mandate.
He said he would increase the retirement age to 65 from 62, slash taxes by 15 million euros per year and reform unemployment insurance to push people to get back to work.
‘It’s quite normal, especially when you consider the state of public coffers, that we work more’, Macron said.
The 44 – year old president, who is likely to face a far – right or conservative opponent in the run – off round, also said he would get tougher on law and order, including putting more police on the streets, tightening conditions required for long – term residency permits and making it easier to expel people whose asylum request has been rejected.
Until now, little had emerged about Macron’s campaign platform, aside from plans to raise the retirement age and scrap a TV license fee.
With economic growth surging and unemployment falling, Macron can point to data to show he has rebooted the euro zone’s second biggest economy since he took office.
‘I had promised to lower unemployment, (and) despite the crises we did it’, he said, adding if re – elected he would continue to reform the labour market.
Despite the likely unpopularity of some of his proposal, such as raising the retirement age, Macron said he was focused on reforms that would make a difference for voters, including more subsidies for single mothers and introducing inheritance tax breaks for those wanting to leave money to their grand – children or nieces and nephews.
Opinion polls in recent weeks show Macron winning up to 31% of the vote in the first round, up from around 25% last month.
But even if he goes on to win re – election, Macron will need his centrist La Republique en Marche (LaRem) Party – which has failed in all recent local elections – and its allies to win a parliamentary election in June if he is to have a strong base to implement his policies.