France History: Attempts at Reform and New Threats – Sarkozy and Hollande

President (from May 16, 2007) Sarkozy and his new Prime Minister F. Fillon sought comprehensive reforms of the social security systems. Despite weeks of protests by the opposition and the trade unions, a pension reform came into force on November 9, 2010, raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 years (from 2014 also higher minimum contribution period for pension insurance). In July 2008, both chambers of parliament approved a constitutional reform that changed almost half of the 89 articles of the Basic Law of the Fifth Republic (including the limitation of the maximum term of office of the president to ten years, greater powers of scrutiny over the president, new law for Referendum initiatives). In order to deal with the financial market crisis, the government made extensive liquidity aids available in 2008/09. After the partial elections to the Senate on September 25, In 2011, the left-wing parties had a majority in the second chamber of parliament for the first time in the Fifth Republic. In the second round of the presidential elections on May 6, 2012, the socialist F. Enforce Hollande against the incumbent.

Under President (from May 15, 2012) Hollande and Prime Minister J.-M. Ayrault won the socialists and their allies in the parliamentary elections on 10-17. 6.2012 an absolute majority. However, general approval quickly evaporated. A law passed in April 2013 to legalize same-sex marriages was preceded by weeks of public protests. A “wealthy tax” for annual incomes over € 1 million was partly unconstitutional and did not bring the planned additional income (2013/14). Due to the persistently high unemployment, a new government under Prime Minister M. Valls turned (from April 2, 2014) on a savings and consolidation course, including cutting civil servants’ salaries and social benefits as well as deregulations in labor law in order to generate more economic growth. In 2013 there had already been street protests against the truck toll (“Ecotaxe”) of the so-called red hats (Brittany) and against higher value added tax. They continued in April 2015 with demonstrations and in 2016 with protests by the movement “Nuits debout” (“Staying awake the night”) and union blockades. Teachers’ strikes in March and June 2015 triggered a school reform (lower secondary level) to reorganize foreign language teaching. Another reform affected the regions: their number was reduced from 22 to 13 on January 1, 2016 (excluding overseas territories). In addition, the regions were given competencies that were previously held by the central government. Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

Serious defeats by the socialists in the local elections in March 2014, the European elections (May 25, 2014), the partial Senate elections (September 28, 2014) and the regional elections in December 2015 fueled the struggles for direction within the party. The Greens temporarily left the government (2014-16) and split. The UMP, renamed Les Républicains (LR) in May 2015, was able to keep the Front National, the strongest party in the European elections and since November 2014 under the leadership of M. Le Pen , at a distance in the local and regional elections, but became itself weakened by illegal campaign funding affairs.

Islamist terrorism became the greatest challenge of Hollande’s presidency: on 7 January 2015, an attack on the editorial staff of the satirical magazine » Charlie Hebdo «Killed twelve people. Four other people were murdered when a Jewish supermarket was taken hostage on January 9, 2015; the hostage taker had also killed a policewoman. On November 13, 2015, 130 people fell victim to a series of attacks in six locations in Paris, mainly in the Bataclan Theater, and more than 350 were injured. On July 14, 2016, the French national holiday, an assassin raced into a crowd in Nice with a truck. At least 85 people were killed and over 300 injured. As a result of the acts of terrorism, a national emergency was imposed, for the fourth time since 1955 and for the first time for the entire national territory. The borders were closed at short notice and soldiers were mobilized. The state of emergency was extended several times and in some cases tightened (anti-terror law of May 5, 2016).

As in other EU countries, the strong immigration of refugees in 2015 also put France to the test. Politicians reacted to this, among other things, by shortening the asylum procedure to a maximum of nine months (November 2nd) and promising to take in 30,000 more refugees within two years. The situation in the port city of Calais was particularly problematic. A rallying point for thousands of refugees (“jungle”) was established there, most of whom tried in vain to get to Great Britain. In order to better integrate immigrants, the government endeavored to counteract the social and cultural segregation in the banlieues, among other things by controlling public housing construction as well as increasing language support and vocational training.

France History - Attempts at Reform and New Threats - Sarkozy and Hollande