Emmanuel Macron faces flak at home for branding the French ‘Gauls resistant to change’
Posted On July 17, 2020
Emmanuel Macron was on Thursday forced to deny angry opposition claims he was unpatriotic after branding his French compatriots “Gauls who are resistant to change”.
President Macron made the comments during a chat with French expatriates while on a trip to Denmark – a country whose people he said he admired for embracing new models.
"Let’s not be naive, what is possible is linked to a culture, to a people who are the product of their history," Mr Macron said in an audience with Queen Margrethe.
"These Lutheran (Protestant) people, who have experienced transformations in recent years, are not like the Gauls who are resistant to change," he said.
The 40-year-old former investment banker was there to praise Denmark’s "flexi-curity" – flexibility and security – which he has in part emulated by loosening French labour law and reforming the social security system.
But it drew howls of disapproval from the opposition back home.
"As usual, he scorns the French while overseas. The Gauls will take great pleasure in responding to his arrogance and contempt," said far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Leftwing MP Alexis Corbiere from the France Unbowed party denounced Macron for his "staggeringly stupid remarks".
"Macron in Denmark is not only contemptuous of his own people but also very ignorant about the Gauls who were incredibly progressive," he added.
"It is unacceptable to hear the president stereotype and criticise the French people abroad," tweeted the head of the centre-right Republicans party, Laurent Wauquiez.
Mr Macron stuck by his comments, saying they were tongue-in-cheek even if they contained a grain of truth.
"I love France and the French and I love these Gallic tribes with all their variety and paradoxes… It’s not contempt to say things as they are and to tell the truth."
This is not the first time Mr Macron has faced flak for cutting comments.
Shortly after being elected in May last year, he harangued a group of striking workers for "kicking up a bloody mess" and dubbing some “slackers".
He has previously chided the French for “hating reforms” and being “un-reformable” but has succeeded in facing down strikes to loosen labour laws and end rail workers’ job-for-life status.
"If I thought we were nothing but reactionaries, I wouldn’t be here before you," he told reporters on the final leg of his Scandinavian tour in Finland.