Macron: French ‘Gauls’ resistant to change, unlike ‘Lutheran’ Danes


President Emmanuel Macron has angered opponents by accusing French “Gauls” of being resistant to change.

On a visit to Copenhagen, Mr Macron praised Denmark’s economic model – combining a flexible labour market with generous welfare benefits.

Emmanuel Macron wants to loosen France's employment regulations

Emmanuel Macron wants to loosen France’s employment regulations

But he said cultural differences between the “Lutheran” Danes and the French “Gauls” made it difficult to adopt such a system in France.

Mr Macron came to power on a pledge to reform France’s enormous labour code.

He has long stated his ambition to overhaul France’s labour market towards a more “Nordic model”.

His speech in Denmark was not the first time he has used a foreign visit to highlight what he sees as the resistance to those reforms.

Last year, on a visit to Romania, Mr Macron said France was “not a reformable country”, adding: “Many have tried and failed, because the French hate reforms.”

Weeks later, speaking in Greece, the French president angered critics by saying he would not cede ground to “slackers”

Mr Macron’s latest comments came on Wednesday at an event in Copenhagen in which he reiterated his admiration for the Danish “flexicurity” model.

“What is possible is linked to a culture, a people marked by their own history. These Lutheran [Danish] people, who have lived through the transformations of recent years, are not exactly Gauls who are resistant to change,” he said.

Opposition politicians quickly seized on his speech, with many criticising his reference to “Gauls” – the name given by the Romans to those who lived in the region that now includes France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Mr Macron's comparisons between Gauls and Scandinavians did not go down well

Mr Macron’s comparisons between Gauls and Scandinavians did not go down well

“By his words of confusing foolishness, #Macron in Denmark is not only very contemptuous against his own people, but also very ignorant about the Gauls who were formidable inventors,” tweeted left-wing French MP Alexis Corbière.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, tweeted: “As usual, he shows contempt for the French while abroad. The ‘Gauls’ will be happy to respond to his arrogance and contempt.”

Republican MP Fabien Di Filippo said the president had made “a new insult to the French people”, adding: “Emmanuel Macron has outdone himself in Denmark.”

Amid a torrent of criticism on social media, Mr Macron sought to clarify his remarks on Thursday, saying they were “humorous”.

“I love France and the French and I love in all its components. I love them, these Gallic tribes, I like what we are,” he said during a visit to the Finnish capital, Helsinki.

A government spokesman said Mr Macron had been referring to political parties when he spoke of resistant Gauls.

Some French unions are resisting President Macron's attempts at labour market reform

Some French unions are resisting President Macron’s attempts at labour market reform

Mr Macron took office in May last year, still a political novice – never previously elected and little versed in the cut-and-thrust of French politics.

His government promised to cut unemployment from 9.5% to 7% in five years, but Mr Macron admitted that he expected months of resistance to some of the proposed new employment laws.

In September last year, union-organised protests took place in cities across France against proposed changes to labour laws.

Many placards reflected Mr Macron’s remarks about French workers, with messages such as “too lazy to think up a slogan” and “slackers on the move”, which mocked the name of the president’s centrist LREM party (Republic on the Move).

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