Editted Interview with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Editor’s Note — For brevity, I have edited this interview to give you areas that are particularly insightful. Go to CNN for the entire transcript – RJ


Interview with French President Emmanuel Macron. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired November 11, 2018 – 10:00   ET

MACRON: … I think the big mistake, to be very direct with him [Trump], what I don’t want to see is European countries increasing the budget in defense in order to buy Americans and other arms or materials coming from your industry.

I think if we increase our budget, it’s to have to build our autonomy and to become a natural sovereign power. I mean, it’s part of our credibility. For all people vis-a-vis the rest of the world. And I think it’s fair…

What I do believe is that if at this stage Europe has to become a more consistent, and more sovereign, and more united in democratic power, and today it’s not yet the case…

ZAKARIA: Will Europe come up with an alternative to the dollar as part of the response to the — the United States withdrawing from the Iran deal?

MACRON: I think today Europe is not a clear alternative to the dollar. Why? Because de facto there is an international extraterritoriality of the dollar due to its strength. And until now we fail to make euro as strong as the dollar… We are too much dependent, our corporations are too much dependent, which is an issue…


ZAKARIA: The Paris peace forum that you have started, it comes out of a fear you have that some of the pillars of stability in the world are not so stable anymore. And you have talked about not wanting to be one of those generation of sleepwalkers who forgets the past.

I wonder, is part of that — that forgetting of the past that the United States has forgotten the role that it has played? Because when I talk to people in Europe, there’s a real sense that one of the crucial pillars of stability that has kept the peace since 1945 was America’s unwavering commitment to Europe. And people do worry that under President Trump that commitment is no longer as strong, perhaps not even there.

MACRON: Look, I would not say that exactly like that. I think peace is always very fragile, for sure. And that’s why I think it was very important to take such an initiative with this peace forum and that what I wanted to do, especially these days, 11th of November, for the end of the First World War. Because probably we won the First World War, but we lost peace at that time.

The first pillar for me is peace — yes indeed, to be deeply rooted in our common past. Being very much attached to freedom and always remember the cost of the end of peace. Because nobody has in mind this cost. The First World War was 10 million people killed. It’s huge. Coming from everywhere in the world. It was a generation devastated. So I think it’s very important to do it this day and in order to remember and to remember that peace is very fragile.

The second pillar is cooperation. And for me after the First World War our predecessor started yo build nations.  It was the very first time. And Woodrow Wilson played a very important role, even if the U.S. didn’t join this common group. But he had a very important role. The U.S. had a very important role. And it failed. It failed because of probably the humiliation after the First World War. …

ZAKARIA: But Chancellor Merkel of Germany has been very clear. She says that Europe needs to recognize that it cannot rely on the United States as much anymore. Is that the reality, the new reality of the world?

MACRON: Look, I think the new reality of the past decade — it didn’t start two years ago — the recent years were very much characterized by a decrease of the presence of the U.S. in certain regimes. And I think the U.S. remains our first ally everywhere and a very important and key partner in Syria, in the Middle East, in Africa and in different places, and especially in the fight against terrorism. …

But Europe needs is to build its own capacities and its autonomy in order to protect itself. That’s why I’m increasing my investment in defense from the classical defense, I would say, to the cyber, and that’s why I do want to build more solidarity within Europe.

And I think it’s very important. Because if you want to build an actual Europe; if you want to reinforce the homogeneity and the strength of all Europe, you have to convey the message in people in Hungary, in Poland, in Finland and in very different places that the day they have an issue, the day they are attacked, Europe is the one to protect them and not another power.

ZAKARIA: A wave of populism has rolled over the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, many other nations across the globe, putting populists in power, or close enough that they define the agenda. In France today, though, it is Emanuel Macron who sits in the Elysees palace, not his populist challengers.


ZAKARIA: Let me ask you how you intend to tackle this wave of populism that is sweeping through the Western world and in some places even beyond the Western world.

It seems to me that your answer has been to be a very aggressive reformer. But a lot of the reforms seem a lot like the kind of ideas that Tony Blair or Bill Clinton had, in that you are in favor of markets and you want markets to operate, but you are also in favor of protections for the weak, social justice. And that combination used to be called the Third Way. Is that what you’re presenting, just you are a more energetic and better proponent of these ideas?

MACRON: … I would say my strategy is very different. First, I have to restore competitiveness and rebuild an economic and social model. And that’s what I fixed the first year, was very important reform on labor law, tax cuts, and economic reforms on the labor market and for our corporations.

Obviously, it’s very painful. It makes you less popular, definitely. You decrease in polls. But it’s fine. I have a five years mandate and I’m not obsessed by polls. But I had to do so and I had those reforms because France was the only country in Europe, and especially in the eurozone, to have, for so many years, one of the highest unemployment rates. And when you having something between 8 percent to 12 percent of your population unemployed, it creates, I mean, big destabilization because it means that you have people without a job for years and years and sometimes decades. When you have an unemployment rate for young people at around 15 percent, in some neighborhoods 25 percent, it creates big disorders. And this is the situation in my country.

So the first pillar is indeed to make my country more competitive and to work very hard to do so. The second pillar of my reforms is to prepare the future, having much more investment on innovation and human capital. This is absolutely critical because we are in a world of innovation and competences. If we want to be one of the leaders of the upcoming world, we have to work on artificial intelligence, industry of the future, new agriculture and so on.

The third pillar is about sovereignty at the national and European level. And this is probably one of the main differences with the Third Way you mentioned. I’m not a believer in ultra-liberalism and global markets. I believe both in the market economy and social justice and fairness. I want to decide for my people because I’m elected by them. I don’t want the global market to decide for my people.

And for me, these three pillars, fixing the model, building a new investment for the future and being more sovereign is the best answer to the nationalists and those who play with the fears. Why? Because I don’t like to use the term “populist” because “populist” means you are with people. I don’t want to leave the exclusivity of being with people to these guys. I’m with people.

ZAKARIA: What about the cultural issues? Because one of the areas where at least the left in general — and I know you are not exactly right or left — but the left has had trouble, is that it provides a very compelling answer, sometimes, to most, many people, on the economic side. But it has no answers to the cultural anxieties that are moving people…

MACRON: This is my famous third pillar, when I speak about sovereignty. I mean, I think you have to provide a cultural answer. For me, the first one is for education. That’s why I wanted to restore the fact that we teach our literature; we reinforce the presence of our literature, good language for our people. And I think we have indeed to restore, in depth, our history, to be proud as a people, to be proud of our history and our culture, and to explain that we have a DNA. And there is no global people without any differences.
(UNKNOWN): How are you?


ZAKARIA: So many, many French presidents have talked about reform. Chirac used to talk about reform. Prime Minister Raffarin sent a letter to every Frenchman talking about reform. Sarkozy did some reforms but then reversed them. Are you going to be able to actually conclude the reforms and stay with them even if there are more strikes, even if there are more problems?

MACRON: Absolutely. First, because I speak about transformation more than reform. And what I try to explain is this in order to go to this final point. You have to explain it’s not something to just repair the country but to build a new economic, social and environmental power.

Second, I passed, at the very beginning of my mandate, some very important reforms, on taxation, on labor, on railway system. Some of the reforms considered as certainly impossible in France, we did it. It is done.

ZAKARIA: And yet growth in France is not quite what you want it to be?

MACRON: For sure.

ZAKARIA: What’s — what’s left?

MACRON: Look, growth and all the macroeconomic figures in the short run are not the result of the first reforms because we just passed the reforms, as I told you, but some of these reforms were totally passed, I mean, low, four, five, six months ago. So, I mean, it’s impossible to have the concrete macroeconomic reality. It would take, I mean, 18 to 24 months, at least. That’s why I wanted to (inaudible) all the big reforms, because I know that you need time to get results.

ZAKARIA: Probably the most important decision you made in your life other than deciding to run for the presidency of France, you made when you were 16 years old. You fell in love with a woman who was your teacher, who is 24 years older. When I look at it and I think about what you must have gone through, the difficulties with your family, with her family, with society at large, is that a powerful window into understanding you?

MACRON: Probably, probably. Probably she’s much, much more bold and courageous than I am. Because she was 40; she has a life, and it’s totally different. So I think the main merit is my wife’s merit.

But, for sure, what I built at that time, what we built together is not to be obsessed by what people think about you. But when you are convinced and sincere about what you are doing, what you don’t — when you don’t lie to yourself and to the other, you can build something which was seen as impossible, definitely.

ZAKARIA: When I ask people in France how you’re doing, what they often tell me is, “Well, you know, his poll ratings are very low now.”

How do you deal with the fact that, you know, they have gone down a lot?

MACRON: Yes, I mean, I’m not obsessed by that. You are not elected by polls. And I don’t have midterm elections. I’m — I have a five years mandate. And what I have to do, especially in this current environment, is to deliver.

And that’s totally true that my polls decreased because I passed very unpopular reforms. And guess what? I was elected precisely because all my predecessors failed or decided not to deliver these reforms. I do believe that these reforms are a necessity for my country and are a necessity for the future generation.

What I have to do now is to be totally dedicated to the implementation of that. I have to spend my energy to explain these reforms to my people, and that’s probably how I can recover. And I have to show the results in the coming semesters, or years, of these reforms.

But I think my responsibility is not to stop, for sure. Because my view is that my duty, my mission today, is to fix the country from an economic and social point of view. It’s to build a new social model for France and Europe with new protection for people in this current environment, in order to reduce inequalities.

You’re right, the situation today is definitely less favorable than one year ago. It’s not a big surprise to me. But you refer to my personal past. I spent many years, many years, without the respect of a lot of people. I spent many years even with people I loved would — didn’t totally understand what I was doing. But at the end, because it was sincere, because I was precisely consistent with myself and I never stopped, they recognized and they accepted.

So I’m personally and strongly persuaded that the French people will progressively recognize and agree with the fact that we are doing our best for the country and we are serving the country for the future.