You have four sons, and how many grandchildren?
Only five grandchildren. Almost German conditions: 2+2+1+0. The oldest grandchild is 27 and the youngest 17; she just graduated with honours. Between those two are two other boys, both 1.9 meters tall, and another girl. We all regularly discuss politics. All of those who can already vote voted for Macron and they are disappointed.
He is not meeting their expectations?
The way in which he criticised General Pierre de Villiers caused a falling-out with the military in a worse way than Ursula von der Leyen did with the German army. He cut the military budget. The poorer pensioners are getting five euros less a month. He doesn’t know how he can save on the European level and lower taxes at the same time. The big political gestures he wants to make require a far larger budget. In short, his goals and his political methods do not jibe.
Germany is also saving though…
Germany should be investing, using its budget surplus to renovate schools, streets and bridges, with the help of foreign companies too. Macron is calling for that, and he is correct to do so.
What happened to the left wing in France, which has apparently discarded traditional left-wing topics like poverty and inequality?
The strange thing is how little one heard the word, chômage, or unemployment, during the French election campaigns. Even though this is actually a national plague. Officially there are 3 million unemployed. If you add short-term workers and families to that, unemployment affects 5 or 6 million people. With his party, La France insoumise (in English, unbowed France), Jean-Luc Mélenchon really made the outrage over this, his topic. He was the best speaker during the election campaigning, just like Gysi [former leader of Germany’s Left Party] was in Germany for a long time. Mélenchon now has a faction in the national parliament while thanks to our electoral system, Marine Le Pen only has eight members of parliament.
A lot of young French people did not want to vote at all.
Personally I would like a system where there is compulsory voting, as there is in Belgium. If you look at France now, you see something surprising. The north and the east of France voted for Le Pen. Those rich villages in the Alsace, where there are no foreigners and very little unemployment, chose Le Pen. Why? You cannot understand it in terms of logic.
What role does education play for the new administration headed by Macron?
This topic is very high in Macron’s programme. He wants to pay well to send qualified teachers to the suburbs, which would allow the primary schools there to create smaller classes – so that these young people are not lost forever. They are all French but are continuously discriminated against: By the police, when they’re looking for apartments, or in their choice of career. And because they’re French but still discriminated against, they look for a different identity. Often this can be Islam – even though the religion was not there for them first, the discrimination was. Just as in Germany, the various forks in a child’s educational path tend to come up later in France too. But it is almost impossible to replicate the advantages afforded you if you come from a “good home”.
What are you giving your grandchildren for the future?
I don’t know what I am “giving” them. I only know that the three generations of my family all share the same values – my wife because of her religion and all of the others most likely due to humanism, separate from religion.
The interview conducted by Stephanie von Hayek