On 24 April 2022, the French people re-elected Emmanuel Macron as their president for five years. A highly mediatised and contentious election which saw the same candidates in the second round of the presidential election as five years ago, as Macron faced his far-right, populist opponent, Marine Le Pen. The polarised election in France took over the media space across Europe considering that France is currently holding the presidency of the Council of the EU until June 2022. Words, promises, competition, contentious statements and, in a sense, fear and uncertainty have dominated the discourse around France in the past months. As President Macron reassumes his role and the French Presidency of the EU is closer to its ending rather than beginning, time has come to focus on what legacies can be built.
SOLIDAR Foundation’s annual publication, the Citizenship and Lifelong Learning Monitor, provided an in-depth look in its 2021 edition to France. Contextualising this moment for building legacies in the scope of the Monitor research, attention was provided to education for environmental sustainability (EES) and the civic space. Polarisation in the French society must be healed by looking forward at a highlight of French society: its robust history of citizenship education for all. This citizenship education is adapted to current global crises, as our research reveals France as a leader in Europe when it comes to EES, though admittedly a relative position considering how little is done on EES across Europe. For this reason, France can cement a stronger legacy by giving an impetus to EES as part of citizenship education through the momentous Council of the EU vote on the European Commission’s Proposal for a Council Recommendation on learning for environmental sustainability. This comprehensive initiative is to be agreed upon by the Member States by June 2022 via unanimous voting. The exact text within this Council Recommendation is still up for debate by Member States to reach a mutual agreement, hence the onus is on the French Presidency to ensure that their legacy will not be marked by a watered down text on a proposal that advances necessities for mainstreaming EES for all learners.
At the same time, SOLIDAR Foundation’s Monitor explored the restricting civic space in France, which suffered further attacks during the previous term of president Macron and during the election. As President Macron enters his second term, his legacy must promote a vibrant space for the civil society that nurtures the values of citizenship and secularism that represent France without transforming them into a mechanism to polarise further the French society by excluding certain groups from the civic space.
Read here our national report on France to see how a legacy for a widened civic space and for comprehensive EES for all can be established.