Congress of Mayors of France: a necessary relaxation

Un change of tone manifest marked the 104e congress of mayors of France which ended on Thursday 24 November in Paris. Instead of the tough exchanges that opposed last year the vice-president (Socialist Party, PS) of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF), André Laignel, to the Head of State, a more cooperative spirit blew on the event. Emmanuel Macron certainly did not show any particular regard for the AMF staff, but he took all his time on Wednesday to stroll through the Salon des Maires. Applause greeted the closing speech delivered the next day by the Prime Minister.

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Since her appointment to Matignon, Elisabeth Borne has been working to restore the thread of a dialogue damaged for five years by the rise of muted hostility between the leaders of the main association of local elected officials, dominated by Les Républicains ( LR) and the PS, and the President of the Republic. “The state seems to have scratched the word ‘trust’ from its dictionary”had publicly accused André Laignel, in November 2021, at the dawn of the presidential campaign, which was to see Emmanuel Macron, Anne Hidalgo and Valérie Pécresse clash. “The debate between elected officials and the state is deadly. The state is you toohad retorted, scathingly, the head of state.

The lessons of the incident seem to have been learned today. Faced with a succession of crises that are shaking the country in depth, the central power and the mayors have understood that they can do nothing without each other, nor against each other. The exit from the crisis of “yellow vests” had featured the state-mayors couple. Quietly, the ties have tightened during the management of the pandemic. They cannot be allowed to relax today when the ecological transition is going to profoundly upset territories and ways of life.

Search for compromise

Between the two actors, the subjects of friction have not disappeared. Mayors and business leaders alike fear the impact on local finances of soaring energy prices. They do not support that Bercy tries to control the evolution of their expenses while the State struggles to discipline itself. On this last point, Elisabeth Borne gave a serious pledge on Thursday, announcing that there would be no sanctions if such and such a community ventured out of the framework.

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The other sensitive subject is “the new stage” of decentralization that elected officials have been calling for for years without managing to find common ground with the executive. Returned to the site by the President of the Republic, it will be the barometer of the new relations that have just been sketched out.

The political climate greatly contributes to the search for dialogue and compromise: loss of credibility of political actors, electoral dynamics of the National Rally against a backdrop of medical deserts and crisis of public services. Everything today pushes the government and the mayors to join forces to try to provide quick and concrete answers to the citizens, such as the establishment of France services houses, action plans to wake up city centers, etc. . However paradoxical it may seem, the weakening of LR and the PS in the last presidential election combined with the loss of the absolute majority by the President of the Republic have done a lot to ensure that the relationship between the central power and the mayors between, finally, in the age of reason.

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