How important is the abolition of ENA, the elite French school for the end of studies?
The ENA, which Charles de Gaulle created in 1945 as a meritocratic school to put an end to nepotism and the aristocratic hold on senior civil servant positions, has instead become the symbol of an entrenched privilege.
Bruno Cautrès, political scientist at the Center for Political Research at Science Po University in Paris, said: “The most privileged classes have a great capacity to adapt to the new rules.
Emmanuel Macron wrote in his 2016 book Revolution, before becoming president, that he would not abolish the Strasbourg-based ENA, from which he graduated in 2004 and which produced presidents, prime ministers and captains of industry.
He changed his mind after the yellow vests protests at the end of 2018.
The protests expressed what much of French society had felt for years – that the country’s leaders, many of them enarques, as we know, the graduates of ENA were disconnected from the concerns of ordinary people.
It is “a profound revolution,” Macron said when he told senior officials in a video conference that the ENA would be abolished.
He is also no doubt hoping that the demise of his alma mater will increase his polls, which will show him neck and neck with right-wing leader Marine Le Pen for next year’s presidential election.
The school’s replacement, the Public Service Institute (ISP), will aim to attract students from more diverse backgrounds and have a broader curriculum that will include, in addition to politics, environment and issues. such as poverty.
He will also abandon the ENA fast lane to the best public service jobs by having graduates work for several years in state agencies or in provincial towns before they can apply for jobs at Prune Paris.
It sounds reasonable, but cynics say that mentalities are so ingrained in the French civil service, from ENA graduates to low-level bureaucrats, that real reform can be a pipe dream.
The skepticism of citizens about the effectiveness of the state bureaucracy runs deep. There is a popular joke about a gifted mathematician enarque who mistakes a sheepdog for a sheep, a reflection of widespread contempt for the administration that was compounded by an incident at the start of the last lockout at the end of March.
A certificate the obligation to leave home was two pages long and included 15 exceptions. It was reissued in a much simpler form after an outcry.
It’s unclear if it was drafted by an enarque, but the incident has fueled criticism from geek officials.
The problem is that the public service has an extreme aversion to risk and its staff are very eager to avoid taking responsibility for anything that could hurt their careers, wrote political analyst Chloé Morin in her book 2020. . The irremovable of the Republic.
It is often said that this only gets worse as they get older, waiting for their final years of careers on which their pensions will be calculated.
Bruno Cautrès welcomed the project to replace the ENA, which welcomes around 100 students per year after a notoriously competitive entrance exam. However, he said getting rid of elitism in France would be a much more difficult task.
“If you want to simplify and diversify access to leading positions but if you do not change the system which reproduces the French elites … you will not get the desired result,” he said.
Philippe Braud, professor of sociology at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, said the network of old boys at ENA had a negative role in opening up high-level positions in the civil service. The new ISP would be an “opportunity for change”.
“I don’t know if Macron will succeed in ‘breaking the French elite recruiting system’ but it is a step in the right direction,” he said. “As for ‘breaking a culture of over-caution’, I’m not sure that’s really what’s at stake. Rather, it’s about opening the body of senior officials to a fresh air of social diversity. “
Four of the last eight presidents, eight of the last 23 prime ministers
Since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1959, four of the eight presidents and nine of the 23 prime ministers have been enarques.
The presidents were: Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1974-81), Jacques Chirac (1995-2007), François Hollande (2012-17) and Emmanuel Macron (2017-).
The Prime Ministers are the current outgoing Jean Castex and his predecessor Edouard Philippe (2017-20) as well as: Jacques Chirac, who was Prime Minister twice in 1974-76 and 1986-88, Laurent Fabius (1984-86) , Michel Rocard (1988 -91), Edouard Balladur (1993-95), Alain Juppé (1995-97), Lionel de Jospin (1997-2002) and Dominique de Villepin (2005-07).
Simon Heffer: Le Pen’s ambition at the Elysee Palace while Macron was not favored in the polls
Napoleon’s bicentenary: Macron will commemorate (not celebrate) the chef