Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic

Emmanuel Macron has not been afraid to make difficult decisions since taking office as President of France in 2017. It has therefore further proved it during the coronavirus pandemic. Frustrated that his country remains one of Western Europe’s most vaccine skeptics, Macron grabbed the big stick that no one else on the continent had dared to introduce.

Since July 21, 2021, it has become mandatory for anyone boarding a flight or an intercity train in France to present a health certificate proving that they were either fully vaccinated or tested negative. The same goes for registering for professional events, restaurants and bars among other establishments.

Other EU countries quickly followed suit. Italy has applied almost identical rules, while Germany insists on vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test for local public transport and local public transport as well as regional and long-distance trains. Restaurants and events are only open to people who have been vaccinated or can show proof of recovery. Switzerland and Denmark do not require vaccine passes for transport, but do require them for inland sites.

Macron’s strategy worked. Vaccination rates in France fell from less than 50% before the introduction of the “green pass” to 76% at the end of November, ahead of Germany and the United Kingdom. It remains to be seen how Macron’s vaccine daring will be judged politically. The next presidential elections take place in April 2022, and far-right and left-wing critics have lambasted the outgoing president for what they see as his attacks on French Republican principles of freedom and equality. Macron instead focused on the third principle: brotherhood. Vaccination, he said, is a duty of all French people to protect their fellow citizens.

Meanwhile, Macron’s France has taken the lead on another major business travel issue in 2021. In April, French lawmakers voted to ban all domestic air routes where the same trip can be made. by train in less than 2.5 hours. The affected routes include Paris to Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux, although there could have been more. The initial proposal of the Citizen’s Climate Convention, convened by Macron in 2019, called for a ban on flights competing with train journeys of up to four hours.

Similar proposals are under discussion in Spain and Germany, with the entry of the Greens into a new “traffic light” coalition federal government hastening the prospect of this happening in the latter.

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