President Emmanuel Macron has substantially scaled back plans to rehabilitate France’s banlieues — poverty-ridden and crime-infested neighborhoods with large Muslim populations — and has instead called on local mayors and civil society groups to find solutions at the grassroots level.
The policy reversal follows weeks of internal debate about whether a top-down or bottom-up approach is the best way to improve life in the troubled banlieues, which are breeding grounds for Islamic fundamentalism and are often referred to as no-go zones because of the dangerous conditions there for police and other representatives of state authority.
In a much-anticipated speech at the Élysée Palace on May 22, Macron announced only modest, non-budgeted, initiatives for the banlieues, including a plan to hire more police officers, a crackdown on drug trafficking and a corporate internship program for underprivileged youths.
Addressing 600 guests, including lawmakers, entrepreneurs, community leaders and residents, Macron said that he would not be announcing yet another “Marshall Plan for the suburbs,” as a 2008 plan for urban renewal was called, because at least ten previous such strategies all have failed:
“I will not announce a city plan or a suburban plan because this strategy is as old as me. The first plan was presented by [former French prime minister] Raymond Barre about the time I was born… we are at the end of what this method is able to produce.”