N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
In the aftermath of the yellow-vest protest and crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to abolish the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the cradle of the French elite, that has become a lightning rod for anti-establishment sentiment.
Macron finally made ENA’s abolition official while announcing plans to create a new school for France’s elite with a familiar formula: Institut du Service Public. Like ENA it will train students in the art of statecraft and its location will be the ENA campus in Strasbourg.
It looks like a case of ‘old wine in new bottles’, although the French President persisted that’ you can see this is a profound revolution’! Anyhow, the changes, revolutionary or not, are a sign of how France’s establishment remains deeply entrenched in the national psyche.
Macron himself is - like many presidents, (prime) ministers, top civil servants, CEO’s etcetera - a graduate of ENA; a so-called ‘enarque’. The school, founded in 1945 by General Charles de Gaul, was designed as a meritocracy to open better opportunities to all students regardless of their background. Therefore tuition is free and students receive a monthly stipend to pay for books and housing. Every year 80 students are accepted, based on a rigorous competitive entrance exam.
But the yellow-vest movement has transformed ENA into a political liability as Macron prepares to bid for re-election in 2022. Hopefully for Macron, the protesters do not see through his trick.