Mr. Macron embarked on a national debate to fathom the causes of the revolt, and on April 25, 2019, announced for the first time that his alma mater would be eliminated. It was a powerful symbolic gesture, but it met opposition and two years went by without any follow-up. ENA, it seemed, would survive after all.
Earlier this year, during a visit to Nantes, the president announced a program called “Talents” designed to ensure that, when it comes to elite schools for senior public service positions, “no kid from our republic ever says that this is not for me.”
Among the measures announced then was the designation of several spots a year at ENA for students from underprivileged backgrounds, particularly the dismal projects on the outskirts of big cities where many Muslim immigrants are concentrated. Thursday’s statement made clear this program would continue at the new institute.
Mr. Macron has made the modernization of the French state a priority, pushing to eliminate excessive bureaucracy and create a more efficient, performance-based public service. It is a work in progress.
The president has been criticized for focusing his energy on attracting voters to the right of the political spectrum in a bid to head off a challenge from the rightist leader Marine Le Pen. In that context, honoring a decision initially taken in response to the Yellow Vest movement and intended to promote social mobility and greater diversity in senior state posts appeared important.
“Among the vital problems in France, there is one that you are aware of every day: It’s the complete fracture between the base of society — people who work, who are retired, who are unemployed, young people, students — and the supposed elite,” Francois Bayrou, a political ally of Macron, told France Inter radio.