Emmanuel Macron is to announce Thursday the abolition of the ENA, school of high administration and symbol of the French elite. The stated goal is to diversify the profiles of the senior civil service.
The idea seems to be in vogue in times of crisis. In spring 2019, at the end of the Great National Debate initiated in response to the yellow vests crisis, Emmanuel Macron had already expressed his desire to abolish the National School of Administration (ENA). Two years later, and while France has been going through an unprecedented health crisis this time for more than a year, the Head of State planned to officially announce, Thursday, April 8, the closure of this elite factory.
Emmanuel Macron is to speak by videoconference, in the afternoon, in front of several hundred prefects, ambassadors, heads of central administrations or rectors, on the occasion of the State Managerial Convention. He will present the main lines of the reform of the senior civil service, whose strongest announcement – and which will make the most reaction – will be the abolition of the ENA.
Created in 1945 by General de Gaulle, the ENA is regularly criticized for its formation of elites “above ground”, “disconnected from reality”. Four of the last six Presidents of the Republic, including Emmanuel Macron, come from this school, installed in Strasbourg since 2005, as do many ministers and elected officials.
A shortcoming amplified by the Covid-19 health crisis during which the French administration was accused of being the source of state responses often considered slow and ineffective, in particular on the issue of masks, tests, the vaccination campaign or, perhaps even more telling, attestations.
“Even if all the failings in the management of the crisis are not attributable to him, the senior civil service is clearly responsible for a certain number of evils. But the problem, above all, is that it is never guilty. When she makes mistakes, there is never a sanction, the principle of responsibility never applies to her “, criticizes Chloé Morin, former advisor to Matignon to Jean-Marc Ayrault and Manuel Valls, author of” Les Inamovibles of the Republic “(Fondation Jean Jaurès / Éditions de l’Aube, 2020), contacted by France 24.
A “new aristocracy”
The objective of this reform, prepared for several months by the Minister of Transformation and the Civil Service, Amélie de Montchalin, is therefore “to offer the French a closer, more efficient, more transparent and more benevolent public service” , explains the Élysée.
In this sense, one of the flagship measures that Emmanuel Macron should announce, according to Le Monde, will be the end of direct assignment to the major bodies of the State (Council of State, General Inspectorate of Finance, Court of Auditors) for the best ranked students at the end of the course. All the graduates will in the future be “state administrators” who will have to prove themselves in the field, in the prefecture or in the administrations.
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“The enarques directly joining the great bodies, it has become our new aristocracy, judge Chloé Morin. Seeing young people reach the highest positions and have a clear career simply because they have passed a competition is no longer acceptable. in our society.”
Will this be enough to change the culture and the often considered too closed functioning of the great bodies of the State? Changing reflexes that took several decades to set in will not be done with a wave of a magic wand. All the more so as these have also been shaped by the long tradition of a Jacobin state and a very centralizing and very vertical culture.
“Recruitment of social elites”
Emmanuel Macron will also be keen to insist, Thursday afternoon, on the diversity of the profiles of the students he hopes to obtain with a new method of recruitment. On February 11, during a trip to Nantes, the Head of State insisted on the need to open the prestigious schools of the administration to young people of modest origin so that “no more kid in our Republic say to himself: ‘this is not for me’ “. He then drew up a gloomy observation of the French “social elevator”, which “works less well than 50 years ago” because mobility “is very low”.
“ENA now has a recruitment of social elites with students mainly from Sciences-Po Paris”, regrets Damien Zaversnik, president of the association La Cordée, an association promoting social diversity in the public sectors and parapublic, contacted by France 24. “When you do not have people around you to provide us with the very specific codes expected during the tests, it is impossible,” he adds.
In fact, according to data from the Observatory of Inequalities, the children of senior executives are, on average, twelve times more present at the ENA than those of workers and employees, while, in the working population, this ratio is reversed.
Damien Zaversnik therefore sees the announced reform of recruitment favorably, but believes that it is necessary to go even further and dare to attack “the mechanics of social reproduction” in the whole of the French education system, in s ‘attacking in particular “the great schools of our higher education” which are also places of self-reliance of the highest social classes.
The reform of the senior civil service will be presented in May to the Council of Ministers. The civil service law, passed in August 2019, gave the government eighteen months to reform the senior civil service by ordinance. This deadline will expire on June 7.