‘France is a country like no other’: Macron writes letter to French public

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday spelled out the questions underpinning his "great national debate", a public consultation aiming to quell "yellow vest" anger after nearly two months of sometimes violent protests.

'France is a country like no other': Macron writes letter to French public
Photos: AFP

Macron made his appeal in a “letter to the French” released on Sunday, following the ninth consecutive Saturday of nationwide “yellow vest” rallies which saw an uptick in turnout.

The protests have become the biggest crisis of Macron's presidency and he hopes that returning to the more participative democracy he promised in his 2017 grassroots campaign will satisfy the protesters' demands for a greater say in the running of the country, amid accusations that he is too aloof and his policies favour the wealthy.

Macron said the debates are “neither an election nor a referendum” and would revolve around 35 questions on issues such as taxation, democracy, the environment and immigration.

“I intend to transform anger into solutions,” he said in the letter, which had been due to published on Monday, but was released by his office late Sunday.

“Your proposals will help build a new contract for the nation, organising the actions of the government and parliament, but also France's positions at the European and international levels,” he said.

The questions

The questions that will be debated include: “Which taxes do you think should be lowered first?”, “Should some public services that are out of date or too expensive be eliminated?”, “What concrete proposals do you think would accelerate our environmental transition?” and “Should we use more referendums?”.

The immigration question asked: “Once our asylum obligations are fulfilled, do you want parliament to be able to set annual targets?”. 

While Macron assured that there were “no forbidden questions”, he did say that the right to seek asylum “could not be questioned”.

He also said the government would not revisit steps taken “to encourage investment and make work pay more”.

One of the frequent demands from the protesters, who are mostly from rural or small-town France, is a repeal of Macron's move last year to cut the ISF “fortune tax”, which was previously levied on high-earners.

“We will not pursue tax cuts without lowering the overall level of our public spending,” Macron said in the letter.

Macron said he would “directly report” on the consultation in the month after the debates, which are to run from January 15 to March 15. 

The president will embark on a tour of town-hall meetings around the country, the first of which will be held on Tuesday with local mayors in Bourgtheroulde in northwest France. 

'Founding congress' fails

The national debate is the third prong of the 41-year-old leader's strategy for ending the “yellow vest” protests, which erupted over high fuel taxes in November but then ballooned into a widely supported revolt over living standards.

Macron has already opened the state's purse strings, scrapping fuel tax hikes as part of a 10-billion-euro ($11.5-billion) package of wage boosts and tax relief for low earners.

At the same time, the government has vowed to crack down on the continuing Saturday protests in Paris and other cities, with their now-routine scenes of burning cars, smashed up shops and clashes with police.

While the latest protests saw an increase in turnout to 84,000 from 50,000 the previous week, there was a decline in violence, despite hundreds of 
arrests and clashes with police in Paris and other cities.

To give a more unified response in the debate, some “yellow vests” attempted to form a “founding congress” in the southern city of Perpignan on 

However. the attempt to build a more traditional leadership structure — which the movement has so far shunned — quickly failed, with organisers shouted down by some of the 600 in attendance, a third of whom promptly walked out.

The protesters also came under fire on Sunday over numerous attacks and threats against journalists across the country.

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said “a turning point has been reached” after journalists were beaten, kicked and 
threatened with rape during the rallies.

“We call on the spokespersons of the 'Yellow Vests' to solemnly condemn increasing violence against journalists during demonstrations,” he tweeted.

Member comments

  1. Mr President you may be right before Charlie Hebdo attack but not thereafter
    because atleast Paris has become not livable inspite of your claims.Yellow Vests attacks,blasts and what not.Just do introspection instead of self glorification.

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Macron to make live TV broadcast to France

French president Emmanuel Macron will make a live TV broadcast to the nation about the war in Ukraine.

Macron to make live TV broadcast to France

Macron will be on TV on Wednesday at 8pm, the Elysée confirmed earlier on Wednesday.

Macron also tweeted the announcement, saying that his speech will be on the subject of the war in Ukraine.

His office added that the president’s speech “will not touch on other matters” – Macron has only until Friday to confirm whether or not he is running for re-election.

It is widely considered to be extremely unlikely that he would not stand in the April elections, but all candidates have until Friday, March 4th, to make their declaration.

Macron’s team had previously announced a rally in Marseille on Saturday, March 5th, which was expected to be the first official campaign event, but on Tuesday this was cancelled because of the ongoing international crisis.

Macron was at the forefront of international efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, and since Russia invaded Ukraine he has remained in close contact with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and has also spoken – at the request of Zelensky – to Russian premier Vladimir Putin.

The Local will be following Macron’s speech live from 8pm HERE.