'My dear compatriots': What Macron said to the French people in his letter

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'My dear compatriots': What Macron said to the French people in his letter
Photo: Elysée/AFP

It’s a five-page letter in which Macron asks the French people a total of 35 questions, so here’s a summary to better digest it all.


Emmanuel Macron launched his national consultation (Grand Débat) on Sunday with a hefty five-page letter in which he placed a lot of emphasis on transforming gilets jaunes anger into a blueprint for future policies, asking his disgruntled nation what exactly it is that they want and where he is prepared to budge. 

At the start of the letter Macron spells out the challenge both he and the country faces.

"France is a country unlike any other," he says. "The feeling of injustice is more alive than elsewhere. The demand for help and solidarity stronger."

He first spells out all the good about France

"In our country, those who work pay for retirees' pensions. In our country, a large number of citizens pay an income tax, sometimes burdensome, which reduces inequalities. In our country, education, health, security, justice are accessible to all regardless of their circumstances or wealth. The hazards of life, such as unemployment, can be overcome, thanks to this effort shared by all."

And the bad:

"I know, of course, that some of us today are dissatisfied or angry. Because taxes are too high for them, public services too distant; because wages are too low for some to be able to enjoy with dignity the wages of their work; because of the fact that our country does not offer equal chances of success to families from all backgrounds and areas. Everyone would like a more prosperous country and a fairer society."

And he also spells out the ugly part of France which has been apparent over the recent weeks of yellow vest protests.

"But there is one condition: to accept no form of violence. I do not accept, and do not have the right to accept pressure and insults, for example against the elected representatives of the people, I do not accept and do not have the right to accept attacks on the media, journalists, institutions and officials. If everyone attacks everyone, society unravels."

The French President then introduced the national consultation (Grand débat)

In order for hope to overcome fear, it is necessary and legitimate for us to explore together the great questions concerning our future.

That is why I proposed and I am launching today a great national debate that will run until March 15.

"For me, there are no questions off limits. We will not agree on everything, that's to be expected, it's democracy. But at least we will show that we are a people who are not afraid to speak, to exchange viewpoints, to debate."

Macron split his questions for the French people into four main sections:

Taxes and public spending

Democracy and citizenship

Organization of the state and public services

Ecological transformation

It’s a slightly dense 2,675-word piece of correspondence that makes for an interesting read, but here’s a summary including his most telling comments which laid out his challenges to the public and his own ideas.

Taxation and public spending:

“How can we make our tax system fairer and more efficient? Which taxes do you think should be lowered first?”

"We cannot, in any case, pursue tax cuts without lowering the overall level of our public spending".

"What are the savings that you think are priorities?

"Should we remove some public services that are outdated or too expensive compared to what they deliver? Conversely, do you see new needs for public services and how could they be financed?

"We won’t go back on the steps we have already taken to correct this to encourage investment and make work pay," said Macron referring to the controversial scrapping of the fortune tax (ISF) which the gilets jaunes demand be brought back.

Organisation of the State and public authorities

"Public services have a cost, but they are vital: schools, the police, the army, hospitals and courts are essential to our social cohesion.

"Are there too many administrative levels or levels of local government? Should we reinforce decentralisation and move power over decisions and actions closer to the citizens? At what levels and for which services?

"How would you like the state to be organised and how can it improve its operation? Should we review the functioning of the administration and how?"

Democracy and citizenship:

This system of representation is the bedrock of our Republic, but it must be improved because many do not feel represented after the votes.

“Should abstentions [in elections] be recognised? Should we make voting compulsory?”

"What changes do you want to make citizen participation more active, democracy more participative?

"Should unelected citizens, chosen at random, have greater and more direct involvement in public decision making?

"Should we increase the use of referendums and who should decide on how and when?

Ecological transformation:

“Today no one disputes the urgent need to act quickly. The longer we delay posing these questions, the more painful the changes will be.”

“How do we finance the ecological transformation: by income tax, by other taxes and who should be in the front line?”

Macron concludes:

“I hope that you can, beyond these topics that I propose to you, bring up any concrete subject which you feel could improve your daily life.”



Comments (8)

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Anonymous 2019/01/15 16:25
Quite so, Daniela. I, too, regularly give money to those in need and I'm not wealthy - but it's all relative. I completely agree that, at times like these, people must protest; in a peaceful and constructive manner. Surely, no one in a decent and just society would suggest it's acceptable to have abject poverty in their midst? The problems start when the initial, honest and heartfelt, protest becomes meaningless. The GJ's have so many different objections and narratives running that the greater message is lost. I genuinely believe Macron wants to do the right thing for the vast majority of the people, the country, and Europe; but, just what that is can be difficult to agree. There are far worse potential and wannabe leaders out there than Macron. There are three things I can't abide in people; Deviousness, meanness of spirit, and quitters. Everything else is up for debate. Meanwhile, we have to try and make things work - not destroy the things that are actually working. Setting fire to someone's car is not a protest - it's a crime. The owner can no longer work or take their ill child to hospital; insurance premiums increase for everyone, and the price of goods on the shelf increases. This benefits no one but the devious cheats and liars who play the financial markets game - and you can surely guess what I think of them..... .
Anonymous 2019/01/15 13:34
I agree with Mike's statement above, that it's difficult to find any 2 French people who agree on what is wrong. All I can say is that over the last 4 weeks or so, I've given money to at least 5 elderly, white, French people begging in the street. I am in Nice where most of the people are wealthy. Imagine working all your life and when you get to 70 or 80 years old, you have to go out and beg for money because you can't afford to eat or keep warm! It's unacceptable, and the Yellow Vests are right to demonstrate!
Anonymous 2019/01/15 12:09
An excellent summation, Mike.
Anonymous 2019/01/15 00:04
I have yet to find any two French people who agree on what it is that is wrong, other than they think Macron is too haughty. Hollande was not perceived in this way, but crashed in the polls too. Sarkozy was liked initially, but was even more remote and regal than Macron, and then they realised he might have been a bit of a crook. So, what do they want? In many cases, more benefits but less tax, lower prices but higher wages, and so on. Tax the rich!! When Hollande did that, many of them simply left. There is no one or simple answer, and a national debate is at least some kind of way forward. I was handed a leaflet by a Gilet Jaune today, demanding a people's assembly, which is an idea that has been picked up from elsewhere, which essentially requires a separate elected body and multiple referenda, but there is no clue as to how this would be elected or decided, any differently from the current political arrangements. PR has been suggested, and it has its adherents, apart from those who remember the completely ineffective governments of the 1930's when no-one ever had a decisive majority (which is why Gaulism took root for a while post-war). The expression of public anger is real enough, but the expectations that government, or the the State, can solve many of their problems, is fantasy.
Anonymous 2019/01/14 21:48
Hmmm. Just to put some perspective upon the arguments of those who bandy silly numbers in regard to taxes, etc. <br />My income is zero Euros a day and I pay 100% tax on my income. <br />How much tax does the country get from me?<br />My neighbour receives 1,000,000 Euros a day and pays 1% tax.<br />How much does the country get from my neighbour?<br />Which of us contributes most to the greater good of the country's wealth?<br />And for those who deny climate change; how many of the children in your family, or neighbourhood, have asthma or other respiratory issues?
Anonymous 2019/01/14 19:52
A flat tax of 15% on all income regardless of how small puts all citizens in the game. NO loopholes or deductions. France will thrive. <br />Forget climate change, it's a money scheme and that's all. The impending doom is as old as the hills. Get off that and fire the phony scientists who profit from the Scheme.
Anonymous 2019/01/14 17:16
Ecological transformation: “Today no one disputes the urgent need to act quickly." A totally loaded question no wonder Macon is being vilified.
Anonymous 2019/01/14 17:13
Tax question is simple. When someone earns €2500 per month, the cost to the employee and company in tax contributions amount to 83% of this salary. Yet someone earning €10,000 per month tax contributions = 71% and drops to 60% for those earning €15k. There is nothing fair about this no wonder the gilets jaunes are angry.

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