President Emmanuel Macron has criticised people who have not been vaccinated against Covid, vowing to continue to ‘piss them off’ with rules and restrictions.
The president said: “Les non-vaccinés, j’ai très envie de les emmerder”. The verb emmerder in French is vulgar and can be translated as causing hassle to someone or annoying them.
“I'm not in favour of pissing off the French,” he said in the interview with Le Parisien published yesterday (December 4). “I'm always complaining when our officials cause blockages, but here, with the non-vaccinated, I really want to piss them off.
“So we're going to keep on doing it, right to the end, that's the strategy,” he said.
The Connexion contacted Le Parisien where the director of communication Lara Saramito said the interview had been proofread by the Elysée Palace before publication.
He suggested this would be achieved through the introduction of a vaccine pass, which the government is aiming to replace the current health pass with.
The planned vaccine pass, showing that someone is fully vaccinated against Covid, will be required to enter the majority of public places, including cafes, restaurants, long-distance transport, cinemas, museums, etc.
The government is aiming to have this pass in place by January 15, although there have been delays to parliamentary debates that could affect this schedule.
“I'm not going to put [non-vaccinated people] in prison, I'm not going to vaccinate them by force,” Mr Macron said.
“And so, we have to tell them that from January 15, you can no longer go to the restaurant, you can no longer take a hot drink out, you can no longer go for a coffee, you can no longer go to the theatre, you can no longer go to the cinema.”
The president also addressed the recent debate that has been taking place in France over whether non-vaccinated people should be given the same level of hospital treatment when suffering from Covid as vaccinated people.
Mr Macron said the very fact that the question has arisen is itself a “strange sort of virus”.
“That is the immense moral fault of the anti-vaxxers: They undermine the solidity of a nation,” he said.
“When a person’s freedom threatens that of others, they become irresponsible. An irresponsible person is no longer a citizen.”
He ruled out the idea of refusing treatment to non-vaccinated people.
“You can't put healthcare workers in that situation. A doctor or nurse, they see someone who is ill, not where they come from or who they are.”
"Piss off", "hassle", "annoy", "antagonize", "harass": very amused by the ongoing discussion on how to translate the very french concept of "emmerder"— Yann Schreiber (@YannSchreiber) January 5, 2022
Comment clashes with previous 'mea culpa' for 'hurtful' comments in past
Commentators have noted that the phrase is now going to leave a strong impression in people's minds as Mr Macron enters the campaign period for re-election, whether for good or bad (from his point of view).
"It's a candidate's phrase, rather than a president's phrase," according to BFMTV's head of the politics section, Philipe Corbé.
It appears to contradict Mr Macron's recent expression of regret over the fact that some of his phrases in the past have caused controversy.
During an interview on TF1 last month he said: "I may have hurt people with some of my comments. You can get things moving without being hurtful. I won't do that again."
BFMTV journalist Matthieu Croissandeau said: "It's rather astonishing he should come out with this. It reinforces people's criticism of his arrogance and really clashes with his previous mea culpa."
According to communications specialist Professor Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet of Sciences-Po Paris, it may be aimed at causing a diversion from the problem of rising cases of the Omicron variant.
Politics expert Jérôme Fourquet from the Ipof survey insitute noted in an interview with FranceInfo that Mr Macron may have been banking on the fact the vast majority of the French are now vaccinated, and surveys have shown that most people approve of the vaccine pass.
He is also aware that the typical LREM voter supports vaccination and the pass, he said. "So, he is addressing his electorate, which is an electorate of good pupils who have fallen into line."
Macron’s words cause backlash and delay vaccine pass law (again)
For the second night in a row, a debate in the Assemblée nationale over a bill containing the legislation to introduce the proposed vaccine pass has been postponed.
This time, the session was suspended due to the disorder caused by the president’s controversial statement.
“The conditions for a calm work environment are not being met,” announced the session chairman, Marc Le Fur. He said the debate would be continued today Wednesday (December 5) at 15:00.
Notable opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of far-left party La France insoumise, criticised the president’s words.
“Does the President know what he is talking about?” He tweeted. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) says ‘convince rather than coerce’. What about him? To ‘annoy more’. Appalling.”
Le Président maîtrise-t-il ce qu'il dit ?— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) January 4, 2022
L'OMS dit « convaincre plutôt que contraindre ». Et lui ? « Emmerder davantage». Consternant.#Macron
The same debate was also suspended on Monday night, after opposition MPs voted against extending the session beyond the usual cut-off time of midnight.
This led to questions about whether the government will be able to keep to its schedule of introducing the vaccine pass by January 15.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal yesterday said that they were still aiming to keep the schedule “as close as possible to what was planned”.
It is not clear how much of an impact this second parliamentary session suspension will have on that.
Possible historical reference intended
According to the president of the LREM group in the Assemblée nationale, Christophe Castagner, the president intended to make a reference to a famous comment said to have been made by George Pompidou in 1966.
At the time prime minister under Charles de Gaulle, Mr Pompidou (who later became president) on being presented with a lot of new decrees to be signed by a young Jacques Chirac (then a senior civil servant fresh from the École Nationale d'Administration, a school that prepares future officials and is known for paperwork and rules), reportedly said "we have to stop pissing off the French".
He is said to have added that France already had too many laws and texts: "We're suffocating from them - let them live a little and you will see that everything will be better."