President Macron has spoken on issues including inflation, retirement, the hospital crisis, small businesses and healthcare, in an interview on French television last night (October 26).
The head of state took part in an interview with presenter Caroline Roux over more than an hour as part of L'Evénement, a new France 2 political programme.
His main points were on the following topics:
Inflation: Spreading but controlled
Mr Macron said: “Inflation is spreading, but we have controlled it better than many of our neighbours.” And yet, he said that high inflation was the result of “dependence”.
Inflation was at 5.6% year-on-year in September.
He dismissed calls to reindex wages to inflation, as suggested by several workers’ unions. He said: "If we want to create jobs so that French people who work can live with dignity, the solution is not to reindex wages to inflation. It is not the state that decides on wage increases.”
He said that he would prefer to help by using grants, but did concede that the ongoing debates on wages (including today’s current strike) are "legitimate".
Small business energy aid
Mr Macron said that the state would continue to offer aid, to face up to inflation and the energy crisis.
He said: “Where there should have been a 100% increase on electricity and gas [prices], it will remain at 15%. It is hard, but we must hold strong. The state will take its share and will continue to do so in 2023."
The president also said that some small businesses will benefit from the same aid as that being given to low-income households.
He said: “We are going to help [businesses]. Very small businesses will get the same help as households: an increase of only 15% in electricity and gas. For SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses), like bakers, we're going to set up a mechanism to cushion the increases."
Mr Macron also announced targeted aid for “heavy drivers” (people who drive often and use significantly more fuel than average as part of their work).
This "will allow us to support those who [need it], in particular to work,” he said.
Immigration, crime, and ‘OQTF’ orders
Mr Macron said that he wants to “thoroughly reform” the laws on the OQTF. This stands for ‘obligation de quitter le territoire français’ (obligation to leave French territory).
The order is issued to people who no longer have the right to be in France, in the event of a refusal of a residence permit or of illegal residence in the country. It requires you to leave France by your own means within 30 days.
OQTFs have been in the news more recently due to the murder of French schoolgirl Lola, allegedly by an Algerian woman who was subject to an OQTF but had not complied.
Mr Macron said: “We must thoroughly reform our laws to be able to better welcome those we want to welcome and to be able to more quickly escort [others] back to their country.
"We are going to toughen things up with the countries of origin to move towards a 100% deportation rate for the most dangerous.
Mr Macron said that he would “never make a link between [legal] immigration and insecurity”.
However, he did say that “today, when we look at delinquency rates, for example in Paris, where there is a high concentration of illegal immigration, then yes, it is very present in crime rates”.
Retired GPs and hospitals
The president said that retired GPs will be able to continue working and receiving their full income without making pension contributions after retirement age, in a bid to push up the number of doctors in France.
He said: “25% of our general practitioners are over 60. All the doctors who retire, we will allow them to retire, but on the first day of their retirement, they will be able to continue to exercise their activity by receiving their full income without pension contributions.”
Mr Macron said that this was needed because "we do not have enough doctors" in France. He added that he also “wants to reform hospital organisation” and “give power back to carers” on the ground.
Mr Macron said that he was “open” to delaying the retirement age to 64, one year earlier than the 65 that he stated during his presidential election campaign.
He said: “If some [social partners] are ready to commit, and say: ‘We don’t want to work until 65, but we are ready to work a few more quarters’…then I’m open to it.”
Mr Macron said that there were “a few ways of doing this”.
He added: "From the summer of 2023, we will have to shift the legal retirement age by four months a year. If we want to succeed, we have no choice but to work more.”
During his first presidential campaign, Mr Macron promised not to change the legal retirement age. But in the interview, he defended his actions, saying that today “is not the same world” as in 2017.
Climate change, industry, and ‘energy sovereignty’
Mr Macron pushed for more energy production in France, in a similar vein to comments he made on electric cars earlier this month.
He said: “We must reconcile climate, industry, and energy sovereignty.” He added that France “will produce two million electric batteries” by the end of his five-year term in 2027.
“We don’t have oil, but we have lithium,” he said. The first lithium mine is set to be opened in Allier by 2027, and should produce enough batteries for 700,000 electric cars by 2028.
He said that he also wants to “reduce emissions” from polluting vehicles, to protect people’s health in France.
Political ‘cynicism and disorder’
Mr Macron spoke strongly as he denounced the "cynicism" and "disorder" of the opposition parties, which had, he said, forced the government to use the controversial article 49.3 to push through certain budgetary bills.
He said: "The government was right to vote for this budget, even in the face of all the opposition…It has avoided several billions of unhelpful loss-making expenditure.”.
It comes as Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne is also set to use the article to push through her social security financing bill (projet de loi de financement de la Sécurité sociale, PLFSS).
Mr Macron accused some left-leaning MPs of being "hand in hand with the [far-right] Rassemblement National" due to their opposition.
He said that he hoped for "an alliance" with the (centre-right) LR deputies and those of the centrist Liot group (Libertés, indépendants, outre-mer et territoires) for the adoption of texts in the Assembly. This is particularly important since the government lost its parliamentary majority in the legislative elections.