Dear Frenchwomen, dear Frenchmen, my dear fellow citizens
In a period of questioning and uncertainty such as the one we are going through, we must remember who we are.
France is a country unlike any other.
People here have a stronger awareness than elsewhere of the need to fight injustices. There is a stronger expectation of mutual assistance and solidarity.
In our country, those who work finance the pensions of pensioners. In our country, large numbers of citizens pay an income tax, sometimes heavy, that reduces inequalities.
In our country, education, health, security and justice are accessible to all, regardless of position and wealth. Life's hazards, such as unemployment, can be overcome, thanks to the effort shared by all.
This is why France is, of all nations, one of the most fraternal and egalitarian.
It is also one of the most free, since everyone is protected in their rights and in their freedom of opinion, conscience, belief or philosophy.
And every citizen has the right to choose those who will speak for them in the running of the country, in developing new laws, in the major decisions to be taken.
Everyone shares the destiny of others and everyone is called upon to decide upon everyone's destiny: the French nation is all of this.
How can we not feel proud to be French?
I know, of course, that some of us today are dissatisfied or angry. Because for them taxes are too high, public services too remote, because wages are too low for some to live with dignity from the fruits of their labour, because our country does not offer the same chances of success depending on where we live or what family we come from.
Everyone would like a more prosperous country and a more just society.
I share this impatience. The society we want is a society in which to succeed we should not need contacts or wealth, but effort and work.
In France, but also in Europe and in the world, not only great worry, but great distress has entered people's minds. We must respond with clear ideas.
But there is one condition for this: not to accept any form of violence. I do not accept, and have no right to accept, pressure and insults, for example directed to elected representatives of the people. I do not accept, and have no right to accept, generalised accusations, for example against the media, journalists, state institutions or public servants. If everyone is being aggressive to everyone else, society falls apart!
In order for hopes to dominate fears, it is necessary and legitimate for us to ask again together the great questions of our future.
That is why I have proposed and am launching today a major national debate that will take place until March 15.
In recent weeks, many mayors have opened their mairies up so that you can express your expectations. I have had a lot of feedback that I have been able to take into account.
We will now enter a broader phase and you will be able to participate in debates near you or express yourself on the internet to put forward your proposals and ideas.
In the French mainland, in the overseas regions and territories and with French nationals residing abroad. In villages, towns, districts, at the initiative of mayors, elected officials, community leaders, or ordinary citizens... In parliamentary assemblies as well as regional or departmental ones.
Mayors will have an essential role because they are your elected representatives and therefore the legitimate intermediary for citizens to express themselves.
For me, there are no forbidden questions. We will not agree on everything, that is normal, that is democracy. But at least we will show that we are a people who are not afraid to speak, to exchange, to debate.
And perhaps we will discover that we might even agree, despite our different persuasions, more often than we think.
I have not forgotten that I was elected with a project, with major objectives to which I remain faithful. I still think France must be restored to its prosperity so that it can be generous, because one goes with the other.
I still believe that the fight against unemployment must be our top priority, and that employment is created above all in businesses, so we must give them the means to develop themselves. I still believe that we must rebuild a school system in which people have trust, a renewed social system to better protect the French and reduce inequalities at their roots.
I still think that the depletion of natural resources and climate change oblige us to rethink our development model.
We must invent a new, fairer and more effective production, social, educational, environmental and European project.
On these major directions, my determination has not changed.
But I also think that this debate can lead to a clarification of our national and European project, new ways of looking to the future, new ideas.
I hope that as many French people as possible, as many of us, will be able to participate in this debate.
This debate will have to answer some key questions that have emerged in recent weeks. That is why, with the government, we have chosen four main themes that cover many of the nation's major challenges: taxation and public expenditure, the organisation of the state and public services, ecology, democracy and citizenship.
On each of these themes, proposals and questions have already been expressed. I would like to set out some that are not exhaustive but seem to me to be at the heart of our questions.
The first topic is about our taxes, spending and state intervention.
Taxation is at the heart of our national solidarity. It finances our public services. It pays the teachers, firefighters, police officers, soldiers, judges, nurses and all the civil servants who work for you. It makes it possible to provide social welfare to the most vulnerable, but also to finance certain future projects for a better future, our research, our culture, or to maintain our infrastructures. It is also tax that allows us to pay the interest on the very significant debt that our country has incurred over time.
But taxes, when they are too high, deprive our economy of resources that could usefully be invested in businesses, creating jobs and growth. And they deprive workers of the fruits of their efforts.
We will not go back on the measures we have taken to correct this in order to encourage investment and make work pay more. They have just been voted on and are just beginning to take effect. Parliament will assess them in a transparent manner and with the necessary hindsight. However, we must ask ourselves questions to go further.
How could we make our taxation fairer and more efficient? Which taxes do you think should be lowered as a priority?
Whatever we do, we cannot continue tax cuts without also lowering the overall level of our public spending.
Which savings do you think should be a priority?
Should certain public services be cut that might be outdated or more costly than they are worth? On the other hand, do you see new needs for public services and if so how can they be financed?
Our social model is also being challenged. Some consider it insufficient, others too expensive because of the contributions they pay. The effectiveness of both training and employment services is often criticised. The government has begun to respond to this, after extensive consultations, through a strategy for our health, to fight poverty, and to fight unemployment.
How can we better organise our social pact? Which objectives should we define as a priority?
The second subject on which we must take decisions is the organisation of the state and public authorities. Public services have a cost, but they are vital: schools, police, army, hospitals, courts are essential to social cohesion.
Are there too many levels of civil service or levels of local authorities? Should decentralisation be strengthened and more decision-making and power be given as close as possible to the citizens? At which levels and for which services?
How would you like the state to be organised and how can it improve? Should the functioning of the civil service be reviewed and how?
How can the state and local authorities improve to better respond to the challenges of the areas of Franc that are in the most difficulty, and what do you propose?
The ecological transition is the third theme, essential to our future. I am committed to objectives of preserving biodiversity and fighting global warming and air pollution. Today, no one disputes the urgent need to act quickly. The longer we delay, the more painful these changes will become.
Making the ecological transition [moving towards a greener economy and lifestyles] reduces households' spending on fuel, heating, waste management and transportation. But to succeed in this transition, we must invest massively and support our less well-off fellow citizens.
National solidarity is necessary so that all French people can achieve this.
How is the ecological transition financed? If through taxation, then which taxes? And who should pay for it as a priority?
How do we make concrete solutions accessible to everyone, for example to replace an old boiler or an old car? What are the simplest and most financially manageable solutions?
What are the solutions for travel, housing, heating and food that must be designed locally rather than nationally? What concrete proposals would you make to accelerate our environmental transition?
The question of biodiversity also arises for all of us.
How should we scientifically guarantee the choices we have to make in this regard? How can we share these choices at European and international level so that our producers are not penalised compared to foreign competitors?
Finally, it is clear that the period our country is going through shows that we need to restore more strength to democracy and citizenship. Being a citizen means helping to decide the country's future by electing representatives at local, national and European level.
This system of representation is the foundation of our Republic, but it must be improved because many do not feel represented after the elections.
Should we recognize the 'blank vote'? Should voting be made mandatory?
What is the right amount of proportionality in parliamentary elections for a fairer representation of all political projects?
Should the number of parliamentarians or other categories of elected officials be limited and to what extent?
What role should our assemblies, including the Senate and the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, play in representing our territories and civil society? Should they be transformed, and if so how?
In addition, a great democracy like France must be able to listen more often to the voices of its citizens.
What changes would you like to see in order to make citizen participation more active and democracy more participatory?
Should unelected citizens, for example, drawn by lot, be more directly involved in public decision-making?
Should the use of referendums be increased and who should initiate them?
Citizenship is also about living together.
Our country has always known how to welcome those who have fled wars and persecutions and sought refuge on our soil: this is the duty of asylum, which cannot be called into question. Our national community has also always been open to those who, born elsewhere, have chosen to move to France, in search of a better future: this is one of the ways in which France has been built.
However, this tradition is now being shaken by tensions and doubts linked to immigration and the shortcomings of our integration system.
What do you propose to improve integration in our nation? With regard to immigration, once our asylum obligations have been fulfilled, do you want us to be able to set ourselves annual objectives defined by Parliament? What do you propose to do to meet this ongoing challenge?
The question of secularism is still a major subject of debate in France. Secularism is the fundamental value that allows different religious or philosophical convictions to live alongside each other in good understanding and harmony. It is synonymous with freedom because it allows everyone to live according to their choices.
How can we strengthen the principles of French secularism in the relationship between the state and the religions of our country? How can we ensure that everyone respects the Republic's mutual understanding and intangible values?
In the coming weeks, I invite you to debate to answer these questions that are crucial to the future of our nation. I would also like you to be able, beyond these subjects that I am suggesting to you, to raise any concrete subject that you may feel could improve your daily life.
This debate is a completely new initiative from which I am absolutely determined to draw all the conclusions.
This is neither an election nor a referendum. It is your personal expression, corresponding to your history, your opinions, your priorities, that is required here, without distinction of age or social condition.
I believe that it is a great step forward for our Republic to consult its citizens in this way. To guarantee your freedom of speech, I want this consultation to be organised in complete independence, and to be governed by all the guarantees of loyalty and transparency.
That is how I aim to transform anger into solutions with you.
Your proposals will therefore make it possible to build a new contract for the nation, to structure the action of the government and Parliament, but also France's positions at European and international level. I will report directly to you within one month of the end of the debate.
Citizens, I hope that as many of you as possible can participate in this great debate in order to make a useful contribution to the future of our country.
Yours with confidence,
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