President Emmanuel Macron has given his first interview since his reelection today (July 14), answering questions on issues ranging from the war in Ukraine to the cost of living crisis.
Read more: France’s July 14 military parade: theme and schedule to watch on TV
It is customary for French presidents to be interviewed during the Fête nationale celebrations on July 14, and this year’s events falling just after the presidential and legislative elections meant that the president could lay out some key policy points for his second quinquennat (five-year term).
He said that he wanted to “move the country forward [...] make France more independent, win the battle for our environment and for equal opportunities, make us a stronger, fairer country.”
Mr Macron was responding to questions from France 2 journalist Caroline Roux and TF1’s Anne-Claire Coudray.
The key points of the interview were:
Threats to Russian gas supply amid war in Ukraine
When asked about the war in Ukraine, Mr Macron said: “This war will last; France will always be in a position to help Ukraine, to stop the Russian war effort through sanctions.
“Energy prices have risen as a result of this war. The real change in recent days has been Russia’s decision to begin to cut gas supplies to western Europe.”
Read more: France is at risk of energy shortages and rationing, says minister
On Monday (July 11), the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline – the most important supplier for western Europe – was switched off for maintenance works lasting 10 days. Many believe Mr Putin will not switch it back on.
“We must prepare for a scenario in which we have to go without Russian gas completely,” Mr Macron said, adding that this was now “probable”.
He said that there would need to be a “general mobilisation” to reduce gas consumption in France, adding: “We will diversify and look elsewhere for gas: Qatar, Algeria…”
He stressed that France is not as dependent on Russian gas as some of its neighbours – such as Germany – but stated that the government is developing a “plan de sobriété” energy consumption restraint plan, which would help businesses and individuals to consume less.
Mr Macron said that, in this way, the government would: “Try to prevent our economy from being halted as much as possible,” and added that it would be a good thing for France’s efforts to protect the environment.
On the subject of the environment, Mr Macron warned that: “It is an emergency and it is already here,” saying that the government needs to “protect our farming system, protect our elderly and our children from the heatwaves which are becoming more common.
“The emergency must push us to move much more quickly on climate [issues]. I’ve asked that taxes on the oil we use go entirely to fund the acceleration of this transition.”
He then called on local authorities to reduce their energy wastage by turning off street lights, for example.
He also insisted that “nuclear is a solution, a sustainable solution,” which can help to cut down on the use of fossil fuels.
France’s current bouclier tarifaire freeze on gas and electricity prices is expected to come to an end on January 1, 2023, and Mr Macron was asked what will happen next.
Read more: France extends energy price cap measure to the end of 2022
He said: “We will evaluate the evolution of gas [supply and prices],” but added that the population would “progressively” have to begin “sharing the cost” of rising rates as measures are “focused” on those in greatest need.
“We will continue to support [people], but we are going to consider at the end of the year how prices are changing.
“In terms of electricity, we are going to reform the European market. We are going to negotiate a change in the price of electricity.
“In terms of fuel, for the people who need their car we are going to make sure that they are supported better.”
Read more: Who will qualify for France’s new fuel aid for low-income drivers?
“We are going to fight so that things get better.”
Raising the pension age to 65
Mr Macron said that part of his reelection campaign had involved a scheme which would see the French pension age “progressively” put up from 62 to 65, but today he added that this will not happen “tomorrow”.
Read more: Retirement at 65 (not 62) and €1,100 monthly pension: Macron’s plans
“We are going to have to work more and for longer, there is no doubt about that,” he said, stating that France has one of the best social security systems in the world, which needs more and more funding.
“The discussion will begin after la rentrée. Later there will be a collaboration with unions and bosses, then with political bodies in Parliament.
“From summer 2023, [the pension reform] should come into force.”
Mr Macron also stated that one of his key aims for this term was to create full employment, and so would be putting forward several reforms in the fields of work and education.
Ruling without an absolute majority
Asked whether he was worried about spending his term with a majority of MPs potentially opposing his policies in the Assemblée nationale, Mr Macron said: “French people have put their faith in me in the presidential elections and they have put their trust in a relative majority of MPs.
“They have said to us: ‘we want you to work together, we want you to know how to build compromises.”
Read more: Power shift in France: President Macron needs MPs to compromise
Read more: Macron misses out on absolute majority in French legislative elections
The president’s Ensemble alliance gained 245 Assemblée nationale seats in the legislative elections, 44 short of an absolute majority.
Mr Macron added that the fact that he is now in his second term and therefore cannot stand for reelection in 2027 will make him “even more demanding of myself.
“That gives me even more responsibility,” he continued. “We can’t write history before making it.”
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