France 24 – Wednesday 20th April 2022
First on the agenda as purchasing power and Marine spoke first. They each had 90 seconds to say in what way they would be a better President than their opponent.
Marine – France’s greatest asset is its people and showing solidarity but over the last 5 years she has watched people in France worry about being down classed, worry about the future. Said she would be the President to preside over a renaissance era, restore freedoms, security and purchasing power. She would focus on schooling, knowledge and health care. She believes in social ladder and if elected, would be the President of justice and of national fraternity, of civil peace. Brotherhood is what holds the French together and we need to rally around this collective platform.
Macron – Macron acknowledges France has gone through the most difficult time for 100 years – first the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine. He has steered France through these times and has tried to make the right choices. He agrees to work on schools, health, care for the elderly and make everyone’s life better. Macron mentions the importance of climate and strengthening Europe, which is even more important at a time like this.
Cost of Living first on the agenda
Marine speaks first.
Marine – People can’t make ends meet. Increase in petrol prices. Reduction of handouts that were key to helping French – housing benefits. She would restore these. She would reduce VAT on energy prices from 20% to 5.5% – electricity, gas, fuel, diesel – this would return 12 billion euros to the people. She would reduce taxes. The half tax share taken away from widows would be given back. Families would receive a full tax share as soon as they have a second child which will boost their purchasing power by 560 euros per year. Will also support increasing wages for first liners, teachers and health care workers. She wants to support work study apprenticeships. They will receive between 200 and 300 euros in supplemental income. Supporting the vulnerable who have been hard hit over past 5 years is also on the agenda. Handouts, allowances, single parent families. Increase disability allowance. Macron opposed the granting of disability allowance irrespective of how much the spouse makes. She would bring this back. She would also index link retirement pensions. There has been no indexation of retirement pensions on inflation so what would be a priority for her. All of these measures will increase purchasing power per household by 500-600 euros per month Marine says. (4 mins)
Macron – Le Pen is right to mention the numbers that he hasn’t cited but that independent bodies have set out. The purchasing power of the working classes is important. There is an issue at the end of the month when they come to pay their bills. He knows this. People complain about the cost of a weekly shop. And of the issue with increased energy prices as a result of the war in Ukraine. Macron wants to impose a temporary cap on fuel prices which he believes is twice as effective as dropping the VAT on them. Marine voted against that cap in parliament so he surprised that she is suggesting such a thing now. Macron would preserve said cap for as long as the crisis is raging. A long term cap (or reduction in VAT) is not sustainable economically – it is a crisis management mechanism. After the crisis is over, Macron would help households change their cars for electric vehicles. Secondly, on work/labour. Macron is proud to have reduced unemployment during his period in office. Le Pen hasn’t mentioned this so clearly when it comes to recognising the hard work he has put in over past 5 years. Macron believes that this is the best way to increase individual purchasing power: to boost employment. The basic minimum pay will increase by 34 euros per month. Pensions will increase this summer – Macron won’t wait until 1st Jan 2023 as inflation is already beyond 4%. He wants small pensions to be raised up to 1,100 euros. Marine has suggested 1,000 euros. Macron proposes a wage earner dividend. When business managers are paid dividends, bonuses should be paid to workers and made compulsory. Disability allowance payments have increased over the last 5 years and are now up 90 euros per month. He also wants those in receipt of it to avoid losing this if they get married to someone who earns a lot of money.
Marine – says Le Pen’s petrol cap would be paid for by the tax payer. She wants to go back to regulated prices. She would increase wages by 10% and reduce employer contributions. It’s a loss of revenue for government, yes, she agrees. But when you go to the bank for a loan, they look at your basic salary. They don’t look at any bonuses you may be given by your employer.
Macron – he is reducing pay roll taxes and other taxes for employers. Yes, there’s an issue with the bonus idea where this can fluctuate at random from one year to the next. But what Le Pen says, Macron can’t be sure of this. The President doesn’t decide what the wages are. Macron suggests reducing taxes on any bonus that is paid. Le Pen trying to say she will increase wages by 10% – some employers will agree to that and some won’t. Le Pen or the French government can’t force employers to do this.
On the price caps for fuel. Macron is happy she’s now agreeing with this when she voted against it in parliament.
Marine – If prices are regulated, as they used to be, they would be less sensitive to crisis. She suggests totally removing VAT on a selection of basic products, whether food stuffs or other basic products, as long as inflation is higher than growth by 1%, which she says is the case right now. Macron questions this. She says inflation 4%.
Macron – Again on the issue of fuel, he welcomes the fact that Le Pen wants to keep the cap now. Reforming the market will not happen overnight. She said she wants to withdraw from the European energy market. He thinks this is a huge mistake. France are interlinked with the European energy market and there are times we need to import energy that we don’t produce domestically, so we need to be part of this market. Macron feels we need to reform Europe yes, but not withdraw from it. Reform the energy market so that it no longer depends on the marginal additions of gas but on the basics of nuclear energy. This will take some time. Still need the price cap for now while prices are as high as they are. On VAT on food stuffs, Macron offers a food check for those who are really on tight budget – students and some households, which seems fairer than doing it for everyone, as not everyone needs it. A 0% VAT on some food stuffs is not effective. When Sarkozy dropped VAT that was a good thing but it didn’t do much to prices. The idea was to get restaurants to hire again. Le Pen’s measure would be beneficial to supermarket chains, not to the consumers. Plus it’s unfair because those who have money can pay it. It should be for those who can’t and a cheque makes much more sense for those who can’t afford than applying 0% VAT when there are many who don’t actually need it. Less than 1% difference between inflation and growth Macron says when you look at Bank of France figures. Says Le Pen mentioned 4.5% inflation. He says you need to look at the quarterly growth and the last one was 5.4%. A 1% difference. Macron says her measures won’t work.
Marine – Macron could have reduced taxes after increasing the. Macron says they’ve given back more than they took away now, even though he agrees with Le Pen that yes, it took a while. She mentions the increase of fuel taxes for diesel that Macron tried to impose when he first came to power, which created purchase problems for people and triggered the Yellow Vests movement/protests. Macron suspended that increase but didn’t remove the provision from the law. She wants to give the French that money back again. When you give handouts/cheques instead of reducing or eliminating VAT on certain items, Le Pen says it is in store keepers interests to maintain prices at a high level. She says the measures Macron proposes are ineffective. The 100 euro cheque he sent to a variety of demographics, including detainees, was a farce. It would be easier to give people their money back.
Macron – Says numbers show that in France, inflation is half what it is in Spain. The cap he proposes for fuel prices while the crisis is ongoing doesn’t lead to inflation. Her measures would last over time but would be ineffective and doesn’t pass through onto prices. Plus not everyone needs it.
Macron goes first.
Macron – Ukraine. Times are serious. Russia has just increased their offensive in eastern Ukraine – Donbas and Mariupol. France and Europe must support Ukraine and help them to resist the Russian offensive and make sure that Kyiv doesn’t fall. Support financially and welcome the 5 million Ukrainians who have fled. Must ensure war doesn’t spill over to other parts or Europe. France has to tighten her grip with allies and have others on board too – China, India, the Gulf States – to make sure everyone understands the choices being made by Russia will be a disaster not just for Ukraine but for Russia also. This is why Europe matters. France have invested in a strong army and forces in line with the recent budget set out in the White Paper. Macron wants to make sure this increase will ensure France’s security over the long run so that France is no one’s vassal. He wants to bring Russia back to reason, introduce a ceasefire and release Ukraine.
Marine – Agrees that France should we help more and deliver weapons. She has compassion for Ukraine and expresses solidarity with them. Russia’s invasion is unacceptable. Macron’s efforts to try on behalf of France deserve our support. She acknowledges that. to humanitarian and financial aid – yes. Defence equipment – yes. The far right Mayor of Perpignan, Jean-Marc Pugol, mayor for some time now, recently travelled to the Polish border and brought refugees back – women, children and senior citizens. Poland now has 3 million refugees. Le Pen urges a word of caution: delivering weapons to Ukraine could turn France into a co-belligerent. She doesn’t believe in the ban on Russian oil and gas as this will hurt the French people. Also believes blocking such imports will have unintended consequences which will be cataclysmic; not just on individuals but on businesses. I won’t hurt Russia as they will just sell to other countries. Her longstanding fear that this will throw Russia into the arms of China and that together they will turn into a superpower – economically and militarily. She doesn’t want to solve problems today in a way that will hurt us in the future.
The Bit about the Russian Loan…
Macron – He takes note of what Le Pen has said but says this is not what her party and MPs are saying in the European Parliament – they opposed financial aid. She says that’s wrong. He told her to count the vote. Macron says Le Pen was one of the first in 2014 to recognise the annexation of Crimea. A forced annexation. In 2015, Le Pen took out a loan with a Russian bank which is close to the state and worked with people who were directly involved with the war in Syria. (Her face when he’s saying this shows she’s expecting it). Macron also mentions the fact Russia that worked covertly to discredit him during his campaign with allegations that were false. He says Le Pen can’t work in the interest of the French people when her own interests are tied to Russia.
Marine – She denies this and says that Macron has access to all of the intelligence in relation to the matter. Everything is transparent and she is a free woman tied to nobody. She pulls out a piece of paper on which she says was shows one of her tweets from November 2014. In said tweet, Le Pen says that she wrote she supported a free Ukraine that was subject to the influence of neither the US, the EU or Russia. She said the same regarding Iraq in 2003 and says the same for Europe now.
Le Pen goes on to say that Crimea didn’t post too many problems. She says Macron hosted Putin in Versailles, to which Macron responds that he hosted a head of State, not his banker. She says that later in 2017, Macron hosted Putin during his summer vacation. On that occasion Macron also said, according not Le Pen, that Russia should shore itself up to the EU once again and the EU should spread all the way from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Macron – He says he’s still not saying anything else. Le Pen says this stance is undignified. Macron has no qualms in recognising that Russia has its full place within the European security architecture.
Marine – She says this is all wrong. Regarding her loan from the Russian bank. Why was she forced to take out a loan from a Russian bank in the first place? Because she couldn’t get one in France. Banks get to decide which political parties to support and which not to.
Macron – Says Marine still hasn’t paid the 2015 loan back. Furthermore, Zemmour found a bank to lend him money in France – he didn’t need to go to Russia.
Marine – Millions go to the bank to get a loan and all they want to do is repay the loan. It doesn’t mean they owe any further allegiance. Le Pen says she repays this loan every month under the supervision of the campaigns oversight body. Macron says there’s a dependency link as it came from a Russian bank. Le Pen says the only dependence she feels is in repaying her loan. Macron just wants her to admit to it – he is not holding it up against her. (This bit is funny – I wonder who his translator is…..). Macron says he too has taken out loans but that he hasn’t gone to Russia. Le Pen says it’s dishonest to stop her getting a loan from a French bank. In 2015, she notes that Macron was then Minister for the Economy and he could have prevented her having to go to Russia for the loan if he wanted to. Macron says he wasn’t minister of Finance – he didn’t have access to the decisions of the banks. Le Pen goes on to say she’s sure that there are issues much more important than this… (Time now on the English dubbed recording is at 56 mins).
Would you like to remain in Europe as it is today with the Franco-German tandem? (The recording is now at 57 mins)
Macron – He has always been clear. 5 years ago, 80% of Le Pen’s platform was only applicable if France withdrew from the euro. That hasn’t changed – she still wants to withdraw from the euro but she hasn’t really said it. He believes in the France-Germany tandem and that they got things done in the pandemic. Pooled their future debt. Together they started to establish the groundwork for a European defence structure, the agri-food business, farming (farmers know how important the CAP is for them to take things forward in these times of changes). We do need a stronger, more integrated Europe with a strong France-Germany tandem at the helm to drive it. This is what Macron did with Angela Merkel and what he is now doing with Olaf Scholz.
Marine – (now at 59 mins). She sees an advent of European nations that would gradually replace the EU. Does that mean she wants to exit the EU as it exists today? She says there’s no such thing as European sovereignty as there’s no such thing as European people. France is sovereign because of its people. Macron replaced the French flag with the EU flag under the Arc de Triomphe. She wants to remain part of the EU but with radical changes. There are number of EU polices she disagrees with. The raft of Free Trade Agreements where we sell German cars, while sacrificing farmers, where there is unfair competition from Canada and Brazil – beef and chicken.
Macron – (1 hour dead on) – What Canadian chickens? (This bit is funny – in the original French also, but even more so in the voiced over translation – again, this translator is a genius!)
Le Pen ignores the question about the chickens and carries on. She disagrees with the Directive on posted workers. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, come to our country but are not paying taxes in France but to their country of origin. She disagrees with Macron’s policy that reduces EU farming output by 10% at a time when there’s a global food crisis. A raft of EU policies she disagrees with. She was an MEP. She saw Germany defending their citizens own interests. France doesn’t do that. Why?
Macron says maybe she doesn’t go to parliament often enough.
Le Pen says how come France doesn’t defend its industry, its farmers? She wants the EU Commission to show respect for sovereign states to make their own decisions. She wants to overhaul the EU from the inside in. She doesn’t want to leave the EU.
Macron – He says that’s good then as 80% of Le Pen’s platform from 5 years ago has changed. Macron asks Le Pen what she’s going to do if the EU doesn’t fall into line with her proposed changes? Is she just going to go solo? He says Le Pen’s policy is one that still wants to align with Russia. Interesting, he says. (Now at 1:02:48 and Macron brings up the chickens again). ‘You mentioned Brazilian chickens’, he says to Le Pen. Can I just say that vis a vis the Brazilian chickens, France did clash with MERCOSUR – when we ask something of our own farmers he says, we want the same thing to be done by the other side’s farmers. Macron had asked for a mirror clause and stalled negotiations because there was no commitment to the Paris commitment and bio-diversity. He also did the same when it came to the issue off importing deforestation.
Macron agrees with the dropping production levels in France. He says they are not being negative on the CAP.
On the issue of posted workers. Macron says there are not hundreds and thousands of them. Maybe 5,000 jobs, 50,000 posted workers. Over the last 5 years, Macron has been fighting to change Europe – it doesn’t happen overnight. He changed the rules on posted workers – equal pay for equal jobs. Macron says Le Pen seems to want to just do away with posted workers altogether. She will then have to explain this the hundreds of thousands of French who work abroad.
On the energy market and Schengen. Macron suggests hat what Le Pen is saying is fuzzy. She wants to pull out of Europe. She says she wants a Europe of Nations. He says if it’s not the EU, she needs to pull out. It’s not a shared property – she can’t just change it. (Time here is 1:05:12).
Marine – She challenges Macron in saying that he has secured advantages when it comes to posted workers. She says this is not true. He ensured equal work and equal pay, which he said was not happening before. She says the payroll taxes keep sending the money posted workers earn in France back to the country of origin, not to France. He says yes, that’s right. She believes foreign workers are getting preferential treatment on the jobs market. If a company uses foreign workers it will cost them less so they will use the posted workers. She doesn’t want this. She wants French people to be able to work in their own country and have preference over posted workers from overseas for these jobs. (Recording at 1:06:32).
Macron – Says that a national preference for employment means the end of the European single market. If a Bulgarian comes to France, you can’t just say you won’t have him unless they pay all their taxes in France or become French. He wants French workers to be able to continue to work in Belgium or elsewhere, for example. You can’t have national preference for us and then think other countries won’t impose that on us too. (1:07:07). A European market is all about freedom of movement of goods and workers.
Marine – Says that Macron is European centric. Macron says, ‘No I’m not’, (1:07:26). The way the narrator says is really funny, it sounds like a child protesting. Le Pen says that France is a world power, not just a European power. But Macron rarely talks about it. (Actually that’s not true). She says France hasn’t talked about Africa or talked about the overseas territories that serve as platforms for France’s interest in countries all around the world. (Macron says the overseas territories aren’t ‘abroad’ and Le Pen tells him off for interrupting). She says France is a global power and needs to renew that, especially French speaking countries in Africa.
Macron – This is funny Macron says when Le Pen is talking about a national preference and border police force and then she’s telling him that he’s all shrunken and shrivelled and looking inwards. Macron says that the other day, Le Pen had an international press conference and didn’t mention Africa once. He has been to Africa more times than any of his predecessors. He has been honest and brave by acknowledging France’s colonial history whilst there. Macron says that Le Pen wants to ban the headscarf wearing in the streets and have police running after them. When she says she wants to be a global power, she needs to be realistic. Macron says Le Pen goes against French universality.
Both sides have changed tack on this.
Marine – Says the French will retire on a full pension between the ages 60-62 and will need between 40-42 years of service to get a full pension. The earlier you start work, the earlier you should retire. If you get your first job at 17, you should get to retire at 60, assuming you have 40 years under your belt. The later you start working, the later you retire. Le Pen says retirement at 65 is unfair. They will no longer be capable of enjoying it. Presently at the age of 62 years and 8 months, half the French are still working.
Macron – There is still progress to be made in this area. He has worked on health for the last 5 years. Caring for the elderly is important also. Macron wants to improve the size of pensions – he proposes the smallest pension be increased to 1,100 euros per month. Le Pen offers 1000 euros for someone who has never worked and someone who has always worked. Macron says the basic minimum for those who have worked now is 980 euros and that needs to be pushed up to 1,100. Those in work pay for those who are retired. Macron has reduced taxes by 15 billion over 5 years. Doesn’t want to increase them. Some rates have been cancelled. Doesn’t want to increase France’s debt. Wants to pay it down and only way we can do that is to work a little longer. One thing that helps is full employment. We need to push back the age of retirement by 4 months every year – so it wouldn’t reach the age of 65 until 2031. It would be gradual – an additional 4 months extra every year. Macron agrees that lengthy careers need to be protected/taken into consideration. The hardship factor also needs to be taken into account – people who work in slaughterhouses, long distance lorry drivers, those who work nightshifts. That can’t be done elater on in life. Other jobs that were previously favoured in terms of retiring earlier, like those who worked for the electricity board or in public transports: these shouldn’t be considered in hardship/non-longevity sector. Because of the imbalance, you have to either increase tax or threaten pensions. Macron doesn’t want to raise taxes and neither does Le Pen.
Marine – Le Pen tells Macron he has accumulated loads more debt in 5 years (600 billion euros) and that two thirds of that is not due to Covid. These are the figures from his Ministry she says. So maybe 500 billion for Covid and the rest getting worse into debt.
Macron – Says this is not the case. That money went towards the social services system and the local authorities. He confirms that the 600 billion figure is correct, but that his government drew down the national deficit in the first few years of his tenure. Regarding the 600 billion euros: 200 billion went to the central government and the rest to social security systems and local authorities. During Covid, people weren’t working so they weren’t contributing in taxes. Macron’s guiding principle throughout the pandemic was, ‘whatever it takes’. He tried to keep businesses going, to keep people in work where possible and prove furlough pay when not, and to keep schools open. What would Le Pen have done?
Marine – Le Pen says that she will answer all the issues/questions Macron raises but that she is having a hard time keeping up with him! Earlier Macron said he reduced unemployment. There are many restrictions – the unemployment figures were 5.5 million when he was elected and then 105 million. Job seekers switch between different categories: from b to c to a etc. People who actively start work, 5.5 million then and 5.4 million, so she has her doubts on his unemployment figures. Le Pen says that under Macron’s watch, there are 500,000 poor people on the radar who are at risk of extreme factory. If Macron says he’s good at business and economics, so be it. What about these people?
The foreign trade deficit is huge, a record. The most brutal is productivity, which Le Pen says has plummeted. Some people call Macron the ‘Mozart of Finance’ but his economic track record is terrible – not forgetting the 14,500 industry jobs lost under his watch. We need to change our priorities and the way we look at the economy. We need economic patriotism, to move things back to France, re-industrialise our country, help the very small companies and SMEs by reducing their taxes, not just by giving tax breaks to big companies or by getting rid of the wealth tax.
Macron – Got rid of the wealth tax but there was house tax instead. He is aware that the situation has been difficult now for a long time, starting with the financial crisis. Macron challenges Le Pen to ask restaurants, small businesses, and workers to let them come and tell her who it was who helped them during the crisis. The pandemic was unprecedented and still, Macron got unemployment to drop from 9% down to 6 and a bit percent. Macron says the categories a, b, c… are not counted in the unemployment figures. These are real people to whom Le Pen refers and says that Macron has no knowledge or understanding of.
Marine – 1st lock down she proposed equity for all small businesses/SMEs – 1,500 euros per company and 1,000 euros per worker. The state gave loans but those have to be pushed back and repaid. Le Pen proposed grants. After the first lock down, Macron continued to close things down – essential and non-essential. After first lock down, the facts illustrated that they knew the virus was not being transmitted in small businesses and yet Macron shut those down anyway.
Macron – Asks about the Russian Sputnik vaccines Le Pen was pushing. How did that go? How would she and her friends have managed the crisis?
Nursing and Health Care Staff
Macron – There are medical deserts in some parts of towns and very rural areas. In 2018 Macron reduced the flat rate and taxes but then the pandemic came. During the crisis, Macron invested 19 billion euros into hospitals and hospital wages. There were wage hikes from 180 euros up to 400 euros per month. There’s a short fall in doctors, nurses and nursing assistants. Macron says we need to invest in the working conditions and environment for them also, so as to help put an end to these medical deserts where there are no doctors or health care staff. He wants to have doctors, physios etc working together at a local level to make sure people have somewhere to turn to, which is why he wants to invest a lot.
Marine – She says it took a crisis for Macron to get moving. He didn’t show empathy for healthcare workers before when he made loads redundant overnight if they refused to get tested or vaccinated. She would give those workers back the wages they lost because of him. She says that Macron was already aware of the hospital system collapsing before the pandemic. He had been at the helm for 2-3 years already and could have done something before. Medical deserts aren’t new. She wants to invest 10 billion euros over the next 5 years for increasing pay, particularly nursing homes, so that they can avoid the tragedies and suffering of both patients and workers who don’t have enough time or resources to deal with each patient and they feel bad about it. She wants to allocate 10 billion euros to cover hospital equipment, MRI machines. A private fund, not a public fund. She proposes the further development of tele medicine and tax incentives for physicians to set up shop in these medical deserts. A physician won’t move to a medical desert if the wife can’t find a job or there is no school for the children.
Elders and Nursing Homes
Marine – We need oversight. These are places where people are vulnerable. Also we need a minimum staffing level and to be stringent about that, one based on the number of residents. There are still 30% of nursing homes that don’t have a co-ordinating physician. Many don’t have a nurse on call 24/7. Marine suggests a pooling system for nursing homes. She is against the fact that some make money off the back of their residents in the private sector, which she feels is outrageous. There needs to be some kind of pooling system between the private sector and public sector nursing homes.
Macron – He introduced reforms in 2018, long before Covid. On old age care, most people want to remain at home if they can and Macron proposes helping them to equip their homes to do so. He would introduce a bonus payment to help them make those adjustments. Macron also feels that we need to help carers who are working under the basic wage because they aren’t being given full time working hours. He wants to give them more hours and then the patients will be allocated more time. Many carers feel guilty because they’re not doing job as they want to. Washing and cleaning a patient can’t be done in half an hour. Controls, checks, regulations etc are important. Macron has nothing against for profit nursing homes. He knows that we need to create more jobs so he’s suggesting 50,000 extra nursing and nursing assistant jobs. Financing it is why he’s asking people to work longer and it’s an incremental increase, not straight away. 4 months extra every year over 5 years. (This is the retirement age he wishes to increase from 62 to 64, incrementally, over time – at a rate of an extra 4 months per year).
Anxiety for Young People: Work and the Future for the Planet
We only have 3 years left to limit greenhouse gas emissions says a report by the IPCC.
Marine – She wants no more hypocrisy. According to her, Macron’s free trade models are responsible for 50% of emissions. Imports. This is why she wants local sourcing and a relocating of activities and production to France, to produce goods as locally and as close to consumers as possible. France needs to stop importing 50% of its fruit and veg when it is fully capable of producing what it needs domestically. The catering industry should undertake to buy French organic foods. Animal welfare – the free trade model hurts animals too. Animals born in France are transported 100s of kms away to be fattened up somewhere else and then transported back again to be slaughtered. This contributes to emissions and hurts animal welfare – all because of unfair competition from abroad, with products that don’t meet the standards we require from our own domestic producers.
Macron – His response to Le Pen calling imports and free trade into question: he says the imports that are more of a problem are oil and gas. Le Pen is suggesting subsidising these by bringing down VAT. She wants a lasting VAT drop on oil and gas. Macron believes Le Pen is a climate sceptic. She has said that carbon neutrality by 2050, as per the Paris Agreement, can’t happen. Macron was shocked by IPCC report findings and that action needs to be taken within the next 3 years to make it relevant.
Marine – Le Pen says it’s always the same people being fleeced – those with few resources. She knows we need an ecological transition but it needs to be much slower than the pace that we are forcing upon the people of France. Initially Macron wanted to close down 14 nuclear reactors and this has now been changed. Marine acknowledges that Macron has now admitted that he got this wrong. Nuclear energy helps to de-carbonise. Instead Macron went for solar and wind. Le Pen believes that these are bad for bio-diversity. Wind farms are unsightly and reduce property prices all around the wind turbine. Furthermore, when there is no wind, they don’t generate power and that then has to be offset with coal and gas driven power plants. Marine wants to dismantle wind plants and not build more. Macron seems to be in favour of the wind farms; especially the off shore ones.
Macron – He was Minister of Economy and Finance and worked with EDF to save nuclear industry and restructure it. The nuclear plant that Macron closed down was the oldest – there had been no investment in it since 2012 and compensation was given to all of those who lost their jobs. Macron did have a strategy and since 2018, he has revisited his reduction plan of nuclear power plants. The new Nuclear power plants that are being built will only start operating in 2035. France has to have alternative sources of energy at the same time – you can’t move straight away from one to the other. He can envisage a drop a little bit on the number of wind farms and a switch to solar energy. Both renewable industries create jobs. Macron says Le Pen’s suggestion to dismantle existing wind farms would cost loads and it’s money the government doesn’t have. When you have off shore wind farms, like the one in Le Havre, you create jobs Macron says. Yes you have to take locals into account but you also have to consider developing jobs and industry; from electricity, batteries, wind farms etc.
Marine – She says that the fishery sector will be ruined if Macron has wind turbines all along the shore, except for maybe Le Touquet (where he goes on holiday and has a holiday home – where there don’t appear to be any… ) Le Pen would initiate the dismantling effort – the operator does the dismantling, not the government, and the operator would bear that cost. Wind turbines are causing nuisance to the neighbourhoods. Before taking them down, the would ask the people first in a referendum. Le Pen feels that France needs to focus on nuclear and hydrogen and proposes using nuclear to produce green hydrogen. Macron says that France is not geared up to manufacture green hydrogen tomorrow. He says she won’t manage in the time limit. Le Pen says she will and she will develop a plan. She wouldn’t have shut down the older nuclear plant.
Macron – If Le Pen puts an end to these renewables, France will have less energy to go on. Le Pen is not explaining how France won’t rely on Russian gas. Le Pen said she would do it gradually. Macron said the new nuclear power stations won’t be operational before 2035. Flammenville will be open 2023. She says her strategy does close the loop in between. Neither agree. (1:53:00)
Can we have a French google, a French Steve Jobs?
Marine – Le Pen says France should have done this years ago. Data conservation to protect people’s data should have been done years ago. She knows it’s not cheap and she knows the US are way ahead. At EU level , Le Pen believes we need to behave the same way France did for Aerospace. France created Airbus, Arianne rockets – we need to do the same thing for data conservation. Attempts have been made but they haven’t been successful.
Macron – Supports this view and says France are the European leader in start ups with 25 unicorn companies. There is a difference between France and the US in vision. France has under 100 million people. Need to create the opportunities. Regarding the protection of data, Macron asserts that it was Europe who laid down the GDPR standards, not America. France have developed a cloud storage system in which all data can be stored and protected. Macron believes that France can build on this and train people. He believes we need a strong government backed policy for Research & Development and wants to put one in place for the next 10 years, not just the next 5. He also believes the same should be done in Europe as a whole. In terms of the larger corporates, we need regulation – European regulation against unfair practices so that those who don’t pay their taxes are paying it. Macron has acted on this over the last 4 years.
Marine – When she hears Macron talk about Europe, she thinks of de Gaulle. The EU didn’t originate Arianne or Airbus. He says she’s right but the Franco-German partnership she wants to break down did.
Le Pen has concerns that the French economy is becoming Uberized – Deliveroo. There is no security of job tenure. You can’t create value or wealth with that system, or fund anything. She believes efforts need to be made to focus on industry. Will need better digital coverage throughout the country, in rural areas too, to make things like tele-medicine work.
Training and Education of Young People
The host introduces a new topic: The PISA ranking of French students is down in Information Technology. France was ranked 12th a year ago and is now down to 26th.
Macron – Says it’s a shame they couldn’t continue to talk about agriculture as he says he created more jobs and opened more factories than they took down. Le Pen resubmits that 14,500 industry jobs in this sector were lost under his watch. Macron says those figures are wrong. He says he tried to make things easier and Le Pen opposed his ideas.
Marine – If she is elected, she plans to hold a major trade union conference to talk it all out. Macron’s reforms to create jobs didn’t go well and it’s always the worst off who always suffer. Macron spoke to them all during Covid but they don’t like him.
Back to the training and education of young people…
Macron – He has made huge investments in early education. The ones who are struggling the most are the ones where he has put in systems to help them catch up. Macron wants people to study maths up to end of high school and to have a half hour sports class every day. He wants to expand education in the arts and culture. Macron wants to ensure junior highs get additional funding also. After that, to provide schools with proper career path management. He would like to give pupils exposure to businesses outside schools to help them decide. One third of high school students are in vocational training – these are great as they lead to apprenticeships. Macron has boosted these massively. He wants to work with universities to help students find jobs and continue with free university education. These are large objectives at the national level and local level. Macron wants to make sure they are adapted within a local context. Teachers and staff are to get a pay rise because of their hard work and longer hours during Covid to make sure that education continued.
Marine – Young people in France have really suffered for the past 2.5 years. Because of the pandemic, they weren’t able to socialise. They ran out of money as they couldn’t do their usual odd jobs outside of school to make it. Mental health problems have become severe. Le Pen wishes to develop vocational high schools and apprenticeships. She acknowledges Macron has done well in this but his measures have been transitional. Hers will be sustainable. Macron says his will be long term too. Le Pen wants to increase the wages of those work study beneficiaries and apprentices by 230 euros per month, depending on age. Working students need additional income – it’s not easy to combine the two. They should receive bursaries. For example, during off peak hours, 18-25 year olds should be able to travel free. To get to interviews etc. What value do education certificates and degrees have if everyone graduates? The value has of degrees and certificates have gone down. Le Pen wants to focus on different fields and primary skills. She also believe strongly that students need to respect teachers and feel safe at school.
Macron – He says he has been increasing pay. 3% more per year.
Marine – She proposes that teachers work an extra half day in primary school for the pay rise. Her proposed changes mean that when pupils get to the 6th grade, their performance will be much improved. At present, 20% at present don’t have the fundamentals. Marine has concerns about safety in schools. There are a lot of bullies who disturb the entire class. Students need to show respect for teachers. Disciplinary bodies within schools are afraid to impose sanctions and expel those who are misbehaving and this is wrong.
Macron – On increasing pay. Macron has started this already and plans to continue. He will ensure an initial pay grade of just under 2,000 euros per month so that they are not earning less than this, even the newly qualified ones. Le Pen says Macron suggested this in 2017 but that it hasn’t happened yet. He says the 3% rise she’s offering won’t help them get there either. Macron wouldn’t ask them to work an extra half day for it. He wants to know how Le Pen is going to pay for her pay rise. (She’s sitting there smiling smugly…) Macron knows how difficult it was for families and young children during Covid and if they didn’t open schools there would be children who wouldn’t get their one daily meal. In US they closed down some schools for 30 weeks. He kept the schools open. Yes, Le Pen talks about increasing pay but he wants that too. He wants teachers and heads providing extra-curricular activities. Some parents don’t have access to books at home and in school they do. Schools need better funding.
Marine – The problem is that in Macron’s vision, it seems that all the effort goes into large cities and he forgets the countryside and disenfranchised neighbourhoods. He’s referring to poor impoverished neighbourhoods in the cities but she wants it to be expanded to the rest of the country. She says primary schools aren’t working anymore and that’s why the international ranking standards are dropping. Macron removed maths and brought it back.
Macron – He denies this and says what Le Pen is suggesting isn’t possible. Look into the rural communities. Bringing trains and good internet to these communities. Macron is talking about the number of children per class which has reduced greatly since he has ben in power. Local mayors have to continue to agree when it comes to closing schools. Each time when a school shut was down the mayor had to be consulted. (All of this seemed a bit sketchy – points don’t see clearly related.)
Macron grew up in a household of teachers and feels passionate about education. (He married one too – his teacher in fact – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha).
Law and Order in France
Marine – We are faced with barbaric behaviour, even deep in the countryside. This requires a firm response. People are stealing gas from other people’s tanks. They are stealing sheep, harvests from farms, fertilisers – anything. People are afraid to be stolen from and assaulted physically. We need to resolve unbridled mass scale immigration. That worsens insecurity in our country. Le Pen wants to have a referendum to radically change France’s immigration policy – French should get to decide who stays, who leaves. Le Pen wants to deport illegal aliens as well as felons and criminals. Need to be firm and tough on crime. French feel that because of a lack of resources, there’s no security. Need more police on streets. People need to be equipped morally and physically. They need to be listened to. It is thanks to law enforcement we live in safety. When sentences are handed down, we need to make sure they are served. When sentences are adjusted it feels as if we are doing nothing. House arrest doesn’t work. Better to give a small sentence that is served than a longer one that isn’t. Not okay to be attacked physically for no good reason. She wants an end to those sentence adjustments to a firm 6 month sentence. Not possible unless we build more prisons – need 25,000 more places.
Macron – 5 years ago, before the first round of elections, a police officer was shot down. Macron remembers this clearly. He made promises throughout his campaign and he upheld them. He proposes an additional 10,000 police officers/gendarmes in addition to those we already have. Also a 30% increase for the justice system to employ more judges. He also wants a reduction in petty crime. A great deal of work has been done on counter terrorism during his time in office in which at least 30 planned attacks have been prevented. When it comes to the murder of women, Macron asserts that ion the majority of cases, this is usually the result of domestic violence within the home and he has worked to tackle that. 80% of such violence occurs at home.
(Le Pen says his track record speaks for himself).
Macron says his government have been training police officers so that these types of domestic abuse crimes can be identified. In the past, there would be no investigation after a statutory declaration was made by the victim at the police station. It would just go on file. More people are being trained to deal with that. With the judges, Macron’s government have been successful in keeping violent people away from their family with injunctions. Took a lot of work and he put these things in place. He plans to create 200 additional gendarme brigades for rural areas of France – to tackle drugs and general misdemeanours. Cyber security another issue, cyber criminals who carry out covert attacks against hospitals and public services. He refers to these as cyber terrorists. Macron plans to create a system with 1,500 cyber police to tackle. Justice – what’s point of putting someone in prison if they hang around with more serious criminals? Serve in military an option? Community service? To put in prison for a few days doesn’t work, Macron says.
When the invigilator suggests moving onto the next topic, Le Pen says 5 mins each is a bit short to discuss security.
Macron – ‘Miss Le Pen you seem much better behaved than last time’. (2:30:15)
Marine – ‘We’re getting older and wiser’, (said with a warm smile on her face).
On Secular Society
Headscarf – will this be banned in public?
Marine – Le Pen says she is not fighting religion itself but is fighting the associated ideology that wants to impose Sharia law. There are 4,500 foreigners on the French database that are down as radical. Lee Pen says these people should be deported to protect our people. 570 radical mosques need to be shut down. We are not tough enough. She wants to ban the hijab in public areas – headscarves too. She believes women are forced to wear them, because if not they are told that their virtues would be at risk and they would be accused of being impure. Le Pen believes we need to protect those women.
Macron – He is concerned as to where Le Pen’s train of thought leads. In 1905, French society became a secular one. He wouldn’t ban any form of religious signage in public places. To go down Le Pen’s avenue is wrong and Macron has no confidence that once she has done this, she would not go further still. He says that we must abide by France’s secular society in accordance with the constitution. The veil is banned in schools but not in public. To ban the veil in public would be to create a civil war. The French nation of enlightenment would become the first country in the world to put a ban on it. It’s an unconstitutional idea and form of law that would reduce freedoms. The France she wants to create is not one of religious freedoms.
Marine – She makes the comparison of the mask people were forced to wear during Covid and Macron says she’s not taking seriously. (It is true that this is a ridiculous comparison).
Macron – Says we musn’t mix up Islam and Islamism. Muslims died in terror attacks. Many live peacefully in France. We would have French citizens who wouldn’t be able to go into the streets in public because of her law banning it. (She is not convinced by any of this). Macron said he closed down the schools who were trying to spread Sharia law on French ground. Many of the mosques that were extremist were closed down due to a new law of exerting influence on French soil. Others are being investigated. They continue to fight against radical Islamism. The difference, he says, is not to mix up the two.
Marine – Le Pen says she’s not waging a war against the Muslim religion. In many cases they too are the victims of radical Islamists. They too need to be protected. She wants to defend the secular government and gender equality and use only legislation that targets Islamism – the ideology. At least things will be more clear. 570 radical mosques. Le Pen says Macron’s Secular Charter he set up was useless, that nothing has happened. If a foreigner comes to France and refuses to sign that Charter, they should go home/be deported. Macron won’t do this. Le Pen says he has been terrible on immigration. He says we are talking about religion, not immigration.
Marine – In many countries, Le Pen says, when Islamists regained power in office, they forced women to wear the headscarf.
Macron- He has made bans in schools but won’t make them in thee streets and pubic places. He says you can’t create divisions in France by deporting people and sending away French citizens.
Le Pen moves onto Immigration
Marine – She wants to hold a Referendum on immigration this in the autumn, if elected, to modify the constitution. In said referendum, she wants to include the power to deport foreign criminals and felons and remove French citizenship. French citizenship should be earned, not given automatically. She also wants preference for nationals when it comes to housing and allowances. French nationality priority should be given to French people when recruiters are hiring. She says we need to force illegal aliens to go home and they can go to a French Consulate from there should they still wish to apply to come to France. The problem is that people come to France, they ask for asylum and they stay. Deportation Orders are implemented only in 10% of cases.
Macron – France has a duty to provide asylum we have to provide that for people fleeing war. We have taken in many Ukrainians. (Le Pen points out these are ‘refugees’). There’s also economic migration Macron says that make our economy stronger, students and workers, and this is regulated and residency permits applied for. Then there is undocumented migration. Those people use the asylum networks. A few months ago, he brought in a proposal to reform the Schengen zone, because often people come to Europe and France via other countries – Spain and Italy etc. The mafia and smugglers use these networks to prey upon the weak and the poor and we need to protect those people. Another reform is that Macron wants to reduce the time it takes to process applications. Covid caused delays in that process but they keep going – everything takes place in six months. (Marine says we need to not let them come in in the first place). The third thing Macron says is that we need to have a better policy when it comes to returning people to their home country and for that, we need to look at our visa policies which we have been doing with a number of countries. He tells Le Pen for the people on the file she was talking that France has on file as radicals, you have to work with the home countries in order to be able to deport them.
Marine – Le Pen refers to a crisis of confidence and mistrust of politics and its institutions –what about the 7 year term referendum/proportional representation Macron proposed?
Macron – We have just been through a tough 5 year term – the pandemic for one. There’s no way Macron could bring in a referendum with all of that happening. To change the way Europe is organised, you need a referendum. When you are elected by the people, it doesn’t give you the right to change the constitution. Le Pen’s desires are unconstitutional. Macron wasn’t able to bring in changes he wanted to during his 5 year term. They have political groups that will be elected during the legislative elections but they have political bodies that won’t be elected because the system isn’t in place for that. He would like to see some form of proportional vote in the future to find a way to improve political institutions. He tried debates in town halls. French citizens want to be actors of change. Macron wants, at the local level, for decisions to be able to be implemented under the guidance of local prefects.
Marine – Le Pen asks Macron if he istrying to reinvent the National Assembly. What she wants is for democracy to be re-born. She says France needs a democratic renaissance and the National Assembly should have more powers. She also wants to implement the Citizens Initiative Referendum. She wants 500,000 French people to be able to submit to the French people the possibility of a law or a bill. This is a message from the Yellow Vest/Gilets Jaunes crisis: they wanted more democracy and felt that they weren’t heard. Le Pen feels that Macron could have pushed this through but he chose not to.
Le Pen believes that Macron has divided France and people feel Macron is not hearing them. He doesn’t consult with them and when they do say something, Macron pushes them away with his harsh words. She wants to bring people together and have a Citizens Initiative Referendum, so that everyone can feel respected and heard – including the minorities. She wants to revise the Constitution. In her Citizens Initiative Referendum, she will invoke Article 11 and there will be changes to the Constitution. The same way de Gaulle did in 1962. Le Pen says the only sovereign authority are the people and because the constitution is the highest law of the land, only the people get to change it. She wants to trigger a referendum – particularly as the Assembly and the Senate are not representative of the French people.
Macron – Says that what Le Pen has just suggested would eradicate the National Assembly and sidestep parliament. She wants to bring in law without consulting the Assembly, Macron says, so then what purpose does the Assembly have? Le Pen says the Assembly don’t represent the people.
Each Candidate gets 2 mins to Conclude
Macron goes first.
Macron – Thanks Le Pen for the debate. He says h respects her party and the history of her party. Sadly here are many topics they didn’t have time for – disabilities, gender inequality, overseas territories. He could go on. They disagreed on many topics and Macron feels that this election is a referendum for the EU and the Franco-German partnership that sits at the helm. For him the election is a referendum about the environment and one about secularism and fraternity. He wants to support the children and young people who have suffered through Covid and this is something he believes in passionately and that carries him forward. He wants to build a better world. People who feel isolated will also be part of his vision in the future.
Marine – The people in France are poorer than ever before. Their purchasing power has gone down. She believes we need to do more to help most vulnerable, single parents amongst them. Globalisation is brutal and destabilises the eFrench economy. She wants to stop those in the upper echelons avoiding tax and get tough on criminals. Protecting the welfare system, the healthcare system, the pension system and the unemployment system are top of her list. She wants to be able to help people cope with difficulties in life. She believes France needs to stop speculating. They need to locally source supplies and start giving priority to the French. This is vital.
We watched the France 24 debate live, with English voiceovers, which you can watch below. We also watched the French version but timings listed above refer to the English one.
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