In letter to the French, Macron launches 'great debate' to quell 'yellow vests'

In letter to the French, Macron launches 'great debate' to quell 'yellow vests'
Copyright Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS
By Pascale Davies with REUTERS
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President Emmanuel Macron has launched a national debate to appease the 'yellow vest' protesters.


In a 2,300-word letter to the French, President Emmanuel Macron has launched a three-month national debate that he hopes will appease the 'yellow vest' protesters.

In the letter published by his office, he wrote he would listen to new ideas, but stuck to his economic agenda which has dubbed him as "president of the rich".


"For me, there is no banned issue. We won't agree on everything, which is normal in a democracy. But at least we'll show we're a people who are not afraid of talking, exchanging, debating," Macron wrote.

The 'yellow vest' movement is now in its ninth straight week of protests, have at times turned violent, caused economic upheaval, and called on the president to resign.

However, France's youngest president since Napoleon said he would stay faithful to his core

economic reform agenda, which he set out on his presidential campaign in 2017.

"When taxes are too high, our economy is starved of the resources that could be usefully invested in companies, creating jobs and growth," Macron wrote.

"We will not undo the measures we have introduced to put this right, encourage investment and ensure that work pays more."

The 'yellow vest' movement started in mid-November over a rise in fuel tax, Macron since scrapped the duty and promsed wage rises and tax relief for low earners, but the protests have spiralled into a revolt over living standards.

One sticking point at the heart of the 'yellow vest's' demands is a call for the ISF "fortune tax" to be replaced.

It was previously levied on high-earners but looks unlikely to be changed as Macron wrote: "we will not pursue tax cuts without lowering the overall level of our public spending".

What will be asked in the 'grand debat'

Macron's 'great debate' will allow citizens to speak to their local mayor about their grievances. The President said proposals made during the debate will help build a new “contract for the nation”.

Macron will attend town-hall meetings around the country, the first will be held with mayors in Bourgtheroulde in northwest France on Tuesday.

The first questions that will be asked are: "Which taxes do you think should be lowered first?", "Should some public services that are out of date or too expensive be eliminated?", "What concrete proposals do you think would accelerate our environmental transition?" and "Should we use more referendums?".

Macron wrote there were "no forbidden questions", however, on the topic of immigration, he said the right to seek asylum "could not be questioned".

The 41-year-old said he would "directly report" on the consultation in the month after the debates, which will run until March 15.

However, the public response to the debate may not go as Macron hopes. A survey by Le Figaro newspaper published on Friday showed that 70% of French people think the discussions will serve no purpose.

A call to end violence

Macron wrote he would not "accept any form of violence" and that the debate is how he intends "to turn anger into solutions".


Protests in recent weeks have seen fights with police, cars set on fire, and vandalism on shops and monuments.

'Yellow vests' also came under fire on Sunday over numerous attacks and a rape threat on journalists.

WATCH: Euronews correspondent, Anelise Borges explains more about the letter and what affect it might have:

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