During an interview with French television channel, TF1, on Sunday night, French President Emmanuel Macron weighed in on several ongoing topics in French society, from immigration to fuel prices via cost of living and plans for the ecological transition.
Here are four key takeaways:
Petrol prices and household subsidies
In order to counter the rise in fuel prices, Macron told TF1 that he has “no miracle solution”, but that the prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, would meet with fuel distributors this week to “call for fuel to be sold at cost price”.
The president also said he would request that the government include a new scheme to help low-income households who rely on their vehicles to get to work in the upcoming 2024 budget. The Macron government previously offered a similar subsidy for low-earning households, but this one would be paid ‘per vehicle per year’, rather than simply by the household.
Le Figaro reported that it would likely be restricted to the first five income brackets, meaning individuals with a “reference income of less than €14,700”. This would involve individuals who earn less than €1,314 net per month, couples with one child who take in less than €3,285 net per month, families with three children earning less than €5,255 net per month.
Macron did not offer an exact timeline for when it would come into existence, but as it would be part of the new 2024 budget, the aid would likely not be available until 2024.
As for other government plans to help motorists with rising fuel costs, the prime minister previously said the government would pass legislation to allow fuel distributors to sell at a loss, which is normally outlawed in France due to protection for small and independent businesses.
However, large distributors such as Carrefour, Leclerc, Intermarché Système U, Casino and Auchan, all refused the government’s plan and said they would not sell fuel at a loss. This includesTotalEnergies, who controls around a third of French fuel stations and had already agreed to cap petrol per litre to €1.99.
In explaining why fuel prices have been rising, Macron said: “We are paying for our dependence. Since the beginning of 2023, the price per barrel of oil has risen around a third and that’s going to continue (…)The increase for this is not tax-related. It has to do with geopolitics.”
Macron said his focus is job creation. The French president has previously touted goals of ‘full employment’, which would include some reforms to the existing structures for unemployment benefits and eligibility.
As for wages, Macron said that during an upcoming conference on employment and benefits – set to take place in early October – the government would “work with sectors that still pay below the legal minimum wage.”
As for wage indexation for all fields, the president said he is not in favour as it would “create an inflationary loop.”
Environment and ecological transition
The president also discussed his plans for ‘ecological transition in France’. Macron is set to reveal a thorough ‘ecological plan’ on Monday night at the Elysée Palace.
On Sunday, he said that the country is “halfway there”. He said that he wants to institute ‘écologie à la française’ (environmentalism in French-style), which he defined as “neither denying the situation nor curing it, but progressing.”
He promised that the government would invest €40 billion in the ecological transition, and stated that one of his major priorities will be to end coal-use and production in France.
The president said that by 2027, the country’s two remaining coal-fired plants would be converted for ‘biomass’.
Macron also specified that the government would not ban gas-fired boilers and furnaces, as it had previously indicated, to avoid leaving rural households “without solutions”. Instead, he said the country would seek to encourage the installation of heat pumps.
The president also mentioned the possibility of offering a specific subsidy for those looking to purchase electric vehicles. He said this could come into force “between now and the end of the year.”
As for producing electric vehicles and batteries, Macron said that the government planned to create ‘tens of thousands of new industrial jobs’.
On the heels of a visit form Pope Francis to Marseille over the weekend – who called for greater solidarity with migrants – Macron addressed the subject of immigration.
Quoting the former French prime minister, Michel Rocard, Macron said that France “cannot take in all of the world’s misery.”
As for undocumented workers in short-staffed jobs – like the restaurant industry for example – Macron said that there must be ‘intelligent compromise’. He also said: “we must first try to ensure that it is our compatriots (eg. French nationals) who take these jobs (…) there will be no unconditional right to regularisation”.
France’s parliament will vote on immigration legislation later this autumn.