The Strategist

Macron delivers speech to yellow vests

11/28/2018 - 08:38

On November 27, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to the so-called yellow vests, participants in spontaneous mass protests, which resulted from increased taxes on gasoline and other unpopular government measures. However, President’s speech was rather aimed at prospects for the energy policy of France than to specific concerns of the French.

Remi Jouan
Remi Jouan
The more than one-hour speech of President Macron, in fact, consisted of two parts. The first sounded reasonable and was supported by logical arguments. President appeared as a technocrat, knowing the answers to all or almost all questions. In particular, he said that France can no longer rely on fossil fuels. Not only is it harmful to the environment. Active use of oil and gas, Mr. Macron recalled, forces the country to endure world fuel price surges without being able to influence them.

The task is to drastically reduce the need for fossil fuels over the coming years, developing the production of renewable and natural energy. It has been proposed to close the last thermal power plant in the country by 2022. President called modernization of nuclear reactors and increase in atomic energy production as some of the compensation measures. The French greens have already said that President decided to take advantage of the situation, that is, protests of the population outraged by the government’s economic policies.

Recall that people dressed in yellow vests have already organized spontaneous mass protest actions on the streets of Paris and other cities several times. Last weekend, such a manifestation escalated into riots: demonstrators were building barricades in Paris, the police used water cannons and tear gas grenades. Then, according to the French Interior Ministry, 106 thousand people took part in 1619 demonstrations in different parts of the country, while 130 people were arrested, 42 of them - in Paris.

In the first part of the speech, President Macron described the global tasks in detail. The second part of the speech was much more emotional: he spoke directly to his fellow citizens, arguing that he “heard discontent.” “The protest has been growing in the country during a few weeks, and this leads to unacceptable acts of violence,” said President, specifically emphasizing that he does not confuse “hooligans with citizens who went to the demonstrations.” He tried to explain the unpopular measures by saying that the time had come to pay the "debts resulted from 40indecisive years." Emmanuel Macron believes that previous governments simply shifted the responsibility for using diesel engines, gas and fuel oil to the population.

The transitions from the technocrat president to the democratic president were so sharp, as if two different speechwriter teams were preparing the two parts of the speech.

One was made in advance, the other was composed in a hurry under the influence of recent events. There was a feeling that they took President by surprise, which is why he started talking about three months needed to deal with demands of the "yellow vests." Allegedly, this time will allow working out compensatory measures and discussing them with fellow citizens.

Such statements did not reassure the demonstrators, who, judging by the first reactions, are convinced that Emmanuel Macron remains deaf to their demands. People waited for specific measures to reduce taxes, raise minimum wages, increase benefits, and once again they were told about the fate of the planet.