French President Emmanuel Macron has released what he calls a “letter to the French,” encouraging a national debate on issues that have led to two months of anti-government protests.
“This is how I intend to turn anger into solutions,” Macron said Sunday. “Your proposals will help build a new contract for the nation, organizing the actions of the government and parliament, but also France’s positions at the European and international levels.”
Macron plans to hold a number of town hall meetings across the country over the next eight weeks.
Among the questions he is opening for debate are which taxes should be cut, what public spending should be a priority, are there too many bureaucratic layers, and questions surrounding the environment and immigration.
While Macron said no topic will be off the table, the right of people to seek asylum in France will not be up for debate.
“We won’t agree on everything, which is normal in a democracy. But at least we’ll show we’re a people which is not afraid of talking, exchanging [ideas], debating.”
So-called “yellow vest” marches erupted in France in November against a now-scrapped fuel tax. But they have since expanded into a general anti-government protest, especially in rural France, where many see Macron as someone more interested in the wealthy than their problems.
Some of the marches have turned violent, leading to government proposals to ban anyone wearing face masks from joining in or starting their own march.
The free speech group Reporters Without Borders has called on protest organizers to condemn violence against journalists covering the marches.
The group says reporters have been beaten, kicked, and threatened with rape.