Official speeches and statements - July 30, 2020
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EU RECOVERY PLAN/FRANCE
(...) How is this euro40 billion actually going to be used to benefit the French people?
THE PRESIDENT - (...) Firstly, our fellow citizens’ lives are going to be affected by the budget we negotiated for the next seven years. I’m going to repeat this, because beyond the recovery plan there’s the budget.
(...) Our negotiations have made it possible to protect our farmers’ income for seven years, so their direct payments, their income guarantee will be the same. We were worried Brexit might have repercussions and that in a way the United Kingdom’s exit might result in our farmers’ income being reduced. This won’t be the case. We fought for and maintained it. This budget will also allow us to finance our regions. France is receiving funding, particularly for our overseas regions. Here too, we fought to improve the budget and this is very tangible.
(...) In addition to the budget, what makes this summit stand out, what makes it historic is that we created for the first time in our history a recovery plan which we’re financing together through shared debt in the markets. For the first time in its history, Europe, the European countries, standing together, are going to borrow money to share it out among themselves according to needs and priorities. And your report made this very clear. For us French, it means we’ll get euro40 billion from this recovery plan. (...)
Who’s going to get this euro40 billion?
THE PRESIDENT - We’re actually going to build our plan, we’re going to build this recovery plan for ourselves with, precisely, the desire to finance youth employment - Europe will help us do this. To finance our small and medium-sized enterprises, our small-scale industry, our retailers. To finance sectors - we’ve started doing this with sectors such as tourism and the energy efficiency of buildings.
Europe will allow us to do this, to finance industries such as the hydrogen and electric battery industries, everything which is going to allow us in the recovery plan to create jobs in industrial and environmental sectors - the electric battery, hydrogen, energy efficiency of buildings sectors -, to create jobs by training our young people and those who have to be retrained when they become unemployed. Europe will finance a substantial part of this project.
And so thanks to the negotiations we held over the past four days and nights, France will receive euro40 billion. We’re Europe’s third-largest beneficiary of the recovery plan which, according to the work done by the government so far, actually corresponds to 40% of what we’ll spend. It means that this money will come from Europe out of our budget, without us having to finance it out of either our own debt or our taxes.
Will France be free to use the money as it pleases and give it, for example, to large companies: Air France, Airbus, Renault or the healthcare sector, for example to pay for hospital beds? Or will our country be able to say, Â“No, no way. We’ve got a say in how you use it."
THE PRESIDENT - Well, we’re going to discuss our various recovery plans and there are sectors defined in the criteria set out, but there’s no right of veto and this was part of the discussion. Some member States were saying there has to be a right of veto as regards governance, that such and such a plan has to be able to be blocked in some way if a member State doesn’t carry out enough reforms compared to others; this won’t happen. And so there’s respect for the sovereignty of each member State.
But there will be discussions with the European Commission and the other States so that we each do relevant things. Everything you mentioned will absolutely be possible under the plan. Financing support for our businesses, financing the recovery of the most strategic sectors, financing our health policy. All those things, but also our culture, the financing of our education policy, financing the new job-creating sectors - all this will be possible under the recovery plan. (...)
Airbus too, which is a giant, but not necessarily a very environmentally friendly sector. We know that a very significant part must go towards and be prioritized for green investment.
THE PRESIDENT - Yes but [as regards] Airbus, in the aerospace plan we began working on this issue by providing funding and guarantees. The French State has already intervened, as you know. And with this funding and these guarantees, we asked for conditions, among other things to improve the carbon footprint by reducing the number of short-haul flights which can be replaced by a train journey, i.e. when you can travel by TGV [French high-speed train] from one French city to another in under two-and-a-half hours, we asked Air France to reduce the number of flights. For Airbus, which is the other company in the aerospace sector, here too we also proposed aid.
This aid supports a sector creating a large number of jobs, but which, through its innovation, is going to become greener. And this is important in relation to your question. We can’t say we’ve got a climate ambition and then abandon everything which makes us what we are.
The automotive and aerospace industries are among the major French industrial sectors. They are polluting sectors - that’s absolutely right. How can we reconcile the goal for jobs and the environmental goal? I don’t think we can do it by stopping our economy - i.e. producing no more planes or cars. Others will, and we’ll use them. So we’ve simply got to finance those sectors to speed up their conversion to a so-called Â“low-carbon" economy. This is exactly what we’ve done with Airbus. (...) And so in the plan, the aerospace plan we put together with Airbus, we said, Â“we’ll help you with funds and capital if need be. But firstly, we’re asking you to keep a maximum number of jobs through a negotiated agreement. Secondly, we’ll finance the sector’s innovation to enable its emissions to be reduced, i.e. produce less polluting planes faster and gradually change policy." (...) We did the same with the automotive industry by producing more electric batteries and going further on electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and next-generation vehicles, which are less polluting. That’s the model we believe in.
A very concrete, very important question, obviously, for French people watching: this isn’t magic money, to use your expression; it will have to be found from somewhere. You’ve told us Europe is going to pay, but Europe also means us. A few days ago, you said on TF1 that there won’t be any new taxes for France. Can you say this evening that there won’t be a European tax either, which the French people would obviously be paying?
THE PRESIDENT - Well, I can say one very simple thing to you: the French taxpayer won’t pay for it. Why? Because we’ve committed ourselves precisely in this same agreement to creating new own resources, i.e. to being able at European level to levy a tax on big companies and international players who don’t play by our policies. Let me explain.
The euro750 billion of this recovery plan is going to allow us to finance loans and grants. This was what the whole debate over the past few days was about. This euro750 billion is a debt which the Europeans are taking on together. Firstly, it’s very attractive because we’re very strong when we’re all together. And so, for example, if I take the euro40 billion which France is going to receive, that euro40 billion won’t be a debt we owe Europe.
How will this repayment be made? Firstly, Europe is going to begin repaying it through unused interest, technical subjects we put in the text and above all by smoothing out the debt over time, it will gradually create own resources making it possible to repay at European level what we’ll have borrowed on the markets.
The plastic tax is a first own resource which, precisely, encourages sectors to use plastic less and will go to European level. Then, at European level, we’re going to create those taxes we’ve been fighting for for several years. A digital tax for the major international digital players who don’t currently pay taxes. As I’ve already said several times, we’re doing this at French level. We decided to because Europe was being slow to do this, as was the OECD. Europe is the right level. We’re persuading all our partners over the coming months and years. Our goal is to have a genuine digital tax to impose on these major digital players who, incidentally, made huge profits during the crisis and don’t pay the same VAT, the same corporation tax as small and medium-sized enterprises and major French groups with which they sometimes compete. That will make it possible to repay this European loan.
Second way, the carbon border mechanism. We’re asking our businesses to make great efforts to be greener. We set a carbon price to speed up this change. But when we import steel from the other side of the world, which is manufactured under much less virtuous conditions, we must be able to levy a tax at our borders which avoids unfair competition and means that this steel from India, China or elsewhere is subject to the carbon tax when it crosses our borders. This European tax we’re going to create together will allow us to repay the debt we’re contracting.
And so the strength of this project and what makes it new is precisely that the French taxpayer won’t pay the debt. It’s stakeholders, mostly major international companies, sometimes European ones, on whom not enough demands are made who are gradually going to pay this debt through the European taxation we’re going to create. (...)
About Europe: it failed in its duty at the start of the crisis - moreover, you said this yourself - on various issues, particularly masks and borders. These issues are still important today, especially masks. We saw earlier that they’re to be free for people living on the poverty line. Would you like this measure to be extended to include the whole population in the next few days or weeks?
THE PRESIDENT - Listen, I think the priority is indeed for all French people to have access to masks. We responded in terms of the capacity to produce, import and secure stocks. There’s been a major effort by all the public and private stakeholders - whom I thank - to ensure that after the easing of lockdown measures we can access these masks. It was important for all our fellow citizens to access them and that anyone unable to afford Â“general public" masks is given help. Secondly, it isn’t right that the French State and taxpayers should provide free masks for everyone all the time, so I think it should remain a social policy. On the other hand, our role as French people and with the Europeans is to secure stocks and production in the coming period, be it for masks for the general public or for our carers, but also ventilators, pharmaceutical products which we need and our vaccine production capacity. (...)
We also saw in the news a few moments ago the difficulties surrounding tests, difficulties which incidentally are linked to the borders policy since people are scrambling for tests so they can travel. There has also been a lack of reciprocity from one country to another. Occasionally some French nationals aren’t being accepted in other countries, while France is accepting nationals from those countries. What can be done so that more tests can be carried out and this reciprocity can be facilitated?
THE PRESIDENT - Listen, we’ve positioned ourselves to carry out more and more tests in our country, and we’ve also got very good cooperation between European countries on the matter. We’re going to continue in this direction and, obviously here too, we’re securing all the components, organizations, mechanisms which are necessary to be able to test on a massive scale. We’re also going to make access to these tests simpler for our fellow citizens by making it possible, as I was saying a few days ago, not to have to necessarily go to the doctor’s to be tested but be able to do so even when you’re asymptomatic or when you aren’t sure.
Secondly, there’s the issue of movement. Things are now well organized between Europeans, we’ve re-opened the Schengen Area and we’ve got good cooperation. This is very important because, let me remind you, we’ve got 350,000 cross-border workers who make return journeys every day. The difficulty is with countries outside the Schengen Area which sometimes have other policies. This has led us to close certain borders on a case-by-case basis and so we’re systematically going to look at reciprocity.
What we want to ensure is that obviously our fellow citizens abroad who sometimes want to return home can do so, that dual nationals can travel when possible between the two countries, but that this never threatens our country’s health conditions. Reciprocity, the requirement to test yourself when you can in the country of departure, a test on arrival in France or a monitoring or quarantine policy, as we say. We’ll be very strict on that point because as we’re seeing throughout Europe and in the rest of the world, there are outbreaks again, so we’ve got to be very vigilant.
President Macron, thank you very much for appearing live on this evening’s news.
THE PRESIDENT - Thank you. But I want to say to you, you know, I simply want to say, on this point and everything we’ve talked about, I want our fellow citizens to grasp the importance of what has happened over the past four days and nights. We secured a historic agreement for our Europe, with everything which has just been described, including in practical terms. It’s the fruit of three months’ work between France and Germany and the project on which French people put their trust in me, the one I promised, the one I presented at the Sorbonne in September 2017, the one we’d been working on with Chancellor Merkel since spring 2018, which gave rise to a Franco-German agreement on 18 May and, two months later, has become a reality in Europe. We fought, but we got it. It’s the most important moment in the life of our Europe since the creation of the euro. I really want everyone this evening to realize this, because this historic moment is the fruit of the work done by all of us, and so we can be proud of it. (...)./.
I had the opportunity to speak about the situation in Xinjiang on these benches last week, and I answered Senator Vallini on the same subject, again last week. I’m absolutely convinced of the need to speak in democratic bodies to denounce what is happening in that region. There are unjustifiable practices which go against the universal principles enshrined in the major international human rights conventions.
You mentioned the internment of Uighurs in camps, mass detentions, forced labour, forced sterilization, the destruction of Uighur cultural heritage - especially places of worship -, widespread surveillance of the population and a comprehensive punitive system throughout the region. And I think the media today are relaying all this and it’s wholly appropriate, and we’ve taken extremely clear, public, strong positions on the issue, including by my voice last week, in particular by asking for the internment camps to be closed and also by taking action to dissuade companies from employing forced labour or remaining in the territory.
Europe has also taken a position on the issue. My statements last week prompted reactions from the Chinese authorities, maybe you read them. I say to them, here, that I’ve noted them. Since they’re saying my remarks are unfounded, we propose, precisely, that an international mission comprising independent observers under the leadership of Ms Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, is set up and goes over there, sees and bears witness, because if the Chinese authorities say this isn’t happening, well, we must go over there and confirm it. And I think what you highlighted would be a good step and one I readily take up./.
Do you feel that what’s happened in Europe may also provide an opportunity to reconcile French people with this Europe which, to them, seems very distant, very technocratic, very far removed in fact from their daily concerns? Here, Europe is coming to help them.
THE MINISTER - Exactly. I think this is the task I see for the Ministry today, to show that Europe isn’t a something separate or technical, all on its own. It’s very practical. The budget negotiations lasted four days, we saw a lot of images, a lot of diplomatic negotiations, but ultimately it’s the recovery plan, it’s...
It’s something practical, it’s billions of euros...
THE MINISTER - It’s euro40 billion. And billions of euros will mean practical projects. The French recovery plan amounts to euro100 billion, as the Prime Minister and President have said. Europe will provide euro40 billion of it - 40% of that plan will be financed by European aid in all sectors, including those we discussed yesterday at the Ecological Defence Council: energy efficiency of buildings, electric vehicles...
Europe is contributing to that as well?
THE MINISTER - Europe will contribute to all that and help support the tourism sector, all the recovery plan’s priorities will be actively supported by Europe. And so I think that’s the challenge, to show that Europe isn’t just people meeting in a room and speaking lots of languages; these are things which help people.
Let me take a final example: the Common Agricultural Policy, which is often talked about, the first European policy. We fought for two years - the President fought again during the summit - to guarantee French farmers’ income which is financed through this agricultural policy. Two years ago when the negotiations began, all this income was reduced by euro15 billion; today the income has been stabilized and guaranteed for seven years. So I think we’ve got to show that Europe is something very practical and it helps people. (...)./.