Reforms/investment/jobs – Sectarianism – Agriculture – Pensions – Health – Security – Protest vote/civic and social pacts – School truancy/full veils/carbon tax
Paris, March 24, 2010
My dear compatriots,
At the regional elections you elected those who are going to run our regions. They were, admittedly, local. But through your choices and the extremely high abstention rate, you wanted to express what you were feeling at a time of economic, financial and agricultural crisis, which is making daily life so hard for so many of you.
My duty is to heed this message.
My dear compatriots, you elected me to get our country to end the immobilism preventing it from undertaking the necessary reforms which every other country was implementing. We had got very much behind, which was jeopardizing our prosperity, our cohesion and our place in the world. I pledged to make up the lost ground.
In the past three years a lot of reforms have been implemented. They have required huge efforts from very many of you and have – I’m well aware of this – upset a lot of routines. They have spawned uncertainty, at times even anxiety. You often get the feeling that these reforms haven’t changed your daily lives. The crisis, with its additional difficulties, has prevented people from seeing the positive effects of everything accomplished. I understand your impatience. I’m duty-bound to respond to it. But, my dear compatriots, nothing would be worse than a U-turn, giving in to the restlessness always seen at election times.
The economic and social consequences of the financial crisis, the need to learn the lessons of what has happened, demand cool heads.
It’s the President of the Republic’s job to ensure stability and continuity, to set a policy and avoid fits and starts.
There are choices on which we must prove steadfast.
We must pursue the reforms. Stopping now would quite simply ruin the efforts accomplished. You trusted me to modernize France. I shall honour my commitments. The crisis must not prompt us to slow down, but, on the contrary, to go further in order to build a new growth model.
For three years we have opted for competitiveness, work. It’s an altogether crucial choice. We have made it because our absolute priority is employment. We must go on reducing the burden we place on labour and investment; we must go on rejecting any increase in taxes.
We have opted for production, industry and investment. We must continue investing in innovation, research and our universities.
This is the only way to protect our jobs; it’s the only way to keep our factories open, it’s the only way to safeguard our farmers, our way of life and our social protection.
We have opted to leave no one by the wayside. Everything possible has been done to protect people from the effects of unemployment.
Thanks to this policy we have weathered the crisis better than most of our partners. It will enable us to reap more benefit from the recovery.
For three years we have opted to reject sectarianism. France has a tradition of division, and at times of violent clashes. But France is great and strong only when she has closed ranks and is united. I pledged to prevent a single political party monopolizing all the levers of the State.
It’s my responsibility to ensure the plurality of opinion and respect for this plurality of opinion in the choice of women and men called upon to exercise responsibilities. During my election campaign I promised an irreproachable republic and model democracy; this is in our country’s interest, it’s my duty to continue rejecting partisanship and sectarianism.
Reforms, economic policy, an irreproachable republic are choices which demand steadfastness and must be put on a long-term footing. Our country has suffered too much from hesitation and constant changes of course.
But there are too – as I’m well aware – matters which can’t wait any longer.
We can’t delay any longer before resolving the unprecedented crisis which is confronting our agriculture and arousing genuine anxiety in our countryside.
I say this clearly: I am ready to have a crisis in Europe rather than agree to the dismantling of the Common Agricultural Policy, rather than accept agricultural prices being set erratically by speculators and so preventing farmers from any longer being able to live decently from the fruit of their labours. I won’t allow our agriculture to die at a time when the issue of self-sufficiency and food security has become crucial, and so many women, men and children in the world are starving to death.
We can’t delay any longer before dealing with the funding of our pensions threatened by an ever-widening deficit. My dear compatriots, I know your worries about the future of our pensions. And I know how sensitive this is, but my duty as Head of State is to guarantee that our pensions, your pensions, will be funded. I won’t force this through. The necessary time will be given for discussion with the two sides of industry. But I promise you that before six months are up the necessary, fair measures will be adopted. On a matter of this importance, I call on everyone to abandon partisan positions.
Health is a matter of concern to every one of you. For the past three years, the bulk of our efforts have focused on hospitals and hospital staff. The time has come to pay the same attention to primary care. I know the difficulties doctors face. We’re going to start a major consultation to determine what structural measures can be taken to resolve these difficulties. The time isn’t for sticking-plaster solutions, but for structural decisions.
Finally, security is a priority. Thanks to resolute action steadfastly carried out for years, we have cut the number of offences committed; no one disputes this.
But we haven’t stamped out the increase in football hooliganism, violence on public transport and in schools. This situation can’t go on. I have decided personally to commit myself to the battle against this most brutal violence which has become intolerable for every one of you.
Those expecting or hoping for a firm reaction on my part won’t be disappointed.
PROTEST VOTE/CIVIC AND SOCIAL PACTS
The unease, which many of you have expressed regarding democracy and politics by abstaining or registering a protest vote, has no origin other than in the fact that for too long French society has, collectively, given up too much when it comes to its values and principles, values and principles underpinning our civic pact and our social pact.
For too long we have tolerated the intrusion of violence in schools, aggressors being treated with greater consideration than victims, work being devalued and merit no longer rewarded.
Well, I promise, there will be no more concessions at all.
Too long we have put up with attacks against secularism (laïcité) and gender parity, discrimination and the irresponsibility of some parents who pay no attention to their children’s education.
This is no longer tolerable.
Too long we have accepted unfair competition, dumping practices destroying our jobs.
This is no longer tolerable.
SCHOOL TRUANCY/FULL VEILS/CARBON TAX
Three issues recently in the news will illustrate the way I feel.
School truancy is a scourge. Parents must be held responsible, penalties involving withdrawal of family benefit must be imposed, and young people who can’t follow a normal curriculum will be placed in special establishments where they will no longer disturb the lives of the others and be given specific support.
The full veil is contrary to a woman’s dignity. The answer is to ban the full veil. The government will submit a bill to ban it in accordance with the general principles of our law.
Environmental dumping is threatening our jobs. It would be absurd to tax French companies if doing so would give polluting countries’ firms a competitive advantage. I unambiguously confirm our choice of environmental taxation, but I won’t create an internal carbon tax before there’s a border tax protecting our agriculture and industries from unfair competition from those continuing to pollute shamelessly. Moreover, I appeal to everyone to face up to their responsibilities so that Europe accepts the principle of protecting its companies and its jobs from unfair competition.
On these matters as on many others, I am convinced that, in France and Europe, we have to go back to simple principles, common-sense principles without which life together isn’t possible. We have to stick to this, we mustn’t compromise.
My dear fellow citizens,
In the past three years a huge amount of work has been done. We have had to reform and at the same time tackle a crisis the like of which the world hadn’t seen since the ’30s.
There’s still a lot of work to do over next two years so that France can emerge stronger from this crisis, so she can get the most from the recovery and turn things to her advantage in tomorrow’s world.
My dear compatriots, tomorrow competition won’t be less harsh than yesterday, it will be harsher. It’s my responsibility to prepare our country for this. Prime Minister François Fillon and the government are going tackle all these problems head on. I shall commit myself to this totally and at every moment.
You expect results. You will get them. Thank you./.