What can we expect from Macron’s live interview on the controversial pension reforms?

After a week of political turmoil, strikes and clashes between police and protesters in France, president Emmanuel Macron is set to address the French people directly - so what will he say?

What can we expect from Macron's live interview on the controversial pension reforms?
Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Wednesday. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

UPDATE: Click here to hear what a defiant Macron had to say about pension reform, his one regret and how he accepts being unpopular.

The man behind the pension reform that has sparked weeks of strike in France, a political crisis and burning barricades will on Wednesday address the nation.

Emmanuel Macron will give an interview to TV channel TF1 on their lunchtime show on Wednesday, marking the first time he has spoken directly to the population about pension reform since the political debates began.

So what can we expect? 

This will be a live interview, in which Macron answers questions from the French TV stations TF1 and France 2. It will screen at 1pm.

What will he not say?

Macron aides have told the French press that he will not announce that he is dissolving parliament, not will he announce a reshuffle of the government or a referendum on the pension reform.

It hasn’t explicitly been said, but it seems very unlikely that he will announce the thing that protesters have been calling for all week; his own resignation. 

So what will he say? 

We don’t know at this stage, but it seems that Macron is intent on defending the reforms, and wants to speak directly to the French people in a live interview and explain to them why the pension reforms are necessary.

He was reported as saying on Tuesday that: “Obviously, we have not managed to share the merits of this reform with the public.”

It seems that the president will opt for pédagogie – or teaching. Some disillusioned French voters refer to it as ‘Macronsplaining’.

Why now?

Macron himself has largely been absent from the pensions debate, either though the reform is one of his flagship proposals.

Part of this is due to the conventions of French politics; traditionally the president proposes ideas and it is up to the prime minister – who is leader of the government – to guide them through the parliamentary process.

This means that the task of defending the controversial reforms in public has largely fallen to prime minister Elisabeth Borne, as well as labour minister Olivier Dussopt and government spokesman Olivier Véran. It was these three who were burned in effigy by protesters in Dijon, along with Macron.

The last time Macron spoke in detail in public on pension reform was during the election campaign for the 2022 presidential elections – he was re-elected on a platform that included pension reform, and he argues that it is this that gives him a mandate, despite the lack of parliamentary support.

Will he announce the withdrawal or changes to the reform?

The mood in government appears to be a defiant one, but there could be concessions made on certain aspects of the reform, possibly including the timetable for beginning the changes.

At a meeting with his senior ministers on Tuesday, Macron called on his troops to provide ideas in the “next two to three weeks” with a view to adopting “a change in method and reform agenda,” according to a participant who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

At present the government intends to begin the first changes to the pension system in September, with the pension age fully raised from 62 to 64 by 2030.

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How to tell French politicians apart by their sashes

Need to tell at a glance whether you're looking at a French mayor, town councillor, MP or Senator? No problem - all the details you need are in their 'écharpe tricolore'.

How to tell French politicians apart by their sashes

If you’ve spent much time in France you will be aware that politicians wear a sash in the ‘tricolore’ colours of the French flag on special occasions.

But did you know that how the sash is worn, who else is wearing it and the colour of its fringe will tell you everything you need to know about the person wearing it?

Read on for a deep dive into the wonderful world of ‘écharpe etiquette’. 

Echarpe tricolore

Une écharpe more usually translates as scarf, and the French have gained something of an international reputation as stylish scarf-wearers.

However une écharpe tricolore is what we might refer to as a sash or even a cummerbund.

It’s worn by elected officials – Senators, Députés (members of the lower parliamentary house the Assemblée nationale, equivalent to MPs), mayors, deputy mayors and town council members.

The colours

As the ‘tricolore’ bit suggests, the sash is in the colours of the French flag – blue, white and red.

However – how the sash is worn gives you your first clue as to the wearer. Députés and Senators wear their sashes with the red at the top.

However mayors, deputy mayors and town councillors wear theirs with the blue at the top. 

Left, the sash as worn by a mayor or deputy mayor, centre the sash as worn by a MP or senator and right, the waist option. Photo: Préfecture du Yonne

The fringe

At the end of the scarf is fringing in either gold or silver – MPs, Senators and mayors get gold, while deputy mayors and councillors have to make do with silver fringe. However, if the deputy mayor is standing in for the mayor at an official function, they are permitted to wear the gold.

Shoulder or waist?

You will most commonly see the écharpe worn as a sash over one shoulder (in French en bandoulière) but it is also permitted to wear it en ceinture – around the waist as a belt.

If wearing it sash style, it must be worn over the right shoulder.

If wearing it around the waist, the same rules apply over whether you wear it with the red at the top, or the blue.


Then there’s the question of when the écharpe should be worn, and you may be unsurprised to hear that this is strictly regulated, with the rules for mayors most recently clarified in a decree in the Journal Officiel in 2000.

Local officials wear the sash at public ceremonies and “whenever the performance of their duties may require this distinctive sign of their authority”.

This is why mayors always wear their sash when performing a wedding ceremony, because they are acting as an official of the republic.

The sash “reflects the authority of the State conferred on elected representatives by their status as judicial police officers and civil registrars” in legally binding ceremonies such as weddings.

At public events such as commemorations at war memorials, the sash can only be worn by the mayor – or the deputy mayor if they are filling in for the mayor for the occasion.

MPs and Senators do not wear their sashes for ordinary debate sessions in parliament, but do on ceremonial occasions.

You might also see them wearing the sash as a mark of their position if they are taking part in a public event such as a demonstration. 

Green party MP Sandrine Rousseau attends a demonstration wearing her sash – with the red at the top. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP


And finally the big question – why do elected officials still wear this rather archaic piece of clothing?

Well apart from the aesthetic consideration that they look rather nice at special events, the écharpe is the only remaining element of the ‘costume des maires’ or mayoral outfit that was introduced when the commune system was put into place in 1790 and made compulsory for mayors in a decree of 1852. 

The traditional outfit of a mayor is dark trousers, a tailcoat with silver frogging, a sword and a bicorn hat with plumes, plus the sash of course. There is no option for women because French women did not get the right to vote or hold office until 1945, and by then the traditional costume had been phased out.

The outfit is not longer compulsory, but in recent years local mayors including the mayor of La Verrière in Yvelines and the mayor of Plouha in Brittany have decided to revive the traditional outfit for ceremonial occasions such as weddings.

So if your dream is to be married by a man wearing a sword, sash and plumed hat – then head to La Verrière or Plouha. (Or Las Vegas, probably).