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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French mayor to raise cost of water due to drought

The mayor of a French town has announced that he will be increasing the water bills of his constituents, in a bid to encourage everyone to save water during the summer as the country faces more drought warnings.

French mayor to raise cost of water due to drought

Jérôme Viaud, the mayor of the French Riviera town of Grasse, told Franceinfo on Monday that he would make the price of water per cubic metre subject to a seasonal rate – more expensive in the summer, and cheaper in the winter.

He told the French news site that the goal is to “raise awareness among all residents, so that we can lower [water] consumption during the most crucial and difficult periods”.

Why the change?

The town of Grasse is currently under a “yellow” alert for water restrictions due to drought. 

This is the first of four levels of water restrictions, which are imposed at a local level in France. The ‘yellow’ alert means residents have limited hours for when they are permitted to water their gardens, in addition to some other restrictions on watering sports terrain and golf courses.

READ MORE: MAP: Where in France is under water restrictions in June 2023?

Currently 23 mainland French départements have some level of active water restrictions in place, with the southern part of the country, along the Mediterranean, most impacted.

Of those départements, six had risen to the highest level of water restrictions, the ‘crisis’ level, which involves restrictions on non-priority water withdrawals, such as for washing cars and watering gardens, green spaces, or golf courses. They are: Aude, Bouches-de-Rhône, Dordogne, Gard, Oise, and Pyrenées-Orientales. 

As for Grasse, local authorities are particularly worried about whether the situation will worsen in the coming weeks. The Canal du Foulon, which is one of the resources that supplies the town with fresh water, is reportedly almost dry.

On top of that, France experienced an exceptionally dry winter, recording 32 days without rainfall. Though there was some precipitation during the spring, the majority of the country’s aquifers were still at low levels at the start of June, leaving many parts of the country – including southern cities and towns along the Mediterranean – at greater risk for drought during the summer. 

How much will the cost go up by?

The new pricing system will bring up increase the cost per cubic metre between the months of June and September, and drop the cost between October in May. 

The average resident of Grasse may see their annual water bill rise slightly, but those who consume large amounts of water during the summer may see their bills go up more significantly. 

On average a family of four will see their average price of €0.80 per cubic metre year round rise up to €1.00 in the summer months, and drop down to €0.60 the rest of the year.

Grasse is not the only French town to have attempted seasonal pricing for water. Montpellier, Libourne and Dunkerque have all tried ‘progressive pricing’ for water. 

In Montpellier this looks like the first 15 cubic metres being free, then costing €0.95 up to 120 cubic metres used, increasing to €1.40 between 120 and 240, and finally to €2.70 per cubic metre for consumption above 240 cubic metres, according to reporting by TF1.

According to the local authorities in Montpellier, 70 to 75 percent of subscribers would benefit from a reduction, but high-consumption households would have to pay more. 

French president Emmanuel Macron also mentioned the possibility of using progressive water pricing to discourage over-consumption in his water-savings plan address in March.  

Macron also said at the time that the French government would be developing an app, similar to the electricity-saving app EcoWatt, so that households can better track their water usage.