For the president of the Senate, only a primary can make it possible to decide between the candidatures for the presidential one.
There has been a clarification of candidacies on the right in recent days. How do you welcome the renouncements of Laurent Wauquiez and Bruno Retailleau? Is this a sign that the right does not believe in victory?
No ! In eight months the victory of the right is possible! I had Laurent Wauquiez and Bruno Retailleau, they both plead for a system of separation between the candidates. Bruno Retailleau considered that he was not in the best position to beat Emmanuel Macron, Laurent Wauquiez did not want to add the division to the division. I would add that the country has never been so close to the ideas that we defend. Finally, I note, after this back-to-school weekend, that there is a consensus that there is only one candidate. Our goal is to offer a democratic alternation to the country and another policy. I cannot bring myself to relive the reductive duel of 2017 between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
Do you still think it’s possible for the primary to take place? We can clearly see the fierce battle being played out behind the scenes between the pro and the anti-primaries …
I do not see any other possible procedure or other solution than a primary to decide between the candidates. Besides, I do not hear anyone in those who are opposed to it proposing to us another method. The primary is not a drama. It must be a rallying primary, to use Christian Jacob’s term, it must be a real debate of ideas, it must be appeased. Any division would condemn us to failure and that I cannot accept. I am confident: we will be able to form a French team for the alternation.
Is the union of the right still possible while Xavier Bertrand refuses to submit to any system of separation?
I know Xavier Bertrand’s position but I keep in mind what he said this summer: we need a single candidate or a single right-wing candidate for the presidential election. The Republican political bureau voted in July for Jean Leonetti to work on the primary. As expected, the candidates made themselves known before the end of August. Then we agreed on the number of sponsorships, 250, to be able to participate. Finally, we have a congress on September 25 and the choice of candidate in November. We decided on a procedure, a timetable. We entrusted a job to Jean Leonetti, he will go to the end of this work. I totally trust him to make it happen. When we saw each other in July with Xavier Bertrand, Christian Jacob and Jean Leonetti, we had agreed to meet again in September. I do not forget it. Reason for which I am very serene. We do not have the right vis-à-vis the French, vis-à-vis those who trust us, to lead them into the wall. I want the French to be able to choose the presidential election.
Part of the right clearly supports Emmanuel Macron for 2022, like the ex-LR mayor of Toulon, Hubert Falco. Are you worried ?
No, it was already clear enough at the regional level. It’s not a surprise even if it seems a bit fast to me. But it is his choice.
What makes you say today that the right can win the presidential election?
Because France is on the right and in the center and Emmanuel Macron embodies neither the right nor the center. Look at its record in terms of reforms! Where are we with the pension reform? Where are we with the dependency reform always announced, never done? Where are we on the employment issue? We have 3.5 million unemployed on one side and nearly 300,000 unfilled jobs on the other. And we continue to spend. Today, we are being invented the youth engagement income but I fear that this is only a young RSA in disguise. I am waiting to see the terms. Where are we with the question of territories, local freedoms, the end of a verticality that takes care of everything? We need to rebuild a decentralized Republic, a Republic of trust. As for sovereign subjects, republican reconquest of lawless areas, immigration, increased insecurity, we are reaching the limits of what the French can still accept. There are eight months left before the presidential election, nothing will happen in terms of structural reforms. Emmanuel Macron no longer has time. What has not been done in four years will not be done in eight months!
Bruno Le Maire quantified the cost of saving the economy during the health crisis, “whatever the cost”, at 240 billion euros. Will we be able to face it?
The Senate voted on the amending finance bills and its useful measures. The “whatever the cost” must now stop. But let’s come back to the situation before February 2020. Public spending had jumped by more than 80 billion euros. We were at 55% of GDP, 10 points above the European average. The reality is that no reform has been carried out and that we are paying the price: today, we have a budget deficit of 220 billion. As for the debt, it rose in 2019 to 2,380 to 2,850 billion euros today. This is the reality of this five-year term.
Will the presidential election be played out on this issue of debt?
The choice of the French will be made on the one who in their eyes will know how to restore the Republic of confidence.
The Afghan crisis intensifies with new explosions. Do you fear an influx of refugees in France? The UN announces 500,000 worldwide.
Afghanistan is the debacle of the world’s greatest power, the United States. And the consequences of this debacle are unpredictable. Behind, Europe and France have done nothing but suffer. This crisis shows that we can no longer rely solely on the United States, although they are friends. At the time of the French presidency of the European Union, in January, we will have to ask ourselves the question of European defense, immigration and security. I hear a little music suggesting that the Taliban are rather our allies compared to the Islamic State. Let’s stop being naive. You can sometimes be forced into a dialogue with the devil but you know, a drowning man clings to a snake.
What is your position on the reception of these refugees?
When women and men are suffering and find themselves persecuted, the principle of asylum is a fundamental value. It is the honor of France. But the right to asylum must not be hijacked or become a channel of massive immigration in a country whose integration capacities are saturated today.
What do you think of the idea of a moratorium on immigration, put forward by Michel Barnier?
I am always wary of the word “moratorium” because we always announce it but we never do it. What is clear is that our entire migration policy needs to be rethought: asylum rights, family reunification, reception of foreign students, unaccompanied minors, etc.
Are you worried about the QR Code society and the health pass imposed by the Covid crisis?
We will have a debate in Parliament concerning an extension of the health pass beyond November 15. The epidemic situation justifies limiting and controlling access to certain places. This is to reduce the circulation of the virus. To those who oppose it, I say to them: look overseas. And I ask a question: isn’t the most serious attack on freedom the ban on movement and confinement as we have known it? Moreover, as of November 2020, I had deemed the vaccination essential and compulsory for everyone, if necessary. On the other hand, why has it become compulsory for caregivers and firefighters but not for police officers and teachers? It deserves some thought. I made this point last week to the Prime Minister.
If the Senate has stepped up to the plate over the duration of the health pass, is it not because it constitutes an attack on fundamental freedoms?
Sure. But the Constitutional Council stressed the need to find a balance between the freedom to come and go, the freedom to monitor and the protection of health.
Every Saturday, for seven weeks, demonstrations have been organized in France against the health pass. How do you analyze these protests?
I do not despise anyone, but France now has 41 million French people vaccinated and 200,000 demonstrators. I understand the fears, but getting vaccinated is also showing a gesture of collective solidarity. I believe in solidarity. These gatherings nevertheless show us that in our country there is a loss of confidence in public speech. This is why we need to rebuild the Republic of Confidence while France is going through a crisis of lack of results. We have seen too many speeches, too many promises that have never been acted upon.
Emmanuel Macron goes to Marseille on Wednesday, where the settling of scores is daily, to announce new measures. Do you think this is yet another plan?
I believe that it takes less talk and travel, but more results. This is what the French are waiting for.