Chair of debates over ‘yellow vest’ protests forced to quit

14 Jan 19

The ex-minister Emmanuel Macron had picked to lead the national debate in France on tax, living costs and democracy has stepped down after controversy over her pay.

Chantal Jouanno, a former sports minister, was due to steer the national debate, to kick off this week, as part of her role as the president of France’s National Commission for Public Debate.

But she said on Tuesday last week she would not be guiding the debate, which Macron announced last month in response to the “yellow vest” protests.

She said she could not guarantee conditions for a “calm debate” as she had become a focus of attention after news emerged she was paid €14,666 (£13,200) per month as head of the commission.  

It was reported by national news outlets that this was a pay increase of 13% from 2018. In comparison, president Emmanuel Macron pockets €15,140 a month.

Jouanno said before she resigned that the pay increase was “determined by the authorities” and had nothing to do with her leading the big national debate. She said on Twitter that she would not get paid any extra money for heading the national debate. 

She will continue to lead the National Commission for Public Debate as president, a role she took up in March 2018. It is unknown who will be guiding the public debate.

The commission is a consultative body on environmental issues but also leads public debates.

The “gilets juenes” (yellow vest) protests began as a reaction to the government’s planned fuel tax hikes. But after the rise was scrapped the protests continued over widespread dissatisfaction with the government and anger at the cost of living in France.

Macron said last month the debate should be held publicly in town halls across France.

The public debate will focus on four key questions, including how to balance the tax system to benefit the public and bring the state and public organisations closer to the people of France to improve efficiency.

The key questions will be:

  • How to help people have a place to live and heat their homes in a time of climate change
  • How to balance the tax system to meet people’s needs
  • How to bring the state and other public organisations closer to the public and improve efficiency
  • How to improve French democracy and define people’s concerns over immigration.


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