Robert Ménard on the Yellow Vest Protests

Robert Ménard is the mayor of Béziers in the south of France. He was elected with the support of Front National (now Rassemblement National, National Rally). In the following interview with Sputnik, Mr. Ménard discusses the Yellow Vest movement and the issue of mass immigration into France.

Many thanks to Ava Lon for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Video transcript:

00:00   My name is Robert Ménard. I’m 66 years old. For a long time I was
00:04   the CEO of Reporters Without Borders, and since 2014
00:08   I’ve been the mayor of Béziers. So this is why I’m fighting: first, to change, of course,
00:12   the people’s lives, because I’m interested in people, and then for that I would like the Right,
00:16   finally, to be a little less stupid and that it be capable of uniting to change this country.
00:20   Parade Answer
00:24   Robert Ménard, we are on the eve of Act 17 of the Yellow Vests.
00:28   It starts to feel as if it’s been going on for a hell of a long time. What is your feeling
00:32   about this movement, how it [this movement] is it going in Béziers? —Listen,
00:37   in Béziers, first, they always had our sympathy, they knew it,
00:41   so it’s always gone well. I mean we never had vandalism in our town; they had
00:45   meetings of thousands of people downtown, and I don’t think that there has been
00:49   a single vase of flowers that was knocked over. But I must say
00:52   we received them at the City Council, I let them use [government] rooms;
00:55   well, in short, things are going rather well. But at the same time
00:58   we are well aware that things have evolved, that the situation evolved, that people
01:02   aren’t exactly the same. I mean that I have less sympathy for a certain number
01:06   of people who are excessively politicizing the movement,
01:10   I mean… “they are politicizing it”; it has always been politicized. But they give it
01:14   a political connotation, which is close to an extreme right party, to put it briefly, and where
01:18   you find a certain number of people who are vandals, and I think this isn’t what you must do.
01:22   I mean that today, breaking a certain number of things means standing against the French
01:25   people, and the objective is certainly NOT to stand against the French people! —So you said
01:31   in 2018 in your essay “For a Reality Right” [in touch with reality], I’m quoting you:
01:35   “Today we are the only true revolutionaries.” Haven’t the Yellow Vests
01:39   proven you wrong, in a way? —No, because I think that the Yellow Vests are
01:43   exactly this “Reality Right”. I mean, the Yellow Vests are precisely
01:47   the people who have had enough and who fear for their economic safety,
01:51   for their “security” safety — if I may put it this way —
01:56   and their cultural security. It’s this precise Right wing that … —Cultural security?
02:00   —‘Culturel’ in that there is immigration. It’s obviously the main question! You know, in my town,
02:04   and in the entire South, but in most French towns, the cultural insecurity is the threat
02:07   of immigration. I have nothing against people who choose France for reasons of freedom.
02:16   They are right, and we should welcome them. Potentially, of course, I have nothing against
02:20   people who come, because life is easier in Europe than in their country,
02:25   but provided that a certain balance is respected at some point.
02:29   There is a number of people that is so important that it deconstructs a certain number…
02:33   that CAN change forever the essence of what this country is. I care about what my country is,
02:37   therefore this cultural insecurity, this economic insecurity; you meet it,
02:42   I met it, at all the intersections, at all the roundabouts [where the Yellow Vests protested]
02:45   with the Yellow Vests. They were saying it loud and clear when
02:49   they weren’t having fingers pointed at them by a certain number of media.
02:54   Because you are telling us that immigration was important for the Yellow Vests, but it seemed,
02:58   apparently, at the national level, to be rather marginal in the concerns of this movement.
03:02   —Because the Yellow Vests aren’t completely stupid, believe it or not, and they DID understand
03:06   that if there is a subject that is complex to address in front of the media, it is this very one.
03:10   I have been at the roundabouts all the time, and we stopped talking about it.
03:14   I was even surprised at the beginning, by the weak presence
03:18   of people with an immigration background, all while in my town, I can give you
03:23   just one number: two thirds of children in our schools have immigration background.
03:27   Two thirds. It’s not one third: TWO THIRDS. —You investigated it… —I investigated it,
03:31   and I always won, concerning those investigations, despite uncomfortable remarks
03:35   and attacks by a number of organisations self-depicting as charged with the defense of
03:39   Human Rights! So, therefore, at the roundabouts [for the Yellow Vests], of course it’s an issue!
03:43   Of course massive immigration is making people economically fragile,
03:48   including, INCLUDING people with immigration background, who took so many years
03:52   to integrate into this country, and who see the arrival of a lot of competition,
03:56   that is an issue for them, again, because it makes this country culturally fragile!
04:00   I’m sorry! We are in a country that has its traditions, we are
04:04   in a Europe that has its traditions, and again, I think that I am not the only one to defend
04:08   those traditions. —So, defense of traditions, and then
04:11   you were telling us about the Reality Right. So is the Reality Right
04:14   precisely the one that is forbids flags during marriage ceremonies
04:17   in the town hall? —Listen, I’m sorry, where are you here? We are in France.
04:21   In France there’s a flag, it’s the French flag, it’s blue-white-red. And the only —
04:25   and it’s the only one which has to be in the places [belonging to] the Republic,
04:29   and in my town hall, as in all the town halls of France and Navarre.
04:33   It’s happening in France, and therefore the only flag that has to be installed there
04:37   is the one of the French Republic; with, incidentally, because I do put it up, the European flag.
04:41   Oh, you do put up the European flag? —Of course, of course, I’m one of those who
04:46   put it up, I’m not blatantly anti-European at all. But
04:50   at the same time, no, there are a number of foreign flags that have NO
04:54   purpose during the wedding ceremony. —So which flag? Which foreign flag?
04:58   Well, listen, I’ll give you a real answer, I’ll say the Finnish flag,
05:02   Swedish [code for Muslim, sarcastically], Norwegian and Danish, for example.
05:06   Fine. OK. —To cite a certain number of flags. —OK. You have tried
05:10   to federate a new Right, a certain Right, a Right outside the walls,
05:14   sometimes in Béziers, sometimes at the national level. Where are your initiatives
05:18   in that field right now? —To be completely honest, it’s not really a success.
05:23   I used to think, with Emmanuelle, my wife who is an MP,
05:27   we have —you hinted at it — united, we have united a bunch of people
05:31   around “Oz ta Droite”[dare using your Right]. Simply, the idea was to say: we are from the Right;
05:35   we not ashamed to say it, and if we were all to be found in that Right…
05:39   because finally, between a big part of the Republicans and the people from
05:43   the National Rally or from the Stand Up France, or those who are outside of those parties,
05:48   we think they’re eighty percent the same. And me, naïvely,
05:52   I thought that common sense could win over
05:56   some tiny interests, over the egos, over the strategies, you know, of eighteen
06:00   different groups, where they’re lost… I thought therefore that we could appeal to reason,
06:04   to common sense, and I thought that we could find ourselves side by side,
06:09   and fight common fights. I discover that this is almost IMPOSSIBLE.
06:13   I’m desperately trying to put at the same table Laurent Wauquiez, [president of The Republicans]
06:17   Marine le Pen [National Rally], and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan [Stand Up, France].
06:21   I think that, unfortunately, each thinks more of himself than of France. So today, therefore,
06:25   the only hope is that French people, the people from the Right, impose it on them.

One thought on “Robert Ménard on the Yellow Vest Protests

  1. This interview should not have been cut. I wanted to hear Ménard’s view on the European elections. As he says, surprisingly, that he is pro-Europe, I am sure that he would have interesting comments to make.

    Also, it is not Oze in the translation but ‘oser’ from ‘to dare’. He said ‘quatre-vingt-dix’ which means 90, not 80 as in the under titles.

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