>> Tear gas, burning tires, and riot police, it's been a weekly ritual across France for the past nine weeks. But Tuesday marks the beginning of a national debate, something French President Emmanuel Macron hopes will quell the yellow vest anger over his economic reforms.>>
> Reuters's Richard Lough is in Paris.
>> Nationwide debates like this are far from common in France. In fact, Macron's government is billing it as an unprecedented event. He says he wants to take the anger that's being expressed on the streets, and shape it into policy.>> Macron tried to appease the yellow vests in December.
In a TV address, he announced an increase for the minimum wage, as well tax cuts for pensioners, but it wasn't enough. The continuing unrest in France shook Macron enough to pen a 2,300 word letter to the nation over the weekend. In it, he set up topics for discussion in town halls over the next two months, taxes, green energy, institutional reform, and citizenship.
Macron said there would be no forbidden questions, but he insisted he won't reverse reforms aimed at lowering taxes and encouraging investment. His opponents, who regard him as aloof and disconnected with low-paid workers, were unimpressed.>> Macron's critics argue that he's trying to predetermine the outcome of the debate.
They say that they've done enough talking. That the demands of the yellow vest protesters, that have been vented on the streets of Paris, and other big cities, and roundabouts, and road junctions throughout the country, have been known for weeks and weeks. And that there's no more need for talking, it's time for answers, they say.
>> Only two other French presidents, Francois Mitterrand and Nicolas Sarkozy, have previously penned letters to the people. Both were electoral gambits, announcing their run for a second time. The fact that Macron did so less than two years into his shows just how much the yellow vests have rocked him.
Macron is due to present his conclusions on the national debate in April.