Jean Castex: “A fuel discount of 15 cents per liter will be applied from April 1”

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In front of soaring fuel prices, the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, draws his “fuel discount” which will come into force on April 1 for a period of four months. He calls the tankers and the distributors to make an extra effort on their side. The head of government also addresses the hot topics of welcoming Ukrainian refugees and the development of health measures in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many Ukrainians are fleeing their country at war. Is France able to accommodate 100,000 refugees as some forecasts suggest?

JEAN CASTEX. It’s hard to say for sure today. But the figure of 100,000 is possible and we must put ourselves in the capacity to be able to accommodate them. The principle is the solidarity with the Ukrainian people. We have already identified 30,000 hosting solutions today, more than half of which come from individuals. And it will increase.

The French also fear for their daily lives. Some shelves in supermarkets are empty…

I want to reassure: we do not foresee any risk of a shortage. The best way to avoid the shortage is not to create it ourselves by stockpiling uselessly. On the other hand, it is true that the Ukrainian crisis has an impact on prices. But much more in the field of energy than food.

Precisely, the prices of fuel at the pump explode. Will there be a gesture for motorists?

Yes, because the average of 2 euros/litre, for diesel and lead-free, is outdated on the national territory and this is likely to last. Also, beyond what we have already decided, the government will set up for all French people a fuel discount at the pump of 15 cents per litre. This discount, valid on all fuels, will be applied from 1 April for a period of four months. This means that for every 60 liters you will save 9 euros.

Is it a tax cut?

No, it is indeed a discount. The distributors will apply it and the State will reimburse them. Why not lower taxes? First, because a law is needed and it takes longer. Then, because taxing polluting energy less is anti-ecological. Finally, because this discount helps everyone, including professionals who are exempt from taxes.

What will be the cost for the State?

Just over 2 billion euros. At the entrance to the station, the motorist will still see 2.20 euros/litre for example, as in certain stations today, but by paying with his bank card or at the cash desk, he will benefit from a reduction of 15 cents per litre. I ask oil companies and distributors to also make an effort on their side. Given their financial situation, I call on them to make an additional gesture. How would the French understand that they pay a full tank of diesel at 2 euros, while at the same time oil companies are still making big profits? If the State makes an effort of 15 cents per liter, and if they make an effort of 5 cents, for example, it is indeed 20 cents that must end up in the pocket of the French.

So it will cost 2 billion, but how much the state does he perceive additional tax revenue thanks to the increase in oil prices?

In the first half of 2022 and if prices stay at this level, tax revenues on fuels would increase by less than 2 billion euros. Everything is returned to the French. And let’s not forget the 20 billion euros devoted since last October to protecting the purchasing power of the French after the increase in gas prices and electricity! I can’t let it be said that the state is lining its pockets. It is clearly the opposite.

Is everyone affected by this drop of 15 cents, including professionals?

Yes, farmers, craftsmen, construction, taxis, truck drivers, everyone… Fishermen too. I know they have a fleet of boats that consume a lot of fuel. I hear their impatience. Moreover, we are working with local authorities on measures to lower their social and port charges. This will be decided in the next few days, we will get there.

Were you not afraid that this boost would be interpreted as an electoral gesture?

The first concern of the French people I meet on my travels is the price at the pump. Can you see me saying to them, “Move on, there’s nothing to see!” ” because there is an election in less than thirty days ? It is not my conception of my responsibility.

This Monday, the last health restrictions will be lifted. And yet, we are witnessing a rebound in the epidemic. Is it very careful?

Indeed, we are seeing a resumption of cases, as everywhere in Europe. The scientific council, which I have requested, tells us that it is above all the BA2 subvariant which is at the origin of this rebound. It is more transmissible than the initial Omicron, but it does not appear to be more dangerous. I therefore believe that this should lead us to adjustment measures but certainly not to change our strategy. Because the hospital pressure, which remains our justice of the peace, continues to drop with less than 1,900 patients in critical care. They were 4,000 in mid-January. We had announced that we would lift the restrictions when the situation normalized at the hospital. It’s the case.

Faced with the rebound, are you therefore taking new measures?

Absolutely. The improvement in the hospital and our high vaccination coverage lead us to maintain the lifting of the measures. On the other hand, we will support the most vulnerable people. First, by strongly recommending that people who are fragile due to their age or their pathologies continue to wear a mask in closed places and in large gatherings. In addition, we will now open the fourth dose to over 80s who have received their booster dose for more than three months, who are facing a gradual loss of their immunity.

The situation remains very tense in Corsica since the aggression of Yvan Colonna. Will the lifting of the status of particularly reported detainee (DPS) for the two other detainees involved in the Erignac commando calm the situation?

I formally call for appeasement on the island. What happened in the prison of Arles is in no way a crime carried out by the State, as I understand it in a completely scandalous way. This unacceptable aggression led me to lift the DPS status (detainee particularly reported) by Ivan Colonna. And from the moment he benefits from it, he was logical to do it for the other two (Alain Ferrandi and Pierre Alessandri). This should, I hope, help to restore calm.

The lawyers for the detainees and their families find that this decision comes very late…

We’re still talking about a group that organized the assassination of a prefect. I took my responsibilities. What is the next gesture? Conditional release? This decision rests solely with the judge. The government’s priority is to advance major issues with Corsican elected officials and provide concrete responses to the island’s problems.

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