French President Emmanuel Macron has insisted that French people who continue to refuse to get COVID-19 vaccines are not acting like citizens.
Macron made the remark during in interview published by the Le Parisien newspaper on Tuesday. The French president said he hoped to “hassle” those who were “irresponsible” enough to refuse vaccines into getting their jabs. A bill that would effectively strip the unvaccinated of the right to participate in most aspects of public life is currently being debated in the French parliament.
“We have to tell them: from 15 January, you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant,” Macron said during the interview, according to a translation from The Guardian. “You will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theatre. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema.”
“When my freedoms threaten those of others, I become someone irresponsible,” he added. “Someone irresponsible is not a citizen.”
Macron noted that “only a very small minority” of French citizens were still refusing the shots, with around 90 percent of the country’s eligible population already being vaccinated. He argued that while he would not send the unvaccinated “to jail” or force them to get vaccines, “pissing them off even more” could be an effective strategy for convincing the hesitant.
“I am not about pissing off the French people,” said Macron. “But as for the non-vaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And we will continue to do this, to the end. This is the strategy.”
“In a democracy, the worst enemies are lies and stupidity,” he continued. “We are putting pressure on the unvaccinated by limiting, as much as possible, their access to activities in social life.”
Macron’s comments triggered swift condemnation from his political opponents. Bruno Retailleau, the leader of the French Senate‘s conservative Republicans group, told Agence France-Presse, an international press agency, that Macron “likes to despise” the French public and maintained that “no health emergency justifies such words.” Far-right leader Marine le Pen declared the president “unworthy of his office.”
France introduced a health pass last year due to the pandemic. The pass, which currently requires that the holder is either vaccinated or has a recent negative COVID-19 test, is required in order to board long-distance planes and trains and to enter places like restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. The new law would eliminate the testing option, making the pass usable for only the vaccinated.
Macron and the proposed law have received criticism from the left in addition to the right. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing La France Insoumise party, blasted the president for his “appalling” comments on the unvaccinated while asserting that it was “clear the vaccine pass is a collective punishment against individual liberties.”
Newsweek reached out to the Embassy of France in Washington, D.C. for comment.