How did you experience your change of status two years ago, passing from the responsibility of local elected representative to that of national elected representative?
“I found myself a little destabilized the first six months. When you are a local elected representative, you must be able to be quick in decision-making and in action. But when you get to Parliament, the notion of time is not the same. In the Senate, we are on a long term. We are not in the action of immediacy. So I had to change my way of thinking and understand that I had a margin in front of me to work on issues that will reorient the whole society, the whole country. But I had the great luck of succeeding a senator who is close to me: Gérard Dériot. I also kept part of his team: it helps. On the other hand, the Senate, as president of the Association of Mayors, I had already attended. So it was not a total change of scenery”.
In the Senate, you are part of the commission for regional planning and sustainable development. It’s a choice ?
“I didn’t want to scatter. I have deliberately chosen a certain number of domains which correspond to the identity of Allier. I could have taken care of Foreign Affairs, for example. But I wanted to stick to the reality of my chosen land. And then, very clearly, it is also these files with which I am most comfortable: I know them by heart. Next year, I will celebrate my 40 years of public life in the department. This mandate as a senator is the result of all these years of local practice. Today, I use my roots to return the lift to our territory, to the municipalities of the Allier, to the mayors and to the departmental elected officials”.
Have you made progress on issues related to land use planning?
“I am getting to know me in the Senate with the bill (PPL) on medical deserts. In November 2021, I positioned myself on this file. This is the typical example of the subject on which we cross the local and the national, because medical deserts are a reality in the Allier as almost everywhere else in France. I became rapporteur on this theme. But this bill is not yet included in the discussions of the Senate. I think it will be during the first half of 2023”.
Senate: the right and the center prevail in Allier, Cantal and Corrèze, the left resists in Creuse
With your bill, you advocate in particular the limitation of the freedom of doctors to settle in well-endowed areas. How is it perceived in the Senate?
“Let’s say it frankly, the doctors’ unions, the Order of Physicians, have not become my friends. Nor have the doctors-senators become such. We touch a supreme taboo and we pay 30 years of indecision or bad decisions. Will my PPL be adopted? I do not know. But I am convinced that if it arrives at the vote in the Hemicycle, it will be in the majority”.
Seen from Paris, how are rural departments such as Allier considered? Do you think they are sufficiently taken into account?
“In the Senate, there is no problem. The Senate still has elected officials who have a long experience of local life. We know our territories well. On the other hand, it is much more complicated in governmental bodies where there is a culture of Parisian centralism as well as an urban and metropolitan culture. I’m actually checking it out right now. This territorial divide is very real. Especially since there is a whole new generation of decision-makers who no longer have any connection with the rural world.
When I started my journey, many high-ranking civil servants and political figures still had parents or grandparents who had lived in the countryside. Now it’s almost over. The link with the rural world has been broken. Look what’s happening with the Zero Net Land Take (ZAN) goal. It is the very example of what an urban political culture is. She does not know that in a town in the Allier of 200 inhabitants, when there is the possibility of building a new house every 10 years, it should not be prevented, that this is not what will harm the land use. What I mean is that it is absolutely necessary to differentiate the policies according to the reality of the territories”.
Do you consider yourself a representative of peripheral France?
” Absolutely. I am a senator from peripheral France and popular France. I am a senator from the forgotten territories and my role is to remind people that, in these forgotten territories, many things are happening. I am here to be a voice, to defend them and enable them to move forward”.
Do you think the government is unaware of this?
“He runs after the problems. He anticipates nothing. We have the impression that there is no projection on the future. Take energy. We know very well that nuclear power is a considerable asset for France and that we cannot do without it. But we only have half of our nuclear power plants running today, because there is no will to maintain them and keep them in production capacity. In short, we do not see where the government wants to go. He pursues a piecemeal policy. As for Emmanuel Macron, he represents elitism. There is a certain contempt for popular France as well as a political practice based on the effects of announcements, with absolutely extraordinary financing projects: one wonders where he will get the money. France arrives at 3,000 billion in debt, with a budget of 155 billion in deficit and with a trade deficit which will reach 200 billion”.
The Republicans, to whom you are attached in the Senate, have lost part of this popular electorate of which you speak. His voters have turned a lot to the far right. How to bring them back into the fold of the Republican right?
“At the moment, the Republican right is in bad shape at the national level and it can no longer get a President of the Republic elected. The paradox is that this same republican right remains very well established in the territories. Its elected representatives are recognized by the voters at the local level and renewed during the elections. So this shows that the policy they are pursuing corresponds to the expectations of the population. But when you get to the national level, it’s failure. To win back this electorate, we must return to fairly simple values. Like, for example, labor compensation. Today, he is not paid enough. A single person with a minimum wage does not live, she survives. It is absolutely necessary to increase the wages of the popular classes in a significant way. On a minimum wage, the gross would almost have to become the net.
On the other hand, I also observe that the vote for the National Rally sticks very clearly to rural areas. The feeling of downgrading, the loss of a certain number of public services, the loss of medical presence in the territories, this chain of problems has been neglected. It is exactly for this reason that the territories must be given more resources to act. For me, the country holds today not thanks to its national elected officials but thanks to the mayors of France. The municipality is the level of proximity that allows our country to remain stable”.
In your opinion, the municipalities no longer have enough resources?
“When I started in public life, they had four taxes, there was a direct link between the local finances of the communities and the population. Today, there is only one: the property tax. It means that a mayor who wants to build a project is no longer the decision maker because he cannot do it without the help of the State. The decision-maker for projects in the municipalities is therefore no longer the mayor but the prefect. If there is no Rural Territorial Equipment Endowment (DETR), no investment project can be carried out. The municipalities have been made dependent.
How do you see the department in 30 years?
“First, it has changed enormously over the past 30 years. The Bourbonnais have also rediscovered the pride of living there. Today, I am confident for the future of Allier which, even if there are still a few projects, has largely opened up. With the A71, the A79 and the RN7, it is irrigated by the main axes of communication which will carry it. The Allier has its own history and culture which are now valued. But it also has a new power of economic attraction that will allow it to win back jobs and continue to gain momentum”.
Interview with Antoine Delacou
Photos François-Xavier Gutton
organic express. A retired teacher, Bruno Rojouan, 65, was mayor of Villefranche-d’Allier from 1992 to 2020. In 2000, he became president of the Community of communes of the Montmarault region then in 2017, after the merger with the community of communes of Commentry – Néris-les-Bains, he is president of the new entity Commentry Montmarault Néris Communauté. From 2001 to 2020, he chaired the association of mayors of Allier. He sat in the URB on the Departmental Council from 1991 to 2015.
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Politics – Bruno Rojouan (LR): “A senator from popular France”
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