Macron decrees the “end of abundance” and calls for “efforts” and “sacrifices” from the French | International
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Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday asked the French for “efforts” and “sacrifices” in the face of an autumn and winter threatened by energy cuts, inflation and recession. The French president considers that the Russian aggression against Ukraine, together with the accelerated effects of climate change, break a triple illusion: that natural resources were inexhaustible, that democracy would inevitably triumph, and that war was a thing of the past.
“We are living in a moment of great convulsion”, Macron said at the beginning of the first Council of Ministers, after a summer break marked by drought, heatwaves and fires, and at the start of the first political course of the new five-year period, after leaving re-elected in May. “It is the end of what could seem like an abundance: that of liquidity [monetaria] for free (…); that of the products and technologies that seemed perpetually available, as we saw in the time of covid, but now we see it more strongly (…); and the end of the abundance of land and materials, and of water”.
Macron continued with his analysis: “It is also the end of the evidence if we look at France, Europe and the course of the world. If someone thought that democracy and human rights were the teleology of the international order, recent years have broken some evidence, with the rise of illiberal regimes and the reinforcement of authoritarian discourses”. And he clinched: “And it is the end, for whoever had it, in a carefree way. Six months ago the war returned in Europe (…). Similarly, the climate crisis, with all its consequences, is here. And to that is added cyber risk.”
Macron’s speech had a double objective. First, prepare his ministers for a political course in which, like other years, the fear of social explosion in the street spreads. The CGT union has already called the first days of protest at the end of September. That energy costs can uncover deep malaise and trigger spontaneous riots was demonstrated four years ago with the yellow vests. No one has forgotten it. And the temporary closure of dozens of nuclear reactors, under review, may aggravate electrical restrictions in winter.
The new political context, with a government without an absolute majority in the National Assembly after the June legislative elections, complicates everything for the president. And the typical controversies of the summer – in recent weeks, a leisure activity with go kart in a prison, and the possibility of banning private flights have occupied much of the news on television—have left several ministers in a bad position. “Let’s not give in to demagoguery, which flourishes in all democracies, in a complex and scary world,” Macron urged.
The opposition has criticized the president’s speech. “We are experiencing the end of abundance,” says the president, who two weeks ago posed proudly on his jet ski [moto de agua]”, the deputy of La Francia Insumisa Aurélie Trouvé wrote on her Twitter account. The policy alluded to photos published in the press of Macron on a jet ski in the Mediterranean. Philippe Martinez, general secretary of the CGT, has stated: “When we talk about the end of abundance, I think of the millions of unemployed, the millions of precarious people, especially women, and those who live on the minimum wage. For many French people, times are hard, the sacrifices are already here.”
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The second objective of the intervention was to explain to the French the reason for the sacrifices that await them. “Energy sobriety” is the new mantra of the French government, which has set a target of reducing energy consumption by 10% over the next two years compared to 2019 levels. The new Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, must present a detailed plan in September.
The pedagogical effort is required, above all, by war. The extreme right, reinforced after the legislative ones, calls for the end of the sanctions on Russia because, according to its leader, Marine Le Pen, “they are useless, if not to make the European peoples and the French people suffer.”
It is an argument that can permeate society and that finds support on the left. Hence, Macron has been rehearsing for days a version of Winston Churchill’s “blood, sweat and tears”, a rhetoric that he practiced in 2020 during the pandemic and that he recovers in this summer of war and environmental catastrophes. He repeated it on Wednesday: “Our freedom regime has a cost that may require sacrifices.”
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