Anger over Macron’s “abundance” remarks 

August 29, 2022 - 18:22

A downbeat future assessment offered by French President Emmanuel Macron about an end to the era of “abundance” has angered many public figures who hit back arguing there was no abundance in the first place. 

Speaking at the first cabinet meeting after the summer break, he warned of “tough months ahead” saying "I believe that we are in the process of living through a tipping point or great upheaval. Firstly because we are living through... what could seem like the end of abundance,".

Macron referenced the disruptions to global trade, the drought, wildfires, and storms that hit France during the summer as well as the conflict in Ukraine. 

Apart from a rise in the cost of living crisis Macron appears to be setting the stage for a tough winter ahead with higher energy prices and a potential cap on the use of energy in public and private places. 

“This overview that I’m giving, the end of abundance, the end of insouciance, the end of assumptions – it’s ultimately a tipping point that we are going through that can lead our citizens to feel a lot of anxiety. Faced with this, we have a duty, duties, the first of which is to speak frankly and clearly without doom-mongering,” he said.

Macron’s warning comes as Europe faces an energy shortage after the continent caved in to American pressure and imposed sanctions on Russian supplies. Sanctions that have hit the regular maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline (the same pipeline Washington has long warned Europe against using). This is while Washington has been pumping billions of dollars worth of weapons into the war zone, in essence prolonging the conflict. 

Its a conflict that has not affected the U.S. energy supplies as much as it has hurt European supplies. France’s neighbors are struggling with vastly higher costs of wholesale energy, the consequences of which are being paid for by the general public. 

The British public will be hit with an 80-percent increase in energy prices from October, which is almost double the current price already deemed as too expensive. 

In Germany, energy-saving plans have been introduced that will see, among many new caps, limits next month on how much public buildings (with the exception of hospitals) are allowed to be heated. 

France is already working on an energy restraint plan that Macron said, in the summer, would ask all people to commit to saving energy.

The country is also grappling with lower nuclear output, adding further pressure to wholesale energy markets on the continent already in crisis. Power from neighboring countries is needed to help France handle its nuclear shortage.

The German state secretary in the economy ministry, Patrick Graichen says "In France, only half the reactors are running, France is buying elsewhere even if power is expensive," Graichen also says Germany and Italy are sending power to France.

Macron’s government did warn that there may be increases in energy prices as the fighting in Ukraine continues. A conflict that was triggered by the eastward expansion of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance toward Russian borders despite Moscow’s warnings. 

However, unions have been the loudest in rejecting his call for sacrifices to be made, saying workers are in need of higher pay to cope with rising inflation.

Over the next month, the French government will have to decide whether to renew price caps on electricity and gas bills that expire at the end of the year and have helped keep inflation lower in France than many European countries. 

France could not maintain energy price caps to help households cope with soaring inflation forever, government spokesman Olivier Veran claimed after the cabinet meeting. "There may be price increases," he said.

In September, the government will present legislation to speed up energy infrastructure projects and work out a short-term plan to secure energy supplies for the winter, Veran says. 

However, in what looks like yet another era of austerity for France, reports suggest reforms to benefit schemes for those who are unemployed or on their pension could also be in the pipeline, measures that may see a return to street protests every Saturday. 

The head of the CGT labour union, Philippe Martinez, said Macron’s comments were “misplaced” and that many in France had never known abundance. The CGT Union has called for a day of nationwide strikes on September 29. 

“When we talk about the end of abundance, I think of the millions of unemployed, the millions of those in a precarious situation. For many French people, times are already hard, sacrifices have already been made,” Martinez said.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the Presidential election condemned the words of the French President. “He does not realize that he is speaking to people who are destitute, there are words that one does not use as President of the Republic”, he said.

“There has never been abundance, resources have always been limited”, Melenchon says, accusing the head of state of “behaving like an old man overwhelmed by the situation”.

"[Macron] doesn't understand how this can be hurtful for people, for his friends, the rich, abundance is continuing. When you are in a country where there are nine million poor people and hundreds of thousands of people facing impossible problems… He does not realize how hurtful it can be for people,” said the former presidential candidate.

"[Macron] does not want us to tax the profiteers of the crisis, those who have accumulated millions on the back of the Covid crisis, inflation", Melenchon added, announcing that a march will be organized in mid-October against the “bad policy” led by the executive and called on “everyone” to participate. 

“I’m meeting everyone in mid-October for the march that will allow us to confront this bad policy,” he declared.

Other political critics see Macron's statements as further evidence that a leader who has been nicknamed "the president of the rich" is oblivious to the difficulties felt by many French people.

Images have gone viral online of the former investment banker jet-skiing in southern France near a state-owned island palace that serves as his private residence.

"For a large majority, the problem is not abundance, it's shortages," the Communist party leader Fabien Roussel told supporters at an event; "It's not insouciance, it's worried about the fridge being empty, holidays you can't take or the restaurant you can't afford.”

Roussel also says that “we have ten million poor in France because of Macron’s carelessness and the predatory behavior of the rich,” 

Macron, who won a second presidential mandate in April but lost his majority in parliament, faces tough challenges, including persuading lawmakers to pass the 2023 budget.

His Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne heads a minority government that will be depending on opposition parties to pass future legislation. 

Is Macron looking at stronger European unity to get out of this dilemma? The French President says there will be the first meeting in Prague in the coming weeks to discuss creating a new European political community to address political and security-related challenges facing the continent.

The Presidents critics back home want him to target the super-rich. They point to the high level of dividends paid by top French companies this year amid massive profits. Critics say it is time for Macron to end tax cuts on the wealth of the rich and start focusing on the poor and working class. Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia might not be popular with the French President’s political elites but lower energy prices will be very popular among the French people.

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