French people

Macron warns French sacrifices will be needed as tough winter approaches

PARIS, Aug 24 (Reuters) – President Emmanuel Macron warned the French on Wednesday that there are difficult months ahead as the world faces “a big change”, but unions rejected his call for sacrifices , saying workers needed higher wages to keep up with rising inflation.

Addressing the first council of ministers since the summer recess, a tanned but solemn Macron said the world was facing the end of easy abundance of goods and resources and “a certain recklessness”.

“The moment we are living (…) may seem structured by a series of crises, each more serious than the other,” he said, referring to the drought, fires and storms that hit France during summer as well as the war in Ukraine and disruptions in world trade.

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“I believe what we are going through is rather a big change, a big change,” Macron said, urging his ministers to be ambitious and the French to agree to try harder.

“Freedom has a cost,” Macron said. “The battles we have to fight…will only be won through our efforts.”

Macron, who won a second presidential term in April but then lost his absolute majority in parliament, will face tough challenges over the coming months, including persuading reluctant lawmakers to pass the 2023 budget.

A key question will be whether to renew price caps on electricity and gas which expire at the end of the year, as well as a rebate on fuel, which together have helped to maintain the French inflation lower than many EU peers, but weighs heavily on public finances.

Reforms to the pension and unemployment benefit schemes are also underway and could trigger street protests.

“We will stand up against these new sacrifices,” Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT union, told BFM TV after Macron’s comments, adding that the September protests would call for measures to raise wages and limit price hikes. .

But Philippe Gosselin, an MP from the conservative opposition Les Républicains, said Macron needed to push through reforms after a sluggish few months after his election.

“It’s back to reality,” Gosselin told Reuters. “Since the legislative elections, in fact, there has been no real leadership.”

Macron, who also said the government would step up its fight against climate change, had another message for his ministers – and those who oppose his plans.

“I also expect seriousness and credibility in the face of such anxieties, such challenges,” Macron said. “It can be appealing to say what people want to hear…but you have to ask yourself the question of effectiveness first.”

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Reporting by Ingrid Melander, Elizabeth Pineau, Dominique Vidalon, Michel Rose, writing by Ingrid Melander, Editing by Catherine Evans

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