Issued on:

President Emmanuel Macron warned the French on Wednesday of tough months ahead as the world faces “the end of abundance”, with government spokesman Olivier Véran adding that the cap on energy prices – which has helped households cope with soaring inflation – will have to end.

Advertising

After a summer of drought, massive wildfires and war in Ukraine, the 44-year-old Macron delivered a stark speech at the start of the first cabinet meeting after the country’s traditional August holiday break.

“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,” he said. 

The speech appeared designed to prepare the country for what promises to be a difficult winter ahead, with energy prices rising sharply and many families struggling with inflation.

The billion-euro energy price cap looks set to expire this winter, the government said. Gas prices in France are currently frozen and there is a cap on energy price hikes.

Both have helped keep French inflation lower than the rates experienced by many of its EU peers, but they are weighing heavily on the public purse. 

“I believe that what we are going through is rather a big shift, a big change,” Macron said, urging his ministers to be ambitious and for the French to face this new reality.

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

“Freedom has a cost,” Macron said, referring to the war in Ukraine.

Unions call for protests

Unions swiftly rejected Macron’s call for sacrifices to be made, saying workers needed higher pay to cope with rising inflation. 

Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT labour union, told BFM TV after Macron’s comments that protests in September would call for measures to boost wages and limit price increases. 

Pension and unemployment benefit reforms are also in the works and will likely trigger more street protests.

But Philippe Gosselin, a lawmaker for the opposition conservative Les Republicains, said Macron needed to press ahead with his proposed reforms.

“It’s back to reality,” Gosselin told Reuters.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters and AFP)

france24