French PM promises to boost economy despite the impact of Ukraine war

PARIS -- Wednesday's speech by Elisabeth Borne, the French Prime Minister, pled Wednesday to support France in its efforts to increase jobs, reduce taxes, boost purchasing power, address climate issues, and better deal with the effects of the war in Ukraine.

French PM promises to boost economy despite the impact of Ukraine war

PARIS -- Wednesday's speech by Elisabeth Borne, the French Prime Minister, pled Wednesday to support France in its efforts to increase jobs, reduce taxes, boost purchasing power, address climate issues, and better deal with the effects of the war in Ukraine. This includes nationalizing the electricity giant EDF.

Borne outlined her top priorities in her first major speech before the National Assembly following the parliamentary elections that cost French President Emmanuel Macron his majority.

She stated that the government will nationalize the French electricity giant EDF, one of the largest electricity producers in the world, amid an energy crisis caused by Russia's invasion.

French government now owns 84% of the company. The news caused a jump in the share price.

EDF manages France’s large fleet of nuclear reactors. They are currently facing many technical and other issues. The new-generation reactors are several years behind schedule and far more expensive than expected.

"The war in Ukraine at Europe's borders reminds us of how fragile peace can be. We must continue to protect the French as energy prices rise. Borne stated that the (COVID-19 pandemic) is still present and that we must continue to be vigilant."

As she presented the government's future agenda to lawmakers on both the left and right, she made the announcement on EDF. Together they outnumber the members of the president’s centrist alliance in National Assembly.

"The French elected an Assembly without a majority. Borne stated that they invite us to adopt new practices and to engage in intensive dialogue to find compromises.

Macron's party suffered huge losses in the parliamentary election. While his alliance, Together! won the Assembly's most seats, it was 44 seats short of the majority, as voters chose to vote for the leftist coalition and the far right.

Macron's government, with the largest number of legislators, still has the power to govern, but only by negotiating with opposition legislators. Borne pledged to negotiate individually on each case regarding future bills in order to prevent deadlock.

She called for lawmakers and the government "to build together," and said she was ready to hear from opposition members and, in some cases accept their amendments -- an unusual French method.

She stated that "Disorder or instability are not options." "We may not all agree on all solutions, but we all know the urgency of acting."

Thursday's Cabinet meeting will see a bill that focuses on helping families in need due to rising food and energy prices. It will include measures valued at 25 billion euros (or $25.5 billion), which includes increasing pensions and some welfare benefits by 4%.

Borne stated that electricity and gas prices will remain the same as they are today. She also confirmed that salaries for civil servants would be increased by 3.5%. Rent increases will also be limited.

Borne also addressed the key economic changes promised Macron by Macron during his successful April reelection campaign.

She said that full employment is not an illusion. It is possible.

France's unemployment rate has fallen to 7,3% from over 10% since Macron took office in 2017.

She stressed that the French retire earlier than "all our European neighbours" and promised to implement pension changes to allow the French to "gradually work longer." This was met with boos from both the far-right and the left. Macron pledged to increase the minimum retirement age to 62 from 65, and to bring the minimum pension up to 1,100 euros ($1120).

Borne also called on lawmakers to act on climate-related issues. He vowed that he would reach the European Union and France goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990.

She promised that "We want and we will be the first great nation to abandon fossil energy sources."

Borne was also a strong advocate for gender equality. She is the second woman to be named as prime minister.

To symbolically protest the government, the leftist coalition known as Nupes requested a motion of no confidence.

It is unlikely that the motion will pass because it won't get the approval of more than half of all legislators. The Republicans and the National Rally, which is the main opposition group, have already stated that their representatives will not vote.

The no-confidence vote must be held within one week but not earlier than Friday afternoon.

Macron reshuffled Monday his Cabinet, calling on his new government "stand strong" in the face of Russia's aggression in Ukraine and to "transform" France's heavily indebted economy.

Three of Macron's fifteen ministers were unable to retain their seats in the last month's election and were replaced.

Damien Abad was also removed as minister of policies for disabled. He is currently being investigated for alleged rape, and sexual misconduct. Abad strongly denies all allegations.

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Angela Charlton contributed to the report.

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