Medef Holds Summer Forum

Laurence Parisot, Head of Medef and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
Photo: AP Jacques Brinon

At the Medef (Movement of Enterprises in France) summer forum, employers are worried and the government remains unable to reassure them.

The traditional summer forum of Medef, the French Employers Union, was held August 29-31 in Jouey-en-Josas on the campus of the prestigious business school HEC. The theme of this year: integration.

Over the course of the three-day forum, Socialist Ministers went one after another in an attempt to reassure the employers and to justify the government’s economic policies. Recent events such as Arnaud Montebourg’s declarations against PSA Peugeot-Citroën, different measures that had been announced such as taxing high incomes at 75% and a new tax cut on revenue of 45% have left the corporate managers skeptical. “We feel targeted,” one of them said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jean Marc Ayrault praised the importance of business. “I respect entrepreneurs because I know them personally and I admire their ability to take risks,” he said in front of a receptive audience.

During his speech, he detailed the economic policy of his government while at the same time insisting on the importance that businessmen will play in the economic recovery of the country. “You can count on the support and absolute determination of the government because we need you… businesses are the driving force behind productive recovery.”

His remarks were insufficient to reassure employers, who criticized the Prime Minister’s professional tone. There was a general feeling of incomprehension among the agitated participants, many of who are happy to have moved past France’s Sarkozy years. François (last name withheld for privacy), director of a consulting firm, complained in the newspaper Libération of the lack of “coherence of measures enacted so far…In tax and labor laws, we do not know the rules of the game.”

On Friday August 31, Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Productive Recovery, made an appearance at the summer forum. In patriotic praise he exclaimed, “France cannot become a hotel-spa resort.”

In an assessment she gave on the radio station RMC on Friday, the head of Medef, Laurence Parisot, said she believes Ayrault has become more flexible on certain issues whose biggest problem was flexibility. “The Prime Minister does not say the word “flexibility” but I think he makes himself heard because he integrated the notion of accommodation and I think that there, there could be the softness that we need.”

Laurence Parisot also repeated her commitment not to “add new constraints” during the crisis. According to her, “the situation in France, in Europe, and in the world is extremely worrying.”

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