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TECHNOLOGY

France has not changed, Macron’s just made it look great again, says tech giant

President Emmanuel Macron has "completely changed" France's image, telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel said Wednesday, crediting the youthful, pro-business politician with attracting an influx of tech talent.

France has not changed, Macron's just made it look great again, says tech giant
Macron with young entrepreneurs and tech billionaire Xavier Niel (bottom right). Photo: AFP
“He has given France a pro-startup, pro-entrepreneur image abroad that we did not really have before,” said Niel, who bankrolled a giant startup incubator on the banks of the Seine river in Paris that opened a month after Macron's election last year.
   
Speaking to a group of foreign correspondents at Station F  — the world's biggest incubator which is nourishing 1,000 startups — Niel praised Macron's reform of the labour code and of wealth and investment taxes.
 
But his most important achievement to date has been to change France's image as being a place that is unfriendly to business, said 50-year-old Niel, a serial entrepreneur nicknamed the “French Steve Jobs”.
 
“France has not changed… What really changed is the fact of having a young, dynamic president, who is not from any political party,” he said.
   
On Wednesday, Macron took his pledge of a French renaissance to the world's business elite gathered in the Swiss resort of Davos.
 
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Macron welcomes 140 business chiefs to Paris in major charm offensivePhoto: AFP

“France is back at the core of Europe,” said the 40-year-old former investment banker, who has been hailed as a potential saviour of a liberal post-war order under threat from Donald Trump's America and Britain's decision to leave the EU.
 
Trump, Brexit boost
 
Niel, vice-president of Iliad which owns France's second-biggest mobile phone operator, said Trump's nativist policies and climate change denialism had contributed to France's growing appeal as a place to start a business.
 
“England maybe does not appear very stable under Theresa May, Germany doesn't maybe seem much fun with a leader who is starting to get on in years and the United States under Donald Trump doesn't seem very welcoming to strangers,” he said. “In the midst of all that, we're doing quite nicely.”
   
Station F manager Roxanne Varza said the incubator, which Niel paid for with 250 million euros of his own money, received more applications from US and UK start-ups last year than any other country.
   
Niel singled out Macron's introduction of a flat tax rate of 30 percent on capital gains and dividends as one of the most significant reforms for companies looking to invest in new technology companies.
   
But much of what is drawing tech firms to Paris predates Macron.
   
It was Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande who set up new visas for digital entrepreneurs.
   
In its 2017 State of European Tech report the investment firm Atomico noted that Britain remained the biggest recipient of venture capital funding at $5.4 billion (4.4 billion euros) — more than double that of France.
   
But it was France that closed the most deals.

LIVING IN FRANCE

France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier

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