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ECONOMY

IN DETAIL: France’s plan to protect its economy from effects of Ukraine war

French PM Jean Castex on Wednesday unveiled the package of measures intended to protect French businesses and consumers from the effects of rising prices. Here's what it contains.

IN DETAIL: France's plan to protect its economy from effects of Ukraine war
French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a press conference to present an economic and social resilience. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP

The objective of the plan is to “protect households and businesses from the shock” that is the war in Ukraine, said Castex, before announcing measures targeted towards the sectors most affected.

The idea is to support hard-hit sectors such as agriculture, haulage and fishing so that they can avoid passing on their extra costs on to consumers.

Castex had already announced a fuel rebate of 15 cents per litre for petrol and diesel, which will come into effect to the benefit of consumers from April 1st. The government will reimburse the sellers the difference. This measure has now been extended to cover LPG and commercial fuel.

For consumers, gas and electricity prices have been limited to a maximum four percent rise until the summer, and that cap is likely to be extended.

But certain other sectors will also receive extra help.

Fishing – there have already been protests from fishermen in northern France, who say that the price of fuel is so high that it is not worth taking their boats out. Castex said that the fishing industry was an “absolute priority”.

The industry will benefit from an extra rebate on fuel costs, in addition to the 15 cents per litre already in place, taking it to 35c per litre until July.

Farming – hit by a combination of the increase in fuel and animal fodder costs, the agricultural sector will benefit from four months of state aid, including a 25 percent rebate on the non-road diesel used by farmers.

There is also a €400 million package to help with the rising cost of animal feed, with full details on provision to be clarified with industry representatives in the next few days. 

Agriculture minister Julien Denormandie added: “There is no risk of food shortages in France. Our agriculture and our food chain is strong, solid and sovereign.” 

Transport – for the haulage industry the 15 centres per litre fuel rebate will also be extended to commercial fuel, and will continue for four months. There will be extra aid for financial losses, to be defined with industry representatives in the coming days.

Construction – already hit by rising costs for building materials, the construction sector has seen further price rises in addition to extra fuel costs. The industry will receive tax rebates and benefit from a suspension of late delivery fees.

Exporters – export companies affected by the Ukraine war will be eligible for ‘stimulus cheques’ to help them develop new markets.

Energy bills – all businesses where gas and electricity bills represent more than three percent of their turnover will also be entitled to extra help – including state backed loans, chomage partiel (furlough) payments and the postponement of tax and social charges.

Castex also announced the goal of ending France’s dependency on Russian gas and oil by 2027, with the “priority of securing next winter’s stocks, particularly via the import of liquefied natural gas”.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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