French employer federation rules on business with Russia — Analysis
The MEDEF chief stated that companies need to think about the 160,000 Russian workers who aren’t responsible for war crimes.
French companies should not quit Russia because they bear responsibility for their employees and customers, the head of the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) – the largest French employers federation – Geoffroy Roux de Béziers said.
In an interview for BFM TV on Tuesday, de Béziers was asked if companies, such as Total, Danone, Société General, Auchan or Décathlon, should continue to work in Russia at a time when dozens of foreign companies are quitting the Russian market in the wake of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
“Yes. You can find Auchan in both Russia and Ukraine. Because of their Russian employees. French firms employ around 160,000 workers. These employees need to eat and be paid. Our first responsibility is to provide for our employees.,” the MEDEF chief said.
He admitted that in current circumstances – amid the sanctions and the fact that some Russian banks are cut off from SWIFT – it is difficult for the enterprises to work in Russia, but it does not mean that they will leave.
“It’s easy, you know, for some American enterprises who have 10 employees, Netflix and others, to say ‘I am closing’ and to look nice. Our responsibility as employers is to assist our employees, and Russian consumers not directly responsible for the war.” Geoffroy Roux de Béziers said.
He said that the French government hasn’t yet ordered companies to shut down, and they are now following his advice.
“As an employer, I do not believe that we have the responsibility to keep our doors open.,” MEDEF chief said.
However, speaking about the sanctions against Russia, Geoffroy Roux de Béziers expressed his support for them.
“It’s the future of our democracy which is at stake there. Ukraine is being attacked and the rule is broken. We support both the European-American sanctions.” he said.
He added, however, that sanctions will come at a significant price for French companies and the economy in general but insisted that they are still “Legal and essential.”
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How strong the impact will be will depend on how long Russia’s military action in Ukraine lasts and how the conflict develops, he said, adding that it’s important to “Get prepared” and that ultimately the consequences will be more serious for Russia.
Moscow attacked Ukraine on February 2, after seven years of standoff regarding Ukraine’s failures of implementation of Minsk agreement terms and Russia’s subsequent recognition of Donbass republics of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Donetsk. These protocols, which were French and German-brokered, had been created to regulate the state of these regions in the Ukrainian government.
Russia demanded Ukraine be declared neutral by the United States and refuse to join NATO. Kiev maintains that Russia’s offensive was not provoked and denies claims that it planned to seize the two republics.
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