Thousands of angry French protesters gathered in the French capital to demand the country’s withdrawal from the US-led NATO military alliance. Protesters also called for the resignation of the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron.
The protest mirrors similar rallies held across Europe in opposition to their respective governments’ support for the war in Ukraine. The constant supply of arms, mainly from NATO members, has prolonged the conflict in Eastern Europe, causing suffering for civilians caught in the crossfire.
When Russia expressed legitimate concerns about NATO’s eastward military expansion towards its border, it opened the door to discussion, negotiation and proposals on security guarantees. However, these were ignored, which many critics believe would lead to a military confrontation that would hurt ordinary Europeans. In this case, Ukrainian civilians suffer the human cost and ordinary civilians fall into poverty.
Russia’s sense of insecurity over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seemed entirely genuine, but critics say media coverage dismissed Moscow’s initial concerns.
Opposition to NATO has been strong in Europe. Summits of the military alliance are always greeted with anti-war demonstrations. In June this year, protesters marched in an anti-NATO rally ahead of the summit in Madrid. Organizers have said the American-led military alliance is not the solution to the war in Ukraine. American arms manufacturers reaped lucrative profits from the war.
Last month, around 70,000 people demonstrated in Prague against the Czech government, calling on the ruling coalition to do more to control soaring energy prices and expressing its opposition to the European Union and NATO.
For many years, the Kremlin has made it clear that if NATO continues to amass troops and weapons on the Russian border, the expansion is likely to be met with serious Russian resistance, if not military action. This view was not limited only to Russian officials. Even some prominent American foreign policy experts support the same possible scenario. Current CIA Director William Burns has been warning of provocation and the consequences of NATO expansion on Russia for more than 20 years now.
On the other hand, Europe’s decision to bow to US pressure and impose unprecedented sanctions on Moscow has severely restricted the continent’s gas supply, which has instead driven up energy prices. , leaving many people in poverty. Europe was 40% dependent on Russian gas before the conflict broke out.
The continent’s energy shortage and rising fuel prices were met with angry voters toppling governments at polling stations.
A recent poll by Elabe reveals that support for anti-Russian sanctions is down across France. The survey shows that only 40% of the French population is in favor of anti-Russian sanctions. The poll also reveals that 32% of French people believe that anti-Russian sanctions should be limited to lessen their effect on French livelihoods.
The opposition party of the French Patriots called again for demonstrations after the first demonstrations which took place on September 3. The protesters want Macron out of office and withdraw from both NATO and the European Union.
The French government, like others in Europe, is adopting or considering various emergency measures ahead of winter, such as the possibility of three-hour power cuts in the UK.
With inflation levels biting, a group of French intellectuals, including Nobel Literature laureate Annie Ernaux, have urged people to join protests organized by the left for next week. They accuse President Macron of not doing enough to help the poor cope with high prices as some companies’ profits soar.
The group of 69 signatories, including writers, directors and university professors, said in a text published in the Journal Du Dimanche that “Emmanuel Macron uses inflation to widen the wealth gap, to increase the capital income at the expense of the rest”.
“It’s all a question of political will”, specifies the text, co-signed by Ernaux, who on Thursday became the first Frenchwoman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The statement also said the government has not done enough to tackle soaring energy prices and has refused to raise taxes on companies making huge profits due to high inflation.
The signatories also urged the public to join the protest march scheduled for October 16, organized by the political movement of the France Insoumise party, which this year forged an alliance with more moderate left-wing parties to form the largest bloc. of opposition from France.
Next week’s protest is being promoted as ‘against high prices and climate inaction’. It comes as Macron faces stiff resistance from unions over a proposed pension reform and strikes by workers demanding a pay rise from retail to refineries have disrupted parts of the economy.
There is more misery for the French government as a number of service stations are struggling with supply problems amid a strike at refineries run by oil majors TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil. The walkout by members of the national CGT trade union center, mainly for salary reasons, disrupted operations in refineries and storage facilities. Industrial action has forced the government to tap into the country’s strategic reserves.
Environment Minister Christophe Bechu earlier told French media that the government would not, for the time being, ration petrol for drivers or restrict the use of petrol stations in response to problems supply. “We haven’t reached that point yet,” Bechu said when asked if the government would impose any nationwide measures beyond the bans already in place in some areas on the filling of large, flat-sided metal containers for store or transport gasoline.
Strikes at ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies refineries will continue, union officials at both companies said. “It’s going on everywhere,” said a CGT representative, adding that there had been no contact from TotalEnergies since the union’s call on Saturday for company executives to engage in wage talks.
In some regions, the share of service stations affected is much higher than the national average. An interactive map compiled by the mon-essence.fr site, where more than 100,000 users have reported outages in recent days, shows that a large majority of petrol stations in and around Paris have been marked out of service.
Throughout France, long queues have been observed in front of service stations. “The queue will take you at least an hour and a half or two,” said motorist Jean Galibert as he entered the final stretch of a 700-meter traffic jam outside a Paris gas station. Another motorist, Franck Chang, said: “This situation just behind me reflects the state of France. We struggle.
Reports indicate that the strikes have reduced the total production of French refineries by more than 60%, which will be seen as another blow for the French government. On Sunday, TotalEnergies said it had offered to bring forward wage talks, in response to union demands, as it seeks a strong end to industrial action that has disrupted supplies to nearly a third of service stations. French.
Amid warnings that energy shortages and rising inflation are set to continue into next winter, further protests and anger at government economic policies across Europe are set to spread .
Source: Tehran Times