French employer federation rules on business with Russia
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. Why is Auchan present both in Russia and in Ukraine? Because they have Russian employees. There are in total 160,000 employees in French companies, they have to nourish themselves and to get paid. And our prior responsibility is to pay 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. But our responsibility as an employer is to help our employees and the Russian consumers who are not responsible for this war,” Geoffroy Roux de Béziers said.
He added that companies are following the recommendations of the French government which currently has not ordered them to close.
“I believe our responsibility as an employer is not to close,” 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 attacked, the rule of law is trampled and that is why we support the European and 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 “legitimate and necessary.”
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 in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.