Macron slams anti-5G proponents as ‘Amish’, causing uproar in France

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he delivers an address to French tech start-ups at the closing ceremony of the National Council of French Tech Capitals and Communities (CNCC) at the Elysee palace in Paris, France, 14 September 2020. [EPA-EFE/CHARLES PLATIAU / POOL MAXPPP OUT]

French President Emmanuel Macron defended 5G technology in his speech to a French startup gathering on Monday (14 September), providing a clear answer to a moratorium on the rollout of the super-fast broadband network wanted by leftist and green parties.

“France is the country of the Enlightenment, it is the country of innovation […] We are going to debunk all false ideas. Yes, France is going to take the 5G turning point because it is the turning point of innovation”, Macron insisted in front of a hundred French Tech entrepreneurs gathered at the Élysée.

“I hear a lot of voices saying that the complexity of contemporary problems should be addressed by returning to the oil lamp! I don’t think that the Amish model can solve the challenges of contemporary ecology,” the head of state said.

The reference to the Amish community, a group of traditionalist Christians known for simple living and slower to adopt many conveniences of modern technology, had been criticised on Twitter by Macron’s opponents.

“For Macron, questioning the health and ecological impact of 5G means wanting to go back to the time of the caves. Zero degree of political debate. Sounds like Trump,” tweeted European Parliament lawmaker Manon Aubry of the GUE/NGL group.

Green MEP Karima Delli joined in the criticism.

“It is always fun to be insulted as a sectarian by a President who thinks he is walking like a prophet, and who has humbly given his own initials to his political movement,” she tweeted.

NGO’s, such as Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth), reacted too, renaming their Twitter account “Les Amish de la Terre.”

The remark comes a day after around 70 green and left politicians published an opinion column in Le Journal du Dimanche requesting a moratorium on 5G. The moratorium was also one of the demands of the Citizens’ convention for ecological transition, published in 2020.

They now reproach Macron for what they say was a lack of proper debate and for his condescendence towards his opponents.

“The President is acting like a little Napoleon, he is blocking the debate”, Green MEP Michèle Rivasi told EURACTIV. “The Citizens’ convention for ecological transition is a gadget to him.”

She explained her party’s point of view: “How does 5G bring human progress? France is not a start-up. We will not go out of the crisis thanks to technology. The party is in favour of connectivity and accessibility, but 5G will only bring waste and more consumption.”

The president agreed with his Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who said earlier in the day on the France 2 television network: “It would be a step backwards for France, and I prefer France to go forward, as a conqueror who is economically successful, rather than the fossilised France that doesn’t move”.

The allocation of 5G frequencies is due to start at the end of September in France. Macron also pointed out that €7 billion of the recovery plan will be granted to the digital sector, including for the state’s digital transformation.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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