With much of Europe facing a cold winter thanks to the war in Ukraine, various leaders have been sounding the alarm over the 'sacrifices' people are going to have to make in order to maintain opposition to Vladimir Putin - who's betting on fracturing the EU due to Russia's immense leverage over energy.
On Wednesday we reported that that both EU policy Chief Josep Borrell warned that "wary" EU populations would have to endure deep economic pain and a severe energy crunch - while calling on the citizenry to "bear the consequences" with continued resolve.
MAP OF THE DAY: Day-ahead electricity prices in Europe are eye-watering, with lots of countries setting record highs for today. Notable to see the Nordics close to €400 per MWh, and Germany at €600. Before 2020, anything above €75-100 was considered expensive| #EnergyCrisis pic.twitter.com/RyTrbJ4Mxl— Javier Blas (@JavierBlas) August 23, 2022
The same day, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo went much further - suggesting that "the next 5 to 10 winters will be difficult."
"The development of the situation is very difficult throughout Europe," De Croo told Belgium broadcaster VRT.
"In a number of sectors, it is really difficult to deal with those high energy prices. We are monitoring this closely, but we must be transparent: the coming months will be difficult, the coming winters will be difficult," he said.
The prime minister's comments suggest replacing Russian natural gas imports could take years, exerting further economic doom on the region's economy in the form of energy hyperinflation.
And in yet another ominous warning in what must have been coordinated messaging, French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday went even further - warning at his first cabinet meeting after the summer holidays that the French should expect to make deep sacrifices in what he called the "end of abundance."
Speaking before ministers at the Élysée, Macron said that the country was at a "tipping point" as it faced a difficult winter and a new era of instability due to climate change and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to The Guardian.
"What we are currently living through is a kind of major tipping point or a great upheaval … we are living the end of what could have seemed an era of abundance … the end of the abundance of products of technologies that seemed always available … the end of the abundance of land and materials including water," he said, adding that France and the French felt that they've been living under a series of crises, "each worse than the last."
NEW - French President Macron proclaims the "end of abundance," cites sacrifices to "defend freedom."pic.twitter.com/0593aH9xYb— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) August 24, 2022
"This overview that I’m giving, the end of abundance, the end of insouciance, the end of assumptions – it’s ultimately a tipping point that we are going through that can lead our citizens to feel a lot of anxiety. Faced with this, we have a duty, duties, the first of which is to speak frankly and clearly without doom-mongering," Macron continued, adding that France, Europe and the world had possibly been too "insouciant" about threats to democracy and human rights - while warning of the "rise of illiberal regimes and strengthening of authoritarian regimes."
According to the report, Philippe Martinez, the secretary general of the powerful CGT union criticized Macron's comments as being "misplaced" - adding that many French citizens have never known abundance.
"When we talk about the end of abundance, I think of the millions of unemployed, the millions of those in a precarious situation. For many French people, times are already hard, sacrifices have already been made," he said.
The president’s warnings came as it was revealed that the dividends paid out by major French companies reached a record €44bn in the second quarter of 2022, as a result of what were described as exceptional profits in 2021. The economic newspaper Les Echos said the dividend payout was almost 33% up on the previous year and was the result of a post-Covid economic catchup.
Macron, who was re-elected for a second five-year term in April but lost his parliamentary majority in the subsequent general election, and his government are facing a rocky rentrée, the traditional September return to work and school after the long summer break in France.
After months of successive election campaigns, his newly appointed government had little time to establish itself before the holidays, putting this year’s return to parliamentary business under particular scrutiny. -The Guardian
During a commemoration ceremony for the allied invasion of Provence in 1944, Macron warned that this autumn and winter would be a difficult one - with the risk of energy shortages and high prices due to Russia's war on Ukraine - which he referred to as "the price to pay for freedom."