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LES ECHOS
France's top business daily, Les Echos covers domestic and international economic, financial and markets news. Founded in 1908, the newspaper has been the property of French luxury good conglomerate LVMH (Moet Hennessy - Louis Vuitton) since 2007.
To "Not Humiliate" Putin Is The Real Danger
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Dominique Moïsi

To "Not Humiliate" Putin Is The Real Danger

French President Emmanuel Macron is making a point of keeping an open dialogue with Putin, hoping to avoid a world war at all costs. But he needs to get his historical comparisons (and world wars) in order.

-Analysis-

PARIS — “I know Putin well. We should not be hoping for him to leave: whoever is likely to succeed him will be much worse.”

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This is what former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said to me in 2017, while we were in New York. He was trying to moderate my growing hostility towards the Kremlin’s leader. In fact, in the same sentence, he wanted to also reassure me about the United States President Donald Trump, who had just come into the room: “He may be unpredictable, but he is not an ideologue.”

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Photo of European and Ukrainian flags flying in front of the EU Parliament in Brussels
Geopolitics
Lucie Robequain

Ukraine In The EU — For A Europe That Is Wider And Deeper

The prospects of Ukraine and other countries joining the EU force Europe to rethink the very basic way it functions. This moment of crisis can be a bonafide opportunity for the European Union, but will require a level of courage and ambition that has been lacking.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The question of whether or not the European Union should offer Ukraine a chance at membership is a false choice: The answer is necessarily "yes." Vladimir Putin’s slaughter, this senseless war at the gates of Europe, forces us to accept what still seemed unthinkable at the start of the year — especially for France, known for its historical resistance to eastward expansion.

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Joining the bloc will require considerable efforts from Kyiv, notably to eradicate corruption. It will also require the withdrawal of Russian troops from its soil, a condition that would also apply to Georgia and Moldova.

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Photo of a person walking through a modern office with chairs and desks
Economy
Neila Beyler

Friday's The New Saturday? Four-Day Work Week Tested Around Europe

As Britain begins the world's largest trial of the four-day work week, other European nations are experimenting with the idea too. Could a permanent three-day weekend be in reach for workers elsewhere?

PARIS - Since remote work has become part of normal life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are now exploring other options to reduce the amount of time that employees spend in the office. One popular but controversial solution is the four-day work week. Europe is, not surprisingly, the first place to begin testing the feasibility of employees working one fewer day a week without sacrificing any of their pay.

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Talabat delivery riders in Qatar
Economy
Laura-Mai Gaveriaux

Dubai Delivery Riders Challenge  UAE Royal Family's Absolute Power

Labor strikes are forbidden in the Emirates, but two consecutive work stoppages by food delivery drivers have made news lately. Could it be a sign of challenges to the UAE's unequal and authoritarian economic model?

DUBAI — About a month ago, on May 9, the food delivery drivers who work with Talabat (a subsidiary of the German app Delivery Hero) went on strike in Dubai in order to receive a raise of 2 dirhams ($0.54) per delivery run, up from the current pay of 7.5 dh ($2.04).

Yet any sort of labor strike is illegal in the United Arab Emirates.

This act was even more surprising considering that a week prior, Deliveroo workers had stopped working to protest against an announced price reduction on delivery runs. "In the early 2000s, we already had seen strikes on the Burj Khalifa worksite (an iconic skyscraper in Dubai)," observes geographer Delphine Pagès-El Karoui, a specialist in Arab societies at the Paris-based Inalco, the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations.

"What's new is the fact that we talk about it." Articles appearing in the local press are under the strict control of the authorities. "For one reason or another, they let it go," continues the researcher. These two episodes, even though they remained isolated and restricted, still question the viability of the country's development model where 10% of nationals are responsible for economic growth.

United Arab Emirates' foreign factor

During the foundation of the state in 1971, around 300,000 people lived in the territory following Bedouin traditions, with homes made of clay bricks and date palm branches. The United Arab Emirates developed themselves in a dazzling way on an oil windfall and the importation of labor in order to exploit it.

We come, we work, we make money and we leave.

Today, the population has reached almost 10 million people, 90% foreigners who are mostly Asian — 30% Indians and 13% Pakistani, according to embassy numbers. These immigrants usually work in construction (30% of the total workforce), as well as in the service industry (70.6% of jobs in 2020 according to the International Labour Organization).

“Here the social contract is clear,” says a Western diplomat. “We come, we work, we make money and we leave." So there is never any question of integration (the conditions of access to nationality are very restricted) and the financial opportunity is accompanied by a unilateral acceptance of these conditions. This makes for an authoritarian model that does not suffer any challenges.

Food delivery riders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The roads of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, abound with food delivery riders.

Wong Fok Loy/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Poor working conditions 

Compared to the Indian average monthly salary of $170, the $964 dollar salary that Talabat claims to pay its delivery riders seems like a windfall. But considering the cost of living (Dubai is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world), the opportunity is quite limited.

“In our cultures, out of modesty, we will always say that the people who have left have succeeded, but this really only concerns people with diplomas," notes an Asian diplomat. "Service workers often return at the end of their first work visa, exhausted and without savings."

For a low-skilled migrant from the Indian subcontinent, there are no prospects for development. This is confirmed by the human capital index measured by the World Bank: It measures the economic and productivity potential of the various countries' investment in education, living conditions and health, and stands at 0.67 (on a rating scale from 0 to 1). While this is above the Middle East average, it is below the majority of high-income countries, which hover around 0.80.

Stuck in a paradox 

For Delphine Pagès-El Karoui, “The Emirates are stuck in a paradox; They only exist through an extroverted development model, through labor, tourism, finance but are politically totally closed.” In a globalized economy, where it is no longer possible to keep individuals under censorship, how much longer is this viable?

The bicycle delivery drivers are contemporary social figures, with whom world public opinion can identify.

Marc Lavergne, a political scientist at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), says "these strikes demonstrate a weakness, but they are not unexpected, the Emirates are not impervious to world movements." This expert on the Gulf also adds that “social media enables the spread of awareness on the issue of human rights, which was not possible just 10 years ago.”

Unlike the controversies that have risen in Qatar concerning the working conditions of employees on the construction sites of the soccer World Cup stadiums (which starts in November), "the bicycle delivery drivers are contemporary social figures, with whom world public opinion can identify," adds Marc Lavergne. And this is only because the clients of these services are also, in large part, immigrant workers from the Indian subcontinent, likely to support the cause of the strikers.

Challenging absolute power

Managing the risk could push the Emirates to make a few concessions. Unlike its neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Arab federation has succeeded, until now, in protecting its image. All of this while being as authoritarian and having a leader, Mohammed Ben Zayed, who is just as brutal.

But it will be hard for the authorities to continue to ignore the demands of a more decent life for those who have contributed to building the country. It remains to be seen to what extent the system is ready to change.

Until now, all societal openings have been made in advance of the demands (religious tolerance, access to alcohol, visa requirements), but only on a superficial and surface level, which has never challenged the absolute power of the ruling princes.

New Probe Finds Russia's “Relentless” Bombing Of Kharkiv Is War Crime
In The News
Meike Eisberg, Anna Akage, Lisa Berdet and Emma Albright

New Probe Finds Russia's “Relentless” Bombing Of Kharkiv Is War Crime

Amnesty International has accused Russia of committing war crimes, causing “widespread death and destruction by relentlessly bombarding residential neighborhoods of Kharkiv” since the war began on February 24.

Amnesty International has accused Russia of committing war crimes during its efforts to capture the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. According to the international NGO’s 40-page report, Russian forces have caused “widespread death and destruction by relentlessly bombarding residential neighborhoods of Kharkiv” since the war began on February 24.

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“People have been killed in their homes and in the streets, in playgrounds and in cemeteries, while queueing for humanitarian aid, or shopping for food and medicine,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, said. “The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is shocking, and a further indication of utter disregard for civilian lives.”

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Transfer of victims' bodies at Noi Bai International Airport
Migrant Lives
Julie Zaugg

The 'British Dream' Is A Dangerous Trap For Too Many Migrants

The United Kingdom is seen by migrants as the promised land. Many are prepared to embark on a perilous journey to get there. But on arrival, they often find that life is not what they expected. Some even discover working conditions resembling slavery.

LONDON — Huong was full of dreams. “I thought I’d live like a queen in the United Kingdom, that I’d eat well, that I’d be well-dressed and find an easy job with a high salary,” the Vietnamese young woman recalls. Her neighbors had a close relation who emigrated to the UK and regularly sent them money. “They built a beautiful house and bought themselves a huge car,” she remembers.

So she went on a quest for a migration agent. The British dream is the cause of a migration wave during which thousands of migrants from impoverished countries risk it all to reach the British shores. At the end of this perilous journey, far from finding the Holy Grail they had hoped for, many fall into the clutches of traffickers, having to work in conditions of modern slavery.

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Vladimir Putin at a desk going through paper documents
Ideas
Marek Halter*

My Debt To Russia, My Letter To Putin: A Very Personal Plea To End The War

Polish-born French writer Marek Halter, who fled the Nazis to the USSR, has known Vladimir Putin for 30 years. Halter sent the Russian president a long letter on May 18, and later shared a copy of it with Les Echos. In the letter, he lays out the path for Putin to renounce the war without undermining Russia's standing.

Mr. President,

Vladimir Vladimirovich,

We have known each other for more than 30 years. Our first encounter dates back to the inauguration of the French University College of Saint Petersburg in 1992. This second French university in post-Communist Russia, the brainchild of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, opened a year after the one in Moscow. And it was commissioned to me by Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of the “city of Tsars” of which you were the deputy mayor, through the intermediary of his counterpart, Jacques Chirac, who was then mayor of Paris before becoming President of France.

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You probably remember that day because we unexpectedly brought up your relation with the Jewish people. Because when I, as a Jew, was condemned by the Nazis to be turned into soap, it was the Russians who saved my life. This certainly explains my attachment to your country. We also mentioned my love for Russian literature and its characters who have undoubtedly marked those of my books: Natasha, Prince Bolkonsky, the Karamazov brothers, uncle Vanya…

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