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Elon Musk Offers His Star to an Unpopular President

Elon Musk is in Europe.

The billionaire entrepreneur, who has become an influential voice in geopolitical affairs, saw the red carpet rolled out for him in France, where he was invited by a weakened President Emmanuel Macron.

The French leader is trying to relaunch his second term, which has been marked by a pension reform that has prompted months of huge protests. 

The reform gradually raises the legal retirement age to 64 from 62, at the rate of three months a year from Sept. 1, 2023, until 2030. But disabled workers will be able to retire from age 55 and those on disability from age 60.

The tech tycoon has always supported Macron for this reform.

“Macron is doing the difficult, but right thing,” the entrepreneur said in January. “The retirement age of 62 was set when lifespans were much shorter. It is impossible for a small number of workers to support a massive number of retirees.”

Rebooting Macron’s Presidency

The formal passage of this reform has opened a big gap between Macron and the population. The president’s popularity rating is at its lowest levels. 

To revive his administration, Macron, in the first year of his second five-year term, wants to prove that he can attract foreign investors to France. 

He thus organized on Monday, May 15, the summit called “Choose France,” which is set to bring together 200 bosses of foreign multinationals at the Palace of Versailles.

To succeed in this operation, Macron decided to send a strong message by inviting the world’s most famous and influential CEO — Musk. By appearing with the tycoon, Macron wants to show that he is able to attract the most prestigious investors. The French president also plans a television address in the evening.

Macron was to receive the Musk at the Elysee Palace. The two leaders were then to participate in a roundtable, the president’s office said. The French president also planned a dinner at the Élysée with Musk. 

With some 13 billion euros ($14.14 billion) in investments announced, the sixth edition of “Choose France” comes after Macron’s announcements concerning green industry, starting with measures encouraging the development of electric batteries. That’s a point that could logically be raised with Musk, in the context of Tesla’s activities.

“There are negotiations going on,” with Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report possibly investing in France, Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told BFMTV about the meeting between Musk and Macron. “He has activities in […] the automotive industry. All the investments that are being made today are the result of months, or even years, of negotiations.”

He did not provide further details. But France wants to be a hub for production of electric-car batteries in Europe. The country beat Germany and the Netherlands last week for ProLogium’s first foreign car battery plant. The Taiwanese company later explained that it chose France because of very competitive power prices and the government’s intense lobbying.

Twitter May Be Blocked in France

Musk and Macron should also talk about a very sensitive topic that concerns Twitter.

The European Union last year adopted the Digital Services Act, a law aimed at making the internet a “safer space for users.” It wants what is prohibited offline to be prohibited online as well. The text is also intended to force social networks to be more transparent about their moderation tools.

The DSA requires, for example, that social networks set up a button to report hateful posts. It should be easy to use. In other words, users should not have to click multiple times to trigger a report.

The law, which provides fines of as much as 6% of a platform’s overall revenue, is due to come into force soon. 

Twitter is in a particularly bad position on this subject in Europe. Indeed, after acquiring the platform, Musk notably chose to lay off a large part of the platform’s moderation teams, scaring off a substantial number of advertisers.

In addition, in France, Twitter could be blocked due to the dissemination of pornographic content without age verification of internet users. The French government sent a warning to this effect to the social network in early May. 

The Musk-Macron meeting provides an opportunity to try to ease tensions with the French authorities on this point.

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