Macron wants to make France gateway to Europe for tech firms

French President Emmanuel Macron called on tech leaders Thursday to invest in France, saying his innovation policies aim to make the country the gateway to Europe.

Speaking partly in English in front of CEOs and other leaders of the tech industry, Macron said "it's because France is changing like crazy that we can say that France is back and you could choose France."

He said his labor changes have boosted investment in the country over the past year. The changes, notably aimed at giving employers more flexibility to hire and fire, have prompted a series of strikes and street protests against what unions see as weakening workers' rights.

The speech at the Vivatech trade show in Paris comes a day after Macron met Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, IBM and other CEOs to discuss personal data protection and taxes, among other issues.

"I want to make France the country where we build, we think this world of innovation ... where tech and common good just advance and progress together," Macron said.

He also pushed for tougher EU regulations and a European digital tax. "Those who innovate in France, they pay taxes... We are decreasing these taxes. Fine. But it's not fair when somebody else pay no tax."

Privacy was another issue Macron raised as a tough new European data protection law comes into effect this week.

The so-called GDPR regulation will give Europeans more control over what companies can do with what they post, search and click.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a speech at Thursday's show that "with GDPR, we will now have to operate recognizing that privacy is a human right." Microsoft said this week it would apply European data rights to all its clients worldwide.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is to speak later in the day at Vivatech.

At Tuesday's hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels, Zuckerberg acknowledged a "mistake" and apologized for the way the social network has been used to produce fake news and interfere in elections.