Posts Tagged ‘French’

Macron backs sanctions on EU states that refuse migrants

June 23, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron came out Saturday in support of financial sanctions against EU countries which refuse to accept migrants.

“We can not have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants,” he said at a press conference in Paris alongside Spain‘s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

© Ludovic Marin, AFP | France’s President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to the Élysée Palace on June 23.

“I am in favour of sanctions being imposed in the event of no cooperation,” he said.

On the eve of a mini-summit about the divisive migration issue, the two leaders also declared support for the creation of closed reception centres where migrants would be held while their asylum claims are considered.


The centres would be set up near to where migrants often arrive first in Europe.

“Once on European soil, we are in favour of setting up closed centres in accordance with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)… so that each country takes people who are entitled to asylum in an organised way,” Macron said.

There are currently no closed migrant centres where applications are processed, with the exception of a few cases in Greece and Italy managed by the UNHCR.

For migrants not entitled to asylum, they should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron added.



France growth to slow sharply in 2018: statistics agency

June 19, 2018

France’s economic growth will fall from 2.3 percent to 1.7 percent in 2018, the national statistics agency forecasted on Tuesday, adding to the budgetary strains on President Emmanuel Macron’s cost-cutting government.

Macron’s administration, which is on a mission to cut spending and keep France within European Union deficit targets, had been targeting growth of 2.0 percent for 2018.

© AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron is on a mission to cut spending

“Growth is solid,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire insisted on Monday, adding he had “no particular concerns” on the subject.

But statistics agency Insee predicted the government would fall far short of its goal, dragged down by a strong euro and rising oil prices among other factors.

It expects gross domestic product (GDP) to rise by 0.3 percent in the second quarter — up from 0.2 percent in the first quarter — and by 0.4 percent in both the third and fourth quarters for a full-year figure of 1.7 percent.

France’s central bank earlier this month downgraded its 12-month growth figure to 1.8 percent.

After a “particularly sunny” year in 2017 for France and the eurozone, “clouds have appeared”, the head of Insee’s economic outlook division Frederic Tallet said.

On the domestic front the tailwinds include sluggish household consumption and nearly three months of rolling train strikes estimated to set back second-quarter growth by 0.1 percentage points.

But they also include external factors over which France has less traction, such as threats of a global trade war, rising oil prices, a strong euro and political uncertainties in Europe, including a new far right-eurosceptic coalition in power in Italy.

Corporate investment is predicted to slow from 4.4 percent to 3.1 percent over the year, while household investment is expected to decelerate from 5.6 percent in 2017 to 1.6 percent.

There was good news on the trade and unemployment fronts, however.

Unemployment, which is running at nearly twice the level of Germany or Britain, will fall only marginally, Insee said, forecasting a jobless rate of 8.8 percent at the end of 2018, down from 9.0 percent at the end of 2017.

After a slow start to the year exports are also forecast to rebound in the second quarter, powered by large orders in the aviation and shipbuilding sectors, the agency said.

Meanwhile, households will benefit from cuts in payroll and residency taxes.


Most French firms ‘won’t be able to stay’ in Iran: minister

June 19, 2018

Most French companies hoping to continue doing business in Iran after the US imposes new sanctions on the country will find it impossible to do so, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday.

These companies “won’t be able to stay because they need to be paid for the products they deliver to, or build in Iran, and they cannot be paid because there is no sovereign and autonomous European financial institution” capable of shielding them, Le Maire told BFM television.

The new sanctions announced by US President Donald Trump in May after he pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran would punish any foreign firm operating in Iran which also does business with the US or in dollars.

© AFP/File | Renault is the only big French company do defy Trump’s sanctions in Iran

“Our priority is to build independent, sovereign European financial institutions which would allow financing channels between French, Italian, German, Spanish and any other countries on the planet,” Le Maire said.

“It’s up to us Europeans to choose freely and with sovereign power who we want to do business with,” he added.

“The United States should not be the planet’s economic policeman.”

Le Maire and his EU counterparts have been trying to secure exemptions for their firms, many of which rushed back into Iran after the landmark accord curtailing Tehran’s nuclear programme.

French carmaker Renault, which does not sell cars in the US, has said it will remain despite the sanctions.

But French oil group Total and carmaker PSA have already indicated they are likely to pull out of Iran.

Analysts have warned it would be nearly impossible to protect multinationals from the reach of the “extraterritorial” US measures, given the exposure of large banks to the US financial system and dollar transactions.

The first round of the new sanctions, targeting Iran’s auto and civil aviation sectors, are scheduled to go into effect on August 6.

Le Maire’s calls for reinforced European institutions come as French President Emmanuel Macron heads to Germany on Tuesday seeking a roadmap for eurozone reforms with Chancellor Angela Merkel

Macron is pushing for deeper integration, including a common eurozone investment budget; new fiscal rules for tech giants; a harmonised EU corporate tax; and measures to shore up eurozone banks.

The proposals are on the agenda for a key EU summit on June 28-29.

“We’re at the moment of truth for the Franco-German relationship, and the moment of truth for the eurozone as a whole,” Le Maire said.

“In the next few hours, either the president and the chancellor reach an accord on these four points, and they will have made a major stop toward reinforcing the eurozone, that is to say our economic stability and our financial security,” he said.

“Or else, we’re not able to sign a deal, and we enter — I don’t hesitate to say it — a turbulent time for the eurozone.”

French media: Woman crying “God is great” injures 2 with box cutter at a supermarket in southern France

June 17, 2018

PARIS — French media: Woman crying “God is great” has injured 2 with box cutter at a supermarket in southern France.

The Associated Press

French special forces on the ground in Yemen

June 16, 2018

French special forces are present on the ground in Yemen with forces from the United Arab Emirates, French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Saturday, citing two military sources.

The newspaper gave no further information about their activities. The Defence Ministry was not immediately available for comment, but its usual policy is not to comment on special forces’ operations.

A French parliamentary source recently told Reuters French special forces were in Yemen.

Forces from an Arab alliance entered the airport in Yemen’s main port city on Saturday, in the biggest battle of the coalition’s war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

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File Photo

The French Defence Ministry said on Friday that France was studying the possibility of carrying out a mine-sweeping operation to provide access to the port of Hodeidah once the coalition had wrapped up its military operations.

The ministry stressed that France at this stage had no military operations in the Hodeidah region and was not part of the Saudi-led coalition.

France, along with the United States and Britain, backs the Arab coalition in the Yemen conflict and provides weapons to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas and John Irish; Editing by Adrian Croft



Defiant French union vows to extend rail strike into summer

June 15, 2018

The head of France’s main rail union on Friday announced it would extend months of rolling strikes into July even though the reforms it is protesting have been adopted by parliament.

The CGT Cheminots union and others have been striking every few days since early April over President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial rail reforms, causing disruption for France’s 4.5 million daily train commuters.

© AFP/File | The CGT Cheminots union and others have been striking every few days since early April over President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial rail reforms

But parliament on Thursday finished voting through Macron’s overhaul of debt-laden state rail operator SNCF, handing him victory in a standoff which commentators have compared to former British premier Margaret Thatcher’s battle with coal miners’ unions in the 1980s.

Unions had planned to call off the strike on June 28, but CGT Cheminots chief Laurent Brun said his members would carry on with their walkouts into the busy summer season.

“We will carry on in July,” he told France Info radio ahead of meetings Friday with the government and management to discuss a new labour agreement under the reformed SNCF

“For how long? We’ll see. How? We’ll see. There is no question of stopping according to the schedule, so long as the government is trying to force its way through,” he said.

Brun added that his union would try to find a way of alleviating the cost of lost pay for strikers, after 30 separate days of disruption.

Unions failed to win over public opinion during the strikes, and participation by rail workers dwindled with just 12.8 percent of SNCF staff taking part in the most recent walkout on Wednesday.

Unions have been resisting plans to end life-long job security to new recruits, as well as plans to turn the SNCF into a joint-stock company, which they saw as a first step toward privatisation despite government denials.

Macron argues the SNCF, saddled by debts of some 47 billion euros ($55 billion), needs to cut costs and improve flexibility before the EU passenger rail market is opened up to competition.


Explosion hits US-French base in northern Syria’s Raqqa

June 4, 2018

A military base hosting American and French troops in northern Syria’s Ain Issa town was hit by an explosion on Sunday night, according to local sources in Raqqa on Monday.

Ain Issa in northern Raqqa is under the control of the PKK-linked People’s Protection Units (YPG) terror group, the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said.

The base reportedly hosts around 200 American and 75 French troops. It remains unclear if there have been any casualties following the blast.

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The YPG is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist network, which has waged war against Turkey for more than 30 years.

The U.S. and the coalition have largely ignored the links of the YPG and Democratic Union Party (PYD) with the PKK, which the U.S. and the EU also list as a terrorist group.

Turkey has repeatedly objected to U.S. support for the terrorist YPG as a “reliable ally” in Syria, which has included supplying arms and equipment.

‘Dictator’ Erdogan magazine cover elicits protests in France — Erdogan exporting censorship?

May 29, 2018

One kiosk owner said a group of pro-Erdogan activists threatened to set fire to his establishment if he didn’t remove posters of the magazine. The French president has condemned the protesters’ actions as “unacceptable.”

A man carrying a Turkish flag approaches police

French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned protests against a provocative magazine cover that likened Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a dictator.

“It is utterly unacceptable that posters of Le Point should be withdrawn from newspaper kiosks on the grounds that they displease the enemies of freedom, in France or abroad,” Macron said in a tweet on Monday. “Freedom of the press has no price; without it, it’s dictatorship.

Emmanuel Macron


Il est parfaitement inacceptable que des affiches de @LePoint soient retirées des kiosques de presse au motif qu’elles déplaisent aux ennemis de la liberté, en France comme à l’étranger. La liberté de la presse n’a pas de prix : sans elle, c’est la dictature.

Read more: Germany and the long arm of Turkey’s AKP

The French magazine’s latest issue offered a new investigation into the Turkish leader’s policies and included an editorial that asked whether Erdogan is a “new Hitler,” referring to the former dictator and mass murderer that led Nazi Germany during World War II.

Over the weekend, Erdogan supporters took to the streets in several French cities to decry the cover of the left-leaning magazine.

In the southern city of Avignon, police were deployed after a group of Erdogan’s supporters tried to remove posters advertising the magazine at a kiosk.

The kiosk owner told Le Point afterward that the men threatened to set his establishment on fire if he failed to remove the posters.

“After a week of harassment, insults, intimidation and anti-Semitic slurs and threats toward us on social media, now has come the moment when the supporters of [Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party] are attacking symbols of freedom of expression and diversity in the press,” Le Point said on its website.

Tensions have risen between Turkey and several European countries, including Germany, since the failed coup of July 2016. Over the last two years, Erdogan has orchestrated a major crackdown that has seen tens of thousands of soldiers, police officers, judges and teachers arrested.

Read more: Germany and Turkey in 2017 — a rollercoaster relationship

“Following a coup attempt in 2016, the government imposed a state of emergency allowing rule by decree,” said Human Rights Watch in its 2018 annual report. “Turkish authorities dismissed over 150,000 public officials due to alleged coup links, with courts jailing over 64,000 more on terrorism charges.”

Harlem Desir, a representative on media freedom for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), decried Erdogan’s attempt to “export censorship to other countries, saying it is “totally unacceptable.”

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

OSCE media freedom@OSCE_RFoM

Support to @LePoint after several incidents in where supporters of President Erdogan took down the French weekly’s cover from news stands and billboards. Intimidation against and trying to export censorship to other countries is totally unacceptable.

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Watch video01:44

‘Climate of fear in Turkey’

ls/cmk (AFP, dpa)

France’s far left leads protests against Macron reforms

May 26, 2018

France’s main far left party, the hardline CGT trade union and some 80 other organizations, led several thousand people in street protests across France on Saturday against French President Emmanuel Macron’s reforms of the public sector.

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Protesters walk behind a banner which reads, “We’re held up – The greater Paris” during a demonstration by French unions and the France Insoumise” (France Unbowed) political party to protest against government reforms, in Paris, France, May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo FuentesREUTERS

Organizers hoped that the protests would grow further into a groundswell of support against Macron’s reform of France’s public service and some state enterprises such as the heavily indebted national railway company SNCF.

“We are going to carry a message (and) this message must be heard by the strong-headed Emmanuel Macron,” Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far left France Unbowed party, told a cheering crowd before the protest set off in the southern port city of Marseille.

Melenchon listed a number of grievances including staff shortages at hospitals, limited admissions at universities, and lack of police in tough neighborhoods, because the government says it does not have the means to fund them.

“We do not believe you because you are lying,” Melenchon said, adding that Macron’s government had given a 4.5 billion euros ($5.25 billion) tax break to the rich which could have been invested in hospitals.

“The country is rich. The country must share,” Melenchon said.

In Paris, Police said some 30 people were arrested before the start of the march for various offences.

Holding banners and chanting slogans, protesters are expected to hold rallies in at least 160 places across France, CGT Secretary General Philippe Martinez said, adding that Macron should listen to the growing anger.

Unions have staged several nationwide strikes since the start of the year, while SNCF rail workers have been carrying out rolling strikes on two of every five days of the week since April over plans to reform the company and open it to competition.

Macron, 40, who came to power a year-ago promising to push through tough reforms, has shown no sign of surrender so far.

In comments last Friday, Macron said the so-called popular wave protest led by Melenchon would not stop him and said the opposition had failed to bring forward any concrete proposals.

(Reporting by Bate Felix, Caroline Pailliez and Emmanuel Jarry)


Two former French spies under formal investigation for treason — China’s hidden hand?

May 25, 2018

Two former French spies are facing trial for treason over allegations that they passed state secrets to a foreign power, France’s defence ministry said.

Image result for DGSE, France, photos

Confirming the December arrests of two retired spies, along with the spouse of one of the accused pair, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Friday the compromised information “could undermine the security of the state”.

The agents are believed to have handed over secrets while still in service for France’s DGSE intelligence agency, Parly said on CNews television. She declined to comment on unconfirmed reports that China was the foreign power in question.

Both were placed under formal investigation on Dec. 22 to face charges of spying for a foreign power, compromising classified secrets and delivering information detrimental to fundamental national interests, a judicial source told Reuters.

© Étienne Laurent, AFP | French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly in Paris on May 8, 2018

One of the former agents, who have not been identified, also faces charges of directly inciting treason, the source said.

French authorities have not said how recently the alleged double agents are thought to have been operating.

The DGSE itself contacted French prosecutors after uncovering the “extremely serious” behaviour of its agents, the defence ministry said in a statement late on Thursday.

“The fact that we sounded the alert is proof of our vigilance,” Parly said.


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