By Paul Wells - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - 0 Comments
Springtime Sundays are election days in Europe, and this one brought two blockbusters. In…
Springtime Sundays are election days in Europe, and this one brought two blockbusters. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy becomes only the second man to lose re-election in the half-century since the country began electing presidents by direct popular vote. Socialist François Hollande defeated him, becoming only the second Socialist president of the Fifth Republic, following François Mitterrand 31 years ago.
Trailing after first-round voting two weeks ago, Sarkozy swung hard to the right, trying to pick up voters from Marine Le Pen’s National Front party with anti-immigrant themes. Hollande tried a more traditional centrist path — well, centrist by French standards, where Hollande’s proposal for a top tax rate of 75% drew little comment — and held enough of his advantage to seal his victory.
The results in Greece could hardly be more different. Support for traditional parties collapsed, and extreme left- and right-wing parties prospered. It remains to be seen whether anyone can even form a government out of the resulting mess.
Why the different outcomes? Partly it’s different systems. France was voting in a run-off where third- and fourth-place parties were already eliminated. Greece was electing a parliament. And it was doing so in reaction to a European bailout plan that required harsh austerity measures that just about nobody in Greece liked. This mess is the result. From the New York Times:
Starting Monday, the front-runners have three days to try to form a government. But with seven parties expected to enter Parliament, the prospects for stability appeared low.
“It’s a completely fragmented Parliament,” said Loukas Tsoukalis, the president of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, an Athens research institute. “The two former big parties have suffered a defeat which is greater than most people had expected.”
He said that he expected new elections soon. “The question is what happens in between, whether there are any realignments in the Greek political system that provide credible alternatives to protest movements,” Mr. Tsoukalis said. “If this doesn’t happen, then Greece is in deep” trouble, he added.
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:33 PM - 0 Comments
François Hollande was in Nevers today, in the Burgundy region south of Paris. Five days before the runoff vote in France’s presidential election, and on May Day, the Socialist candidate had come to lay a wreath at the grave of Pierre Bérégovoy, two-time socialist finance minister and then prime minister during the last days of the Socialist parliamentary majority from 1992 to 1993.
I was in Paris 19 years ago tonight when I heard Bérégovoy had shot himself to death. I’ll never forget where a bunch of us students were when we heard the news. It wasn’t just grief over the Socialists’ legislative defeat that made him do it; it was a personal humiliation. As budget minister in the 80s and again in the 90s, he had to rein in Socialist spending while defending social-democratic goals. He had been attempting a similar feat — think Chrétien or Clinton or Schröder a couple of years later — when France’s voters tossed his party out. He’d lost his party’s favour for being a bad Socialist, and the electorate’s for being a Socialist. It was brutal treatment at history’s hands, and he killed himself.
Of course everyone thought the world of him as soon as he was dead. The last honest man, focused on results instead of image, why can’t politics be more like him, all of that. Today he is not often mentioned. In France as in other places, politics is polarized, the engaged voters are the ones who like to pick a side, and Bérégovoy remains essentially a confusing figure.
His appeal between rounds of a Presidential election is obvious, however. Continue…
By Gabriela Perdomo - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 3:13 PM - 0 Comments
Last week, we wondered whether Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials were too stubborn to notice that their push for austerity is choking Europe’s economy. There’s a chance they aren’t.
On Wednesday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi called for a European “growth compact,” acknowledging that fiscal austerity is “starting to reverberate its contractionary effects.” Merkel agreed with Draghi, though she immediately specified what type of growth she would–or rather wouldn’t–like to see:
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 2:26 PM - 0 Comments
Campaigning on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after the first round of Presidential election voting in France, Nicolas Sarkozy said this:
“If there is a candidate from the National Front, it’s because she had a right to be a candidate….So from the moment you run in an election you have the right to run in the election, as far as I know. You are compatible with the Republic.”
Libération, the leftist newspaper, turned that into this morning’s front page:
A lot of people in Sarkozy’s party aren’t happy. “An outrageous, dishonest and unacceptable attempt at political misinformation,” the secretary-general of Sarkozy’s party says in a communiqué. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, April 23, 2012 at 4:07 PM - 0 Comments
Take a look at Nicolas Sarkozy’s official campaign posters from 2007 and 2012.
In a lot of ways he’s running the same visual play: the blank stare, the sort of half-smile what-is-that expression, the reassuring message. And in a lot of ways, the French president must surely believe he has run the same campaign, in general, to be re-elected that he ran to win five years ago. He’s an outsider — son of immigrants, not educated at the grandes écoles, unpolished, friend to the little guy — running, not precisely against privilege, but against elite systems designed to keep guys like him out.
It was enchanting in 2007. He won without real difficulty. It has not worked in 2012. He came second in Sunday’s first-round voting and will probably lose in the runoff (the best short analysis I’ve seen, in French, is here). Obsessed by the record support French voters gave the far-right Front National under its founder’s less abrasive daughter, Marine Le Pen, Sarkozy apparently intends to double down on a populist, protectionist message with a dash of xenophobia (here’s Henri Guaino, the scuttling little thug who writes his speeches, losing his cool after an opposition spokesman busted him for musing on “the problem of national identity”).
The article I linked above quotes a Sarkozy advisor, who says the Sarkozy message leading to the May 6 runoff must respond “to a need for authority and protection: European protectionism, economic patriotism, defence of the authority of the State and of the Republic.” In the same article, Sarko helpers are gleeful at the high Front National turnout. They can go get that electorate! The socialist, François Hollande, can’t! Suddenly — well, actually, not suddenly at all — the Sarko campaign’s MVP is Patrick Buisson, who spent the 80s writing mash notes to Jean-Marie Le Pen in a Front National fan-club pamphlet called Minute. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 23, 2012 at 1:48 PM - 0 Comments
Brian Topp looks to Francois Hollande.
First, Hollande campaigned on a relatively gutsy platform. It offers a fairly clear choice, within the mainstream of a western industrial democracy, with some impressively clear commitments. For example, much media coverage has focused on Hollande’s proposal to restore fair taxes on high incomes. The details are less important than the victory Hollande scored in how this proposal was debated. It was widely discussed in terms of whether or not to dispense with cadeaux fiscales – fiscal gifts, to the wealthiest of the French – rather than the populist right-wing “smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom” slogans that have delivered none of these things, while building grotesque income inequality here in North America. In short, Hollande found a way to win both the frame and the debate over economic equality.
Not mentioned by Mr. Topp, but not to be discounted: this music video. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 11:07 PM - 0 Comments
Much debate in France over reforms to the country’s rules for obtaining a driver’s license. Nicolas Sarkozy, the incumbent centre-right arriviste incorrigible doofus, has a plan; so does François Hollande, the soft-focus socialist challenger who seems likely to beat him. Perhaps inevitably, a French car magazine followed the various candidates around and wrote about their violations of the highway code.
When The Economist devoted its cover, a couple of weeks ago, to an editorial complaining that the entire campaign was “in denial” about the economic trouble the country was in, the coverage in France was amused: Oh, look at those Brits with their odd preoccupations. But The Economist has a point.
France is not in existential crisis. Downgraded by Moody’s, it can still, after a fashion, afford a deeply frivolous campaign. Genteel capital flight, depressed investment, and the continuation of an oppressive pessimism caused in part by an absurdly over-complicated public sector are all luxuries the country can afford to give itself, election after election. Which is good because that’s what it’s about to do, again.
Reading France’s top papers — I look at Le Monde and Le Figaro most days, Libération a couple of times a week — I’ve garnered little sense of François Hollande’s strengths and weaknesses as a campaigner. The French press is obsessed with Sarkozy, chronicling his every mistake with care, benefitting from his campaign’s eagerness to explain its every move. I’m surprised at how much energy Hollande shows in his campaign ads, and tickled by his willingness to swipe his opponent’s most precious symbols and predecessors: yes, that’s Charles de Gaulle in a Socialist ad. Sarkozy did exactly the same in 2007, appropriating Socialist heroes, essentially accusing his opponent (Ségolène Royal, who was then Hollande’s domestic partner) of betraying her own party’s best instincts. It’s a tactic we haven’t seen yet in Canada. Imagine Tom Mulcair saying some variation of, “Diefenbaker helped build a great Canada and Stephen Harper has lost sight of what made Canada great.” Perhaps that’s too complex a manoeuvre for our politics.
But anyway, campaign symbolism has little to do with economic policy. Hollande would impose a 75% top tax rate, which is lovely but it would simply encourage rich French people to move to Switzerland, hardly a rare phenomenon already. My guess is that Hollande would manage to be worse for France’s economy than Sarkozy has been, but on balance I’m hoping for Hollande’s victory, so Sarkozy will exit in disgrace and the odds of a disciplined, simplifying candidate (come on, François Fillon) leading Sarkozy’s party in 2017 will increase slightly.
Sarkozy has been an abject failure. In 2007 he raised hopes he has done nothing to address. He visited the big cities’ banlieues frequently, scoring points with the far right by growling threats at neighbourhood hoodlums, but also promising economic opportunity. It was a rare, uncharacteristic and fleeting insight: if young, often Muslim French kids could hope to get out of the ghetto, they would not simply sink into bitterness.
At one point Sarkozy campaigned in the City of London, because economic opportunity had made it a global headquarters for young French kids. Le Monde covered that campaign stop, spoke to a couple of bright French kids who’d moved to London to work in the brokerage houses, mentioned only near the end of the article that one of the kids was Arab and the other black and that neither could hope to find as good a job back home. Sarkozy offered that hope. He suggested a better-functioning economy would allow kids to move out of the banlieue by moving up. Of course nothing of the sort has happened since.
It’s no coincidence that among the general French population under 25, Marine Le Pen, the more presentable daughter of far-right stalwart Jean-Marie Le Pen, is the candidate with the fastest-growing support. When no candidate offers realistic hope, resentment becomes more appealing.
French police arrest 19 in dawn raids on suspected radical Islamists, on day after Mohamed Merah is buried
By Alex Ballingall - Friday, March 30, 2012 at 10:06 AM - 0 Comments
In a series of dawn raids across France, elite police arrested 19 suspected radical…
In a series of dawn raids across France, elite police arrested 19 suspected radical Islamists. The France 24 news agency is reporting that the arrests occurred in Nantes, Le Man, Paris and Toulouse, the city where Mohamed Merah was killed after he shot three Jewish children and a rabbi outside of a school earlier this month.
Speaking with Europe 1 radio, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said: “It’s our duty to guarantee the security of the French people. We have no choice. It’s absolutely indispensable.”
The raids occurred the day after Merah was buried in Toulouse. He was killed on March 22 by a police sniper after a lengthy stand off at his apartment. As the BBC reports, French police agency DCRI has received criticism for a lack of vigilance that allowed a radical Islamist like Merah to perpetrate murder. This series of arrests is thought to have targeted suspected Islamists who have been on the DCRI’s radar.
One of those arrested is Mohammed Achamlane, the leader of the Islamist group Forsanne Alizza (Knights of Pride), which seeks to instill Islamic rule in the country, France Soir reports. Merah has been linked to the group in media reports.
The issue of Islamic radicalism has taken centre stage in the French presidential election campaign. Initially trailing socialist contender François Hollande, Sarkozy has seen his support rise in the wake of the attacks. The latest poll conducted by the CSA put Sarkozy’s support at 30 per cent—versus 26 per cent for Hollande—for the first round of voting on April 22, Agence France-Presse reports.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:52 AM - 0 Comments
The lands of foie gras and puppy mills are suddenly horrified by animal slaughter
With the American Republican primaries in full swing, it’s easy to forget that U.S. politics doesn’t have a monopoly on ignorance. Thanks to France’s right-wing National Front party, and Canada’s very own, very left-wing Parti Québécois, it appears that SantoRomNewt may have something in common with French leaders (despite Newt’s attack ad on Mitt Romney for speaking French): a penchant for anti-Muslim rhetoric. At issue is the halal meat controversy, possibly the most bogus animal rights campaign in recent history. Its chief spokesperson is sometimes-starlet, sometimes-xenophobe Marine Le Pen, of the aforementioned NFP. Le Pen is deeply disturbed by the notion that non-Muslim French citizens are “unwittingly eating halal meat,” which she contends comes from animals that are being inhumanely slaughtered. The ritual method through which halal meat is slaughtered (as with kosher meat, using a single incision to the jugular) is just as legal in France as the secular alternative (“captive bolt stunning,” in which the animal is sedated via stun gun before it’s killed), but Le Pen maintains that halal’s “horrible cruelty” warrants special condemnation. “This is a moral point,” she says. “Don’t French people who don’t want to eat halal have the same rights as Muslims who do?” Even French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who once accused Le Pen of stirring up an “artificial controversy,” has made the alleged cruelty of halal slaughtering a cause célèbre in the upcoming presidential election—perhaps to reel in the country’s right-wing base.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, March 9, 2012 at 8:15 AM - 0 Comments
The hamlet of Courbefy in central France comes complete with rustic buildings, horse stables, a tennis court and a swimming pool
If you are considering buying a holiday property, why not get an entire French village? Last week, the hamlet of Courbefy, in central France, went up for sale, complete with rustic buildings, horse stables, a tennis court and a swimming pool. The town was put on the auction block with a reserve bid of $390,000, but not a single interested buyer placed a bid.
Courbefy actually died years ago, during the rural exodus of the 1970s that emptied countless French towns. Since then, grandiose projects to revive it, like a kids’ camp and a conference destination, fizzled. The last attempt, to make a luxury hotel, was abandoned a decade ago, leaving the town to “thieves, ravers and squatters,” according to the French daily Le Figaro.
When news of the failed auction hit French media, Credit Agricole, the bank in posession of Courbefy was swamped with calls from as far as China and Qatar. Ghost towns and abandoned villages in the U.S. and Britain have been sold at auction before, fetching several million dollars. But an entire French village for less than the average house costs in the Greater Toronto Area? Surely that’s a bargain.
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
France is requiring motorists to carry them around in their vehicles
In a dramatic effort to combat drunk driving, France is set to become the first country in the world to require that motorists carry Breathalyzer kits in their vehicles. The measure is part of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push to reduce France’s annual road death toll, which sat unmoved at over 4,000 in 2011. One third of those fatalities were alcohol-related, according to the government’s Sécurité Routière department, giving France one of the worst drunk driving records in Europe.
After a grace period expires in November, anyone caught without a Breathalyzer will be fined $15. France has recently stiffened fines for driving over the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.05, and added even harsher penalties for blowing over 0.08—$6,000 in fines and potential prison sentences. The hope is that people will use the Breathalyzer to check their own level before hitting the road. Just a glass or two of Provençal rosé or a smooth Merlot could be enough to push most people over.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM - 0 Comments
In this week’s print edition, I write about Brad Trost, Stephen Woodworth, abortion and the Prime Minister. For that I sat down with Mr. Trost a couple weeks ago in his office. Here is a slightly abridged transcript of that conversation.
Q: I wanted to start with Mr. Woodworth today. What did you make of that?
A: Everyone, I think, in Ottawa, knows I’m a pro-life Member of Parliament. I don’t see how scientifically there’s any question about when human life begins. And politically I don’t understand why Canada is the only democracy that really has no legislation whatsoever. I mean, let’s face it, we’re more socially conservative than France and France has abortion legislation after 14 weeks. Sweden does, we’re more socially conservative than Sweden. I don’t get where the disconnect is on this one. People can agree to disagree. My board of directors, Conservatives in Saskatoon-Humboldt, they’re all over the board on this. By and large they’re mostly like-mind because my riding has a huge devout Catholic proportion. It’s like 42% Roman Catholic, and not like Quebec, they’re a fairly observant lot. So that’s reflected in the nature of my constituency and my voters, but my board of directors includes a couple pro-choice people and they respect and some of them tell me I’m doing a great job on a whole range of issues. So I think we can have a good dialogue on this and it wouldn’t be what I’d like, but I still can’t figure out why Canada can’t have some legislation like Sweden or France or Germany has. This puzzles me.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The presidential nominee for the centre-left Socialist party is a nerd famous for his lack of star power
How do you lead a party out of the political wilderness and back to power against a charismatic incumbent? In France, the answer may be a short, bespectacled nerd famous for his lack of star power. François Hollande is the presidential nominee for the centre-left Socialist party, which used to dominate the presidency but has been out of power since François Mitterrand’s defeat in 1995. With the increasing unpopularity of centre-right President Nicolas Sarkozy, and a strong showing in the 2011 Senate elections, the Socialists see the upcoming April vote as their best hope to regain the top job. And they’re doing it with a guy nicknamed “Mr. Normal.”
Hollande might seem, at first glance, like the last person you’d pick to upset an international man of mystery like Sarkozy. Though he was Socialist party secretary for 11 years, he’s the type of functionary who always steps aside for more interesting people. In 2007, he lost the presidential nomination to Ségolène Royal, his partner at the time and the mother of his four children. This time around, the Socialists were prepared to pick the more glamorous Dominique Strauss-Kahn, but sex allegations against him proved too much for even the French.
With Strauss-Kahn unavailable, Hollande got the nomination almost by default, even though, as Foreign Policy’s Eric Pape put it, other politicians have tagged him as “spineless, too conciliatory, and the embodiment of the ‘mushy left’—and that’s just the commentary from members of his own party.” Things are no better for him on TV: On Les Guignols, a popular French show with marionettes, Hollande is portrayed as a pimply-faced nerd with a bad toupée and a tendency to giggle at inappropriate times. His image in France is comparable to that of Stéphane Dion in Canada—a plodding team player, not a winner.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 10:36 AM - 0 Comments
France wants you, and your vagina, to get back in shape after delivering a…
France wants you, and your vagina, to get back in shape after delivering a baby. Writing from Paris for Slate, American author Claire Lundberg describes her 10 sessions of vaginal re-education after giving birth to a baby girl last November. The courses, fully covered under France’s universal health care system, teach mothers how to regain control of the muscles controlling the vagina, which are strained and overstretched by pregnancy and birth. Lundberg’s hilarious account of her sessions raises a good question: is this just another thing the French do better than North Americans?
This point was raised in the last edition of Maclean’s, in an interview with American journalist Pamela Druckerman (“Why the French are better parents”). Druckerman, who seems to believe everything the French do is better than anything North Americans do, would probably say that the vaginal re-education program is more proof of it. Still, it might be worth reminding all women out there, that Kegel exercises are just as effective, widely available online, and free of charge.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 7:40 PM - 0 Comments
UPDATE: A French court ruled against Sophie Robert on Thursday, ordering her to remove the offending segments from “Le Mur” and pay about $45,000 in various fines.
“For more than 30 years, the international scientific community has acknowledged that autism is a neurologic disorder… In France, psychiatry, being very largely dominated by psychoanalysis, ignores these discoveries.” The Wall documentary.
Culture writes on illness. That’s evident in the battle around a French documentary about autism entitled “Le Mur” or “The Wall.” Today, a court in the northern city Lille will decide whether the film, released online last year, should be censored at the request of psychoanalysts in the country, since it essentially charges that their approach to the disorder ignores decades of scientific progress. Continue…
By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
A French town decides women shouldn’t be defined by their marital status
In the town of Cesson-Sévigné, in western France, unmarried women will no longer be referred to as “mademoiselle”—as of Jan. 1, the title (which means “miss”) has been banned from official forms, and all women are to be referred to as “madame.” The move is an attempt to get rid of “anything that could be seen as discriminatory or indiscreet,” a statement from town hall said.
Across France, a growing number insist a woman’s title shouldn’t be defined by her marital status. Two feminist groups have mounted a campaign to get rid of the word “mademoiselle” from official documents, and with it the suggestion that an unwed woman is either a young girl, or a spinster. “Some women appreciate being called ‘mademoiselle,’ and find it flattering,” their website says, while insisting that it’s “nothing less than sexism. It seems that only marriage, and a husband, can confer legitimate social status.”
The French aren’t alone in moving away from this distinction: in Germany, “fräulein” fell out of use as a title for unmarried women in 1972. But even “madame” implies that a woman is married. Proponents of the switch might look for a French equivalent of “Ms.,” doing away altogether with female titles that imply a marital status.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Apparently Thomas Mulcair has French citizenship.
Though he was born in Ottawa, Mulcair was able to apply for and receive French citizenship because his spouse, Catherine, was born in France. Under French law, spouses of French citizens can apply, as Mulcair did, to become citizens themselves after five years of marriage and after demonstrating their ability to speak French.
“Mr. Mulcair is very proud to share the nationality of his wife, who shares his,” Mulcair spokesperson Chantale Turgeon told TVA. “He sees no conflict with his Canadian citizenship or duties. Dual citizenship is a reality for many Canadians who are proud of their origins and a source of enrichment for our diverse society.”
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 6:12 PM - 0 Comments
Since December, health authorities around the world have been scrambling about what to do with women who have French-made Poly Implant Prosthesis (PIP) breast implants lodged in their bodies. After being approved for market, it recently emerged that PIP implants were filled with non-medical grade silicone—unbeknownst to regulators—and that their manufacturer had got rid of an outer skin to keep the implants from leaking and breaking.
By the editors - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
It’s hard to argue anyone else can save the Old Continent
Among the many desperate calls for help during the current European crisis, that of Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski stands out for its sheer lack of precedent. “I may be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity,” Sikorsky said last week in Berlin to his hosts. “You have become Europe’s indispensible nation . . . nobody else can do it.” Only Germany can save Europe now.
It’s hard to argue against Sikorksi’s logic, at least in the short run. Ireland and Portugal have been bailed out at great expense. Investors were forced to take a massive loss on Greek bonds. Now even major European states such as Italy and Spain are teetering on the edge of insolvency. If these governments lose the ability to continue borrowing, the entire continent could be plunged into complete economic collapse, with grim implications for the rest of the world, including Canada.
Throughout this two-year-long crisis, only Germany has retained the financial and moral clout sufficient to save the day, thanks to its low unemployment rate, reasonable debt levels and robust financial sector. (France, for all its bluster, remains a necessary but junior partner in this project.) After decades of backstopping the European experiment by buying bonds and, more recently, providing the bulk of the recent bailout packages, Germany has begun to exert a new sense of authority. In particular, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been demanding strict new rules over spending in individual countries as the price for continued German intervention.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 10:14 AM - 0 Comments
France is unimpressed.
“Canada’s announcement that it is withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol is bad news for the fight against climate change,” ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists. ”It is out of the question to relax our efforts or to break the dynamic of the Durban agreement,” he said.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Nearly 10 years after France officially adopted the euro, a staggering amount of francs are still around
Nearly 10 years after France officially adopted the euro, a staggering amount of the old currency, the French franc, is still waiting to be exchanged—about 600 million euros’ worth, according to the country’s central bank. Now, even as the ongoing euro crisis puts the future of the common currency in question, time to trade those old bills in is running out. After Feb. 17, the central bank will no longer exchange any franc banknotes for euros.
To get the word out, la Banque de France has kicked off a public awareness campaign. Two television commercials ask viewers if they remember where they put their remaining francs (in one, an actor is shocked to hear that his friend put them through the wash a decade ago). There’s also a website, jechangemesfrancs.com, with information on where to exchange the old currency and how many euros one can expect in return (a 20-franc note gets 3.05 euros).
Countries that adopted the euro have varying timelines to switch currencies. Spain, Germany and Ireland, for example, have no set deadlines. Belgian francs were only accepted until the end of 2004. The Netherlands, meanwhile, will allow people to trade in their guilders until Jan. 1, 2032.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 10 Comments
Paul Dewar calls on the Harper government to support a financial transaction tax at the G20.
“The FTT will be small change for banks, but a major boost to the fight against inequality, poverty and climate change” said Dewar. “It will also cut the excesses of speculative market which were central to the most recent financial crisis.”
The FTT is supported by many European leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Prominent international economists such as Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs back this change as do George Soros and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Dewar supports an FTT implemented with the widest possible international agreement through multilateral forums such as G20.
The EU proposal is supported by France and Germany. Two U.S. Democrats are proposing a similar measure. The Harper government opposes the current proposal and has opposed similar proposals in the past.
By Colby Cosh, Jaime J. Weinman, and Richard Warnica - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Miley gets political, the Pope gets stung and Julian Assange gets an autobiography he doesn’t want
No, they didn’t walk home
Two American hikers convicted of espionage in Iran were released after the sultan of Oman posted US$930,000 bail for them. Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, 29-year-old pro-Palestine activists and former Berkeley classmates, were seized along with a female friend while on holiday in 2009; Iran claims they illegally crossed their border on foot. The woman, Sarah Shourd, Bauer’s fiancée, was freed last fall on medical grounds. Bauer and Fattal’s release, with both in apparent good health, is seen as a political victory for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over hardline clerics in the Islamic republic.
Only in France is having it and not flaunting it a crime. Last week, a court outside Paris fined two women for refusing to show their faces in public. Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali were the ﬁrst Frenchwomen charged under a law that bans full facial coverings outside the home. Passed last spring, the ban was aimed, rather transparently, at France’s substantial Muslim minority. It may also have been an attempt by President Nicolas Sarkozy to shore up his vulnerable right flank. But if anything, the law has galvanized supporters of the niqab. Ahmas told reporters she intends to challenge her fine in the European Court of Human Rights—while Kenza Drider, who also wears the niqab, now says she intends to run against Sarkozy in the presidential election. “When a woman wants to maintain her freedom she must be bold,” Drider told the Associated Press.
By Alex Derry - Monday, September 26, 2011 at 10:20 AM - 1 Comment
A new ban against street prayer in France sends Muslims looking for space to worship
Just as Muslims throughout France prepared for their Friday prayers, the government passed a ban on Sept. 16 outlawing the increasingly common practice of praying in the street. Despite the ban being seen by some as an example of Nicolas Sarkozy’s government kowtowing to right-wing voters seven months before an election, and a small group of worshippers protesting the new measure in Paris, many among France’s five-million-strong Muslim population welcome the prospect of getting off the streets, provided they have somewhere else to pray.
France has enforced the separation of church and state since 1905, but a growing tide of anti-Muslim sentiment among the country’s more right-leaning groups has put pressure on Sarkozy to crack down on religious displays in public spaces. Particularly in cities, such as Paris and Marseilles, mosques are located in small buildings and storefronts with little space, leaving many worshippers no other option but to face Mecca in the street. Marine le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, has equated Muslims praying in Paris’s streets to the Nazi invasion of France in the Second World War, albeit “without the tanks or soldiers,” but instead with fundamentalist displays in a proudly secular society. “Praying in the street is not dignified for religious practice and violates the principles of secularism,” Interior Minister Claude Guéant told Le Figaro. “All Muslim leaders are in agreement.”
Mohammed Salah Hamza is one of those leaders. As the imam who leads some 2,000 Muslims at a makeshift mosque in a vacant fire station in northern Paris, which opened on the day the ban became law, he says that moving worshippers into an actual place of worship is “the beginning of a solution.” But Hamza called on the government to be more accommodating to France’s Muslim population—the biggest in Western Europe—and opposed being herded into makeshift spaces. “We are not cattle,” Hamza told France’s TF1 News. The 2,000-sq.-metre fire station was only handed over to worshippers under a three-year lease two days before the deadline, after an uneasy accord was reached with municipal authorities. In Marseilles, a disused hangar was set aside as a temporary mosque in a similar deal, but is in a state of such disrepair that it was unusable for the Sept. 16 deadline. Guéant estimates that half of the country’s 2,000 mosques have been built in the last decade.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 23, 2011 at 12:56 PM - 0 Comments
French President’s associates implicated in kickback scheme
A financial scandal threatened to engulf French President Nicolas Sarkozy Thursday after two of his associates, including the best man at his wedding, were placed under formal investigation in an arms-trading probe. Nicolas Bazire, now the head of a luxury goods line, stands accused of handling illegal kickbacks tied to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the 1990s. The money was allegedly used to fund the failed presidential campaign of former Prime Minister Édouard Balladur. Bazire was the best man at Sarkozy’s 2008 wedding to Carla Bruni. Thierry Gaubert, another close associate of Sarkozy’s, is under investigation for the same alleged crimes.