On Thursday the Francophone world celebrated the day of "Francophonie" - a celebration of the French language wherever it's spoken. Within the EU no one plays up their language as much as the French. And of course France is famous for trying to resist the encroachment of the English language and American culture in particular. Strict rules for example regulate the amount of French music that has to be played on the radio, and there's even a special department within France's Ministry of Culture devoted to the French language. But what is the status of French in the world today?
And now we go from parliamentary elections in Serbia to local elections in France. The first round of these elections took place last Sunday, the second round is this weekend. The elections will determine the political fate of around 33 thousand mayors. One local representative, running for a seventh consecutive term of office, is standing out during this campaign: by prohibiting death in his village. John Laurenson has more in this postcard.
This weekend people in France are going to the polls to vote for their local governments: mayors, regional and local governing councils. Mayors and local governments are the first point of call for the problems and daily concerns of French citizens. But these elections are also seen as a referendum on the national government: the results of the president's party will reflect what people think of him. Calais, in the north of France, is one of the last Communist party strongholds in the country. The opposition has put together an unconventional campaign to try to oust the mayor. Radio France International's Sarah Elzas has this report from Calais.
In France there’s sudden concern about rising food prices. In the land of gourmet chefs, people are worried about the cost of their weekly shopping bill with the prices of some foods have suddenly gone through the roof. Producers and distributors say it’s due to price increases around the world. But consumers wonder if they're being ripped off. Politicians are paying attention. With local elections coming up this month, no one wants to take responsibility for a drop in living standards.
Supermodel-turned-French-first-lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy tried to put the brakes on her husband's dramatic slide in the opinion polls this week by, perhaps a little sarcastically, apologizing for their happiness. Since he went public with their relationship in December, two months after divorcing his second wife, President Sarkozy's popularity rating has plummeted. Two weeks ago President Sarkozy filed a criminal complaint against the weekly Nouvel Observateur for publishing a text message. The paper claimed he sent the message to his ex-wife a week before his wedding to Carla Bruni offering to call it off if she came back to him! Whatever actually happened it seems that the rather cosey relationship between the government and the French media is being challenged.
Do today’s bleak statistics on marriage mean the conventional approach to love, relationships, and wedlock are out-dated? Not if you’re the president of France! You’d be hard-pressed not to have heard that French President Nicolas Sarkozy married celebrity Carla Bruni last weekend in a small civil ceremony at the Elysee palace. The two met three months ago, and their whirlwind romance has captured attention right around the world. Ms Bruni was one of the highest paid fashion models in the 1990s. She then turned to pop music and released her debut album in 2002. She’s also the heiress to the fortune of an Italian tire company. And she’s famously made a habit of bedding the famous. But is coverage of the event was reaching saturation point?
Back in November Network Europe reported on the case of 6 convicted French aid workers from the Zoe’s Ark group. Zoe’s Ark is a French charity that tried to evacuate orphaned children from the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan. In the middle of this so-called rescue attempt in October they got caught in Chad with 103 children. At the end of December, a Chadian judge sentenced them to 8 years in jail with hard labor. Thanks to an agreement between France and Chad, the six were transferred to France to serve out their sentences, and a couple of weeks ago, a French judge held a hearing to figure out how to convert the sentences—as hard labor doesn’t exist in France. He’s now decided they’ll spend eight years in prison in France.
With Europe quickly becoming a melting pot, cities and towns are starting to see mosques being built alongside churches. They generate fierce debate. And it’s not about building codes and architecture—though the talk is usually focused around that. It’s not really about the buildings themselves at all, but about the people who worship in them. We bring you stories this week about mosque building projects across the continent, and reactions to them. The programme is presented in Marseille, in the south of France, where almost a quarter of the population is Muslim, and which should soon see a grand mosque built.
After becoming the first French president to divorce during his time in office, Nicholas Sarkozy looks set to become the first to marry as well. He certainly is keen to keep himself busy. This week he described his relationship with Carla Bruni as ”serious” and hinted that a wedding, perhaps in secret, could be expected soon. Our Paris correspondent John Laurenson says if Carla Bruni becomes Carla Sarkozy it would revolutionise the role of France’s first lady and mark a victory for a certain sort of women’s lib’.
We stay in France for some more serious news: last Wednesday The French oil company Total was ordered to pay it's a share of nearly 200 million in damages for a 1999 oil spill off the northwest coast of France. The Erika oil tanker broke in half in December of 1999, spilling almost 20-thousand tons of crude oil into the sea—which killed hundreds of thousands of birds along 400 kilometers of coastline. Radio France International's Sarah Elzas was at the courtroom in Paris for the verdict.
On January 1, 2008, France finally bid ‘au revoir’ to the cigarette, following in the footsteps of Spain, Ireland and Italy. The new law bans smoking in bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs. But will it work? And are the French prepared to live up to their law-defying, revolutionary credentials? Will they risk a fine to hold on to one of their much values ‘liberties’?
The French may well be glad to see the back of a year that saw France make world headlines – but not the sort of headlines they would want. November witnessed the worst spate of social unrest since the nationwide car-burning frenzy of 2005. President Nicolas Sarkozy called those responsible for the recent riots “yobs and traffickers.” Not everyone agreed. Lamia Belassen is a 17-year-old high school student from Paris who’s unhappy with the new reputation building around France’s young people. She’s part of a youth group organized by the city and told Radio France International’s Sarah Elzas that stereotypes are being created.
Nicolas Sarkozy promised to give France a good shake - but was Europe shaken by the result of the French elections? Listen to this - had Germans, Italians, Spaniards and Britons had their way - France would now have its first female president. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux sounded out the opinions of European commentators and correspondents in pre-election Paris
In France many say social unrest has been on the cards for some time. Dozens of police officers were injured on Monday and Tuesday during clashes with youths in a northern Paris suburb. The intensity of the violence took everyone by surprise – Molotov cocktails were thrown and even shotguns were fired, putting several policemen in hospital. The catalyst for all of this was the death on Sunday of two teenage boys who were killed when their motorcycle collided with a police car. The violent reaction from sections of the community’s rekindled memories of the nationwide rioting two years ago, when the protest act of choice was car-burning.
One minority group not enjoying opportunities in France is black women in the fashion industry. But one of the world’s biggest modelling agencies, Elite, is making an effort to set a positive example. The Paris-based employers of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford say they want to sign up more ‘ethnic’ talent. So how ready is France for its large African-origin population to be represented on its catwalks, TV ads and magazines covers? DW’s John Laurenson has been finding out.
Perhaps being young and beautiful is some compensation for not getting a break in modelling but the problem of discrimination in hiring practises in France, unsurprisingly, runs much deeper than that. If you’re over 50 years old it’s a struggle to find a job. Young women aren’t hired because companies worry they'll go on maternity leave. And for ethnic minorities the problem is acute. Two years ago an anti-discrimination law set up a framework to punish companies with discriminatory hiring practices – but progress has been slow. RFI's Sarah Elzas examines the case of a young black woman who’s had enough of her skin colour obscuring her skills.
The French have been practising a favourite national pastime this week. It may be cold but it’s strike season again in France. This time it was about pensions. Public service employees and teachers plan to go on strike in the coming days over education reforms. And unsurprisingly, students are joining in with another strike of their own.
A few weeks ago a group of French aid workers were arrested in Chad as they attempted to take just over a hundred local children to France. They were members of l’Arche de Zoe, a charity that had been planning to evacuate children from the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan. The question on many people’s lips is what were these charity workers doing? They’re now under investigation in Chad. They’d spent all summer recruiting French families to be hosts to what they said would be orphans from Darfur. UNICEF has since confirmed that most of the children on the plane to france were not orphans, and most are probably from Chad, not Sudan.
This week the European Union stepped up pressure on the military regime in Myanmar, which is called Burma by the democratic opposition. For a decade now the EU has imposed sanctions on Burma including a travel ban on leading politicians, a freeze on their assets and a trade ban with large state companies. Now, EU foreign ministers have ramped up sanctions to stop the import of Burmese wood products, timber, minerals and precious stones. But not petrol and gas, an important source of revenue. One of the main foreign companies doing business in the country is the French oil company Total.
Immigration has been on top of the news in France over the past couple of weeks. A new immigration law is being debated in parliament that could introduce quotas, as well as DNA testing, for family members of immigrants coming to France. Amidst these debates and polemics, the "Cite de l'Immigration", France's first museum devoted to the history of immigration opened this week. An opening - but with no big fuss. President Sarkozy wasn't there - he was in Russia - and the Immigration minister wasn't there either.
Rachid Ramda went on trial this week in Paris for allegedly helping to fund a string of deadly terror attacks 12 years ago in the French capital. Prosecutors say the Algerian man was the financier of the 1995 subway bombings that killed eight people and injured 150. Ramda was based in Britain during the attacks, and was arrested soon afterwards at the request of the French authorities. He then spent 10 years in British custody while France and the UK argued over his extradition.
In early September, bread and cake prices began to increase in Parisian bakeries. The French baguette is often considered as the indicator for inflation and purchasing power in France. Increases in the price of bread caused politicians to argue for increased competition and for retailers to enforce price rises that they've been looking for, for some time.
This year France is hosting the Rugby World Cup from the 7th of September till the 20th of October. A full six weeks of what is billed as the third biggest sports event after the football World Cup and the Olympics. 1000 players from 20 countries big and tiny from all continents are playing. We take a look at the passion for the sport and the organization of the tournament in France.
The 1949 Chinese communist revolution rarely brings to mind provincial France. But as it turns out, the tiny French town of Montargis, about 90 kilometres south of Paris, played a key role in that revolution. Montargis had an influential effect on hundreds of Chinese youths who came to work and study there. Now, the town is trying to capitalize on its communist link to attract Chinese tourists. Eleanor Beardsley has more.
the Chinese population in France is increasingly becoming the focus of the French police when it comes to evicting illegal immigrants. According to official estimations, some 70.000 live in France. The Chinese, well many of them, do live in their own communities, and do not speak French. They work in Chinese environments. RFI's Anustup Roy finds out what the reasons.
When you think bullfighting, you think Spain. Well, France also has a bullfighting tradition, though it’s come under criticism for being, well, too violent. The group that regulates French advertising has banned an ad showing a bull being killed during a match. RFI’s Anustup Roy meets some aficionados and some detractors of the sport.
Bild had ambitious plans to expand in neighbouring France. But a few weeks ago the publishing house Axel Springer decided to shelve its plans to develop France's biggest newspaper - and also the country's first tabloid. France does have weekly tabloid magazines such as Paris Match or Gala, but not a daily tabloid newspaper.
Try getting anything done in France during August, and you'll come up against a wall: Everything is closed, as most people are on vacation. But apparently not everyone is out of commission. According to some immigrant rights groups, the immigration police are working hard -- deporting more illegal immigrants this summer than ever before. RFI's Sarah Elzas reports from Paris.
If you walk around Paris these days, you'll see tourists, but not many Parisians. French people are on vacation, and the streets are deserted. But the emptying of the capital is not entirely voluntary. Many French people are obliged to take the bulk of their holidays in August, because their workplaces are closed.
Cycling might have a bad image in France after this year’s Tour de France doping scandals. But not everywhere. Paris recently launched the biggest city bike commuter service the world has ever seen. It’s called ‘Vélib’ - and is a merger of two French words: velo which means bicycle and lib - or liberté meaning freedom.
Europe’s biggest story this week was the return home of a group of Bulgarians who moved abroad in the 1990’s only to find themselves facing death sentences for crimes they didn’t commit. The 6 Bulgarian medics repatriated by Libya on Tuesday captured headlines across the continent. They’d been jailed for deliberately infecting children with HIV but had always protested their innocence. There were jubilant scenes at Sofia airport as the medics landed on their French government plane.
Behind the scenes in Brussels questions are being asked about French coercion and threats to switch off Libya’s anti-missile shield. And there’s been fevered speculation as to exactly how the deal to free the Bulgarian medics was made, and who knew about it. Before the champagne corks in Sofia had even started popping difficult questions were being asked about the contents of the deal with Colonel Gaddaffi’s government.
Like us here at Network Europe you’ve no doubt often wondered what Serbs do when they go to Paris for the weekend. For Network Europe Anastup Roy discovered that like the Brits they come in search of their own culture, it just involves being more sober.
Nicolas Sarkozy has set himself a hard task for the coming week. The hyper-active new French president has busied himself reforming French life. He seems hell-bent on inspiring the anti-Sarko banner-wavers to come out and defy him. First he took on university reform, then law and order and the scourge of repeat-offenders. This week it's the turn of union power and the right to strike. Mr Sarkozy wants to make sure that any public transport strikes in future do not bring the country’s cities to a standstill, as they often have in the past. He wants to make sure there’ll always be a bus or a train, eventually.
Brussels infamous bureaucracy is under the spotlight again. Critics have long accused MEPs of having big expense accounts and travel budgets they don’t need. But now there are fresh calls for the travelling circus of the European Parliament, which moves from Brussels to Strasbourg every month, to be stopped. But people have tried and failed to get rid of the Strasbourg connection before.
At the cutting edge of train technology are the trains that go almost as fast as aeroplanes. In France you can take the high-speed TGV, from one big town to the next in less than half the time it takes in a car. The trouble is that in much of the country if you want to go somewhere smaller your options are limited. It’s an issue some provincial citizens have been protesting about bitterly.
The Tour de France pushes off in London this week, a city notorious for its intolerance of anything on two wheels. But enthusiasm for the race has dwindled over the past few years, thanks largely to scandals involving competitors testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. The American Floyd Landis was crowned king yellow-jersey last year, but officially Landis is no longer the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, after he failed a drugs test.
Paris, this week has been the focus of the world's aerospace industry gathers for the bi-annual air show. Headlines were dominated by the heady competition for sales between Europe's Airline manufacturer, Airbus and its American rival Boeing. But behind the high-tech displays and glittering mock ups - Allegations that a British arms manufacturer made secret payments amounting to billion of US dollars in connection with lucrative arms deals cast a shadow of the event. Radio France International's Hannah Godfrey has the details
The newly-elected government of Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed this week that it was planning to restrict immigrant's right to bring their family to live with them in France. Human right activists and the centre left opposition are in uproar. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux reports from Paris.
Stockholm's International Peace Research says too much focus on the possible possession of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea has diverted attention from the development of a new generation of sophisticated nuclear weapons by three countries in Europe - Russia, France and the UK.
French electors are going to the polls for the third time in less than two months to vote. The first round of the parliamentary elections is on Sunday. France’s new President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is hoping that his right wing UMP camp will win a majority, or else he will have to appoint a leftwing Prime Minister, who will then form a leftwing government. But opinion Polls indicate that’s very unlikely. Why?
Placing a bet on the Web is easy. You don't even have to pick up the dice or flip a card. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can win – or what’s more likely – lose a lot of money. The Internet is bringing gambling into every living room, every school, and every place of work. It’s a 12 billion euro industry. The poker and slot machines are virtual, but the money lost and the damage are real…to the extent that compulsive betting on the Net has caused people to lose their homes and families. In France, a new Website – adictel.com – is helping people to overcome their addiction.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's ties to business and media came under fresh attack this week, after his former deputy campaign director took on a top post, at the country's most popular television station, TF1. The Owner of the channel, billionaire Martin Bouygues, is a close friend of Sarkozy. Earlier on, critics in France were concerned by the decision made by the Journal du Dimanche newspaper not to publish an article revealing that Sarkozy's wife Cecilia did not vote in the second round presidential poll.
The new French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, campaigned with proposals based on faulty economic analyses- this according to an article posted on the website of a leading American newspaper The Washington Post. France’s new president who was sworn in this week, said he would boost France’s economy through tax cuts and pushing back the 35 hour work week. But the article, written by Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says that there is little evidence that Sarkozy’s proposals will actually increase employment or economic growth. Radio France International’s Jan van der Made went to find out if economists in France agree.
Nicolas Sarkozy will take office next week, on the 16th of May. He returned just in time from his expensive two day retreat to attend the Paris commemoration of France’s abolition of slavery. Last year President Jacques Chirac chose May the tenth as remembrance day for the victims of slavery. This was hailed by friends and foes alike, as a breakthrough in France’s efforts to come to terms with its colonial past. Interestingly last year Nicolas Sarkozy supported a controversial law which acknowledged the “positive role of colonialism”, and he said on numerous occasions during his campaign that he hated remorse. More on the issue with Radio France International’s Yan van der Made.
We’ve heard about gun violence and about school bullying. In France youth have been blamed for a lot of public violent events in the past few years, from a recent riot that broke out in a Paris train station, to the weeks of riots in 2005 in the Paris suburbs. Lamia Belassen is a 17 year old high school student in Paris who is part of a youth group organized by the city. Sarah Elzas asked her what she thought about the depiction of violent French youth.
In France, the presidential race is still open, and no matter who wins the 6th of May showdown, the 2007 election is likely to change the face of French politics for decades. François Bayrou, the man who came third in the first round last sunday, announced at a press conference this week that he wouldn't tell his seven million supporters how to cast their ballots. The final round pitches conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and socialist candidate Segolene Royal. Fifty five year old Bayrou hinted he finds Royal less distateful than Sarkozy. This matters, because Bayrou's voters will be the king makers of the election. The centrist politician also announced he was creating a new party. Radio France International's Sarah Elzas went o Bayrou's press conference in Paris, and she filed this report.
In France voters will hit the polls this Sunday and the large majority of the electorate is still undecided on who to support. However France's neighbours have been closely following the French election campaign and it seems that Ségolène Royal is their preferred president. Twice as many would prefer the French socialist presidential candidate, compared to her conservative rival Nicolas Sarkozy. That’s the results of a Harris Interactive survey for the Financial Times newspaper canvasing opinions in Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain. Admittedly that’s only four out of twenty seven European member states, and it’s just an opinion poll. Radio France Internationale's Nick Champeaux sounded out the opinions of European correspondents in the French capital.
And we should soon know the outcome of that campaign for the presidential election. The first round of voting is on April the 22d. Opinion polls, for what they're worth, put the right wing candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, in the lead, followed by socialist Ségolène Royal, centre right François Bayrou, and number four is the far right contender Jean Marie Le Pen. Surveys show that forty per cent of the electorate, 18 million voters, are still undecided. Working class voters often leave it to the last days of the campaign to make up their mind. Blue collar workers account for a quarter of the electorate, so they will be the king-makers so to speak. That's why all the candidates are going out of their way to seduce them. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux reports from Charleville -Mézière, in the Champagne Ardennes region, in the north-east of France.
With exactly two weeks to go till the French presidential elections many people are wondering: can Jean Marie Le Pen repeat his 2002 performance ? Five years ago France was shocked when the right wing candidate Jean Marie Le Pen, came second to incumbent Jacques Chirac in the first round of the presidential election. Now, with high unemployment, and tension in the country’s immigrant suburbs, commentators are no longer ruling out a repeat of 2002.
Life could be looking up if your homeless, French and living in Paris. The French government's come up with a new idea to sort out the country's homelessness problem. All through last winter people of no fixed abode lived in tents along the banks of the trendy canal Saint Martin area of Paris, you might remember it from the whimsical hit movie Amelie. A lucky few have now been re-housed in a trailer park, South of Paris, courtesy of the state. The trailer park's being called the "village of hope" and residents are expected to use their time there to find jobs and reintegrate into society. Its an experimental project, and if it proves successful, a hundred other villages-of-hope, will be built throughout the country.
Despite the recent French reputation for saying no to Europe, like Stephen mentioned, more than 70 percent of French are proud to be European…. So says a recently published French poll, published a month before the French presidential elections. The same survey asked French citizens who they thought they would best be able to move the European Experiment forward as France’s next president. So who are these candidates and what are they proposing to do for the future of Europe?
On the face of it, French journalists should be delighted. With only five weeks to go before the first round, the French presidential campaign is still wide open, the main candidates have a lot of personality, and one of them is even photogenic. But actually journalists in France are a bit depressed. Almost sixty per cent of French people say they're not satisfied with the media's coverage of the campaign. And to make things worse, there are now TV shows with no journalists at all, where citizens question the candidates directly. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux is still happy, but thought he should find out more about why some of his fellow professionals aren't.
Of course, housing or the lack of a decent supply of it isn't a problem confined to the Roma people. Homelessness is back on the agenda in France after the country's politicians had hoped it had gone away. Network Europe reported in January on the public demonstrations against homelessness, the lines of red tents pitched in a trendy part of Paris. Usually by Spring, the warm weather means sympathy for people living in tents has trailed off. But this year the tents are still there.
She's the socialist candidate for april's presidential elections, and has become something of a media darling in the past year, with the papparazzi snapping her with her children and even on holiday in a bikini. Attention her centre right rival, Nicolas Sarkozy can only dream of. The 2 are neck and neck in the polls and Ms Royal represents the first strong chance of a woman winning the French presidency. Surveys show that the French are now prepared to elect a woman president. But this doesn't mean that sexism in France is dead and buried. Ms Royal's critics, sexists and feminists among them, say she's not doing women any favours.
The French presidential elections are two months away, but newspapers and magazines are already trying to say who will win…. Opinion polls abound- almost one a day, pitting the front runners, Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royale against others who are not even on the ballot yet. The official list of candidates won't be firmed up until the end of March. Sarah Elzas looks at the phenomenon of opinion polls that appear constantly on the front pages of French newspapers and magazines.
For the first time in France, people accused of bearing responsibility for an oil spill, are being brought before a penal court. Seven years after the ecological disaster which devastated four hundred kilometres of France's western coast, the Erika trial started in Paris this week. In 1999, the Erika, a twenty five year old, single hulled, rusty oil tanker, was transporting thirty tons of heavy fuel when it sank off the coast of Brittany. Jail terms and fines worth hundreds of millions of Euros are at stake in this trial, which is expected to last four months. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux went to the first hearings, and he filed this report from Paris.
There's really no denying it - for many Paris, is "the" global capital of romance, where literature and art lead us to believe at least - that Latin lovers stroll along the banks of the romantic river Seine…… But hold on. Did you know that Paris is also home to hundreds of thousands of singles! And that according to statistics there could be as many as 15 million single people in France, That’s twice as many than thirty years ago! RFI's Nick Champeaux wanted to find out why , despite the romantic backdrop, so many people hadn't found their soul-mates...
In France - Money is taboo. In recent weeks, French politicians have lifted the lid on their assets- and in the process, they’ve revealed a bit about French attitudes about wealth. The socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royale forcibly denied being rich as if it were a swear-word. Instead, she said she was just well off. On the right, presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has called an end to France’s traditional “down with the rich” culture. Radio France International’s Henry Samuel explored the touchy subject with Janine Mossuz-Lavau, a political scientist who has written a book called “L’argent et nous”, money and us. She says money remains one of the most sensitive subjects in France- even more so than sex- something she’s also researched.
Formerly secret documents, brought to light by a recent radio documentary in Britain, have revealed that in the 1950's, Paris took the extraordinary step of proposing to merge France with Britain. It w as the initiative of the then Prime Minister Guy Mollet. But this was no marriage of equals: the offer was that the British monarch become the French head of state, and that France be integrated into the British commonwealth.
Congolese victims can now take their Congolese torturers to court in France. This week the French Supreme Court overturned a stay on the case of the "disappeared of the Beach". In 1999, 350 refugees returning home to Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, were taken away by public authorities and "disappeared". Families of the victims, along with two survivors, started proceedings in French courts against some of the Congolese officials involved. The French Supreme Court's decision to allow the investigation to continue, affirms the concept of Universal jurisdiction.Â This means that for crimes involving torture, individuals can file a case in a foreign country for crimes committed abroad.
In France, Housing has become the hot topic. Homeless people and their supporters have set up hundreds of red tents in the centre of Paris, a visual and provocative way, of putting the plight of the homeless, into the spotlight. And it’s working……Presidential hopefuls can no longer ignore it, and are being forced to commit themselves. The problem is that campaign pledges on housing, are rarely followed through. Radio France International’s Sarah Elzas, reports on the issue that keeps making the headlines, but never seems to get resolved.
Come what may in 2007 Britain will have a new Prime Minister and France a new president. The EU will celebrate its 50th Birthday and Germany will raise taxes and finally catch up on anti-smoking laws. Daniel Franklin executive editor of the Economist takes a closer look at what else might lay ahead in 2007.
The French capital always draws hordes of tourists from all over the world, particularly around Christmas. And there are several reasons for that. First, buying Christmas presents in the capital of Haute Couture is the ultimate chic. Paris is also referred to as "the city of lights", and the Christmas decorations only enhance the capital's reputation - especially the Eiffel tower with its special Christmas coat. Nearby the new Quai Branly Museum for indigenous art is organising special events during the festive season. As RFI reports the museum has drawn upon its outstanding indigenous artwork collections to present "African Christmas".
With between half a million and six hundred thousand Jews, France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. A majority live in Marseille in the South East of the country, in Strasbourg in the North East, and in Paris. For Network Europe, Radio France International’s Nick Champeaux went to several Jewish neighborhoods in the French capital, and filed this report.
There are increasing signals that France is gearing-up for an American style Presidential election campaign. The campaign for next spring's poll is not officially under way, but in fact it started months ago, and that alone, is American. Last week Ségolène Royal was elected candidate for the socialist party after an American style primary campaign, which included three televised debates with her two party opponents. Card members of the ruling centre right UMP party will choose their candidate on the 14th of January. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux zooms in on the two main political figures in France, Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy, and attempts to find out who is the most American.
Pan-European aeroplane manufactuers Airbus have started test flying their new A380 super jumbo from France this week. And Asia’s largest budget carrier said on Wednesday that it was considering ordering another 60 A 320 planes. But Airbus's staff and suppliers are worried about the future. The finished planes are being delivered up to two years late because of production problems. So now costs are being cut and maybe jobs too. This week French Prime minister Dominique de Villepin went to Toulouse, in southern France, promising he wouldn't let Airbus down. Radio France International's Nick Champeaux went with him.
Thousands of people in France are resorting to living all-year round in camp sites. People on low incomes are on waiting lists for years before they're offered low cost public housing. But in recent years rents in the private sector have skyrocketed, and landlords are expecting a long list of guarantees from tenants before they'll hand over the keys. You might think living on a campsite is an extreme option but more than a hundred thousand people have taken it. RFI went to meet some of them.
The starting point for all discussions about deprived suburbs and the violence they suffer is still the rioting in Paris last year that stunned Europe. The problems that led to those incidents have not gone away. Most young people of north African origin living in France's deprived suburbs, as French citizens, are entitled to vote. But a nationwide campaign launched last year has failed to convince young people to go and register to vote en masse. Many of them say politicians are out of touch with their lives. Network Europe found out why.
Almost a year after France's suburban riots, police are warning of a new upsurge of violence in the country's poorer districts. Policemen were stoned and beaten by gangs of youths in three separate incidents over the past three weeks. In the latest one, officers were ambushed and had to fire their hand weapons in the air to escape. The growing defiance against law enforcement authorities is a sign that few lessons have been drawn from last year's troubles on both sides, and that little has been done to improve the lives of immigrants in France's derelict and isolated housing estates.
French custom authorities have crushed and burnt nine tons of counterfeit cigarettes. They were part of 37 tons of cigarettes which were seized in April 2005 in the northern port of Le Havre: that's one point eight million packs, worth more than nine million euro. It was the biggest seizure of counterfeit tobacco in France.
After Ireland, Italy, Sweden or Spain, France could become the next country to introduce a blanket ban on smoking in public areas. That’s what a parliamentary committee recommended this week, after five months of consultations with doctors, tobacconists, and trade unions. According to government figures, some thirty five per cent of the French population uses tobacco, and sixty six thousand die of smoke related illnesses every year. The measure would be enforced from September next year at the latest, though the committee held open a possible delay till summer 2008 for some establishments, including night clubs and restaurants. The tobacco lobby reacted with outrage. But Radio France International’s Nick Champeaux says smokers in Paris are already making the mental adjustments.
France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at between five and six million people. The majority live in the French capital, Paris, and there, Ramadan makes a real difference. The holy month is a joyous time of fellowship, worship and reflection. In multicultural neighbourhoods, such as Belleville, it’s also an opportunity for people with different religious backgrounds to mix.
On Wednesday the leader of the National Front, Jean Marie Le Pen, announced he would run in the country’s next presidential elections in Spring, his fifth bid for the presidency. The seventy eight year old leader made the announcement from the battlefield of Valmy, a key site in the history of the French Revolution. Can Le Pen, notorious for his racist and revisionist remarks, succeed in presenting himself as a Republican ? Can he capitalise on his breakthrough into the second round of the country's elections four years ago ? Radio France International reports from Valmy.
The case of France. Feeling less under threat because seen to be less supportive of the United States than some of its neighbours, France has also seen an array of tough new anti-terror laws. And according to some opinion polls, more people are more wary of their Muslim neighbours in France in the wake of 9/11.
In France, the traditional church is struggling to attract new blood but evangelical and charismatic ones are rapidly gaining ground. The country is warming to services that focus on miracles, gospel singing, adult immersions and speaking in tongues. One American preacher recently attracted an unprecedented 4,000 people a day to a meeting, swelling the ranks of France’s half a million evangelical followers.
With English taking over as the international language of music, throughout Europe it can be difficult to avoid Scottish, English and American bands blaring out of the radio. The situation is slightly different in France where bands singing in English face tough competition from French bands who opt for lyrics in their mother tongue. Find out why at the “Route du Rock” festival in Saint Malo.
Figures released this week show that France has consolidated its place as the world’s top tourist destination. Seventy six million people visited the country last year, this figure shows a slight rise on the previous year, largely due to an increase in the number of tourists from China. But why is France so attractive?
The conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah, and the humanitarian crisis unfolding there, have caused widespread public consternation in Europe. But governments are divided over what should happen next. The EU is split between those who feel that Israel is largely to blame for the carnage and those that feel the country is quite properly defending itself against terrorism.
... is in top gear. Paris has been careful to adopt a balanced approach, sending ministers both to Lebanon and Israel. And this week the French president outlined a detailed plan for a durable ceasefire. But does the Lebanese community in Paris approve of the French approach? Radio France International's Nick Champeaux takes up the story.
but this week a "head butt" has launched 100 times as many discussions on websites, news programmes and editorial columns. Why did French footballer Zidane head butt Italian Marco Materazzi in the chest? Since the incident during the world cup finals last Sunday, rumours have run rife about what the Italian defender said, to get what's been called an out of character reaction from the French Midfielder. Newspapers and TV channels have hired lip-readers to find out, but they didn't reach the same conclusion. In a TV appearance on Wednesday, Zidane said Materazzi insulted his mother and his sister, without giving any extra details. The star midfielder acknowledged that his gesture was inexcusable, but he said he had no regrets. FIFA has launched an investigation into the incident. In the meantime, Zidane's now notorious head butt has inspired a light hearted song which is set to become a summer anthem in France.
As the first wave of this year's holidaymakers leave for their long summer break in Europe - its interesting to note that that phenomena of paid holidays - although taken for granted today in most parts of Europe and the industrialised world - is not that old...2006 is the seventieth anniversary of the introduction of paid holidays in France. RFI's Brent Gregston looks at the profound implications the phenomenon has had for French society since it was first which introduced in 1936.
French President Jacques Chirac inaugurated the Quai Branly indigenous art museum in the capital on Tuesday. Like his predecessor François Mitterrand, who gave Paris the Louvre pyramid, the 235 million Euro museum is Chirac's legacy to the city, in the final year of his presidency. Beyond the post-colonial angst over the concept of a museum devoted to what used to be called primitive art, and is now called indigenous art, what is the Quai Branly like, as a space to visit ? Are the exhibits the stars of the show, or is it the work of Jean Nouvel, the museum's architect, that is stealing the prize?
More than three years after the closure of the Red Cross camp in Sangatte, northern France, NGOs are blowing the whistle. They are concerned about the humanitarian situation of asylum seekers, as there are still around five hundred migrants roaming in the nearby city of Calais. Tougher asylum laws in Britain have failed to act as a deterrent, as migrants are still making daily attempts to sneak into ferries crossing the channel. The issue of illegal immigration was one of the focal points of this week's European council summit in Brussels. Radio France International investigates.
Who does not have a soft spot for cows? The Masai love them, the Hindus worship them, Andy Warhol drew them. So why not use them to make people happy and raise money for charity? That's the idea of cow parade, the world's largest art event which has been exhibiting life sized cows in cities like London, Tokyo, New York and Barcelona for the last few years. The concept has now come to Paris. Radio France International reports.
Europe's best striker would have to be Thierry Henry from France. The French team is impressive. It also has Zinedine Zidane who plays for Madrid, Trezeguet and Vierra at Juventus, William Gallas from Chelsea. But the question is can they play as a collective? Radio France International has more.
The EU's new member states may be enthusiastic about further eastward expansion. But their enthusiasm is not shared by the old EU members. Germany, which will assume the rotating EU presidency next January, is one of them. Another is France. Radio France Internationale spoke to Philippe Moreau Defarges, senior researcher at France's Institute for International Relations.
It's been almost a year since the French and Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution and plunged the EU in its worst-ever crisis. What followed was a so-called "period of reflection" on the future of Europe.
EU leaders therefore used Tuesday's commemoration of Europe Day to try to reach out to European citizens. In Berlin German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed, more specifically, the question of the failed EU constitution. Deutsche Welle reports.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is plummeting in French opinion polls. After his failure to address youth unemployment, he's been involved in a corruption scandal and accused of secretly investigating numerous politicians, industrialists and senior public servants.
But can his pet project - a huge contemporary art show celebrating French achievement - improve his image? Radio France International investigates.
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