French Right flirts with own version of EU referendum

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Marine Le Pen, the head of France's far-right Front National has predictably welcomed Britain's vote to leave the European Union and has promised the French people a similar 'in-out' referendum if she is elected president. However, the idea of holding some form of referendum is also now gaining ground among presidential hopefuls on the mainstream Right, even if they are unwilling to give voters a straight choice between staying in or leaving the institution that France helped found. Aurélie Delmas reports on how the French Right is now extolling the virtues of national sovereignty in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The duty to protest

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Last week the French authorities banned a planned march in Paris by trade unions opposed to labour law reforms, before eventually backing down partially and allowing a more limited demonstration. Here Mediapart's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel argues that demonstrating is a constitutional right and that, by banning the march that the trade unions wanted, the government violated the fundamental law that guarantees all our freedoms. It is, he writes, our duty to resist this unlawful act in order to defend our common ideal: democracy.

Why local airport referendum matters for all of France

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Voting in the airport referendum in western France. © Yann Levy Voting in the airport referendum in western France. © Yann Levy

While all of Europe, including France, has been focussed on the shock result of the Brexit vote, a more local referendum campaign has been taking place in western France. On Sunday June 26th nearly a million voters in the Loire-Atlantique département or county were asked for their verdict on plans for a new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes. The referendum itself, whose outcome the government says it will respect and which has been criticised for its many shortcomings, was won by suporters of the scheme. But Mediapart's environment correspondent Jade Lindgaard argues that the issues at stake go beyond the local airport project: and that they affect everyone in France and beyond.

Hollande to meet Merkel as France reacts to Brexit

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Brexit crisis: Hollande has been on the phone to other EU leaders, in this case Greek premier Alexis Tsipras. © (Elysée) Brexit crisis: Hollande has been on the phone to other EU leaders, in this case Greek premier Alexis Tsipras. © (Elysée)

News of the British vote to leave the European Union has caused considerable shock in France, one of the founding fathers of the European project. President François Hollande has called for immediate action to revitalise the EU and after meetings with ministers on Friday will meet with Italian premier Matteo Renzi in Paris this weekend and with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday. On Tuesday the French Parliament will also debate the likely impact of Brexit on France and Europe in general. Lénaïg Bredoux reports.

How Brexit referendum turned into an elite-bashing show

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The surprise vote in Britain highlighted numerous fractures within British society, in particular between old and young voters. As Mediapart English's Michael Streeter reports, the referendum also persuaded many disgruntled and impoverished working class voters to vote for the first time in years – and punish the Establishment elites.

Brexit, a welcome catastrophe

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A London taxi driver celebrates the Brexit victory. © Reuters A London taxi driver celebrates the Brexit victory. © Reuters

The British 'no' vote in the referendum on the European Union marks the victory of the extreme right, represented by the repugnant Nigel Farage and his UKIP party. In that sense it is a tragedy. But this 'no' vote also signs the death warrant of a European Union that has turned away from its citizens. Now the whole European project needs to be rebuilt and Mediapart's editor François Bonnet wonders whether that isn't good news...

Brexit debate reveals France's own splits over EU

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Proponents and opponents of Britain staying in the EU, June 15th, 2016. © Reuters Proponents and opponents of Britain staying in the EU, June 15th, 2016. © Reuters

Whichever way Britain votes in its referendum on EU membership this Thursday, French president François Hollande has promised new “initiatives” in the coming days to reinvigorate the European Union. Hollande himself has gone out on a limb by associating himself strongly with British premier David Cameron's opposition to so-called 'Brexit'. Meanwhile, as Lénaïg Bredoux reports, the French Left is itself split over the issue of Europe and how to approach it.

Why Hollande did a U-turn over presidential primary

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Traditionally, incumbent French presidents do not take part in primary elections when standing for re-election and are simply anointed as their party's natural candidate. And up to now France's socialist president François Hollande has insisted he saw no need for such a contest on the Left ahead of next year's presidential election. However, out of the blue the Socialist Party has just announced plans for a primary election in January 2017 in which Hollande will take part. Hubert Huertas considers whether the surprise move will give Hollande's dwindling re-election prospects new hope - or will simply finish off his chances altogether.

The Right's Elysée hopefuls aim neoliberal potshot at French social model

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Best of enemies: the Republican candidates © Philippe Wojazer - Reuters Best of enemies: the Republican candidates © Philippe Wojazer - Reuters

France’s conservative opposition party, Les Républicains, is gearing up for its primary elections in November. These will decide who will be the party’s candidate in presidential elections to held in May next year. There are 12 declared runners for the party’s nomination, with widely varying chances of success, and one notable as-yet undeclared candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, but who is certain to join the race. Aurélie Delmas looks at the policy propositions from the front runners, who all promise an undiluted dose of neoliberalism, spelling attacks on public sector workers, the middle classes and those who depend on welfare benefits.

French 'transparency' bill let down by compromise and ambiguity

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A bill of law on “transparency, anti-corruption and modernization of economic life” introduces for the first time in France a legal definition and protection of whistleblowers and a provision that companies will have to declare their tax position in countries where they or their subsidiaries operate. But for some MPs and transparency activists, the fine detail of this ambitious law makes it a lost opportunity. Dan Israel reports.

Europe's 'secret hand' in France's divisive labour law

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Crucial meeting? French and German finance and economy ministers meeting in Berlin, October 2014. © france-allemagne.fr Crucial meeting? French and German finance and economy ministers meeting in Berlin, October 2014. © france-allemagne.fr

The French government’s labour law reform bill, now being debated in the Senate, has prompted fierce opposition from several trades unions, massive demonstrations across the country, and a deep political and social crisis. Opinion polls show a majority of the population are opposed to the bill, which reduces current protection for employees with measures that include easing conditions for firing staff and placing a ceiling on compensation sums awarded by industrial tribunals. But the government is adamant it will not negotiate the bill's contents. Martine Orange investigates the reasons for its unusual intransigence, and discovers evidence that the most controversial texts of the bill were demanded by European Union economic liberals.

Firefighting French sociologist rings a political alarm

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A torched car during riots in Strasbourg in 2005. A torched car during riots in Strasbourg in 2005.

Romain Pudal is a sociologist with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and also, since 2002, a voluntary firefighter. Last month he published an ethnographic study of his fellow firefighters in which he opens up a world that, beyond the clichés and folklore, is largely little understood in both its composition and outlook. Joseph Confavreux argues that Pudal’s book, which he presents here, makes for edifying reading on the political and social tensions that grip contemporary France, and also on the fragmentation of its lower social classes.

Pulitzer winner Walter Robinson on Catholic Church's paedophile cover-ups

By Daphné Gastaldi
A scene from the film Spotlight. A scene from the film Spotlight.

Walter Robinson is an investigative journalist with The Boston Globe who in 2002 exposed a vast paedophile scandal in the American Catholic Church, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 and inspired the 2015 movie Spotlight. As the French Catholic Church becomes ever more engulfed by revelations of paedophile abuse and a system of protection for the priests involved, Robinson, in this interview with Daphné Gastaldi, details what he uncovered in the US within a system that precisely mirrors the scandal in France.

The Netanyahu clan and the French businessman at centre of carbon fraud case

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Benyamin Netanyahu, April 2016. © Reuters Benyamin Netanyahu, April 2016. © Reuters

French businessman Arnaud Mimran, who stood trial in Paris last month for his alleged key role in a massive carbon trading fraud, and who is also placed under investigation in a separate case of kidnapping, set up a company in Israel with French MP Meyer Habib, a close acquaintance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Following  denials and later admissions from Netanyahu over receiving funding from Mimran, the latter’s relationship with the Israeli PM’s entourage is further revealed by the  company, which was created by, and domiciled at, the legal practice of Netanyahu’s lawyer. Fabrice Arfi reports.

The French school of neocons and Hollande's taste for war

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François Hollande in Mali in February 2013. © Reuters François Hollande in Mali in February 2013. © Reuters

The US neoconservatives may have been discredited by the political failure of their adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they have inspired a school of disciples in France who hold key positions in the presidential office and the foreign affairs ministry. René Backmann analyses the development of the French neocons and the influence they exert on President François Hollande and French foreign policy, and argues that their role in the multiple military interventions launched by Hollande has set in train a vicious circle of violence that is proving ever more difficult to control.