Behind the rise of telecom and media tycoon Patrick Drahi, emperor of easy money

By martine orange
 © Reuters © Reuters

In just two years, Franco-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi has turned a pedestrian French cable operation into a global telecoms empire, spending more than 40 billion euros on acquisitions, including France’s second-largest mobile operator, SFR. But behind the breathtaking sequence of deals, he has ratcheted up debt, riding on the wave of cheap money that followed the 2008 financial crisis, and now even ratings agency Moody's appears concerned. Martine Orange reports.

The migrant crisis in Ventimiglia, the 'new Calais' on the French-Italian border

By Louise Fessard

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his British counterpart Theresa May met in Calais on Thursday to announce new joint security measures to prevent thousands of migrants in the Channel port from reaching England. While the desperate situation in Calais has become the focus of headlines, the similar, less-reported plight of growing numbers of migrants blocked at France’s south-eastern border with Italy now threatens to erupt into a major crisis. Louise Fessard reports from the Italian border town of Ventimiglia.

France’s ‘police of police’ whip up a storm on the Riviera

By Hélène Constanty
 © Reuters © Reuters

In 2013, the French police internal investigation agency, the IGPN, opened a branch in Nice, the capital of the French Riviera where an environment of organised crime, prostitution and drugs trafficking feeds accusations of corruption within the local police. But the actions of the IGPN branch, and notably the methods of its commander, have shaken the morale of officers and sparked an internal inquiry into what one drugs squad chief called “unspeakable and unjust procedures, bordering on harassment”. Hélène Constanty reports.

French intelligence seeks vengeance on its tell-all former Q

By Karl Laske
Maurice Dufresse, alias Pierre Siramy, s'est établi à Saint Lô. © DR Maurice Dufresse, alias Pierre Siramy, s'est établi à Saint Lô. © DR

Maurice Dufresse is a former head of the French foreign intelligence service’s technical support department - a sort of real-life Gallic equivalent to Ian Fleming’s fictional ‘Q Branch’ within Britain’s MI6. The publication five years ago of his book of anecdotes and analysis of his quarter of a century in French intelligence unleashed the wrath of his country’s spy chiefs, who accuse him of compromising national security. The final chapter in this battle for freedom of expression will be concluded in September. Karl Laske reports.

Power in France's public sector remains a male prerogative

By Lénaïg Bredoux

While 61% of public service employees are women, they accounted for just 31% of senior civil service posts, from prefects to ambassadors, attributed in 2014. President François Hollande has made the issue of gender parity in the public sector a major policy plank of his five-year term in office, but the challenge to reach even a semblance of equity remains daunting. Lénaïg Bredoux reports.

Chinese prostitutes denounce Paris police 'intimidation' and 'humiliation'

By julien sartre

Paris police in May began a heavy-handed crackdown on the growing numbers of Chinese prostitutes working the streets of Belleville, a multi-ethnic, working-class neighbourhood in the north of the capital. The local authorities say the operation was to prevent Belleville from becoming the city’s centre of “open air prostitution”, but the sex workers complain of violent and humiliating behaviour by police officers that has left them exposed to greater dangers. Julien Sartre reports.

France joins scramble for Iranian trade bonanza

By René Backmann
Devant un concessionnaire Peugeot-Citroën à Téhéran © Archives Reuters Devant un concessionnaire Peugeot-Citroën à Téhéran © Archives Reuters

The ink on the Iran nuclear deal is barely dry and no one is even yet sure if it will hold. But already France has joined other countries in the hunt for lucrative business deals with the oil-rich state and its market of 80 million inhabitants. But as René Backmann reports, there are potential pitfalls to overcome before French firms can hit the Iranian jackpot.

France unveils capital cities of new super regions

By Feriel Alouti

In January 2016 the number of regions in France will be reduced from 22 to 13 as part of a major reform of local government. Last week the government announced the names of the capital cities of these larger regions. But as Feriel Alouti reports, the debate over the way this reform was carried out and the likely impact of the changes still continues.

From Calais to Italy: how France has become Europe's new border guard

By Carine Fouteau

In return for help in making the Channel Tunnel and the port at Calais more “secure”, France has agreed to monitor Britain's borders on its behalf. On the Italian frontier, meanwhile, French police are searching for migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean. As Carine Fouteau reports, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has taken on the mantle of Europe's new gatekeeper, at the risk of breaching European law.

Hollande's big constitutional reform: promoting France's regional languages

By Lénaïg Bredoux
La Charte des langues régionales a été validée vendredi en conseil des ministres © Reuters La Charte des langues régionales a été validée vendredi en conseil des ministres © Reuters

French is enshrined in the constitution as France's only official language. President François Hollande is now planning to change the law so the country can ratify the European charter on regional languages – of which France has 75. But as Lénaïg Bredoux reports, this modest step highlights just how few other constitutional reforms the socialist president has introduced since his election.

The hidden social impact of US home-sharing site Airbnb on France

By Michaël Hajdenberg
Paris, une chambre, dix couchages. © DR Paris, une chambre, dix couchages. © DR

In recent years the American-owned home and room-sharing site Airbnb has become immensely popular, providing an easy way for homeowners to rent rooms out to tourists. However, a study by three French academics shows the potential negative sides of the phenomenon in France; its abuse by slum landlords, an increase in rent prices and the risk of tax-dodging. Michaël Hajdenberg reports.

Electricity giant EDF takes charge of France's new 'nuclear adventure'

By martine orange

The French utilities group EDF is now officially the sole company overseeing France's nuclear industry. This follows an agreement in principle signed earlier this week between EDF and the ailing French nuclear firm Areva which will create a joint company in charge of designing and building new nuclear reactors. France's economy minister Emmanuel Macron has sought to draw a line under the French nuclear industry's recent financial fiasco, preferring to speak instead of a “new adventure” for the sector. Mediapart's Martine Orange analyses the deal.

The lonely plight of Syrian migrants in Paris

By Carine Fouteau

As the bloody civil war in their country continues, families fleeing Syria have set up a makeshift camp at Saint-Ouen in the north of Paris. Many of them feel trapped, unsure how to complete their arduous journey towards a safe haven, uncertain about whether to claim asylum in France or move on to another European country. The authorities, meanwhile, do the bare minimum to help this small group of Syrians, apparently hoping that they will simply move on elsewhere. Mediapart's Carine Fouteau went to meet the inhabitants of this mini-camp who are living next to the French capital's main ring road.

Moroccan rights activist denounces a 'relaunch of repression’

By Ilhem Rachidi

Amid the tumult of the so-called Arab Spring movements in 2011 which swept from Tunisia to Libya, Egypt and Syria, the pro-democracy ‘February 20th movement’ in Morocco, ruled by an authoritarian monarchy, mobilised hundreds of thousands around the country. After the protests forced King Mohammed VI to agree a number of constitutional reforms that included free elections, the movement soon petered out, and rights groups have denounced the return of a clampdown by the authorities against opposition militants. In this interview with Ilhem Rachidi for Mediapart, Abdellah Lefnatsa, responsible for economic and social rights with the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, details what he calls the “revenge” of the regime with the harassment and jailing of pro-democracy militants, and analyses the failure of the 2011 popular uprising to obtain truly democratic change.

NGOs slam France over record migrant detentions and rights abuses

By Feriel Alouti

The number of migrants held in immigration detention centres in France is by far the highest of any country in Europe and is “marked by numerous rights violations”, according to a joint report published by French NGOs, and which revealed that the number of children held in the detention centres reached “a sad record” last year, despite being illegal. Feriel Alouti reports.