The ill-informed debate behind France’s lifting of neonicotinoids ban

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A protest by the Extinction Rebellion movement during the parliamentary debates over the partial lifting of the ban on the use of neonicotinoids, October 5th 2020. © NurPhoto/AFP A protest by the Extinction Rebellion movement during the parliamentary debates over the partial lifting of the ban on the use of neonicotinoids, October 5th 2020. © NurPhoto/AFP

The French parliament earlier this week approved a three-year exemption for sugar beet growers from a ban on the use of a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. The sugar beet sector has argued that its future was at stake because it was otherwise unarmed to counter the loss of crops caused by an aphid-borne virus disease. But the move outraged environmentalists who point to the inevitable effects of soil and water contamination by neonicotinoids, which are notably harmful for bees, and the dangers for human health. Amélie Poinssot highlights the ill-informed arguments presented in parliament in favour of a return of the controversial pesticides.

French Christian NGO's links to pro-Assad Syrian militia

By , Elie Guckert and Frank Andrews
SOS Chrétiens d’Orient's former head of mission Alexandre Goodarzy (in blue and topless) and its co-founder Benjamin Blanchard (in orange) posing in a Syrian house with a rocket launcher, a Kalashnikov and machine guns.  © Document Mediapart SOS Chrétiens d’Orient's former head of mission Alexandre Goodarzy (in blue and topless) and its co-founder Benjamin Blanchard (in orange) posing in a Syrian house with a rocket launcher, a Kalashnikov and machine guns. © Document Mediapart

French Catholic association SOS Chrétiens d’Orient (SOS Christians of the Orient) claims to help Christians in Syria without interfering in the conflict that for nine years has been tearing the country apart. But as an investigation for Mediapart has already shown, it has forged close relations with bodies and people supporting the Damascus regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. And as this second investigation reveals, the NGO - which for several years has been a 'National Defence Partner' of France's Ministry of Armed Forces – also supports pro-Assad militia.

French justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti faces legal complaint over conflict of interest

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Justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti, September 24th, 2020. © Alain JOCARD / AFP Justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti, September 24th, 2020. © Alain JOCARD / AFP

An anti-corruption activist has lodged a formal complaint against France's new justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti, accusing the latter of an unlawful conflict of interest. The complaint has been made to the Cour de Justice de la République, a special court which deals with allegations of unlawful actions by ministers in the course of their official duties. The move follows a call by the justice minister for three prosecutors from the country's financial crimes prosecution unit to face disciplinary action. This is despite the fact that just a few weeks ago Dupond-Moretti, then a barrister, had made a formal complaint against those very same prosecutors. Fabrice Arfi and Michel Deléan report

New Caledonia independence leader accuses Paris of meddling ahead of vote

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New Caledonia pro-independence leader Jean-Pierre Djaïwé. © Le Pays New Caledonia pro-independence leader Jean-Pierre Djaïwé. © Le Pays

The inhabitants of the semi-autonomous South Pacific French territory of New Caledonia are to vote on Sunday in a referendum on whether they want full independence from France, which colonised the archipelago in the mid-19th century. In a similar referendum in 2018, nearly 57% of votes cast were against cutting ties with Paris. Can the pro-independence movement swing the result in their favour this time around? Joseph Confavreux interviews New Caledonia's prominent pro-independence political leader Jean-Pierre Djaïwé.  

French NGO 'Christians of the Orient' and its ties with the Assad regime

By , Elie Guckert and Frank Andrews
'Believe in Aleppo', a 2017 PR stunt in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo, organised by the Damascus authorities with the help of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. © DR 'Believe in Aleppo', a 2017 PR stunt in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo, organised by the Damascus authorities with the help of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient. © DR

French association SOS Chrétiens d’Orient (SOS Christians of the Orient) is a self-declared "apolitical" not-for-profit NGO, which sends volunteers and staff across the Middle East with the stated aim of supporting the region’s persecuted Christians, notably in Syria. But, as this investigation for Mediapart reveals, its links with the French far-right and its close relations with bodies and people supporting the Damascus regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad raise disturbing questions about its mission.


The mystery of French foreign minister's letter behind sinking of LVMH-Tiffany deal

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French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaking in parliament, September 22nd. © THOMAS COEX / AFP French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaking in parliament, September 22nd. © THOMAS COEX / AFP

An opportune letter sent by French foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to LVMH luxury goods group boss Bernard Arnault gave the latter a justification for pulling out of a costly acquisition of US jewellers Tiffany that was agreed before the economic meltdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to LVMH, Le Drian, citing a looming tariffs dispute with the US, asked for the 16.6 billion-dollar deal to be halted. Curiously, the letter has never been made public. As Martine Orange reports, it is now at the heart of a legal battle between Tiffany and LVMH to be played out at a trial in the US in January, and threatens to become a major embarrassment for the French government.

EU-Mercosur free trade deal under fire, but how hot might it get?

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A burned-out, deforested area of the Amazon rainforest near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, August 25th 2019. © Joao Laet/AFP A burned-out, deforested area of the Amazon rainforest near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, August 25th 2019. © Joao Laet/AFP

The French government has announced it will not sign “as it stands” a proposed free trade deal between the European Union (EU) and the Mercosur economic bloc of South American countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, citing environmental concerns and notably the deforestation of swathes of the Amazon region for cattle farms. But while EU member countries appear increasingly divided over the terms of the trade agreement, French economist Mathilde Dupré, co-founder of the Paris-based Veblen Institute think tank on economic issues surrounding ecological transition, tells Mediapart why what she calls a “climaticidal” deal may yet go ahead.

France's ambassador to Ivory Coast accused of sexual harassment

By Michael Pauron
Ambassador Gilles Huberson, left, with the French and Ivory Coast ministers of the interior at Abidjan in May 2019. © ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP Ambassador Gilles Huberson, left, with the French and Ivory Coast ministers of the interior at Abidjan in May 2019. © ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched an internal inquiry into Gilles Huberson, ambassador to Ivory Coast, after several women accused him of sexist and sexual violence, Mediapart has learnt. Huberson, who occupies one of France's most prestigious diplomatic postings in Africa, is reported to have returned to Paris, even though Ivory Coast faces an important and potentially tense election in less than two months. Michel Pauron reports.

How France's Covid test and trace strategy became overwhelmed

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The queue for a free Covid-19 test at a centre in Vénissieux, south-east France, on September 11th, 2020. © Jeff Pachoud / AFP The queue for a free Covid-19 test at a centre in Vénissieux, south-east France, on September 11th, 2020. © Jeff Pachoud / AFP

The spread of the Covid-19 virus is accelerating in France and already the country's testing system is struggling to cope. Many people are having to wait for tests, long queues have formed at testing stations and laboratories, and delays in results themselves – which can be up to five days – are “unacceptable”, the authorities admit. After pushing the policy of mass testing in the summer the government is now trying to rein back and give precedence to priority cases. Experts say that, once again, the national authorities have failed to anticipate events and demand. One glimmer of hope may be the arrival of new, much faster tests. Caroline Coq-Chodorge reports.

Academic warns of dangers of 'simple solutions' as Macron tacks right on law and order

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Jacques de Maillard. (© Sciences-Po Saint-Germain-en-Laye) Jacques de Maillard. (© Sciences-Po Saint-Germain-en-Laye)

Through his appointment of the tough-talking Gérald Darmanin as interior minister, President Emmanuel Macron has shown himself to be a conservative on law and order issues, following in the footsteps of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. The French Left, meanwhile, which is wary of once again being portrayed as “soft” on crime, is showing signs of wanting to set its own agenda on the issue ahead of the 2022 presidential election. Against this backdrop Mediapart's Antoine Perraud spoke to political scientist Jacques de Maillard, an expert on the police and on law and order issues, about the fight against crime and the effectiveness of statistics. The academic warns against the “perverse effects” of focusing too narrowly on crime figures and of the dangers of proclaiming “simple solutions” to what are complex issues.

Blow for Sarkozy as prosecutors cleared over hunt for 'mole' who tipped him off about phone tap

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Defence lawyer turned minister of justice Éric Dupond-Moretti and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. © AFP Defence lawyer turned minister of justice Éric Dupond-Moretti and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. © AFP

In 2014 prosecutors from France's financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF) wanted to discover the identity of the 'mole' inside the legal world who had tipped off Nicolas Sarkozy that his phones were being tapped as part of what became known as the 'Bismuth' affair. When details of this hunt were revealed by Le Point magazine it caused an outcry among many top lawyers - including defence lawyer Éric Dupond-Moretti who is now the minister of justice - and an investigation was launched into the actions of the PNF. At the time, many in the former president's entourage felt the revelations proved there was a sustained attempt to discredit him. But the Ministry's of Justice's inspectorate which investigated the affair has just reported, and finds that the PNF's actions were legal and proper. As Fabrice Arfi and Michel Deléan report, the report's verdict will be seen as a setback for the ex-head of state

French prosecutors seek access to Football Leaks whistleblower Rui Pinto's secret files

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Rui Pinto has been living under police protection since August; his trial in Portugal began on September 4th. © Sonja Och / Der Spiegel Rui Pinto has been living under police protection since August; his trial in Portugal began on September 4th. © Sonja Och / Der Spiegel

The French financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF) has written to the Portuguese authorities asking to question the Football Leaks whistleblower Rui Pinto. They also want full access to the 70 million or so confidential documents that he has obtained on the world of professional football. Pinto is currently on trial in Portugal charged with computer hacking, violation of private correspondence and attempted blackmail, which together carry a possible jail term of 25 years. The move by the French prosecutors is good news for Pinto, however, as it supports his claim that his sole motive was to expose corruption and fraud in the sport. Yann Philippin reports.

Questions over curious intervention of French state as luxury firm LVMH breaks deal with Tiffany

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LVMH boss Bernard Arnault and Emmanuel Macron in June 2017. © Martin BUREAU / AFP LVMH boss Bernard Arnault and Emmanuel Macron in June 2017. © Martin BUREAU / AFP

France's foreign minister has written an extraordinary letter that provides 'cover' for the French luxury goods group LVMH to pull out of an expensive deal to buy famous American jewellery firm Tiffany it no longer wanted to complete. That letter came after LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault reportedly asked foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for help. The affair is now likely to lead to a long and bitter legal battle, one that could even end up with the French state facing claims for compensation from disgruntled shareholders. Mediapart's Martine Orange argues in this op-ed article that no French government has ever gone out on such a limb to support a private company.

France's literary season kicks off with tales of social movements and commitment

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There is no way of knowing yet what kind and level of social protests may emerge in France this autumn. But judging by the new books from authors Alice Zeniter, Barbara Stiegler, Émilie Notéris, Sandra Lucbert and Aude Lancelin that have been published at the end of the summer break, one of the themes of the new literary season looks set to be that of political commitment and struggle – and the way in which people get involved. Lise Wajeman looks at a mixture of new fiction and non-fictional accounts of recent social conflicts and workplace disputes in France, and finds that 'hybrid' forms of writing win out over the traditional novel form.

French PM Jean Castex: mystery of legal probe dropped three days after his appointment

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Photographs obtained by Mediapart appear to undermine claims by Jean Castex concerning a criminal investigation that was abruptly halted just three days after he was appointed as France's new prime minister. Castex, who until he was named premier on July 3rd had been mayor of the southern French town of Prades and president of a local group of municipal councils, said that the judicial probe – which is into the handling of rubbish disposal in that area - did not target him in any way. Yet the photographs show that his local authority was directly involved in the waste handling process which was at the heart of that investigation. Antton Rouget reports.