EU claims 339,000 euros from Marine Le Pen over staff pay

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Payback time for Marine Le Pen? © Reuters Payback time for Marine Le Pen? © Reuters

The European Union's anti-fraud office has called for France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen to pay back hundreds of thousands of euros in staff allowances. Officials say Le Pen, president of the Front National (FN), wrongly paid two of her staff out of EU funds in her capacity as a Member of the European parliament when in fact they were mostly engaged in internal party work. In a joint investigation with magazine Marianne, Mediapart can also reveal that French prosecution authorities have broadened their probe into the financing of around 20 FN assistants at the European Parliament. Marine Turchi reports.

France's dangerous double game in Libya

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General Khalifa Haftar is a rival to Libya's official government but is supported militarily by France. © Reuters General Khalifa Haftar is a rival to Libya's official government but is supported militarily by France. © Reuters

Under President Nicolas Sarkozy France launched a military intervention that plunged Libya into chaos. Now under President François Hollande Paris is conducting two parallel and very different policies; one official, one secret. In Tripoli France supports the government that is recognised by the international community. But at the same time it is also discreetly providing military aid to the official Libyan government's main adversary, General Khalifa Haftar, whose power base is in the east of the country. René Backmann and Lénaïg Bredoux investigate.

Suicides, stress and strokes: the daily risks facing France's postal workers

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In 2012 the French post office La Poste agreed to set up a commission to find ways to reduce work-related stress, illness and suicides following its abrupt change of status from state-run enterprise to a limited company funded by the public purse. But today unions and workplace health experts say that many of the group's 260,000 staff are still suffering from the pace of change caused by endless reorganisation. As Rachida El Azzouzi reports, management are now in talks with unions in a bid to solve the problem.

French far-right Front National party’s links with the United Arab Emirates

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Marine Le Pen meeting in Cairo with then-Egyptian prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab, in May 2015. Marine Le Pen meeting in Cairo with then-Egyptian prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab, in May 2015.

France’s far-right Front National party is attempting to find funding from abroad for the 2017 presidential election campaign of its leader Marine Le Pen, who has been unable to convince French banks to provide the sizeable loans the party needs. Among potential foreign backers the party has already had contacts with is the United Arab Emirates which, according to one of Le Pen’s close entourage, financed an official visit she made to Egypt in 2015. Marine Turchi reports.

How Wallonia became spearhead of opposition to EU-Canada trade deal

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'Non': Walloon leader Paul Magnette rejects the CETA deal in its current form. © Reuters 'Non': Walloon leader Paul Magnette rejects the CETA deal in its current form. © Reuters

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA trade deal between the European Union and Canada was in deep trouble after the Belgian region of Wallonia refused to accept it, despite strong efforts behind the scenes by neighbouring France to put pressure on the French-speaking area. Finally a last-minute deal was reached on Thursday October 27th, but came too late to allow Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau to fly to Brussels to sign the deal at a summit that has now been postponed. Martine Orange looks at how a small Belgian region became a focal point of opposition to a trade deal many fear will act as a Trojan horse for North American multinationals.

New bid to get former top French government aides tried over Karachi affair

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Facing trial? Former government aides Thierry Gaubert and Nicolas Bazire. © DR Facing trial? Former government aides Thierry Gaubert and Nicolas Bazire. © DR

An investigation into claims that kickbacks from French arms deals were illegally used to finance the 1995 presidential campaign of former prime minister Édouard Balladur has been bogged down in legal wrangles since early 2016. Now, however, a senior prosecutor has called for six men said to be at the heart of the corruption scandal known as the 'Karachi affair' to stand trial. Fabrice Arfi reports.

Deep French police malaise boils over with continuing street protests

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Angry French police officers on Saturday held a sixth day of national demonstrations in protest over dilapidated and inadequate equipment, undermanning, recurrent attacks on officers, and what they describe as the leniency of sentencing judges, all in a context of the exceptional demands placed on them for anti-terrorism operations. The movement, which has wrongfooted the government and taken even police union officials by surprise, was prompted by a horrific petrol-bomb attack on several officers earlier this month in a Paris suburb. President François Hollande has now announced he will meet with representatives of the officers next week. As Loup Espargilière reports, the angry protests illustrate a deep disquiet across the ranks which has now become a political hot potato ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Furious socialists turn backs on 'verbally incontinent' Hollande

François Hollande: leaving by the back door? © Reuters François Hollande: leaving by the back door? © Reuters

Just when President François Hollande’s chances for re-election next year appeared as low as they could ever get, they fell even lower still after the publication last week of a book of interviews in which he launches a series of scathing attacks on a wide number of people ranging from the judiciary to footballers, his political opponents to his allies, and the rebels on the Left of his Socialist Party. Amid the outrage caused by his comments, Hollande’s remaining allies in the party view the book as the last straw in a long-running series of blunders that now make him, in the words of one socialist senator, “indefensible”. Lénaïg Bredoux and Christophe Gueugneau report on the fury and dismay of socialist MPs and members of government.

Lifting the lid on the secret EU 'trialogues' where laws are decided behind closed doors

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No final power: a sitting of the European Parliament in September.  © Vincent Kessler / Reuters. No final power: a sitting of the European Parliament in September. © Vincent Kessler / Reuters.

When the European Union finalises legislation adopted by its executive body, the European Commission, the definitive texts of the directives are thrashed out in secret, closed-door meetings known as “trialogues”, unknown to the general public, where no minutes are kept. The trialogues – sometimes called trilogues – bring together, and without democratic control, representatives from the EU’s three major institutions: the Commission, the European Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Mediapart's Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports.

The obscure allies of France's anti-gay marriage movement

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Anti-gay marriage demonstrators on the streets of Paris, Sunday October 16th. © Nicolas Serve Anti-gay marriage demonstrators on the streets of Paris, Sunday October 16th. © Nicolas Serve

The movement that led opposition to France’s law allowing for same-sex marriages, which was introduced in May 2013, called its supporters back on the streets of Paris on Sunday, in a test of its strength to influence conservative candidates in next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. While calling for a repeal of the law, it more realistically also targets, among other issues, adoption rights for gay couples and their access to artificial reproduction methods and surrogate pregnancy. As Lucie Delaporte reports, the largely right-wing and Catholic movement called ‘La Manif Pour Tous’ is, a fact unknown to many in France, part of a broad alliance of similarly-minded campaigning groups across Europe, the United States and Russia.

New book reveals François Hollande's disturbing approach to corruption scams

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François Hollande inside the Elysée Palace. © Reuters François Hollande inside the Elysée Palace. © Reuters

A book published in France this week presents a long series of ‘fireside’ conversations over several years between President François Hollande and two journalists from French daily Le Monde . The book, Un président ne devrait pas dire ça (“A president shouldn’t say that…”), has caused a storm of controversy, notably over Hollande’s attacks on the “cowardly” higher ranks of the French judiciary and which prompted an embarrassed admission of "regret" by the president on Friday over his comments. But, Mediapart investigative journalists Fabrice Arfi and Mathilde Mathieu argue here, the book is especially revelatory of Hollande’s surprising approach to the catalogue of corruption scams which have shaken the French political establishment over recent years.  For he evidently regards them more in terms of their electoral consequences or the negative fallout upon himself than scandals that raise grave concern over the absence of probity in French politics.

NGOs drop support for 'ill-prepared' Calais Jungle evacuation

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A group of migrants close to the "Jungle" camp in Calais, October 1st 2016. © Reuters A group of migrants close to the "Jungle" camp in Calais, October 1st 2016. © Reuters

The notorious makeshift migrant camp in the French Channel port of Calais, which NGOs estimate houses between 8,000 and 10,000 people, including 1,300 minors without parents, is to be evacuated and razed in the coming weeks. But 11 humanitarian associations involved in providing assistance for the migrants living in a shantytown of huts and tents known as “the Jungle”, many of which initially supported the move, have now applied for a court order to halt the operation, arguing that it is “a violation of the fundamental rights of the exiled”. Carine Fouteau hears from the head of one of the most active NGOs, L’Auberge des Migrants, why it has now come out against the evacuation and his fears over the consequences.

The long path to 'real equality' for France's overseas territories

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France’s National Assembly, the lower house, on Tuesday approved the government’s proposed legislation that aims to significantly reduce the glaring social and economic inequalities between France’s overseas territories and the mainland over a period of two decades. The move was one of President François Hollande’s election pledges, and is set to be his last major reform before the next presidential elections in April 2017. The bill will now go before the upper house, the Senate, before returning to the National Assembly for its final adoption. Julien Sartre reports.

French students agree to 'selection' for master's degrees

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The issue of whether students wanting to do master's degrees should be subject to a selection process is a controversial one in France, particularly with students themselves and on the political Left. Now, however, the socialist government has struck an agreement allowing French universities to limit numbers and “recruit” candidates for master's courses. In return, students turned down for the course of their choice will get a legal right to “continue their studies” and will have to be offered alternatives. Faïza Zerouala reports.

Historic damages award for French factory workers harmed by pesticides

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Press conference by former Triskalia workers at Rennes, September 9th, 2016. © JL Press conference by former Triskalia workers at Rennes, September 9th, 2016. © JL

In a legal first in France, a court has awarded damages to two ex-employees of a Brittany animal feed firm after they were exposed to pesticides at work. The award is a milestone because it recognises that what is known as 'multiple chemical sensitivity' from pesticide exposure is an occupational disease, and lays the blame squarely with the employer. The ruling also recognises that agricultural workers can be affected even if they do not work in the fields. Jade Lindgaard reports.