Juncker and MEPs face off in cronyism row over choice of Europe’s top civil servant

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Martin Selmayr (right) with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at the European parliament on March 13th. © Reuters/Vincent Kessler Martin Selmayr (right) with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at the European parliament on March 13th. © Reuters/Vincent Kessler

The highly questionable circumstances of the appointment of German conservative Martin Selmayr as secretary-general of the European Commission, a move initiated by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for whom Selmayr until then served as chief of staff, has been met with outrage within the European Parliament, which on Wednesday adopted a motion describing the promotion as “coup-like” and “which possibly even overstretched the limits of the law”. But it pulled back from demanding Selmayr’s resignation, thereby avoiding a serious institutional crisis. Meanwhile, the commission, accused of blatant cronyism, has refused to compromise and insists Europe’s new top civil servant will remain in the post. Mediapart Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports.    

 

French government immigration reform meets fierce crossfire from MPs

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The French government’s proposed legislation to reform immigration and asylum laws has begun its passage through parliament this week, to fierce attacks from opposition MPs of both the Left and the Right. The conservatives, whose policies under their new leader have veered towards the hard-right, claim the bill is little more than soft tinkering of current laws, while the Left denounce an unjustified clampdown on migrants’ rights, a view shared by some among President Macron’s ruling LREM party. Mathilde Mathieu was in parliament to witness the early exchanges of what promises to be a week of inflamed debate.

Mediapart and BFM-TV interview Emmanuel Macron

After almost one year in office, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a live interview on Sunday evening with Mediapart’s cofounder and publishing editor Edwy Plenel and Jean-Jacques Bourdin of French rolling news channel BFM-TV. The wide-ranging two-hour interview, the French president’s first public appearance since France joined the US and Britain in missile strikes this weekend against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, was streamed live on Mediapart (with studio debates from Mediapart before and after the interview) and can be replayed here (click on screen, in French only). Together with the video in French of the full interview, arguably the first uncompromising quizzing of a French head of state, follow the highlights in English here (click on headline for article page).

German intelligence document reports Iraq approved funding of Mitterrand campaign

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François Mitterrand in 1974. François Mitterrand in 1974.

In 1974, the Ba’ath party regime in power in Iraq approved a payment of 1 million dollars to fund the presidential election campaign that year of the late French socialist leader François Mitterrand, according to a document from the intelligence services of the former West Germany, the BND, obtained by Mediapart and German weekly Der Spiegel. The document refers to an intercepted message sent by Baghdad to its embassy in Paris. While it is not known whether Mitterrand’s campaign ever benefited from the reportedly earmarked funds, the BND document raises further questions about the extent of Iraq’s established close and secret relations with French political parties of Left and Right over several decades. Amélie Poinssot reports.

Gaddafi interpreter details Sarkozy's meetings with Libyan dictator

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Moftah Missouri, standing behind Mummar Gaddafi during a meeeting with Nicolas Sarkozy. © DR Moftah Missouri, standing behind Mummar Gaddafi during a meeeting with Nicolas Sarkozy. © DR

In a lengthy interview with Mediapart earlier this month in Tunisia, where he now lives in exile, Moftah Missouri, who served for 15 years as the personal advisor and interpreter of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, details his first-hand knowledge of Nicolas Sarkozy’s confidential dealings with the Gaddafi regime, before and after he became president. Sarkozy was last month placed under formal investigation in a French judicial probe into Gaddafi’s suspected secret funding of his 2007 election campaign, and Missouri, who told Mediapart the Libyan leader confirmed to him in person the illicit financing, says he is willing to testify before the French magistrates.     

Notre-Dame-des-Landes evictions leave collective experiment in ruins

Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Monday April 9th. © JL Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Monday April 9th. © JL

A massive police operation to evict environmental activists occupying farmland in north-west France which was until recently earmarked for the construction of an airport began in the early hours of Monday, marked by violent clashes which left several people injured, and is set to continue through the week. The heavy-handed expulsion of occupants of a number of experimental alternative farming projects on the land at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, during which police used stun grenades and tear gas, was accompanied by the destruction of numerous homes and agricultural installations, including an emblematic collective farm on the site which had hoped to gain official approval for its long-term future.  Christophe Gueugneau and Jade Lindgaard report from Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

The Macron Method exposed as social protests continue

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The Macron Method: union leaders says the government talks a lot but says nothing. © Reuters The Macron Method: union leaders says the government talks a lot but says nothing. © Reuters

On Monday April 9th France's National Assembly is due to begin examining the government's proposed legislation for a “new railway agreement”. Yet the consultations with the unions about this new pact are still going on. Those unions - whose members began the latest round of two-day rail strikes on Sunday April 8th - are now dismissing the talks with the government as a “farce” and intend to step up their action. Their aim is to expose what they see as a deliberate method employed by President Emmanuel Macron's government: one of talking but not saying anything and of listening without hearing. Ellen Salvi examines the workings of the Macron Method.

Inside the 'fortress' camp for Vietnamese migrants heading to UK cannabis farms

By Elisa Perrigueur
The camp dubbed 'Vietnam City' at Angres, 100 kilometres from Calais. © Elisa Perrigueur The camp dubbed 'Vietnam City' at Angres, 100 kilometres from Calais. © Elisa Perrigueur

Each year many Vietnamese migrants arrive in France after trekking across Europe in their long and arduous bid to get to the United Kingdom. For hundreds of them the last stop before their attempt to cross the English Channel is a discreet camp at Angres one hundred kilometres from the Port of Calais and which is known locally as 'Vietnam City'. The camp is controlled by traffickers, who are fiercely protective of their 'prime location' next to the main motorway to the Channel and next to a service station where UK-bound lorries park. But as Elisa Perrigueur reports, even if the Vietnamese migrants do make it to Britain, many will find themselves working as modern day slaves on illegal cannabis farms.

The evidence of how Nicolas Sarkozy served Gaddafi regime's interests

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Standingtogether: Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. © Reuters Standingtogether: Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. © Reuters

Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been placed under formal investigation for corruption over Libyan funding of his election campaign, has denied claims that he took money as part of a corrupt arrangement with Muammar Gaddafi's regime. He has also sought to rubbish accusations that as part of a corrupt pact he helped further the cause of Libya and some of its key figures. But here Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske detail the evidence showing that the former head of state did indeed serve the interests of Gaddafi's dictatorial regime.

Macron's high-risk spring as he faces worker discontent

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The rail strike will be a big test of Emmanuel Macron's presidency. The rail strike will be a big test of Emmanuel Macron's presidency.

This week is the start of a critical period in Emmanuel Macron's presidency. Workers from the rail industry, Air France and the supermarket chain Carrefour have been taking industrial action while students have held sit-ins at a number of universities. The government says that these various actions with their different causes show an irrational fear of the “new world” that is dawning. In fact, argues Hubert Huertas, these protests stem from a weariness with years of talk about the need for austerity and reform - and they could yet threaten the presidency's power.

Singer Charles Aznavour's complex legal set-up to reduce his French tax bill

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Charles Aznavour in Hollywood on August 24th, 2017, as his star is unveiled on the 'Walk of Fame'. © Reuters Charles Aznavour in Hollywood on August 24th, 2017, as his star is unveiled on the 'Walk of Fame'. © Reuters

In 2007 the famous French singer Charles Aznavour set up a holding company in Luxembourg to receive the dividends he gets from French companies that handle his royalties. More recently members of his family also became involved in this perfectly legal set-up. The result is that this veteran French entertainer, who is resident in Switzerland, and some of his family now pay little tax in France on the proceeds from his music. Romaric Godin reports.

Interpol's controversial funding by Qatar and the IOC

By Mathieu Martinière et Robert Schmidt (We Report)

The international police body Interpol severed all links with football's governing organisation FIFA after the latter's corruption scandal erupted in 2015. But it has maintained partnerships with both the committee organising the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who are at the centre of corruption investigations. This is despite the fact that leading police officers from across Europe tried to alert Interpol over these potentially dangerous links. Mathieu Martinière and Robert Schmidt from the independent journalistic collective We Report investigate.

Why Nicolas Sarkozy faces trial over claims he sought inside information from judge

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Barely a week after Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation over Libyan funding of his 2007 presidential campaign, the former president has been hit by a new legal blow. Judges have ruled he must stand trial on corruption and influence peddling charges over claims that he tried to get a senior judge to leak him crucial information about the progress of a case involving him. In return the ex-head of state is said to have promised to help get the judge a plum post in Monaco. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan explains the background.

Sarkozy and Libya: how UN resolution was hijacked

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Aftermath of the French and allied intervention in Libya: Benghazi in March 2018. © Reuters Aftermath of the French and allied intervention in Libya: Benghazi in March 2018. © Reuters

The role of President Nicolas Sarkozy in the military intervention in Libya in 2011 that led to the removal from power and death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 continues to raise many unanswered questions. The original United Nations mandate that Sarkozy and certain other leaders obtained was subsequently hijacked and use to change the regime. As a result the country was left in chaos, helping to empower jihadist groups across various African countries who are still suffering instability as a result. President Emmanuel Macron considers the intervention to have been a “major error”. But is he ready to identify those responsible for it? René Backman reports.

Exclusive: what Sarkozy told police under questioning about Gaddafi funding evidence

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December 10th 2007: Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes Libtyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi on his first official visit to France. © Reuters December 10th 2007: Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes Libtyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi on his first official visit to France. © Reuters

Mediapart has obtained access to extracts of the transcripts of the questioning last week of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy by officers of France’s anti-corruption police agency, OCLCIFF, and also by the magistrates in charge of their investigation into the suspected financing of his 2007 presidential election campaign by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. They reveal how Sarkozy, who after more than 30 hours of questioning was placed under investigation on March 21st for “illicit funding of an electoral campaign”, “receiving and embezzling public funds” from Libya, and “passive corruption”, was unable to provide convincing answers on a number of key questions, and how also he appeared to place responsibility for some of the most compromising evidence of collusion with Gaddafi’s regime on his close staff, including lifelong allies and friends Claude Guéant and Brice Hortefeux. Fabrice Arfi and Karle Laske report.