Rise in deaths in France amid virus epidemic sharpest among ethnic minorities

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A report released last week by France’s national statistics institute show that the year-on-year rise in country’s mortality rate during the height of the Covid-19 virus epidemic was proportionately more than twice as high among inhabitants born abroad, and notably those from sub-Saharan Africa and also Asia, than for the population born in France. While the data paints an incomplete picture, it convincingly illustrates, as seen in studies in other European countries and in the US, that among populations it has been ethnic minorities which have been the most at risk from the coronavirus.    

The secret deals struck between the French army and 'collateral' victims

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Central African Republic taxi driver Narcisse Mbetinguiza, shot through the stomach by a French soldier in 2014 and awarded damages of 2,732 euros. © JB Central African Republic taxi driver Narcisse Mbetinguiza, shot through the stomach by a French soldier in 2014 and awarded damages of 2,732 euros. © JB

France’s armed forces regularly enter into financial compensation agreements with innocent victims, or in the worst cases their relatives, of military actions abroad. The exact amounts paid by the public purse, and their numbers, are held secret, even to Members of Parliament. Justine Brabant has written a book on the subject, and in this report, updated with new details, she recounts the degrading haggling that victims are subjected to, the less than noble motives behind the often derisory damages awards, and how the taking of an innocent woman’s life in the African state of Chad was valued at 35 heads of cattle.

The new French government under an all-powerful Macron

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French Prime Minister Jean Castex (main photo left) and his 16 principal ministers. © AFP French Prime Minister Jean Castex (main photo left) and his 16 principal ministers. © AFP

The announcement of the composition of the government to serve under France’s newly appointed prime minister Jean Castex was largely a reshuffle, but with a few notable new arrivals, including the controversial figure of lawyer Éric Dupont-Moretti who was appointed as justice minister. It is also marked by the reinforcement of allies of former president Nicolas Sarkozy to key posts. Ellen Salvi reports on the comings and goings, and analyses the process by which President Emmanuel Macron, with his appointment of Castex, has largely effaced the remaining power of the post of prime minister, and significantly increased his own.

Macron tightens his grip with change of prime minister

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Jean Castex (left) and Emmanuel Macron, in January 2019. © AFP Jean Castex (left) and Emmanuel Macron, in January 2019. © AFP

The composition of a new French government was announced on Monday evening, following the appointment on Friday of a largely unknown senior civil servant and longstanding conservative, Jean Castex, as France’s new prime minister. He replaced Édouard Philippe, who served in the post since Emmanuel Macron’s election in 2017.  Mediapart political correspondent Ellen Salvi dresses here a portrait of the new prime minister, and chronicles the tensions that led to the departure of Philippe.

French presidentialism and the impoverishment of democracy

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Emmanuel Macron at the G5 Sahel summit in Mauritania, June 30th 2020. © Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP Emmanuel Macron at the G5 Sahel summit in Mauritania, June 30th 2020. © Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP

President Emmanuel Macron on Friday replaced Édouard Philippe as his prime minister with the appointment of a senior civil servant, Jean Castex. It is yet another example of the excesses of the all-powerful presidential system in France, writes Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel in this op-ed article, whereby a demonetized president can, alone, change a government for his own political convenience. In an intelligent and adult democracy, he argues, such changes would come about through the debate and collective choices of a parliamentary majority.

Phone taps reveal Platini counted on Macron for help with legal woes after 'discreet' meeting

 © AFP © AFP

French police phone tap transcripts seen by Mediapart reveal that former football star Michel Platini, who served for eight years as head of the sport’s European governing body UEFA, and who is at the centre of separate investigations in France and Switzerland into corruption and fraud, claimed he had been offered “help” with his legal situation by President Emmanuel Macron. In March 2018, Platini met with the French president at the Élysée Palace when, according to a French journalist and friend of the former France international who was also present, his legal affairs were discussed. The Élysée, meanwhile, has denied any interference with the justice system.   

'Green wave' and low turnout in second round of France's 2020 municipal elections

Voting in the long-awaited second round of the municipal elections, which was postponed from March because of the coronavirus crisis, took place across France on Sunday. Some 16.5 million voters were able to vote in around 4,800 towns and cities where councils were not elected in the first round on March 15th. The results produced two main themes: a strong performance from the Green EELV party who claimed a 'green wave' is now sweeping across France, though they owe some of their success to alliances with the Socialist Party and other groups on the Left. The other is a record low turnout, which according to estimates may have been just 40%. Below is Mediapart English's coverage of events as they unfolded.

Phone taps that sparked probe into France's former top anti-corruption prosecutor

Éliane Houlette, head of the financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet national financier (PNF) from its creation in 2013 to 2019. © LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP Éliane Houlette, head of the financial crimes prosecution unit the Parquet national financier (PNF) from its creation in 2013 to 2019. © LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP

Mediapart can reveal the contents of phone taps and two reports by gendarmes that led to serious questions over the conduct of Éliane Houlette, then head of France's anti-corruption prosecution unit the Parquet National Financier (PNF). Those reports led to the Paris prosecutor calling for a preliminary investigation into allegations of “influence peddling”, “collusion” and “breach of confidentiality” concerning Éliane Houlette, who stood down as head of the PNF in June 2019 having been its boss since its creation in 2013. However, though prosecutors eventually opened a preliminary probe in September 2019 for “breach of confidentiality” in an ongoing investigation, progress in this potentially explosive case seems to have ground to a halt. Fabrice Arfi, Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report.

How Macron's chief of staff was cleared over probe after president intervened

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The statement written by President Emmanuel Macron on behalf of his chief of staff, Alexis Kohler. © Document Mediapart The statement written by President Emmanuel Macron on behalf of his chief of staff, Alexis Kohler. © Document Mediapart

President Emmanuel Macron intervened personally in an investigation into a potential conflict of interest involving his chief of staff, Alexis Kohler, Mediapart can reveal. In the summer of 2019 a statement from the president was sent to France's financial crimes prosecution unit clearing Kohler's name after detectives investigating the case had written a damning report. Following President Macron's intervention, a second police report was written which reached very different conclusions. A month later, the whole case was dropped. Martine Orange investigates a move by the president which appears to breach the doctrine of the separation of powers between the government and the judicial system.

'I'm suffocating': the final words of Cédric Chouviat, arrested by French police

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Cédric Chouviat, still with his helmet on, held on the ground by three police officers in Paris on January 3rd 2020. © Document Mediapart Cédric Chouviat, still with his helmet on, held on the ground by three police officers in Paris on January 3rd 2020. © Document Mediapart

On January 3rd 2020 deliveryman Cédric Chouviat, aged 42, was stopped on his scooter as part of a routine roadside police check in Paris, arrested, put in a chokehold then held face down on the pavement. His own mobile phone reveals that seven times he repeated the words “I'm suffocating” before falling unconscious and later dying. The episode inevitably has echoes of the American George Floyd whose last words when being held down by a police officer in Minneapolis were “I can't breathe”.  These revelations about the final words of Cédric Chouviat, contained in a report seen by both Mediapart and Le Monde, will put even greater pressure on the authorities to shed light on the nature of the arrest and the controversial techniques used by the French police to restrain the father-of-five. Pascale Pascariello reports.

Zeev Sternhell: the historian whose work on French fascism caused academic uproar

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Zeev Sternhell's pioneering book on fascism in France. Zeev Sternhell's pioneering book on fascism in France.

The Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell, who died on June 21st, aged 85, and who spent some of his early years in France before moving to Israel, was one of the pre-eminent experts on fascism in the world of academia. His renowned 1983 work 'Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France' - published in English as 'Neither Right Nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France' – caused major controversy among French scholars because of his contention that French fascism was a real phenomenon with ideological roots in the society and culture of France. Antoine Perraud looks back on his extraordinary life and work.

 

Chechen clashes in Dijon: the anger of local people who felt 'abandoned' by the police

By Nejma Brahim

The normally quiet city of Dijon in east France has recently hit the headlines following an outbreak of extraordinary violence as members of France's Chechen community clashed with residents from local estates. People living in the affected areas have been stunned by the level of violence. Many also say they were abandoned by the police and the authorities and left feeling “worthless”. Nejma Brahim reports.

Vittel owners Nestlé face legal action over 'illegal' water boreholes in France

By Alexander Abdelilah and Robert Schmidt
 © AFP © AFP

The Swiss multinational Nestlé, which owns the Vittel and Contrex brands, is facing a mounting series of problems in the Vosges département or county in north-east France where it obtains its supplies for those mineral waters. The French state has recently withdrawn its support for a lengthy water pipeline in the area, while a local councillor with family links to the Swiss company faces trial over an alleged conflict of interests. Now Mediapart has learnt that consumer and environmental groups are taking legal action against Nestlé for extracting water from certain boreholes without authorisation, and have accused the authorities of favouring the giant corporation over the needs of local people. Alexander Abdelilah and Robert Schmidt report.

The historic significance of the Karachi Affair trial verdict

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Thierry Gaubert, second from right, one of those found guilty in the Karachi Affair, pictured June 15th 2020. © AFP Thierry Gaubert, second from right, one of those found guilty in the Karachi Affair, pictured June 15th 2020. © AFP

On Monday June 15th 2020 a Paris court handed prison sentences to six men found guilty of organising a vast political funding scam involving kickbacks on French weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in what has become known as the 'Karachi Affair'. It was the first time in France that a criminal court has established that a presidential election campaign – in this case involving Édouard Balladur in 1995 – was funded by kickbacks from state arms deals. It is, says Mediapart's Fabrice Arfi, an object lesson in the weaknesses of a democracy in the face of corruption.

Why the classic French novel 'Le Grand Meaulnes' still resonates with readers

By Tiphaine Samoyault (En attendant Nadeau)
Novelist Alain-Fournier at La Chapelle-d’Angillon in France, where he grew up. © DR Novelist Alain-Fournier at La Chapelle-d’Angillon in France, where he grew up. © DR

'Le Grand Meaulnes', the only novel by French writer Alain-Fournier, who was killed in one of the first battles of the First World War, has just been published as part of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade collection by Gallimard. This is usually a sign that a book has been accepted as a French classic even though, ironically, Alain-Fournier's novel is now no longer widely studied in French schools as was once the case. Some may be surprised that this well-known text, which has been translated into English many times, was not already part of the Pléaide collection. Others may wonder at it becoming part of this hallowed series of books at a time when it has fallen out of favour. Whichever one's view, Tiphaine Samoyault argues that this novel of lost youth has an appeal that remains relevant to the modern reader.