The curious tale of the French PM's adviser and his work for the Maltese government

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The lead European election candidate for President Macron's ruling LREM party, Nathalie Loiseau, and fellow candidate Sandro Gozi. © Facebook/Sandro Gozi The lead European election candidate for President Macron's ruling LREM party, Nathalie Loiseau, and fellow candidate Sandro Gozi. © Facebook/Sandro Gozi

In May 2019 former Italian government minister Sandro Gozi was elected as a French MP for the European Parliament representing Emmanuel Macron's ruling party and then became an advisor on Europe to the French prime minister Édouard Philippe. But unbeknown to both his former campaign team and the prime minister's office, Gozi was also an advisor to the government of Malta. The official insists he resigned that advisory role just after his election as an MEP and before he began working for the French prime minister. But after details of the curious affair became public, Sandro Gozi quit his post. Antton Rouget and Ellen Salvi report.

French government embroiled in row over faith-based election candidate lists

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Interior minister Christophe Castane, left, and budget minister Gérald Darmanin, right, were the first to raise the issue after the 2019 European elections. © Reuters Interior minister Christophe Castane, left, and budget minister Gérald Darmanin, right, were the first to raise the issue after the 2019 European elections. © Reuters

Right-wing politicians want religion-based election candidates lists to be banned in France. This comes after a group calling itself the Union of French Muslim Democrats stood in this year's European elections, in which it won just 0.13% of the popular vote. Some members of the government are said to be tempted by the idea of a ban, but President Emmanuel Macron has rejected this approach. Instead, Ellen Salvi reports, he is looking at other possible avenues, including extending the religious neutrality that civil servants have to observe to elected representatives.

Environmentalists battle against new yachting marina on France's Atlantic coast

By PIERRE-YVES BULTEAU
The protest on October 19th 2019 at La Roche-sur-Yon against the nearby marina on the French Atlantic coast. © P.-Y. B The protest on October 19th 2019 at La Roche-sur-Yon against the nearby marina on the French Atlantic coast. © P.-Y. B

After sixteen years and much deliberation and delay, the French state has finally given the green light for a marina to be built at Brétignolles-sur-Mer on the west coast of France. The surprise decision has re-ignited long-standing opposition to the scheme amid fears it will harm biodiversity on that section of coastline. Now protestors have set up a camp near the site and staged a peaceful demonstration. Pierre-Yves Bulteau reports.

France sees significant rise in inequalities and poverty in 2018

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According to estimations published this month by France’s national institute of statistics and economic studies, INSEE, social inequalities in the country rose to a higher level in 2018 than at any time since 2011 while, in parallel, the numbers of those in poverty also increased. Mediapart's economics correspondent Romaric Godin analyses the gloomy figures and concludes that they are the direct result of the economic and budgetary policies of President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

The spies left out in the cold: the Brexit dilemma for Europe’s intelligence community

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A mural by street artist Banksy close to Britain's signals intelligence agency GCHQ,in Cheltenham, England. © Reuters/Eddie Keogh A mural by street artist Banksy close to Britain's signals intelligence agency GCHQ,in Cheltenham, England. © Reuters/Eddie Keogh

The British and French intelligence agencies are deeply concerned that their close bilateral cooperation, notably on counter-terrorism activity, remains intact after the UK leaves the European Union. But they are fearful of the consequences, especially in the case of a hard Brexit, when, the EU warns, “The UK will be disconnected from all EU networks, information systems and databases” concerned with police and judicial cooperation. Matthieu Suc reports.

How Macron (re)opened the door to Islamophobia

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President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday warned against a stigmatisation of the Muslim population in France and the shortcut of associating the Islamic religion with terrorism, as was illustrated in a string of recent events that have caused outrage and heated debate across the country. It was a tardy reaction by Macron who, Mediapart co-editor Carine Fouteau writes in this op-ed, has left the door open to precisely the problem he now identifies. It is his responsibility to strengthen the barriers against hatred, alongside the fight against terrorism.

Outrage at call for Muslim mother to remove headscarf at French council meeting

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The distressing scene at a meeting of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regional council on Friday. The distressing scene at a meeting of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regional council on Friday.

At a regional council meeting in Burgundy on Friday, a councillor from France's far-right Rassemblement National party (formerly the Front National) demanded that a woman in the public gallery should remove her headscarf or leave. She was accompanying a visiting group of primary school children, which included her son who burst into tears over the humiliation of his mother. A photo of the incident immediately caused outrage as it circulated on social media, and has since developed into a major political controversy, dividing members of government and highlighting the blurring of the boundaries of France’s secular rules and their misuse as a weapon for Islamophobia.

The rising threat of Europe’s ultra-right as it eyes military and police

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The gunman in Halle, filmed here by a witness, recorded his rampage on video. © ATV STUDIO HALLE/REUTERS TV via REUTERS The gunman in Halle, filmed here by a witness, recorded his rampage on video. © ATV STUDIO HALLE/REUTERS TV via REUTERS

The suspect arrested for the deadly attacks last Wednesday on a synagogue and Turkish restaurant in the German city of Halle has said his acts were driven by far-right ideology and a hatred of Jews. The shooting and bombing rampage followed a series of attacks around Europe by ultra-right groups, prompting the EU police agency Europol, in a recent confidential report, to urge increased cooperation to contain the problem. But Europol also gave a chilling warning that the extremists “are attempting to win over members from the military and security services” in order to build “combat skills”.

Georgette Elgey, historian and chronicler of French politics

Georgette Elgey during an interview with Mediapart in April 2017. © Mediapart Georgette Elgey during an interview with Mediapart in April 2017. © Mediapart

The French historian, writer and former journalist Georgette Elgey died in Paris this week at the age of 90. She is best known for her exhaustive, six-volume history of France’s Fourth Republic, Histoire de la IVe République, a monumental account of the system of government in France between 1946 and 1958, of which the first volume was published in 1965 and the last in 2012. In 2017, Elgey, who was close to many of those who shaped French politics over the past six decades, gave an insightful interview about her work to Mediapart, republished here.

 

Jailed Football Leaks whistleblower bites back at Portuguese prosecutors

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Rui Pinto shortly before his March 2019 extradition to Portugal from Hungary. © YP Rui Pinto shortly before his March 2019 extradition to Portugal from Hungary. © YP

Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower behind the Football Leaks revelations of widespread criminality in the world of professional football, ranging from fraud and tax evasion to match-fixing and political corruption, has been held for more than six months in preventive detention in conditions of solitary confinement in a Lisbon jail. Accused of illegal hacking of documents and attempted extorsion, the 30-year-old faces trial for 147 alleged offences relating to his disclosures of illegal practices in the football business in Portugal. But in a defiant statement, Pinto has slammed the Portuguese prosecution services for ignoring the evidence of corruption he gave them, of protecting those behind it, and of transforming him into “a sort of political prisoner”.

The 8-million-euro loan via a UAE bank that saved Marine Le Pen's far-right party

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Far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Paris on January 13th 2019. © Reuters Far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Paris on January 13th 2019. © Reuters

The far-right Rassemblement National – the former Front National – was in serious financial difficulty after the Parliamentary and presidential elections in 2017 and was bailed out by a loan of 8 million euros. That loan, Mediapart can reveal, came from French businessman Laurent Foucher who has a range of commercial interests in Africa and who is close to Nicolas Sarkozy's former right-hand man Claude Guéant. The loan was transferred from a bank in the United Arab Emirates but questions still remain over the precise origin of the money. Karl Laske and Marine Turchi report.

Crackdown on dissident voices in Algeria continues as regime arrests French MP

Mathilde Panot, a senior Member of Parliament for France's radical left opposition party La France Insoumise (LFI) ('France Unbowed'), travelled to Algeria to show her solidarity for the people taking part in the 'Hirak' or popular movement against the regime there. But after two days she and her delegation were arrested and taken to the capital Algiers where she was effectively placed under house arrest in an hotel. After an intervention by France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mathilde Panot was eventually put on a plane back to France. Mediapart's Rachida El Azzouzi, Pauline Graulle and Khedidja Zerouali report on events which highlight the continuing repression of opposition voices in Algeria.

Concern at lack of transparency over Lubrizol chemical plant blaze in France

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The fire at the Lubrizol chemical plant at Rouen, northern France, September 26th 2019. © Reuters The fire at the Lubrizol chemical plant at Rouen, northern France, September 26th 2019. © Reuters

The Lubrizol chemical factory at Rouen in northern France that caught fire on September 26th stores and produces products that are “very dangerous for the environment”, “irritants” and “noxious”, according to reports by the inspectorate in charge of overseeing potentially hazardous sites. In 2016 the inspectorate warned about the risk of the “creation of toxic substances” in the event of a fire. Jade Lindgaard examines the background to the chemical plant where local residents are alarmed about the risk of dangerous pollution.

How Qatar 'bought' the right to host the 2019 World Athletics Championships

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A race during the IAAF Diamond League competition on May 3rd 2019 in Doha. © Reuters A race during the IAAF Diamond League competition on May 3rd 2019 in Doha. © Reuters

Qatar promised 37.5 million dollars to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) just hours before it won the right to stage the 2019 World Athletics Championships was awarded. Some 4.5 million of this was due to be paid to the son of the IAAF president at the time, Papa Massata Diack. The IAAF says that in the end that money was never paid to Diack. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report on the background to the awarding of the prestigious event now taking place at Doha in Qatar –and where the athletes have been sweltering in the heat.

France's frail and fragile democracy

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Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump during the G7 at Biarritz, south-west France, August 25th 2019. © Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump during the G7 at Biarritz, south-west France, August 25th 2019. © Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

The reaction to Donald Trump's behaviour and the attempts at impeachment highlights the vitality of democratic culture in the United States when faced with executive abuse of power. In contrast, argues Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel, France is served by a low-intensity democracy that has been undermined by the country's system of presidential monarchy.