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.
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.
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.
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.
For a long time Nicolas Sarkozy's former allies avoided personal attacks on the former president, even after they had become his political adversaries in the contest to choose the Right's presidential candidate for 2017. Now, however, the gloves are off and some on the Right are openly talking about the string of political and financial scandals in which the ex-president is currently embroiled. For the first time, report Ellen Salvi and Mathilde Mathieu, Sarkozy now looks politically vulnerable to the sheer weight of the scandals and criticism bearing down on him.
A damning report commissioned by an independent evaluation body has found that schools in France exacerbate rather than reduce inequalities in society. The report, compiled from the work of more than 30 experts from different disciplines, says that the French education system has been failing many pupils for decades. In particular it singles out the failure of what are called education priority areas, a policy pursued by politicians of both the Left and Right. These special zones have been stigmatised and turned into educational ghettoes, says the report, shunned by better-off families and used mostly by children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Faïza Zerouala reports.
The delayed trial of the renowned art dealer Guy Wildenstein on tax fraud and money laundering charges has finally begun in Paris. Wildenstein and two other members of the Franco-American dynasty are accused of hiding from the tax authorities vast assets they inherited from the estate of Daniel Wildenstein senior, who died in 2001. The French authorities are claiming a total of 566 million euros in back taxes. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan has been in court to hear some of the extraordinary details in a trial that is expected to last for a month.
Officially Shukri Ghanem died after suffering a heart attack and falling into the River Danube where he drowned. But few people have ever believed this official version of the former Libyan oil minister's death in Vienna in April 2012. Hillary Clinton's leaked emails show that her entourage and American diplomats considered at the time that Ghanem's death was “highly suspicious”. Mediapart has also contacted an acquaintance of the former oil minister in Vienna who has raised several potential theories behind the Libyan's death, including one involving “bribes” to politicians in France, Italy – and Britain. Agathe Duparc reports from Geneva.
A handwritten notebook kept by a senior Libyan figure details three payments made by Gaddafi's regime to fund Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 presidential election campaign, Mediapart can reveal. Shukri Ghanem, who was then Libya's oil minister, took notes on the three payments made in 2007, which came to a total of 6.5 million euros. Ghanem later fled the North Africa country and was found dead in Austria in 2012. The discovery of his personal notebook and its entries from 2007 undermine claims by Sarkozy's camp that allegations of illegal Libyan funding are based on forged documents written after Gaddafi's fall from power. Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske report.
Last Sunday Paris banned cars from many of its roads and on Monday the city's councillors voted to pedestrianise a busy route along the River Seine. Both measures are aimed at tackling the problem of air pollution that is affecting Paris as well as other large French cities. It is estimated that such pollution kills up to 2,500 people a year in the French capital, some 60 times more people than perish in road accidents on the city's streets. Mediapart's environment correspondent Jade Lindgaard reports.
In a ruling by the Versailles court of appeal on Friday, French bank Société Générale was found to have been in large part responsible for the 4.9 billion euros in losses attributed to the reckless trades of its so-called “rogue trader” Jérôme Kerviel in 2008. The court ruling concerned Kerviel’s appeal against the damages he was required to pay the bank, which until now was fixed as the entire sum of the losses, and which it reduced to 1 million euros. Mediapart economics and finance correspondent Martine Orange analyses here the many consequences of the ruling, not least of which is the demand that the bank now pay back a 2.2-billion-euro tax break it was granted as a result of the sums lost.
The usually tranquil village of Allex, in the Drôme Valley region of south-east France, has become agitated over the imminent opening of a reception centre for migrants. Villagers’ opposition to the centre, which will house about 50 individuals, has prompted the mayor to announce a referendum on the issue. Laurent Geslin reports from this small village of 2,500 inhabitants where, as France’s 2017 presidential election campaign draws closer, local conservative and far-right parties have jumped upon the opportunity to stoke the fires of prejudice and resentment.
The 8-billion-euro contract signed in New Delhi on Friday for the supply of 36 French-built Rafale fighter jets has been hailed by Paris as a major coup that underlines the technological prowess of the French aeronautical industry. But, Mediapart’s India correspondent Guillaume Delacroix reports, the deal was struck after France agreed to massive discounts which virtually halve the total cost. But it also marks a new defence strategy by India, which now regards China as the principal threat to its security, and no longer Pakistan.
A report published this week by the UK parliament’s foreign affairs committee made public its highly critical conclusions after a one-year inquiry into Britain's involvement in the 2011 military intervention in Libya which led to the overthrow of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The committee described the operation, which was led by France, as ill-prepared, ill-informed and without a cohesive strategy. No parliamentary inquiry into the military campaign has ever been held in France, and what exactly fuelled then-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s eagerness to remove Gaddafi remains uncertain, although a number of clues point to a motive ignored by the UK committee of MPs. Fabrice Arfi reports.
A confidential report submitted to President François Hollande two years ago and never made public, authored by the heads of France’s Court of Audit and State Council, estimates the total annual cost of specific perks paid to the country’s three surviving former presidents, plus the provision of personal security protection, at 10.3 million euros, Mediapart can reveal. The 26-page document, published here, recommends that the lavish privileges accorded to them be reduced for reasons of “modernization, transparency and control of public spending”. Mathilde Mathieu reports.