Analysis

  • The mystery of French foreign minister's letter behind sinking of LVMH-Tiffany deal

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    French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaking in parliament, September 22nd. © THOMAS COEX / AFP French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaking in parliament, September 22nd. © THOMAS COEX / AFP

    An opportune letter sent by French foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to LVMH luxury goods group boss Bernard Arnault gave the latter a justification for pulling out of a costly acquisition of US jewellers Tiffany that was agreed before the economic meltdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to LVMH, Le Drian, citing a looming tariffs dispute with the US, asked for the 16.6 billion-dollar deal to be halted. Curiously, the letter has never been made public. As Martine Orange reports, it is now at the heart of a legal battle between Tiffany and LVMH to be played out at a trial in the US in January, and threatens to become a major embarrassment for the French government.

  • How France's Covid test and trace strategy became overwhelmed

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    The queue for a free Covid-19 test at a centre in Vénissieux, south-east France, on September 11th, 2020. © Jeff Pachoud / AFP The queue for a free Covid-19 test at a centre in Vénissieux, south-east France, on September 11th, 2020. © Jeff Pachoud / AFP

    The spread of the Covid-19 virus is accelerating in France and already the country's testing system is struggling to cope. Many people are having to wait for tests, long queues have formed at testing stations and laboratories, and delays in results themselves – which can be up to five days – are “unacceptable”, the authorities admit. After pushing the policy of mass testing in the summer the government is now trying to rein back and give precedence to priority cases. Experts say that, once again, the national authorities have failed to anticipate events and demand. One glimmer of hope may be the arrival of new, much faster tests. Caroline Coq-Chodorge reports.

  • France's literary season kicks off with tales of social movements and commitment

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    There is no way of knowing yet what kind and level of social protests may emerge in France this autumn. But judging by the new books from authors Alice Zeniter, Barbara Stiegler, Émilie Notéris, Sandra Lucbert and Aude Lancelin that have been published at the end of the summer break, one of the themes of the new literary season looks set to be that of political commitment and struggle – and the way in which people get involved. Lise Wajeman looks at a mixture of new fiction and non-fictional accounts of recent social conflicts and workplace disputes in France, and finds that 'hybrid' forms of writing win out over the traditional novel form.

  • France's 'blind support' for Mali's regime blamed for helping trigger coup

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    A press conference in Bamako given by the soldiers who took power in Mali, August 19th 2020. © MALIK KONATE / AFP A press conference in Bamako given by the soldiers who took power in Mali, August 19th 2020. © MALIK KONATE / AFP

    While the authorities in Paris knew that the position of Mali's president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was weak, they were not expecting the military coup that led to his resignation on August 18th. France's recent unyielding stance in negotiations between Mali's government and opposition, and its unflagging support for prime minister Boubou Cissé, are meanwhile now being highlighted as potential causes of the current crisis. Some observers say that without France's 'blind' support for the Malian government the soldiers might not have staged the coup at all. Rémi Carayol reports.

  • Macron discreetly rewards friends and allies during summer break

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    Emmanuel Macron and his political ally François Bayrou in January 2020. © AFP Emmanuel Macron and his political ally François Bayrou in January 2020. © AFP

    As a presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron insisted he wanted to dispense with the old ways of doing politics. Yet over this summer President Macron has approved a series of appointments of loyal followers and advisers as well as political allies who have faced difficulties but whose support he may need. And as Manuel Jardinaud reports, this form of presidential patronage is exactly what French presidents have always done.

  • Modern Turkey and its 'neo-Ottoman' dreams in the Balkans

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    Turks from the Balkans gather at Pristina in Kosovo in March 2014. © Mamusa Municipality/Anadolu Agency/AFP Turks from the Balkans gather at Pristina in Kosovo in March 2014. © Mamusa Municipality/Anadolu Agency/AFP

    The recent decision by France to bolster its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean because of controversial Turkish oil and gas exploration in disputed waters is a reminder of how Ankara has been starting to flex its muscles outside its borders. Meanwhile Turkey has been quietly extending its economic influence in the Balkans, an area it once controlled under the Ottoman Empire but where it lost power after wars in 1912 and 1913 and then World War I. Jean-Arnault Dérens looks at Turkey's growing influence in the region a century after the end of its empire.

  • French Left and Greens jockey for position ahead of 2022 presidential election

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    Michèle Rubirola, who was later elected mayor of Marseille, with the Socialist Party's Olivier Faure, centre right, and the green EELV's  Julien Bayou, left, in Marseille on June 28th 2020. © Christophe SIMON / AFP Michèle Rubirola, who was later elected mayor of Marseille, with the Socialist Party's Olivier Faure, centre right, and the green EELV's Julien Bayou, left, in Marseille on June 28th 2020. © Christophe SIMON / AFP

    The dust has barely settled from France's delayed municipal elections, held in late June, but already elements of the French Left are on manoeuvre ahead of the presidential election in 2022. At the moment there are two main groups on the Left, the radical left La France Insoumise, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and an alignment based around the Greens, who did well in the local elections, and the once-mighty Socialist Party. But as Pauline Graulle reports, the political landscape is still very fluid.

  • 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.

  • 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.