Interviews

  • WTO chief Lamy slams French protectionist 'diversion'

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    Almost all the candidates in the French presidential election campaign, from the Far Right to the Radical Left, are championing protectionism, a rare issue on which there is such broad agreement. But the rhetoric doesn’t impress World Trade Organisation Director-General Pascal Lamy, who dismisses the protectionist vogue as one based on false premises and serving only to divert attention from the primary issue of French competitiveness. In this wide-ranging interview with Philippe Riès, Lamy argues that protectionism is fuelled by a French malaise towards the wider world, an issue that he says requires an “anthropolitical” approach.

  • The lonely combat of the MP exposing the secret gravy train of French government

    'The State's Money' 'The State's Money'

    Socialist MP René Dosière has become a scourge for the French presidency and government, leading a dogged, one-man campaign to expose the truth about secret and lavish spending within the corridors of political power. Tenacious, over the past ten years he has sent more than 600 written requests to government officials demanding accounts of spending within ministries and by the presidential office. He discovered the cost of the yearly Elysée Palace July 14th Garden Party totaled almost half a million euros, leading to its cancellation, and that the average annual cost to the public purse of a minister is 17 million euros, while the cost of security arrangements for President Sarkozy’s regular official visits around France comes to an average of 450,000 euros per trip. These and other staggering revelations are published in his latest book, L’Argent de l’Etat (‘The Sate’s Money’), released this month. In this interview with Mathilde Mathieu and Michaël Hajdenberg, he details his role and methods as an ‘investigative’ MP and the reforms he hopes will be be enacted after this year’s presidential and legislative elections.

  • Retired French intelligence head confirms illegal spying on media

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     © DR © DR

    A book published this month in France, L’Espion du Président (‘The President’s Spy’), accuses Bernard Squarcini, head of the DCRI, the country’s domestic intelligence services, of mounting illegal surveillance operations against the media, and notably this website. In an exclusive interview with Mediapart, Yves Bertrand (pictured), the former head of the now-disbanded French police intelligence organisation, the Renseignements Généraux, reveals how for years the French presidential and prime-ministerial offices have carried out illegal surveillance operations against the media and political opponents, but now taken to even more sinister levels. “President Sarkozy is wary of everyone,” he says. “And as for journalists, don’t even mention them. That’s the most prized of prey. Those who carry out investigations are permanently covered.” Report and interview by Fabrice Arfi and Karl Laske.

  • How the French Far Right is capturing an abandoned social class

    Givet (Ardennes), novembre 2008. Fermeture de la Sopal. © MM Givet (Ardennes), novembre 2008. Fermeture de la Sopal. © MM

    France’s blue collar workers, junior white-collar staff, the unemployed and the retired make up a lower class that is also the majority among the country’s electorate. Hit hardest by the current economic crisis, and largely ignored by the traditional Left, there are consistent indicators that a significant proportion is being won over by the Far Right Front National party presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen. In this interview with Mediapart, social geographer Christophe Guilluy offers an insight into an economic and social groundshift in France that has produced an abandoned and despairing category of the population, what he calls “a new lower class which the Left does not really understand”.

  • Alexis Tsipras' radical answer to the Greek debt crisis

    Alexis Tsipras © Reuters Alexis Tsipras © Reuters

    Alexis Tsipras (pictured) is the leader of the Greek parliamentary radical-left coalition group Syriza. Following the collapse in support for the former governing Greek socialist party Pasok, vilified by its electorate for its unpopular austerity measures introduced amid the Greek debt crisis, the coalition is now facing its greatest electoral challenge - and opportunity - since it was founded in 2004. In this interview with Amélie Poinssot, Tsipras details his alternative vision of how Greece can emerge from the crisis, but also the problems posed by a legacy of division among the country's parties of the Left.

  • Exclusive: British witness in French funding scandal hits back at ‘protected’ arms dealer

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     © Hugo Vitrani © Hugo Vitrani

    Nicola Johnson (pictured) is the British former wife of Ziad Takieddine, a Franco-Lebanese arms dealer at the centre of what has become known in France as the ‘Karachi Affair', involving secret political funding from commissions paid in French weapons sales abroad. She has become a key witness in the independent judicial investigation into the suspected scam in which several of Nicolas Sarkozy's closest aides and friends are implicated, and which is now engulfing the French President himself. In this exclusive interview with Mediapart and French weekly L'Express, Johnson speaks publicly for the first time about her husband's activities, his relations on high and how she once found a bullet shot through her car windscreen.

  • The plight of Greeks who fell overnight through the social floor

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    French NGO Médecins du Monde (MdM), which provides healthcare to the needy across the globe, originally opened its clinic in Athens to provide help for destitute immigrants and asylum seekers. But now the debt crisis has changed all that. Suddenly, its free-of-charges medical centre has seen a dramatic influx of Greek patients, who include public sector workers, former small business owners, young mothers, the elderly and rising numbers of the homeless, all unable to pay standard medical fees. "Some are so ashamed that they speak in English to pass off as migrants," explains Christina Samartzi, head of MdM's programme in Greece, in this interview with Carine Fouteau. "They are desperate, without hope," adds Samartzi, "they think that things are only going to get worse."

  • 'Away with fatalism, it's time to grasp hope': a call to political arms by Stéphane Hessel and Edgar Morin

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    Vidéos dans l'article Vidéos dans l'article

    Stéphane Hessel and Edgar Morin (pictured) formed a formidable couple when they launched, here on Mediapart, a joint appeal to candidates in France’s 2012 presidential elections. The pair, then aged 90 and 94 respectively, had lived through similar experiences: Hessel was a German naturalised French, former WWII Resistance fighter, survivor of Nazi concentration camps, while Morin, widely acclaimed as one of Europe's greatest 20th-century thinkers, was born to immigrant parents and also fought in the Resistance movement. In this tribute to Hessel, who died overnight on Tuesday, Mediapart republishes the text and video of their outline for a "path of hope" for a new society that shuns "the futile, the disposable, and the wasteful”, an end to economic policies "driving us to disaster", and for a return to values of social responsibility.

  • French Socialist Party economics guru sees a middle road out of crisis

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     © Harvard University © Harvard University

    Philippe Aghion is a senior economics advisor to François Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate in the French presidential elections due next spring. This Harvard university professor thinks he knows how to address the economic crisis in Europe, with a new approach to industry and innovation driven by a state-led strategy. The ideas he details in this interview with Ludovic Lamant may become, if Hollande becomes president, the lynchpin of the next French government's economic policies.

  • President Sarkozy 'bullied African leaders into deals with billionaire friend Bolloré'

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    The former head of an international maritime port management company has accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of bullying African governments into entering into contracts with the Groupe Bolloré, headed by the president's close friend Vincent Bolloré. In an exclusive interview with Mediapart, Jacques Dupuydauby (photo), who recently retired as chairman of Franco-Spanish group Progosa, says French-speaking West African leaders personally told him how President Sarkozy threatened them with a withdrawal of French support unless they agreed to hand lucrative port management concessions to the Groupe Bolloré. He describes the French president as Bolloré's "high-class travelling salesman", adding: "Under Sarkozy, the message is ‘If you don't do what we ask in giving such and such a thing to Bolloré, you will no longer be able to count on France's support'"