Interviews

  • Life on the Smic - how people in France cope on the minimum wage

    The French minimum wage, the Salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance or Smic, went up by 2% on July 1st, causing a political row. Some say the rise is an extra burden on businesses. Critics on the Left say the increase is far too small. But what impact will it have in practice on the purchasing power of those on or slightly above this basic level of income? How do you live on little more than 1,000 euros a month? Mediapart interviewed people living in different parts of the country on or close to the minimum wage to find out. Valentine Oberti, Ellen Salvi and Rachida El Azzouzi report.

  • L'ex-premier ministre libyen voulait parler au juge Van Ruymbeke

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    Extradé en Libye dimanche par le gouvernement tunisien, l'ancien premier ministre Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi avait pris contact via son avocat, vendredi, avec le juge de l’affaire Takieddine. « Il allait être amené à parler des financements des campagnes électorales et des questions d’enrichissement personnel », explique son avocat, Me Ceccaldi, à Mediapart.

  • Poo! The Louvre hosts Belgian enfant terrible Wim Delvoye

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    After three years of horse-trading - or should that be pig-trading? - the Louvre is finally letting Belgian artist Wim Delvoye show some of his slightly less shocking works. His ‘poo machine’ and live tattooed pigs have been vetoed, but his 36-foot ‘Suppository’ is now sticking straight up into the apex of the Pyramid entrance to this pre-eminent Paris museum. There are also some stuffed, carpeted piglets, contorted crucifixes, and a selection of subversive Gothic-style sculptures on display in the Decorative Arts section this summer. Global meets local, high-brow meets low-brow, in the Wim Delvoye show now on at the Louvre until September. Hugo Vitrani reports.

  • Rust and Bone author Craig Davidson on life, fights, fatherhood and Audiard's 'beautiful' adaptation

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     © Roger Arpajou, Why Not Productions © Roger Arpajou, Why Not Productions

    French film director Jacques Audiard has met with widespread acclaim at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, Rust and Bone ( De rouille et d'os), an adaptation of Canadian author Craig Davidson’s collection of short stories by the same name. As the film appears poised for a huge box-office success, Mediapart’s Christine Marcandier interviews Davidson about how the project with Audiard began (in a meeting when he spilled water over the celebrated director’s “lovely” felt hat), what he thinks of the film, and his approach to writing - which he admits has seen him go “a little crazy” in living out the pains of his characters.

  • West walks a diplomatic tightrope above burning Syria

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    Une photo du président Bachar el-Assad est brûlée par des manifestants à Istanbul (Turquie). © Reuters Une photo du président Bachar el-Assad est brûlée par des manifestants à Istanbul (Turquie). © Reuters

    Not a day passes without an increase in the death toll of the now 14-month old uprising in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, despite a United Nations-backed ceasefire negotiated by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan more than a month ago. In this interview with Mediapart’s Caroline Donati, Robert Malley, a former special advisor on the Middle East to US President Bill Clinton, and now Programme Director for Middle East-North Africa affairs with the International Crisis Group, analyses the options for the international community, and the US in particular, in bringing an end to the bloody repression by the Assad regime, which the UN says has now claimed the lives of at least 9,000 people.

  • 'Removing the word race won't end racism'

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    In a bid to help stamp out racism, Socialist Party presidential candidate François Hollande wants to make a small but significant amendment to article 1 of the French Constitution – the removal of the word “race”. But would that make any difference? Academic and human rights campaigner Danièle Lochak thinks not, dismissing the idea as merely “for show”. Here, in an interview with Mediapart's Carine Fouteau, she explains her reasoning.

  • The French far-right surge sweeping Sarkozy into a political no-man's land

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     © Thomas Haley © Thomas Haley

    While Socialist Party presidential candidate François Hollande won the election first round on Sunday, it was far-right Front National party leader Marine Le Pen who came out of the contest the most jubilant. Her nationwide 17.9% slice of the vote was the highest the far-right has ever obtained in presidential elections, well beyond what opinion polls predicted, and has elevated her to the position of a broker of votes for the next round. For as Hollande and second-placed Nicolas Sarkozy now move on to the final play-off on May 6th, the outgoing president is now launched on a desperate and dismal chase for support from the far-right electorate. But is Marine Le Pen on the threshold of transforming the Front National into a significant and popular force on the Right, or will she more likely belly-flop from the crest of a temporary wave of protest from a politically disenfranchised section of French society? For an answer, and an explanation of her success, Michaël Hajdenberg turned to Sylvain Crépon, a sociology professor and a recognised expert researcher on the Far Right, and the Front National in particular.

  • 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.