Interviews

  • West walks a diplomatic tightrope above burning Syria

    By
    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'

    By

    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

    By
     © 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'

    By

    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

    By and
     © 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

    By and
     © 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

    By

    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."