Reports

  • French wine bottle producer sheds workers as it hands out €100m in dividends

    By
    Representatives of the CGT trade union who work at the Verallia glass-making factory at Cognac, August 19th 2020. © MJ Representatives of the CGT trade union who work at the Verallia glass-making factory at Cognac, August 19th 2020. © MJ

    The global glass packaging firm Verallia produces two-thirds of new wine bottles in France and despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic it recently announced pre-tax earnings of 299 million euros for the first half of the year and paid out 100 million euros in dividends, most in the form of shares. Yet the company, which is owned by a New York-based private equity firm, has also announced a restructuring plan in France which will see the closure of one of its furnaces and the loss of more than a hundred jobs. Manuel Jardinaud reports on the mood of the company's workers in Cognac in south-west France as they fight to save their jobs.

  • The enduring fallout of nuclear tests on French Polynesia

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    Marguerite Taputu, from the island of Taha’a in French Polynesia, who has suffered thyroid and breast cancer, has never blamed France nor sought compensation for her suffering. © JS Marguerite Taputu, from the island of Taha’a in French Polynesia, who has suffered thyroid and breast cancer, has never blamed France nor sought compensation for her suffering. © JS

    Over a period of three decades beginning in 1966, France detonated 193 nuclear bombs in atmospheric and undergound tests in its overseas territory of French Polynesia in the South Pacific. The vast fallout from the explosions caused tens of thousands of cancers among the local population according to victims’ associations, although the true, and possibly much larger, toll remains unknown. Meanwhile, the French and local authorities continue to dismiss evidence of the transmission of illnesses to the children of those directly exposed to the nuclear tests. Julien Sartre reports from French Polynesia.

  • Tackling social tensions in Toulouse as virus lockdown takes its toll on deprived areas

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    In common with other parts of the country, the potentially volatile La Reynerie district of the south-west city of Toulouse has seen flare-ups of violence since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in France on March 17th. On the ground, a combination of collectives, residents and associations have been trying to foster a sense of solidarity and set up support networks without waiting for a response from the city authorities who are only belatedly now trying to introduce measures to reduce local tensions. Emmanuel Riondé reports from Toulouse.

  • Children in France's poorest families go hungry during virus lockdown

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    Volunteers hand out food at Bordeaux in south-west France on April 10th 2020. © Hans Lucas via AFP Volunteers hand out food at Bordeaux in south-west France on April 10th 2020. © Hans Lucas via AFP

    Families who usually rely on casual work to make ends meet have been unable to earn money since the lockdown began in France on March 17th. As a result their children are starting to go hungry. On May 15th the French state will pay “emergency aid” of an extra 150 euros to families who already receive welfare benefits. But voluntary groups say this is not soon enough and that help is needed now. To fill the gap left by the state, local support groups have meanwhile been springing up across the country, in some cases led by teachers. Faïza Zerouala reports.

  • Covid-19: a diary of lockdown in a small French village

    By Jean-Louis Le Touzet
    A cat prowls freely amid the lockdown in Audresselles. © JLLT / MP A cat prowls freely amid the lockdown in Audresselles. © JLLT / MP

    The introduction by the French government last week of a lockdown on people’s movements  amid the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic saw some city dwellers head for more pleasant surrounds in which to be confined. Sports journalist Jean-Louis Le Touzet was one of them, arriving just before the restrictions entered into force in a small village on the Channel coast, where he immediately began keeping this diary. In Audresselles, the health crisis is an economic catastrophe as businesses go to the wall in what Le Touzet’s British and Brexit-supporting neighbour, now confined in Europe, warns will be “worse than the crash in 2008”.

  • Homecare workers fear virus crisis ahead in rural France

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    Homecare worker Claire Marcins visiting one of her charges. © Jordan Pouille / MP Homecare worker Claire Marcins visiting one of her charges. © Jordan Pouille / MP

    As the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic accelerates across France, the country was officially placed in lockdown at midday on Tuesday, with the population required by law to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as buying food, attending medical appointments, or travelling to work for those with no alternative. Attention has been focused on the bizarre atmosphere taking over Paris and major cities as streets empty of pedestrians and vehicles. But the crisis ahead is nowhere more acute than for the dependent elderly and handicapped in rural areas who already rely on homecare workers to survive in normal times, and now more than ever. Jordan Pouille reports from the Sologne region in north-central France.

  • Revenant Sarkozy takes to stage in conservative bid for Paris city hall

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    Rachida Dati and Nicolas Sarkozy, March 9th. © AFP Rachida Dati and Nicolas Sarkozy, March 9th. © AFP

    France holds nationwide local elections beginning next weekend, in the most significant test of the country’s political parties since Emmanuel Macron’s election as president in 2017 and the thumping victory of his LREM party in ensuing parliamentary elections. In the two-round polling, the prize catch will be Paris, where the conservative Les Républicains hope to wrestle power from socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo. Their candidate, Rachida Dati, held her last campaign meeting this week when her political mentor, Nicolas Sarkozy, made a rare public appearance. Despite being under investigation in several serious corruption probes, the former French president, surrounded by his old guard, received a rock-star reception from an enraptured audience. Lucie Delaporte witnessed the extraordinary scenes.

  • The view from a coronavirus hotspot in France: 'We're no longer in control of anything'

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    The département (or county) most hit by the Covid-19 coronavirus in France so far is the Oise, just north of Paris. Here, where there had been at least 99 cases by Friday March 6th, the outbreak has now become an epidemic. As Caroline Coq-Chodorge reports, there is as yet no sense of panic across the département. But there is great concern for the area's elderly and most vulnerable residents who experts fear could play a “heavy price” at the hands of the virus. Meanwhile health professionals in the Oise say they feel abandoned by the authorities.

  • How France's Atlantic ports still ignore their grim slave trade past

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    An aerial view of Le Havre from 2009. © Reuters An aerial view of Le Havre from 2009. © Reuters

    France's west coast port cities of Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Le Havre followed in the footsteps of Nantes by amassing much of their wealth from the Atlantic slave trade. Yet unlike in Nantes, in these three cities this history remains largely forgotten or hidden from view. And as Lucie Delaporte reports, in the forthcoming local elections which take place on March 15th and March 22nd, neither current councillors nor many candidates seem much inclined to revive these painful memories.

  • Burkina Faso’s young Fula people caught between threat from jihadists and army

    By François Hume et Olivia Macadré
    Mohamed, originally from the north of Burkina Faso, wanted to join the army but changed his mind after his family disagreed. © OM Mohamed, originally from the north of Burkina Faso, wanted to join the army but changed his mind after his family disagreed. © OM

    In a country beset with spiralling jihadist violence, young people from Burkina Faso’s Fula community are the ideal recruits for armed groups keen to capitalise on the discontent stemming from extreme poverty and the frequent abuses committed by government troops in this part of Africa. And as François Hume and Olivia Macadré report, if they reject the jihadists’ call to arms, they are widely seen as guilty by association.