Starting 2023 – dreaming of sunnier times

While skies outside are grey, wintry and windy, planning the garden allows ideas and dreams of summer sun.

Meanwhile the government concerns in Paris appear to remain around reforms of the multifarious pension systems and to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 years in France.

Three Pillar Pensions

With three pillars – the state pension, compulsory supplementary pension and voluntary private pensions – there are 15 million residents out of France’s 67 million inhabitants currently drawing a state pension. There are also special pension arrangements for a variety of private and state sectors, such as the railways.

Among the plans which he has vaunted since his first term in 2018, President Emmanuel Macron wants to see an end to the rules which see some of the state railway’s 200,000 workers retiring on a full pension at the age of 52, up to 10 years before most other French workers. Macron wants a single system for all.

Despite the overall complexity and the fact it is a point-based system – each year, an individual’s contributions are converted to retirement pension points and added to their account – the focus in government statements and parliamentary discussions remains on the age of retirement.

A series of strikes affecting transport, energy, education and public services continued into March with concerns that the reform represents a more general attempt to reverse social rights achieved in previous decades. Young people have been particularly evident during the street demonstrations against the reform to date voicing associated worries for the environment and quality of life in France. The focus for a longer working life, producing more at the expense of the environment has many young people expressing opposition to this vision for the country’s future.

Hundreds of cranes fly over France in February from their winter homes in Spain and Northern Europe to their summer quarters in northern Europe.

News from France – Sunday 6 June

This is news from France for Sunday 6 June, 2021:

This week:

  • new travel conditions for international visitors
  • consequences of a failure in emergency numbers
  • the Cannes film festival gets ready for a July opening
  • the Pompidou plans a Jersey City satellite museum.

From next Wednesday, international visitors should face fewer restrictions in consequence of Covid when they arrive in France.

In measures announced on Friday, people who have been vaccinated will no longer have to quarantine on arrival, or justify their reasons for visiting. However, they will have to present a negative test taken within the previous 72 hours.

The government has classified countries within red, orange and green areas. Europe is green while the US is orange and India red. Different conditions relate to each designation.

The number of new Covid cases reported in the previous 24 hours on Sunday was 6,654.

Telecom operator Orange blamed a software failure for a network outage which left people unable to reach emergency services on Wednesday into Thursday.

Starting on Wednesday afternoon, people were unable to access emergency services and calls were either not getting through, or breaking down mid-way through a conversation. The problem was resolved by Thursday.

The head of France’s biggest telecom company was summoned by the Interior Ministry to explain the situation. The state is the biggest shareholder of Orange.

Orange told Agence France Press (AFP) that a “technical incident on a router had greatly disrupted ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP) calls in some regions”.

Belgium’s largest operator Proximus reported similar problems in January when emergency numbers were disrupted overnight.

After a break due to Covid last year, the Cannes film festival returns – in July.

Usually held in May, this year the dates are July 6 to 17.

The jury is headed by Spike Lee and organizers received 2,000 movies for their selection, built up from last year’s missed edition. The list has been reduced to a final 24 for the prestigious Palme d’Or.

American actor Jodie Foster is to be presented with an honorary award of France’s top cinema prize.

The Pompidou modern arts centre is planning is first satellite museum in the United States.

It’s to be housed in a renovated industrial building in Jersey City, 3 miles from New York’s Manhattan district.

Along with a permanent collection of contemporary art, space will be set aside for rotating exhibitions, community events, and educational projects.

News from France 31 May 2021

News from France for Monday 31 May

New travel controls came into force for people arriving from the UK

The government budget deficit is growing

Cinemas reopened, grand slam tennis got underway

and transatlantic yacht teams arrived in the Caribbean.

Strict controls for people arriving from the UK came into force on Monday.

Travel is permitted only for people with essential reasons (motif imperieux) to visit France and they will have to show a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours of travel. On arrival they will have to self isolate for seven days.

The restrictions are due to the spread of the Indian variant of Covid in the UK.

The gap between government receipts and spending is set to increase by 47 billion euros this year.

The deficit last year was already at an all-time high – and this year will reach 220 billion euros, according to the Public Accounts Minister.

The government has provided funding support for companies and workers during the three lockdowns due to Covid-19.

Speaking on the radio this morning, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he was convinced there would be 5 percent growth this year and a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity “at the start of 2022.”

More than two million people people went to the movies in the week after cinemas reopened after seven months of closures, according to industry sources.

There are about 400 new movies waiting to be seen in the coming months.

The teen manga Demon Slayer was watched by 350,000 people while Tom & Jerry drew a quarter of a million.

The cinemas have to limit their audiences to a third of normal capacity and can not yet show movies after 9pm, when the overnight curfew sets in.

The Transat doubles yacht race has been won by TeamWork (Nils Palmieri / Julien Villion) who took 18 days 5 hours, 8 minutes and three seconds to cross the Atlantic.

Nils Palmieri & Julien Villion arrived two hours ahead of the second placed team – as of Monday there were still four teams at sea.

They all left the French port of Concarneau on 12 May in the 15th race to be held since its start in 1992.

and the Roland Garros grand slam tennis event got underway in Paris on Sunday, a week after its usual start.

Held last year in the autumn due to Covid-19, it will continue until Sunday 13 June.

For the first week, 5,000 people can buy tickets each day and then from the second Wednesday 13,000 can go in to watch the matches, so long as they have a health pass.

The 9pm curfew remains in place, meaning that the first ever night session will take place behind closed doors and will be broadcast only by Amazon Prime Video.

Scheduled for 9pm until midnight, the first night match under the lights of the new roof on Monday will be played by Serena Williams.

This has been News from France for Monday 31 May 2021.

News from France January 2023

With grey wintry skies overhead, dreaming and planning for a summer garden.

The news from France concerns a government focussed on reforming the country’s multifarious retirement systems, oddly concentrating on the age of retirement. Internationally President Emmanuel Macron is indicating more support for Ukraine.

This week:

Covid vaccines are to be made available for all adults from the end of the month

Police protested over fears for their own safety

François Pinault’s contemporary art museum opened in Paris

and France came close in the Eurovision song contest.

Vaccines against Covid 19 will be available for all adults from the end of the month the prime minister announced this week.

People in priority professions such as teachers, police officers and bus drivers, can be vaccinated from tomorrow, Monday.

Restrictions were loosened this week with cafe terraces and large retail stores opening again and the overnight curfew starting from the later time of 9 p.m.

There were 12,611 new Covid cases reported in the previous 24 hours on Sunday.

The health minister said this week that France could expect to ‘turn the page’ on the Covid crisis by the end of the year.

Police unions said 35,000 people joined their demonstration outside the French parliament building on Wednesday.

They were protesting over attacks on officers and growing fears for their own safety. They are calling for tougher jail sentences for people convicted of targeting police. Several officers have died in the last year.

Interior minister Gérard Darmanin took part in the protest – although he was not allowed by organizers to address the crowd. He told French radio “I will be there to show my support.” The minister’s job is to oversee France’s police and security forces.

Organizers said there would be no “playing politics” with the protest which was held just weeks ahead of local elections and a year ahead of the presidential poll.

French billionaire Francois Pinault’s new museum opened in Paris this week.

Housed in the renovated corn and flour exchange built in the 1760s, the Bourse de Commerce has ten exhibition spaces.

Many of Pinault’s artworks have been exhibited at his museums in Venice (Palazzo Grassi & Punta della Dogana.)

It has taken the founder of the Kering luxury group – which includes the Gucci and Pomellato brands – more than 20 years to achieve his project to house his collection in the French capital.

and French singer Barbara Pravi came close in the Eurovision song contest held in Holland last night.

Singing a strong ballad, she lost out by just 25 points to Italian rock group Maneskin.

Switzerland won the jury vote where Italy came fourth, but the 4-piece Italian rock band won the public vote, leaving the Swiss singer in 3rd place behind Barbara Pravi – who also came second in the jury vote.

This has been News from France for Sunday 23 May 2021.

News from France

This is news from France for Sunday 16 May

This week:

France reached its 20 million target for Covid-19 vaccinations

The Paris mayor announced plans to restrict car traffic in the city centre

and an orca whale joined the leaders of a cross-Atlantic yacht race.

Not France but Venice

President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter Saturday that France had reached its target of 20 million first vaccines.

The statement came ahead of this week’s planned reopening of museums, theatres, cinemas, concert halls, non-essential shops and restaurant terraces as part of easing lockdown restrictions.

The daily reported cases of Covid-19 stood at just over 15,000 as of Sunday.

The mayor of Paris announced a public consulation for a project to close the capital’s four central arrondissements to car traffic from next year.

Anne Hidalgo was re-elected as mayor last year and promised to tackle pollution by building new bus and bicycle lanes and closing roads – including the expressways on the banks of the River Seine – to cars.

The consultation is due to last until October –

18 yachts set off from the bay of Concarneau in north west France on Wednesday headed for Saint Barts in the 15th edition of the cross-Atlantic (Transat en Double) yacht race.

Each boat has a crew of two – and on Sunday, off the coast of Portugal, the Figaro III was joined by an orca whale which the crew filmed playing alongside their yacht. Crews are used to seeing dolphins, but not whales.

The record for making the 7,000 kilometer voyage to the Caribbean is 18 days.

This has been News from France for Sunday 16 May 2021.

News from France – Sunday 9 May 2021

This is news from France for Sunday 9 May

This week:

The government stepped up its vaccine programme

There was a slight uptick in employment numbers

and protests over fishing reached the island of Jersey.

The French vaccine programme against Covid-19 is being stepped up with people aged over 50 able to book an appointment from Monday.

As of Sunday 17.53 million people had received a first injection. New daily cases reported stood at 20,745.

President Macron said on Thursday he was “absolutely in favour” of a global waiver on Covid-19 patent protection.

No French pharmaceutical company has yet developed a vaccine.

Current restrictions on movement are due to be reviewed in ten days time. For now, the overnight curfew remains in place.

Quarantine for people arriving from a further seven countries came into force on Saturday night.

They include Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Travel is only permitted for essential reasons and all travelers have to comply with strict, pre-travel conditions followed by a compulsory 10-day quarantine on arrival.

Travelers from India, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and Argentina are already subject to the quarantine.

The national statistics bureau (INSEE) has reported an increase in private payroll employment for the first quarter of the year.

It is the second quarterly increase since the Covid pandemic began – the first being in the summer of 2020.

There were a total of 57,300 new jobs created across all sectors.

Overall unemployment remains at 8 percent. Business managers surveyed in April remain optimistic for a strong rebound in investment in manufacturing this year, particularly for electrical, electronic and machine equipment.

UK navy vessels were sent to Jersey in the Bay of St Malo amid protests from French fishermen over licenses to fish in the waters around the island.

Jersey is a self-governing British Crown Dependency 22 kilometers from the French coast and 137 kilometers south of the English one. It was part of the Duchy of Normandy, whose dukes went on to become kings of England from 1066.

The island issues its own fishing licenses but Brexit has led to changes in the permits available for French boats.

Jersey boats have also faced problems landing their catches in France.

About 50 French fishing boats arrived at dawn on Thursday.

According to the UK government, the two Royal Navy patrollers (HMS Severn and HMS Tamar) were sent to “monitor the situation.”

French authorities said their police boat (Athos) and patroller (Themis) were on a public service mission to ensure safety.

The fishing boats left the area on Thursday afternoon and the UK and French vessels were withdrawn.

This has been News from France for Sunday 9 May 2021.

News from France – 2 May 2021

This is News from France, a weekly review for Sunday May 2nd

Highlights this week were:

a presidential timetable for Covid-19 restrictions

labour day marches

EU funds for countries affected by Brexit

and the Emperor Napoleon’s books

The French president laid out a timetable for relaxing restrictions due to the Covid pandemic, as indicators suggested some signs of improvement.

There were 25,670 new cases reported in the 24 hours to Sunday and French hospitals are still under intense pressure to care for critically-ill patients.

Since the start of the pandemic, France has recorded 5.57 million Covid-19 cases and 103,947 deaths.

President Macron announced that the nightly curfew would be relaxed from May 19 and outdoor service would be allowed at cafes, bars and restaurants.

Vaccinations would be offered to all adults from mid-June and travel restrictions are also expected to be eased.

Traditional labour marches on May day were held with about 100,000 people taking part in 281 gatherings across the country.

Numbers were restricted because of Covid-19 controls on assemblies.

The range of demands and concerns varied among the demonstrators – for jobs, wages, public services, liberty and peace in the world.

Irish lawmakers are concerned Ireland could lose 200 million euros to France from its share of the billion-euro Brexit compensation fund.

French negotiators at the EU had argued the original proposal for most of the fund to go to Ireland was unfair.

Last week, a compromise was reached under the auspices of the Portuguese government which holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

Funds will be calculated on a basis of the importance of UK trade to EU economies as well as share of total EU trade.

Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrews compared the French approach to a “smash and grab.” He told the Independent newspaper that Ireland was “very disadvantaged” by the deal.

And nearly 200 years after his death the Emperor Napoleon continues to be a subject of interest for readers across the world.

On average one book for each day of the year is published – and most of them find ready buyers.

The Emperor’s own library at Fontainebleau contains some 35,000 books although he did not apparently write many manuscripts of his own.

One of them, a 74-page document dictated to his seven secretaries, was written shortly after the Battle of Austerlitz. It remains in private hands.

This has been news from France for Sunday 2nd May, 2021.

News from France 25 April 2021

This is News from France, a weekly review for Sunday 25 April

This week’s main news was:

Covid-19 cases remaining above 30,000 per day

French fishermen taking direct action concerning UK waters

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet arriving on the International Space Station

The number of new daily cases of Covid-19 was reported as 32,633 on Sunday.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said there had been a “genuine fall in the virus circulation” over the previous ten days and that schools would reopen from Monday.

The 7pm to 6am curfew is to remain in place but the 10 kilometre travel limit for people from their homes is to be lifted from the start of May.

Over 13 million people have received at least a first dose of vaccine.

About 80 fishermen blocked two trucks carrying UK-landed fish at the Boulogne docks in northern France on Thursday to protest post-Brexit restrictions on fishing in UK waters.

The Brexit trade deal allowed EU fishermen to keep fishing into British waters – but only if they have a licence.

Four months after the deal was signed, 80 percent of the French fishing fleet is still waiting for the permits, the protesters said.

About two-thirds of UK-landed fish are exported to Europe – including mackerel, whiting, squid.

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet arrived on board the International Space Station late Saturday morning French time to start his second mission, four years after his first one.

He was one of four crew onboard the second operational flight of the recycled SpaceX capsule, which was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

There are currently 11 astronauts on board the space station but four will return to earth on Wednesday. Pesquet and his team will spend the next six months onboard.

This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 25 April 2021

News from France 18 April 2021

This is News from France, a weekly review for Sunday 18 April

As Covid-19 deaths pass 100,000, further travel restrictions are imposed on foreign visitors

the cost of damage from spring frosts is being counted by wine producers and fruit farmers

lawmakers voted for limitations on domestic air travel

and state help for French companies with their debts could be on the way.

The number of people who have died as a result of Covid-19 passed 100,000 this week. The number of new daily cases to Sunday was reported as 35,861. A total of 12.32 million people have been vaccinated to date.

Pressure on intensive care units in hospitals is still high and the current lockdown with nightly curfew for people to stay within 10 kilometers of their homes is ongoing.

France is also to make travelers arriving from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa spend 10 days in quarantine, the prime minister’s office announced on Saturday. Flights from Brazil have been suspended until at least next Friday because of concerns over the P1 variant of the virus.

The agriculture ministry is preparing emergency financial measures after frost and ice hit vineyards and fruit trees across France over the last two weeks.

Minister Julien Denormandie said it was probably the worst agricultural catastrophe of the century. At least a third of wine production could be lost, reducing sales by up to 2 billion euros.

On a visit with the prime minister to southern France on Saturday, the minister announced that a billion euros would be made available for producers hit by the cold weather after a spell of unusually high temperatures in early spring.

Members of parliament voted this week to suspend short domestic flights if the same journey can by made by train within 2 and a half hours.

The routes would include Paris to Bordeaux, Paris to Lyon and Paris to Marseille.

The measure is an attempt to reduce carbon emissions and more details are to be published shortly.

After French companies reached new levels of debt, the government has indicated some of them could be cancelled or delayed.

French company debt reached 1.8 billion euros in 2020 according to figures from the Bank of France.

On Wednesday, finance minister Bruno Le Maire said part of the debts could be cancelled or delayed on a “case by case” basis.

There has been a reduction in the number of bankruptcies – but the Bank of France said this did not indicate a fall in the number of companies in difficulty. Measures have been in force since the start of the Covid pandemic to support businesses and reduce or limit their costs and charges.

This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 18 April 2021