News from France 28.3.2021

A weekly bulletin of news in English –

This is News from France, a weekly review in English, for Sunday 28 March

The focus for this week was:

  • the rise of daily Covid-19 cases to more than 40,000
  • publication of the report into France’s role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide
  • a rise in French public debt
  • and the Culture Ministry’s candidate for a UNESCO listing.

As the number of Covid-19 cases reported daily reached 42,619 on Sunday, restrictions on movement were stepped up at the weekend.

Three more regions joined the 19 departments already in a four-week period of what the government described not as a “lockdown” but as a “third way” to put a brake on the virus without closing down the country.

The three are the Rhone department around the city of Lyon; Aube, southeast of Paris and Nièvre in central France.

90,000 police officers have been mobilised to carry out more controls at airports, train stations and motorway tolls in the departments applying stricter Covid-related measures.

Drivers crossing the border south into Spain will have to present a negative test from within 72 hours, the Spanish government announced on Saturday. Controls are also being stepped up at the borders into Belgium and Germany.

The number of people vaccinated reached 7,5 million of whom 2,6 million have had two doses. The number of people in intensive care in Paris hospitals has reached its highest so far this year.

The government is expected to announce further measures this week.

The historical commission set up by President Emmanuel Macron to look into France’s role in the Rwanda genocide of 1994 was made public on Friday.

While stating there was no proof the government of the day under President Francois Mitterand was complicit in the killings, the commission said France did not do enough to halt the massacres.

The genocide against the Tutsi population of Rwanda took place between April and July of 1994 after the Hutu President who was close to the French government died when his plane was shot down in the first week of April. Some 800,000 people were killed – mainly from the Tutsi minority.

Macron has said he wants to visit Rwanda this year and his office said it hoped the report would mark an “irreversible” reconciliation process between France and Rwanda.

Public debt in France has reached levels not seen since 1949 according to the national statistics office (Insee).

The 2020 public deficit – which includes the State budget, local and social security authorities – reached 211 billion euros, compared to 75 billion for the previous year.

The latest figures are the equivalent of 116 percent of annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The State budget more than doubled – to 182 billion euros.

The coronavirus and the shutting down of businesses caused the economy to contract by 8.2 percent in 2020.

The Culture Ministry has announced its candidate for UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list – and chosen the famous French bread – the baguette. (“savoir-faire et de la culture de la baguette de pain.”)

There are 35,000 independent bread makers throughout France – making billions of baguettes each year.

Officially named “baguette” a hundred years ago, in 1920, a law declared it must weigh at least 80 grams and be a maxium length of 40 centimetres.

The application will be studied by UNESCO and the result announced in autumn of next year.

This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 28 March 2021

News from France 21.3.2021

This is News from France, a weekly review in English, for Sunday 21 March

The focus for this week was:

  • further restrictions of movement for people living in 19 northern departments, including the Paris area, because of Covid-19
  • Senate approval for a law giving off-duty police officers the right to carry their weapons into theatres unopposed
  • and the hunting of songbirds using glue sticks has been banned by the European Court of Justice.

In a flurry of messages over the week, a 4-week restriction of movement and closing of non-essential shops was announced on Thursday for 16 departments, affecting about 21 million people. (“… nouvelles mesures de freinage massives” Jean Castex). The measures came into force from Friday midnight.

The areas are mainly in the north of France, bordering Belgium, but also including the Alpes Maritimes on the southern coastal border with Italy.

Many people left Paris ahead of the lockdown on Friday night – with roads jammed and trains full.

The complexity of new, 2-page forms needed to show to police were simplified at the weekend after widespread criticism. In the new forms, one of 8 reasons need to be given for leaving home between the hours of 7pm and 6 am, and in a second form, one of 12 reasons need to be given for going outdoors between the hours of 6 am and 7pm in the 16 departments.

The number of daily reported cases across France reached more than 30,000 this week and the rollout of the vaccines was hampered by a temporary suspension due to concerns over the Astra Zeneca variety. The programme is expected to be stepped up again this week, across a wider age group. So far 5.63 million people have been vaccinated, according to the Anti-Covid mobile app.

As part of the new security law, the Senate on Thursday passed Article 25 which allows off-duty local officers and gendarmes (national police) to carry their firearms into public buildings such as theatres and shopping centers. It forbids the venue management from preventing the officers bringing in their weapons.

For five years, officers have been able to carry their firearms outside their working shifts if they asked their superiors beforehand. About 30,000 officers are believed to take their guns home with them.

The new measures have already been passed by the National Assembly.

Article 24 of the same law aimed to prevent images of officers being disseminated if that could harm their “physical or mental integrity.”

In a ruling on Wednesday, the European Court of Justice banned the hunting of songbirds with gluesticks.

The practice is used by hunters to lure birds into traps. The birds land on the sticks (verguettes) and can not escape. The sounds they then make attract other birds which are then shot by the hunters.

The method had been banned in the EU in 1979 but the French government had used an opt-out for 6,000 trappers in five departments in the south east, arguing it was “controlled, selective and in limited quantities.”

However, in its judgement, the European Court found otherwise.

The Bird Protection League (LPO) welcomed the ruling, writing on Twitter it was the culmination of a long battle. (L’aboutissement d’un long combat..

The League says French hunters kill millions of birds each year across 64 different species – more than any other European country.

News from France 14.3.2021

This is News from France, a weekly review in English, for Sunday 14 March

The focus for this week was:

  • the high level of daily Covid-19 cases
  • relaxation of travel restrictions with the UK and six other, non EU countries
  • protests from theatre workers at continued closures
  • and higher costs for movie makers in Paris.

There were 29,759 new Covid-19 cases in the 24-hours to Sunday.

The vaccine programme continued with 4.85 million people injected so far.

On Friday, France’s top health authority (Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) announced approval for the one-shot vaccine produced by US pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson for use against Covid-19. It followed the go-ahead from the EU authorities the previous day.

There are concerns of a further lockdown in the Paris region, and the government’s health council (conseil de défense sanitaire) is due to meet again this week to discuss the situation.

To date, 4 million people have been infected and 90,000 have died after contracting the virus in France.

As from Friday, travelers to and from Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the UK and Singapore no longer need to justify a compelling reason to travel, the foreign ministry announced.

However, they still need a negative Covid-19 test result within 72 hours of travel.

French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said this easing was due to the improving health situation in those countries.

He wrote on Twitter: “The list includes Britain, because the UK variant now also circulates widely in France.”

The highly contagious British variant of the virus accounts for 67 percent of all new infections, according to the health ministry.

The foreign ministry said that in general it strongly recommends limiting international travel as much as possible.

Artists and workers have carried out protests across France at the continued closure of theatres, cinemas, art galleries and other cultural spaces which have been shut since October.

The protesters say there is no need to keep the venues closed when social-distancing measures can be enforced.

A week-long sit-in at the Odeon theatre in Paris continued despite the offer of a further 30 million euros in financial aid by the government.

The Paris Council (Conseil de Paris) announced on Thursday new rates for media companies using the city as a backdrop for their productions.

Applicable from the start of April, film makers will need to find an extra 10 percent to pay their bills in the city.

Despite the Covid restrictions the city booked 5,000 days of shooting by media companies last year – adding about 800,000 euros to the city coffers. Most of the companies have been French – and include the recent Netflix success “Lupin”.

This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 14 March 2021

News from France 7.3.2021

This is News from France, a weekly review for Sunday March 7th

The focus for this week was:

departmental restrictions to control the spread of Covid 19

the sentencing of former President Nicolas Sarkozy for fraud

an easing in the trade dispute with the USA

and a survey of honesty includes four French cities.

At least ten million people should be vaccinated against Covid 19 by the middle of next month Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.

According to the mobile app on Sunday, 3.58 million people have been vaccinated while new cases reported for the previous 24 hours were 23,306.

There are “alert zones” in the north and south east of France under a close watch in addition to the nightly curfew.

Measures include weekend lockdowns in Pas-de-Calais, on the Alpes-Maritimes coast and in Dunkirk and affect about 2.5 million people.

In a landmark ruling, former President Nicolas Sarkozy has been given a three-year sentence for corruption and influence peddling.

He is the first, former president in the Fifth Republic to be given a prison sentence for corruption.

Sarkozy has launched an appeal in the so-called “eavesdropping affair” (des écoutes de Paul Bismuth) and denies the charges.

He faces two further trials – one concerning the financing of his 2012 presidential campaign and the other over Libyan funds for his 2007 campaign.

Sarkozy is unlikely to face prison time – he is eligible to serve his sentence under house arrest and with electronic surveillance.

In welcome news for French wine exporters, the US government has announced the 25 percent tariffs on French wine and cognac imports are to be suspended for four months.

The measures are part of an agreement following a phone call on Friday between US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and confirmed in a statement from the US trade department.

The four-month period will give time for the two sides to find a settlement for the long-running trade dispute over subsidies for aircraft makers Airbus and Boeing.

French wine exports to the US in 2018 were worth about 9 billion euros but fell dramatically after tariffs were applied by the Trump administration in the US in 2019.

Imports of French wine then fell by 50 percent in the six months from January 2020, according to the US International Trade Commission.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the news via Twitter, “I rejoice for our French winegrowers” he wrote.

and in a survey by German car sales data analysts Twinner just four French cities made the top 75 in its “honest city index.”

The study ranks cities to compare how honest citizens are in different sectors of society, including car dealership reviews, government, theft and civic duty.

Lille (37), Lyon (49), Toulouse (55) and Paris (69) made the list – although cities in China, India and Latin America were excluded for lack of data.

Switzerland’s business hub Zurich came out top, followed by Tokyo and Adelaide.