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.. https://twitter.com/CourUEPresse/status/1372112765268152323)

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.

News from France 28.2.2021

A weekly review of news from France

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

The focus for this week was:

further restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19

hopes for an agreement over the taxation of US tech giants

a settlement in court for French industrial group Bolloré

and

the migration of hundreds of continental cranes.


Prime Minister Jean Castex has called on the prefects of 20 departments already “under surveillance” for the spread of Covid-19 to reinforce their controls.

Speaking at the weekend, he urged further efforts for the vaccine campaign, tests and for people to respect the directives concerning working from home. Castex said the objective was to do everything to avoid a national lockdown and adopt the measures in force for the 20 departments most at risk from the spread of the virus.

The streets and beaches of the Cote d’Azur from Menton to Cannes were deserted as visitors respected the weekend shutdown.

The AntiCovid mobile app which reports on the management of the virus was showing nearly 24 thousand new cases in the previous 24 hours on Sunday (23,996) with 2.92 million people vaccinated.

With the change of administration in the United States, French government ministers are hopeful of reaching tax agreements for tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

After a G20 video conference on Friday, Finance Minister Bruno le Maire said an international agreement on taxation for business and digital services was within reach.

For many years, the US tech giants have been accused of exploiting loopholes to keep their tax bills to a minimum.

The G20 finance ministers hold their next meeting in Venice, Italy in July.


In a Paris court on Friday industrial group Bolloré reached a 12-million-euro settlement in a case of corruption concerning the management of the west African port of Lomé, Togo’s capital city.

However, the judge rejected a plea deal which would have seen three company executives recognize their guilt and pay a fine of 375,000 euros.

The judge said the fines were too lenient as the executives’ actions had “seriously harmed the public economic order” as well as Togo’s sovereignty. She recommended that the three should stand trial under criminal charges.

However, that decision depends on an investigating magistrate.


Hundreds of continental cranes took advantage of warm, strong southerly winds to fly north from their over-winter homes in Spain.

The birds circle to find the best air currents before arranging themselves in the most aerodynamic v-shaped formations as they fly hundreds of miles towards northern Europe for the summer.

Their migration route has moved in recent years and now goes directly over La Rochefoucauld, in the Charente department of southwest France.

The passage of the birds traditionally marks the end of winter.

Cranes (Grues) flying over la Rochefoucauld, Charente

News from France 21.2.2021

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

The focus for this week was:

Covid-19 cases and vaccines

the outlook for summer festivals

5G mobile phone rollout in Paris

new nuclear submarines

and sands from the Sahara blowing over France.

The number of Covid-19 cases for the previous day reached 22,371, according to public health figures released on Saturday.

The number of daily cases has been about 20,000 since the end of December.

Two and a half million people have been vaccinated, with more expected this week as the first deliveries of the Astra Zeneca vaccines are sent to health centres.

The dusk to dawn curfew (6pm to 6am) and travel restrictions are ongoing.

The mayor of Nice called for a weekend lockdown to prevent visitors coming into the Mediterranean city area which currently has the highest Covid-19 infection rate in France.

The culture ministry announced this week that summer festivals will be able to go ahead – but the number of people attending will be limited to 5,000, and everyone must be seated.

The rules will apply to indoor and outdoor events.

Currently restaurants, bars, museums, theatres and concert halls are all closed.

The ministry said that a €30 million-euro fund will compensate festivals that have to make changes or cancel.

Mobile phone operators have made an agreement with the Paris Mayor for the rollout of the 5G network.

Signed by Bouygues Telecom, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR, the accord follows a series of local discussions with citizens last autumn.

They raised concerns over the effects of 5G on energy use, health and the environment and a charter has been drawn up for consideration by the Paris Council (Conseil de Paris) in March. If approved, the 5G network will be switched on in the capital.

Defense minister Florence Parly announced four new nuclear submarines will be operational by 2035 to replace the current fleet.

Parly said via Twitter that “nuclear deterrence is the life-assurance of the nation” (La dissuasion nucléaire est l’assurance-vie de la nation) saying the launch would also reflect French industrial excellence.

The minister said last week that a nuclear-attack submarine was one of two vessels which recently patrolled in the South China Sea with Australian, American and Japanese strategic partners.

Admiral Pierre Vandier, chief-of-staff of the French navy, told a Japanese newspaper that France would also participate in joint military exercises with the US and Japan in the East China Sea in May.

In France, strong winds from the south brought with them fine sand from the Sahara.

The sky turned a deep ochre colour at sunset and sunrise as a result.

Two weeks of unusually warm weather are expected to follow this weekend.


This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 21 February 2021

News from France 14.2.2021

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

The focus for this week was:

Marking a year since the first Covid-19 death in Europe

A TV debate between a government minister and far-right leader Marine Le Pen

French media group Vivendi’s plans for Universal Music

a change of plans for France’s largest airport

and

a record loss for oil and gas major Total.

It has been a year since the first death from Covid-19 was recorded in Europe. It was the case of an 80-year Chinese tourist in Paris.

Since then there have been some three million cases and 80,000 fatalities.

The dusk to dawn curfew continues and police have reported carrying out about 600,000 checks as authorities urge people to stay home and only travel when it is absolutely necessary.

The political news of the week focussed on a TV debate between Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and far-right party leader Marine Le Pen ( Rassemblement National).

In the most recent poll of polls, Le Pen had a narrow lead (26 percent) over President Macron (24 percent) ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

Thursday’s debate centered on how to deal with radical Islam and terrorism. The National Assembly is currently discussing a draft law to tackle radicalism.

Darmanin has been criticized by some for giving Le Pen a platform and status as a top election opponent by agreeing to the TV debate.

Media giant Vivendi has announced plans to spin out Universal Music Group, its biggest business, which has contracts with artists such as Lady Gaga.

In a statement at the weekend, Vivendi said the board had set a minimum valuation target of 30 billion euros for the Group which would then become independent. Vivendi would hold on to a 20 percent stake.

If the plan is approved by shareholders in March, it would give the French media group funds to buy interests in other areas.

Headed by French billionaire businessman Vincent Bolloré, Vivendi already controls leading pay-TV Groupe Canal+ and is reported have its sights set on radio station Europe 1.

Plans to expand France’s largest international airport have been scrapped because they do not fit with the government’s environmental goals.

Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport northeast of the capital is already one of the busiest in Europe. The plan had been to build a fourth terminal with an additional capacity of up to 40 million passengers per year.

Rather than increasing capacity, Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili told Le Monde that the goal should be to cut emissions.

Oil and gas major Total announced a $ 7.2 billion dollar net loss for 2020. The 66 percent drop in net profits over the previous year was blamed on the collapse in commodity prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Total is to change its name to TotalEnergies as it aims to diversify and develop renewable power and electricity production over the next decade. Oil products currently account for about half of the company’s sales.

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

News from France

For the week to Sunday 7 February 2021 a review of news from France :

This is News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 7 February :

The focus for this week has been:

Covid travel restrictions and the vaccine roll-out

President Macron and Chancellor Merkel’s virtual press conference

and

European Central Bank President Christine Lagard on the economic outlook.

The French prime minister announced this week that while the Coronavirus situation remained fragile, there was no need for a new national lockdown.

Current restrictions on travel and the dusk to dawn curfew are to be maintained.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that the rate of infection had not significantly increased over the last two weeks.

He defended the slow rollout of the vaccine programme saying it was the result of the decision to begin with the most vulnerable people who live in care homes. They have accounted for nearly a third of the 77,000 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

At a joint, remote video press conference on Friday President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the European Union’s joint Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Macron said that the EU had secured doses from a number of companies. He admitted that leaders had been caught off guard by the rapid success of some vaccines. Macron told reporters: “Nobody could have known that we were going to have safe vaccines so quickly.”

According to health authorities on Saturday, 1.8 million people had received a first dose of vaccine in France.

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde said she did not see a “return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity before mid-2022.”

She called on EU leaders to ratify the 750-billion-euro recovery fund in time for the European Commission to borrow as planned in June and then distribute the funds.

Lagarde insisted the borrowing would need to be repaid – and that cancellation of the Covid debt was “unthinkable” and would be a violation of European treaties.

At their online press conference, Macron and Merkel also said they were “moving forward” on the development of Europe’s next-generation, combat jet.

However, the German chancellor said there were still “lots of questions to clarify” over the division of works among French and German companies.

The Future Combat Air System / Système de combat aérien du futur (FCAS) is a key part of Macron’s aim to strengthen France’s military capacity in Europe.

It is being developed by Airbus in Germany, Dassault Aviation in France and Indra IT systems in Spain.

So far governments have only approved funding for prototype and design contracts at the start of the multi-billion, 20-year project.

This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 7 February 2021

News from France – 31.1.2021

A weekly review of News from France

This is News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 31 January:

The focus for this week was:

management of the Covid 19 virus

its effects on the economy

and other business news.

A further 400 thousand people were vaccinated against the virus this week – while the daily rate of new cases remains around 20 thousand.

The 6pm to 6am curfew continues while new measures include the closing of the country’s 400 largest shopping malls (+20,000 square meters). While the food stores inside the malls will remain open, the non-food stores are to close as from today, Sunday.

France has also closed its borders for visitors from countries outside the European Union as the government takes measures short of announcing another complete lock down.


The effects of the virus on the economy became clear this week as the national statistics office (INSEE) reported an 8.3 percent fall in GDP (produit intérieur brut PIB). The recession is the worst since the Second World War. Unemployment stands at 9 percent.


The car industry in France reported a weaker outlook. France produces just under one in ten of passenger cars made in Europe according to the French Federation of Vehicle Equipment Industries. (Fédération des industries des équipements pour véhicules (Fiev). Germany produces about one in four.

In 2020 about one and a half million passenger cars (véhicules légers) were produced in France. Over the last 15 years, China has become the world’s largest producer with some 23 million cars produced there each year.

This month, the Peugeot-Citroën group formally merged with Fiat Chrysler under the new name of “Stellantis” with headquarters in Amsterdam.

This week, rail manufacturer Alstom completed its multibillion (5.5 billion-euro) acquisition of Bombardier Transportation.

As a result, it becomes the world’s second largest rail company behind Chinese state-owned CRRC.

After a merger between Alstom and Germany’s Siemens was blocked by the EU commission in 2019, there was no such opposition to the French company acquiring Bombardier.

Alstom will gain better access to North American markets and innovations such as the monorail “people mover” developed by Bombardier. For its part, the Canadian company is to focus on building private jets.

This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 31 January 2021.

News from France

A review of news from France for the week to Sunday 24 January 2021

This is News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 24 January:

The focus for this week was:

the need for a negative Covid-19 test for travelers arriving in France

the rollout of the Coronavirus vaccination programme

better protection for children from sexual violence

and a deal between Google and French publishers for use of news.

From midnight Sunday 24 January all travelers arriving by sea or by air in France need to show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test carried out within the previous 72 hours, according to government ministers.

The government also announced no decision would be taken on a possible third confinement of people to their homes until Wednesday. The number of new Coronavirus cases reported in the previous 24 hours was reported at nearly 24 thousand (23,924).

The vaccination programme is being rolled out across the country with more than a million people being vaccinated since it began (1,008,720).

President Emmanuel Macron said France would tighten its laws on incest, to better protect children from sexual violence.

The move comes after the publication of a book accusing a French professor who oversaw one of France’s top universities of abusing his stepson. Hundreds of people took to social media to make known their own experience of incest.

Macron wrote on Twitter that he had asked the justice minister to chair a consultation aimed at quickly making legislative proposals. Controls on people working with children have already been increased but Macron said much more needed to be done.


Search engine Google has reached a three-year agreement on the use of news snippets with over a hundred French publishers. The deal follows a pan-EU copyright reform agreed in 2019.

The French competition watchdog had ordered Google to negotiate with publishers over reuse of content.

The Press Alliance (L’Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale) which represents about 300 titles in France said this week it had reached a framework agreement setting the terms of negotiation with its members for Google’s reuse of their content.

The payments will go direct to publishers and terms will not be disclosed.

Google introduced its “News Showcase” programme to start paying publishers around the world for use of news.

This has been News from France, a weekly review in English, today Sunday 24 January 2021.