Category: France

France President Woos India Against the United States

Article first published as French President Woos India Against the United States on Blogcritics.

France President Nikolas Sarkozy is now on India tour along with his wife Carla Bruni for fourSarkozy days from November 4 to November 7. The US president Barack Obama began his India visit with India’s business hub Mumbai. Sarkozy chose India’s technology hub to start his India tour. He brought 50 member business community and top cabinet officials including Economy minister Christine Lagarde along with him. Sarkozy seems to have come on a top mission along with signing some business contracts.

Strategic and Business Goals

During his speeches on November 4 and his interview to Times of India newspaper, Sarkozy outlined his top political and trade related priorities on global arena of his India tour. Very important offers extended to and requirements sought from India are as follows:

  • Supporting France’s G20 agenda to reform global monetary system during its G20 presidency in 2011
  • Improvements in global governance
  • Help maintain greater stability in commodity prices

In return, to the help in achieving the above-mentioned France’s goals, Sarkozy offered following package.

  • Helping Rupee to become one of the major currencies in the world
  • Support India’s long standing demand of securing permanent seat in UN Security Council

Some business contracts will be concluded during Sarkozy’s visit. Major one is a memorandum of understanding signed between a French nuclear group Areva and India’s Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to supply at least two water-pressurised reactors worth 7 billion euros ($9.4 billion or Rs 43,240 Cr). France is competing with the US company Boeing to supply 126 fighter jets. France’s defence electronics group Thales is hoping to gain a contract to modernise 51 mirage 2000 planes.

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French workers vow to step up pension protests

BBC News | 21 October 2010 | 09:33 GMT

Pension protest numbers

  • Tuesday 19 October: 1.1 million (source: Interior ministry) to 3.5 million (source: unions)
  • Saturday 16 October: 825,000 (source: police) to 3 million (source: unions)
  • Tuesday 12 October: 1.2 million to 3.5 million
  • Saturday 2 October: 900,000 to 3 million
  • Thursday 23 September: 1 million to 3 million
  • Tuesday 7 September: 1.2 million to 2.7 million

French workers will step up their protests against pension reforms next week, a top trade union leader says. Bernard Thibault, head of the CGT workers’ confederation, made the statement as union leaders prepared to discuss plans to hold a seventh day of national protests across France.

Meanwhile rolling strikes are continuing against government plans to raise the pension age from 60 to 62. Blockades of refineries and fuel depots have led to fuel shortages. President Sarkozy has called for an end to the disruption. "This disorder which is aimed at paralysing the country could have consequences for jobs by damaging the normal running of economic activity," he said on Wednesday.

Stepping up action

Mr Thibault told RMC radio on Thursday: "The government remains intransigent. We need to continue with massive action as soon as next week… We will ask the unions for strong action that will allow people to stop work and go on to the streets."

In the southern port-city of Marseille, there is no public transport, trains have been delayed or cancelled and the ports blockaded, and the nine-day rubbish collectors’ strike means several thousand tonnes of refuse is piling up on the city’s streets. The top central government official in the area, Michel Sappin said, "There is a real danger to the safety and health of Marseille."

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French strikes force petrol stations to shut

BBC | 18 October 2010 | 17:24 GMT

About 1,500 petrol stations in France have run dry or are about to close as fuel supplies are hit by strikes over government pension reforms, officials say. A blockade of oil refineries has lasted a week and the body that supplies most supermarkets says one in four petrol stations is affected. President Nicolas Sarkozy has called a crisis cabinet to protect supplies. He told reporters that the reforms were "essential" and would be carried out.

French strike The exact number of France’s 12,000 petrol stations affected by the strikes is unclear, but oil company Exxon Mobil has described the situation as "critical". A spokesperson said that anyone looking for diesel around Paris or in the western area of Nantes would face problems. Severe shortages have been reported in Brittany in north-west France and the International Energy Agency says that France has begun tapping into its emergency oil reserves.

Workers at France’s 12 oil refineries have been on strike for a week and entrances to many of the country’s fuel distribution depots have been blocked. Panic buying was blamed for a 50% increase in fuel sales last week. The head of the Leclerc chain of supermarkets, Michel Edouard Leclerc, warned that at the current rate his company’s petrol stations would be empty within two to three days if the blockade of refineries remained and fuel imports were paralyzed.

Go-slow

Strike action against the government’s reform plans is being ramped up, with lorry drivers starting the week by staging a go-slow on motorways around several major cities including Paris, Lille and Lyon. A further day of strikes is scheduled for Tuesday, on the eve of a key Senate vote on the pension bill.

Half of all flights to and from Paris’s Orly airport and one in three flights at other airports are being cancelled, according to aviation officials. Airport operator ADP said there were already some delays at the capital’s largest airport, Charles De Gaulle, on Monday because of strikes by oil workers. Street protests have been planned in a number of cities and disruption is also expected on public transport and in schools. The government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full state pension age from 65 to 67.

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Israeli FM Lieberman: Europe should fix itself first

BBC | 11 October 2010 | 11:12 GMT

Israel’s foreign minister has told visiting European foreign ministers to solve Europe’s problems before taking on the Middle East. Avigdor Lieberman’s remarks came during a visit by Bernard Kouchner of France and Spain’s Miguel Angel Moratinos.

European visit to Israel Earlier, Mr Kouchner had said that the option of the UN Security Council declaring a Palestinian state could not be ruled out if negotiations failed. The European ministers are due to meet Palestinian and Jordanian leaders. They are in the region as part of efforts to save the Middle East peace talks, which are in danger of collapsing.

Palestinian officials say they will pull out of talks if Israel refuses to extend its partial freeze on settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

‘Short shrift’

In an interview published on Sunday by the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam, Mr Kouchner said that France preferred a two-state solution to be negotiated with Israel, but added that appealing to the Security Council to resolve the conflict remained a possibility. "We want to be able to soon welcome the state of Palestine to the United Nations… The international community cannot be satisfied with a prolonged deadlock. I therefore believe that one cannot rule out in principle the Security Council option," he said.

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French hold a third day of protest against pension reform

BBC News | 2 October 2010 | 17:52 GMT

Hundreds of thousands of people across France have taken to the streets to demonstrate against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to raise the retirement age, according to police figures. More than 200 protests were planned throughout the country. It is the third day of demonstrations against the proposed reforms, which go before parliament on Tuesday, in the last month.

France protests on 2nd Oct The government wants the retirement age to rise from 60 to 62. President Sarkozy says this is essential if the French pension system is to be viable in the long term. His opponents say society’s poorest people will be hit hardest by the changes.

Trade unions in France are proclaiming a success their day of mobilisation against planned reforms of the pension system, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris. They say nearly three million people – about the same as the previous protest on 23 September – turned out in demonstrations across the country. The first protest over pensions was on 6 September.

However, the interior ministry, using police estimates, says turnout was down, at less than one million on Saturday. These were the first demonstrations to take place on a non-working day, a change reflected in the make-up of the crowds, with many women and families taking part for the first time, our correspondent says. The pension reform bill, which has already been passed by France’s lower house of parliament, will be debated from 5 October by the upper house, the Senate, where it is expected to pass comfortably.

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Petain toughened up anti-Jewish law in Vichy France

Reuters | Oct 3, 2010 | 7:12pm IST

The head of the French government, which collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, personally made harsh anti-Jewish legislation even tougher, a leading Nazi hunter said on Sunday, citing a newly unveiled document. Serge Petain Klarsfeld, decorated for his work to bring Nazis to trial, said Philippe Petain pencilled harsher measures into a Statute on Jews issued by his Vichy regime exactly 70 years ago. First World War hero Petain signed an armistice with the Nazis in 1940, which divided the country, leaving the north in German hands. Petain created a government to the south in unoccupied France with its capital in Vichy.

According to the Statute, which Klarsfeld said had been handed over anonymously to the Holocaust Memorial in Paris and authenticated by its experts, Petain pencilled in his own notes drastically worsening conditions for Jews in France. "We didn’t know until now that Petain had made changes to the text of Oct. 3 1940 and that he had made it more strict," Nazi hunter and founder of the Association of the Sons and Daughters of Jews deported from France Serge Klarsfeld told reporters on Sunday.

The Vichy government helped in deporting about 80,000 Jews to concentration camps from France between 1942 and 1944. The amendments "completely redrafted" the nature of an already extremely anti-Semitic text, Klarsfeld added. "It shows this was the desire of Petain himself," he said of the document, which went on display a few days earlier.

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Iran criticises media for branding Carla Bruni ‘prostitute’

MSN News | 31/08/2010

Carla Bruni Iran’s foreign ministry criticised the media today for branding French first lady Carla Bruni as a “prostitute” after she expressed support for a woman sentenced to death by stoning. "Insulting officials of other countries and using indecent words is not endorsed by the Islamic Republic of Iran," ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters. "We don’t think using indecent and insulting words is a right move," he said when asked to comment on Iranian media reports that described Bruni as an "immoral" woman and a "prostitute".

"I hope the media will pay attention. The media can criticise the hostile policies of other countries, but by refraining from using insulting words. This is not correct." On Saturday, Iran’s hardline daily ‘Kayhan’ made a blistering attack on the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy by branding her a "prostitute." It ran a story headlined "French prostitutes enter the human rights uproar," in which it criticised Bruni and French actress Isabelle Adjani for supporting Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, the 43-year-old Iranian mother of two, who has been sentenced to death by stoning. "Bruni, the singer and depraved actress who managed to break the Sarkozy family and marry the French president and who is said to have an affair with a singer, has said in S M’s (Sakineh Mohammadi) defence that the verdict is unfair," ‘Kayhan’ wrote.

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