France 2020-

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Just How Frightening Is France’s New Right?
I witnessed Éric Zemmour electrify a seething and violent mob.
By Thomas Chatterton Williams
(The Atlantic) In October, Éric Zemmour, the best-selling French author and media personality who has won a devoted following by applying a throwback intellectual sheen to a familiar populist xenophobia, overtook France’s far-right standard-bearer, Marine Le Pen, in the polls for this April’s presidential election. He officially declared his candidacy at the end of November and held his first campaign rally in Paris last Sunday. The event, originally scheduled for the 9,000-seat Zénith arena, quickly needed to be relocated to the much larger Parc des Expositions, a massive conference center in the Parisian suburb of Villepinte, a short cab ride from Charles de Gaulle Airport and half an hour by train from Gare du Nord.

18 October
Éric Zemmour: the far-right polemicist’s ideas have a long history in France
(The Conversation) Éric Zemmour has become a household name in France. Buoyed by repeated appearances on French television news shows, including the conservative channel CNews (often referred to as the French version of Fox News), Zemmour is widely assumed to be considering a run for president in 2022.
A recent poll saw him predicted to reach the second round of voting alongside current president, Emmanuel Macron, out-performing Zemmour’s potential rival on the far-right, Marine Le Pen.

28 June
4 takeaways from French local elections
All bets are off ahead of the presidential race in 2022.
(Politico Eu) Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, the frontrunners for next year’s French presidential vote, saw their parties defeated in dramatic fashion Sunday evening, with both failing to gain control of a single region in the second round of local elections.
The failure of the disruptors to disrupt on Sunday, when the French voted in run-off ballots for 13 regional councils across metropolitan France and for 94 départements after a first round last weekend, allowed their conservative Les Républicains (LR) rivals to emerge in fighting form ahead of the 2022 race.
Here are four takeaways from the regional elections.
1. Marine Le Pen battered
2. Macron’s reelection bid under threat
3. The conservatives get their groove back
4. A crowded scene
As a snapshot of France, the regional elections show a political scene that is both crowded and divided.
The emergence of Macron’s LREM, the strength of the National Rally and the disunity on the left means there has never been more choice for the electorate. In the greater Paris region, voters had four leftwing candidates to choose from, all pitching a mix of green and welfare proposals.
In seven regions, four lists of candidates made it to the runoffs; in two regions — Brittany and Nouvelle-Aquitaine — there were five different parties to choose from. Tactical voting in these elections proved a nightmare.

26 May
France’s Macron seeks forgiveness over Rwandan genocide
Clement Uwiringiyimana
(Reuters) French President Emmanuel Macron said he recognised his country’s role in the Rwandan genocide and hoped for forgiveness at a memorial in Kigali on Thursday, seeking to reset relations after years of Rwandan accusations that France was complicit in the 1994 atrocities.
The visit follows the release in March of a report by a French inquiry panel that said a colonial attitude had blinded French officials, who were close to the Hutu-led government of the time. The report blamed France for not foreseeing the slaughter and said the government bore a “serious and overwhelming” responsibility.

7 May
Macron calls on US, UK to stop ‘blocking’ vaccines
French president renews calls for rich nations to share vaccine doses with poorer nations.
( France was the first member of the group of seven rich nations known as the G-7 to donate doses, but Macron has been under pressure recently for not clearly supporting a proposal to lift intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, an idea the U.S. backed on Wednesday.
Responding to a question by reporters upon his arrival to the EU Social Summit in Porto, Macron defended his position. “What’s the issue right now? It’s not really about intellectual property; you can give it to a lab that won’t know how to produce it — the first issue is giving doses,” Macron said. “The second pillar for the vaccines to circulate it’s not to block ingredients and the vaccines; today the Anglo-Saxons are blocking a lot of ingredients and vaccines.
In April, France gave 100,000 doses to Mauritania through the international vaccine provision initiative COVAX.
France only started producing vaccine shots in March, after it benefited from a transfer of technologies to produce mRNA vaccines. No French pharmaceutical company or laboratory has so far succeeded in developing an in-house COVID-19 vaccine.

6 May
Brigitte Granville: France’s Culture War Intensifies
With his speech commemorating the 200th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death, President Emmanuel Macron apparently is seeking to confront all aspects of the emperor’s divisive legacy. How he manages that characteristic balancing act could reveal much about his ability to keep France’s simmering culture war from boiling over.
(Project Syndicate)
Napoleon’s legacy has long been divisive. His admirers laud his role in creating the modern French state; his detractors condemn him as a colonizer who enslaved millions. But the issue has become particularly incendiary today, in the aftermath of the publication last month of an open letter by 20 retired generals.
… To improve his chances in this race, Macron will have to make himself stand out from the rest of the field, by reaffirming the distinctively “universalist” French ideal of citizenship – one that, unlike multiculturalism, transcends racial origins and religious belief.
On a more practical level, Macron would do well to redirect more of the country’s vast public spending away from the bureaucracy and toward the most basic functions of the state – beginning with the criminal-justice system. France’s police force is far from perfect, but it cannot be expected to improve without adequate resources, which are woefully lacking today.
Macron should also make concrete conciliatory gestures to those on both sides of the culture war. For example, a commitment to “zero-tolerance” policing in the banlieue could appease one side, while progress toward de-criminalizing drugs could appease the other, by reducing the potential perils of such enhanced policing.

5 May
Startups and the State: Growing French Tech
In less than a decade France has gone from tech backwater to the startup engine of the EU. It recently celebrated its 12th company to achieve a $1 billion valuation and is well on the way to President Macron’s goal of “25 unicorns by 2025.” Kat Borlongan, director of La French Tech, joins Azeem Azhar to explore how her government task force has been working to effectively drive growth in the French startup scene.
They also discuss:
Why achieving tech sovereignty has become a key motivator for governments.
How France’s visa scheme is part of their offensive strategy to attract top tech talent.
Why the French government is directly investing in startups via public investment bank Bpifrance.

Macron Closes Elite French School in Bid to Diversify Public Service
The institution had become a symbol of privilege in a society where social mobility has broken down.
Roger Cohen
There are elite schools and then there is ENA, the small French graduate college that has turned out presidents and prime ministers with such cookie-cutter consistency that it is no exaggeration to say France has been run by its “énarques.”
President Emmanuel Macron attended the Strasbourg-based finishing school for top civil servants. So did the two prime ministers he has appointed. So did his predecessor, François Hollande. So did Jacques Chirac. At a time of growing social fracture, no other institution has symbolized a clubby, mostly male French elitism as vividly as the Ecole Nationale d’Administration.
Now, it’s gone. Mr. Macron announced on Thursday the closure of ENA, and its replacement by a new Institute of Public Service, or ISP, as part of what he called a “deep revolution in recruitment for public service.”

15 April
Notre-Dame Cathedral fire: Two years on, how is restoration work going at the Paris landmark?
(Euronews) Two years since the devastating fire that nearly destroyed Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Gothic icon has still not been fully secured. …
[Monsignor Patrick] Chauvet added the actual restoration project could start officially by the end of the year, and he hopes mass can be held in 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron has set that year as his goal for finishing the interior restoration for the cathedral, in line with when Paris will host the Olympics.
Securing the cathedral has been a necessary but costly first step of the process, estimated at €160 million. It involved removing the stained glass windows, checking the gargoyles, removing rubble and installing protective nets in the choir to catch falling stones.
It has been complicated by scaffolding that had been erected for renovation works prior to the blaze at the tourist attraction. The fire melted the scaffolding, leaving around 200-tonnes of tangled web of burnt metal to deal with.
Brand new scaffolding has now been installed so that the condition of the vaults can be studied closely.

10 April
France’s Far Right Is Setting the Agenda Because the Mainstream Allows It To
Ahead of the 2022 election, French media are presenting an inevitable duel between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and the “populist” Marine Le Pen. Yet for decades we’ve seen how this liberal framing fuels far-right talking points — echoing Le Pen’s false claim to stand for those “left behind” against the status quo.
(Jacobin) A year ahead of France’s 2022 presidential election, countless articles have been written about the threat posed by the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National. With no particular attention paid to the French system or the current context, we are often told that she is the main contender to the presidency and the embattled Emmanuel Macron’s only real opponent. As always, opinion polls are mustered to push the message that this is what the people want. That it is not yet clear who the candidates will actually be — and whether a unified left-wing alternative could arise — does not seem to bother anyone with access to public discourse. The dice have already been rolled, and they seem loaded anyway.

2 April
As Covid cases in France surge, Macron’s superman image is fading fast
(The Guardian) The president may no longer be in denial, but the situation in some parts of France appears to be very much out of control. Daily Covid cases have reached 59,000 compared with the UK’s 4,000, and hospitals are straining under the pressure; some doctors worry that they may soon need to start prioritising those who will have the greatest chance of successful treatment.
The issue of intensive care bed capacity has been a thorn in Macron’s side for the past year. In March 2020, the health minister promised to increase the number of beds to 14,000. One year later, doctors and nurses are accusing the government of having largely broken its pledge. Most of these beds never materialised, and France’s hospitals appear unable to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

26 March
France not complicit in Rwanda genocide, says Macron commission
Report says France did not do enough to halt the 1994 killings but found no evidence of complicity

9 March
French oaks from once-royal forest felled to rebuild Notre Dame spire
Trees to help replace spire destroyed in 2019 blaze found in Forest of Bercé that once belonged to French kings
Last July amid a public outcry, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, ended speculation that the 19th century peak designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc could be rebuilt in a modern style. He announced it would be rebuilt exactly as it was before. And that began a nationwide tree hunt, culminating in a painstaking selection in January and February of this year.
About 1,000 oaks in more than 200 French forests, both private and public, were chosen to make the frame of the cathedral transept and spire – destined to be admired on the Paris skyline for potentially hundreds of years.
On Tuesday, chainsaw-wielding tree surgeons in Bercé scaled the special oaks to fell them in a race against the clock. All 1,000 must be “harvested” by the end of March, otherwise harmful tree sap and moisture could enter the wood fibres.
Ken Follett gives book proceeds to French cathedral restoration fund
Author donates proceeds from book about Notre-Dame fire to project to save cathedral in Brittany
Follet is giving €148,000 (£127,000) towards a multimillion euro project to save Saint-Samson de Dol-de-Bretagne cathedral.
The sum is what he has made from his book Notre-Dame: a Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals, written after the Paris monument was ravaged by fire in April 2019, which has sold 113,000 copies worldwide.


9 July
Notre Dame spire must be rebuilt exactly as it was, says chief architect
After fierce debate about 19th-century spire, consensus builds over restoration of fire-torn cathedral
Reconstruction work must begin with the delicate removal of 50,000 tubes of twisted scaffolding at back of the edifice, a task that Jean-Louis Georgelin, the retired army general in charge of the project, said last month should be completed by September, allowing rebuilding work to begin early next year.
Macron has said he wants the cathedral restored to its former glory by 2024, in time for the Paris Olympics, a timetable Georgelin said was possible “if everyone rolls up their sleeves”, but the process has been plagued by delays due to bad weather, health concerns over lead pollution and, most recently, the coronavirus crisis.

17 February
France’s Challenge in Africa
The Libyan revolution of 2011 brought lasting terrorist mayhem across a broad reach of Africa’s former French colonies. Now France needs its allies to help pacify the region — if that can be done.
By Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director of Le Monde.
(NYT) The French, whose troops have been fighting in the Sahel for seven years, ask few questions about their involvement. They should. In this crucible where Islamist insurgency, ancient local conflicts, fragile states, European hesitations and a shifting American strategy make an explosive mix, it is a war they may well be losing — or, in the best case, a war they may never win.
Welcome to the unforgiving, thankless fight against jihadis in the Sahel, an African region south of the Sahara as large as Europe, where 4,500 French troops were deployed in January 2013 to prevent the capital of Mali, Bamako, from falling to Al Qaeda. It is now the epicenter of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist-led insurgency. Two weeks ago, the French government decided to send 600 extra troops to the Sahel. Hardly a surge, but a clear sign that “avoiding the worst” is proving more and more difficult.
Bamako was saved, but since then Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. After killing more than 4,000 people last year and displacing more than a million, these groups are now threatening four coastal West African countries south of Burkina Faso, a state that, as the International Crisis Group warned recently, may provide “a perfect launching pad” for operations in Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

14 February
France to limit access to Mont Blanc after ‘aberrant behaviour’ of tourists
French president Emmanuel Macron, while on a visit to the French Alps on Thursday, announced that a protected area would be declared around the mountain, which is facing the double threat of climate change and irresponsible tourism.
Recent incidents have included a British tourist abandoning a rowing machine on the famed mountain, a German tourist making the ascent with his dog against the rules, and two Swiss climbers landing a small plane just east of the summit before hiking to the top.
Macron announced the changes on a visit to Mont Blanc where he also viewed the rapidly shrinking Mont Blanc glacier.
The French Alps resorts facing a future with no snow
The Alps are particularly exposed to the ravaging effects of global warming.
According to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA), temperatures in the mountain range have risen by nearly 2C in the past 120 years – almost double the global average – and will continue on the same upward trend.

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