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Former French President Sarkozy back in the limelight for 2017

Sarko_2017

The Economist is one of many publications profiling former French President Nicolas Sarkozy following his recent announcement that he’ll run again for the 2017 French Presidential elections. Excerpts below. What do you think of this possibility, and of the burkini ban controversy?

Mr Sarkozy formally announced his decision in a new book, “Tout pour la France” (Everything for France), published on August 24th. The next day he was due to take to the stage in the south of France for his first campaign rally. Mr Sarkozy’s platform, as outlined in the book, is a hallmark mix of economic liberalism (lower taxes, longer working hours, later retirement) and right-wing identity politics (tighter citizenship and immigration rules, a tougher stance on Islam and integration)…

…On the face of it, Mr Sarkozy’s chances of securing the nomination for “Les Républicains” (the Republicans), and getting his old job back, are not high. In polls among voters on the centre-right, he consistently trails Alain Juppé, a patrician former prime minister. A recent poll by TNS Sofres puts the gap at 30% to 37%, with François Fillon, another former prime minister, at just 8%. A broader sample of French voters also expects Mr Juppé to come top, by a big margin. Mr Sarkozy’s head-spinning mercurial style, and his tendency to prefer grandiose gestures over policy follow-through, have lost him support among centrists, who see Mr Juppé as a less divisive figure…Yet Mr Sarkozy is also a past master of the political comeback…

…Mr Sarkozy’s calculation is that, after 18 months of deadly terrorist attacks, voters on the right want a hard line on security and political Islam…A former interior minister who once set up a ministry of national identity, Mr Sarkozy has more of a record on such matters than does Mr Juppé…The French return next week for la rentrée, the start of the school year, with the country still under a state of emergency. Given such stress, political divergences are readily amplified. The primary campaign, and the election next spring, could turn out to be ugly as identity politics are thrust to the fore…

Where to find petrol (gas) in France

The Local France has an interactive map of where to find gas (petrol) stations that have supplies. They also have a map of where the gas shortage is being felt the worst.

The Economist has some essential reading from May 27 that covers the recent mayhem including more than 2,300 petrol stations that are either dry or rationing portions.

Travel wisely and be safe. I’ll be Tweeting updates from my handle @AmExpatFrance.

Strikes in France – what to know

France strikes - taken from The Economist (link below)

France strikes – taken from The Economist (link below)

Essential reading from The Economist (May 27)
Article here focuses on all that is going on in France.

Update May 27 from US Embassy Paris:

Full link to travel advisory

“…The following strikes have been announced for the week of May 30:

Rail – The national unions which represents rail workers renewed their call for strikes limiting rail services along the TVG, RER and SNCF networks. An “unlimited strike” is scheduled to start at 9 am on Tuesday, May 31 for a period of at least 24 hours.

Paris-area Public Transportation – The union representing the Paris metro area transportation (RATP) has called for an “unlimited strike” starting on June 2 of all public transportation services, including the Paris metro, buses, and RER trains.

Air – Air traffic controllers have also called for strikes Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5 which could result in delays or cancellations of flights originating in France…”

By now, you have probably heard that France has been undergoing rounds of strikes and protests over the past couple months. This is in large part due to proposed labor reforms. Of course most of you know that strikes and public outcry are a way of life in France that most people tend to accept with a shrug.

The Local France has an interesting piece on this cultural reality, as well as countless publications in the past including BBC and Slate. Even The Onion got in on the humor with a fake French protest image back in 2005.

But this time seems to be different: these are arguably the strikes with the most impact in 20 years. Taken with the ongoing “state of emergency” that France has put into place since the November terrorist attacks (and have extended), France has a palpable undercurrent of tension.

For now, what you should know about the strikes: 
These strikes are affecting transportation, oil refineries, nuclear power stations and more throughout the country. The BBC outlines the main points of the proposed reforms here along with more coverage of the action. I’ve laid those out at the end of this post.

The Economist also has an interesting piece on the strikes – anticipating action throughout the summer.

Another useful guide is from the great folks at The Local. Local resources in France for tracking news updates include the SNCF website, which currently states that traffic should start resuming to normal May 27 but to keep abreast of updates. Their travel agency Voyages SNCF also has a helpful resource for train travel updates.

You should also stay abreast of airline travel through your local airline. Aéroports de Paris does have general updates as well for Paris Orly and Paris CDG traffic.

BFM TV, Libération, France 24 and Le Monde are also great resources.

At the time of this being published, there have been clashes reported by protestors in Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Bordeaux and other major cities. Your local embassy should be the best resource for expat nationals living and traveling in France for up to date security information. The US Embassy, for example, has contact info here and updates on their Twitter feed.

Want to brush up on your French travel vocabulary? Try About.com or FluentU.

If you have travel plans to France or are thinking of moving there in the coming year, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so – just do your research and travel intelligently. I have lived in France for 30% of my entire life at different times as an intern, student, grad student, English teacher and employee. It is a place that is dear to me, and I would love for you to also have those life-changing experiences.

Travel smartly, safely and avoid protest areas. Take a lesson from my French friends and enjoy life, drink some wine and sit back to see how this evolves. C’est la vie, enfin.

French labour reform bill – main points

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

French unemployment rate drops 1.7% in March

France’s economy saw 60,000 fewer jobless claims in March, a 1.7% decline month-over-month. This is the largest monthly rate since September 2000. While this is great news for the economy, the country still has structural problems and issues it must work through over the next several years. France 24 has more on this here. Are you impacted at all by this drop in jobless claims?

France train network has national strikes (again) April 26th

French unions that bring together employees of the rail system, SNCF, is staging strikes around the country today. This is the third such strikes in the past two months. Paris’ RER network is also impacted.

More info here in French. A message from the US State Department’s Paris Embassy is below as well. You can follow news in English on France 24 here. They are running until 8am local time on Wednesday 4/27.

Consult your travel agency or SNCF’s train tracking site for news on delays or cancellations to your travel plans.

France 24 said:

Only half of high-speed TGV services will be running, SNCF said in a statement, along with just 40 percent of all regional TER trains.

Just one in three of SNCF’s Intercités trains will run, while half of all trains on the Paris region’s Transilien network will be cancelled.

RER rail services in the capital are also set to be significantly disrupted, with one train in two running on the RER line B, one in three on line C and D and two in three on line E. RER line A is set to run as normal.

International services are set to be largely unaffected though night trains will not be running, SNCF told the AFP news. It advised passengers to avoid travel or seek alternatives for their journeys wherever possible.

The U.S. Embassy in France informs U.S. citizens that several national unions representing SNCF train and service employees intend to hold a nationwide strike on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 to protest proposed changes to working conditions. Getting through train stations could take longer than usual and lines at automated machines are likely to be long. There could be resulting cancellations and delays to scheduled trains.

Travelers are advised to verify the status of their trains prior to arriving at the station and to allow extra time.

Please consult these websites for information on your train the day of the strike:

www.infolignes.fr

http://www.sncf.com/fr/prevision-trafic

www.sncf.com/en/passengers

http://www.sncf.com/en/news/timetables-traffic-updates

Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.

France facing significant strikes this week, will impact train travel

French labor unions and student groups are on strike around France right now thru March 10th. This is impacting travel throughout the country. Make sure to check SNCF’s time tracking website for updates to train schedules as well as the Paris transit system RATP.

France24 has great coverage of this here and the US State Department has issued the travel warning below for expats.

Bon courage, les amies, les amis.

SNCF_strike_March2016

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Strikes in France on March 8-10, 2016

On March 8 -10, 2016, members of several unions and student groups plan both strikes and protests all across France. These protests and strike actions are likely to make travel and/or local transport (including movement by private vehicle or taxi) difficult.

Nationwide, the unions that represent 70% of SNCF employees have called on their employees to strike; local media report that this is the first time since June 2013 that the four biggest unions have been unified in their intention to strike, suggesting that the participation rate could be very high and disruption accordingly significant.

In Paris, unions representing local transport authority RATP will also be striking, leading to possible slowdowns on the Metro, buses, and RER.

In separate actions, several groups plan to converge on the Place de la République in Paris at 2 pm from various assembly points across the city to protest the government’s consideration of reforms to the labor laws.

Unions have called on their members to meet around Paris metro station ‘Ecole Militaire’ to march on the MEDEF headquarters in the 7th arrondissement on avenue Bosquet. From there, they intend to head to the Labor Ministry on rue de Grenelle before heading for the Place de la République.

Student and young people’s groups have called on their participants to gather at Place de la Nation in the east of the city before marching to République.

Please note that the actual strike plans filed by the transport workers’ unions designate a start of the action at 8 pm Tuesday night, March 8, and a finish Thursday morning, March 10, at about 8 am.

Please consult various sources of local information for updates, including local TV stations and websites (to include BFMTV, Le Parisien, and France24), as well as:

RATP – Paris local transport system – for information on metros, buses, and RER lines:

http://www.ratp.fr/informer/trafic/trafic.php

Transilien – for Paris region transport:

http://www.transilien.com/info-trafic/temps-reel

SNCF – for national and regional rail travel:
http://www.sncf.com/fr/horaires-info-trafic

Twitter feeds for particular metro and/or RER line(s) are always very helpful, as are the Twitter feeds of the Paris Prefecture de Police (@prefpolice) and Aéroports de Paris (@AeroportsParis), which also provides information on traffic conditions to/from CDG and Orly airports.

The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens that demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational. Avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. Large public gatherings can affect all major incoming arteries to the city in which they occur. Demonstrations in one city have the potential to lead to additional public rallies or demonstrations in other locations around the city and country.

We strongly encourage U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to access local media to stay abreast of developments, avoid demonstrations, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.

For further information:

  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in France, located at 4, Avenue Gabriel, Paris,
    +33 (1) 43 12 22 22, 9:00am – 6:00pmMonday through Friday.
    After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +33 (1) 43 12 22 22.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

France investing in its start-ups, launches new visa

The Economist recently had an interesting piece on multiple initiatives (by government and private venture capital investment alike) to encourage a blossoming of start-ups that Paris has not seen in years.

How this impacts you as potential or current expats: “Axelle Lemaire, the (Canadian-born) minister visiting NUMA, has launched a “tech visa” for foreign entrepreneurs.”

To learn more about this visa and the overall project to support French tech start-ups, you can peruse La French Tech.

Also of note: France is embarking on a “Come Back Home” campaign abroad to try to convince accomplished French expats to return to their homeland to help take the start-up economy to the next level.

I’ve included the Economist text below. Have any of my readers attended recent events in France (both Paris and other cities) related to start-up and tech investment?

Reinventing Paris
Start-up city

A capital seen as a museum develops new pockets of high-tech modernity
Jun 13th 2015 | PARIS | From the print edition

THE café is organic, the décor industrial loft-style and the furniture artfully mismatched. This is NUMA, a digital hub in Paris, where facial hair is abundant and ties are non-existent. Perhaps it is insouciance, ignorance or quiet concentration, but when a government minister turns up, nobody notices. A new generation is trying to reinvent how Paris behaves and looks.

It may not be Berlin or London, but something is taking place in the capital’s fringes and deserted industrial spaces. A city with more beauty and heritage than most, Paris is trying to shrug off its staid image. Scarcely a week goes by without an event devoted to start-ups in a converted dock or warehouse in an unfashionable area. On Paris’s eastern edge, Xavier Niel, an entrepreneur who heads a €12 billion ($13.5 billion) communications group, is building a start-up incubator with floor space equivalent to four football pitches. In the first quarter of 2015 a Paris venture-capital firm was joint-top investor in European technology start-ups, with two German companies, according to CB Insights, an American research group.

“There has been a transformation of mentalities in France,” says Mr Niel, who urges young people to take risks, think big and break conventions. “Entrepreneurship is a state of mind” reads a banner at NUMA, also home to Google’s Paris campus. The outlook is anti-hierarchical and anti-conformist. “Our force is cultural chaos,” says Frédéric Oru, a co-director. Another NUMA executive adds: “It’s not very French.”

One reason for change is that the young are no longer drawn to corporate life. Unemployment among graduates is 10%, and one in five of those who create new businesses are jobless. But some just want to do their own thing, away from the strict hierarchies of corporate France. A quarter of recent graduates of HEC, the top business school, have started their own company, up from one in ten a decade ago.

Second, successful entrepreneurs and investors now show what is possible. Mr Niel, who also built a software-development school in Paris, is one. Sigfox, a start-up that runs a cellular network for connected objects, pulled off the third-biggest European tech deal in the first quarter of 2015 when it raised $115m. BlaBlaCar, Europe’s biggest car-sharing service, raised over €100m last year. Incubators with names like TheFamily have grown. Facebook is opening a research centre on artificial intelligence in Paris.

Third, the Socialist government, which once whacked entrepreneurs with taxes, has changed. Instead of lamenting the loss of fine brains, it hopes to lure in foreign ones. Axelle Lemaire, the (Canadian-born) minister visiting NUMA, has launched a “tech visa” for foreign entrepreneurs. A public-investment fund, BPI France, is promoting start-ups. Early efforts to back incubators met “indifference and scepticism”, recalls Jean-Louis Missika, a deputy to the Socialist mayor, because “that wasn’t the image of Paris.” City Hall now wants to show that Paris is not just a living museum.

It is odd that the city lost its reputation for innovation. From avant-garde art to industrial engineering, it used to push the boundaries. The 1878 Paris World’s Fair showcased electric light; in 1889, the Eiffel Tower became the world’s tallest man-made structure. More recently, the urge to preserve has stifled innovation. Yet Paris is learning to reconcile history and modernity. On the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, a park, an elegant glass-and-steel structure designed by Frank Gehry for the Louis Vuitton art collection has met with admiration. Slowly, almost despite itself, Paris is rediscovering an innovative spirit.

NYT: How France is confronting change

August 27th, 2013 2 comments

The New York Times had a piece the other day talking about the French economy and political system and its confrontation with social realities. “A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline”.

This is certainly not a new theme. Indeed, in my travels and living in France, I often heard the refrain “France changes not by evolution, but by revolution.” It echoes perhaps true today, with a political system that sees its citizens protest in the streets in an attempt to get their voices heard – it’s the French equivalent of citizen lobbying and activism that can come off as much more noticeable than activist efforts through citizen groups like NGO’s in the US.

It’s an insightful read, no matter where you stand in the political spectrum.

Here are the first few excerpts:

The New York Times
Steven Erlanger
August 24, 2013
Memo from France – A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline

“For decades, Europeans have agonized over the power and role of Germany — the so-called German question — given its importance to European stability and prosperity.

Today, however, Europe is talking about “the French question”: can the Socialist government of President François Hollande pull France out of its slow decline and prevent it from slipping permanently into Europe’s second tier?

At stake is whether a social democratic system that for decades prided itself on being the model for providing a stable and high standard of living for its citizens can survive the combination of globalization, an aging population and the acute fiscal shocks of recent years…”

Reflecting on France’s “malaise”

I hope you all had a very good Bastille Day!
As for me, I’m in a Parisian jazz outfit here in Chicago called Keops. We played the Bastille Day celebration at the Daley Plaza. It was a lot of fun.

As France celebrated its Bastille Day, it’s perhaps an opportune time to reflect on what the modern French Republic means, and the attitudes of its citizens.

Roger Cohen of the New York Times penned a poignant, if somewhat controversial, column the other day in reflection about France’s national attitudes. Excerpts below, but it’s worth the full read as these quotes could be taken out of context.

While I witnessed this feeling of “malaise” that seemed to permeate the national consciousness, I also had friends there who were positive people and looked for the bright side of the problem. There are problem solvers in the country, like any country. And the French also have a well-known “joie de vivre”. So I’m afraid Cohen’s column paints a picture that may be too dark. Nonetheless, when comparing France to the US, there is more optimism in general in the US. But in Cohen’s view, a French person would just paint this as blind ignorance.

Do you agree with his analysis?

“…Tell a Frenchman what a glorious day it is and he will respond that it won’t last. Tell him how good the heat feels and he will say it portends a storm. I recently asked in a French hotel how long it would take for a coffee to reach my room. The brusque retort: “The time it takes to make it.”

This surliness is more a fierce form of realism than a sign of malaise. It is a bitter wisdom. It is a nod to Hobbes’s view that the life of man is, on the whole, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Nothing surprises, nothing shocks (especially in the realm of marriage and sex), and nothing, really, disappoints. Far from morose, the French attitude has a bracing frankness. No nation has a more emphatic shrug. No nation is the object of so much romanticism yet so unromantic itself. No nation internalizes as completely the notion that in the end we are all dead.

Now, it is true that France lives with high unemployment in a depressed euro zone; that it is more vassal than partner to Germany these days; that it is chronically divided between a world-class private sector and a vast state sector of grumpy functionaries; that its universalist illusions have faded as its power diminishes; and that its welfare state is unaffordable.

Still, moroseness is a foible in a country with superb medicine, good education, immense beauty, the only wine worth drinking, an army that does the business in Mali, strong families and the earthy wisdom of “la France profonde.”

Malaise and ennui are to France what can-do is to America: A badge of honor…”

Nicolas Sarkozy in the US for bilateral talks and visit

September 23rd, 2011 No comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been in the US over the past couple days on a diplomatic visit.

He met with President Barack Obama at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on September 21. Their remarks are below.

He also joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg “to celebrate 125 years of friendship between France and NYC.”

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 21, 2011
Remarks by President Obama and President Sarkozy of France

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

4:53 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: On the anniversary of September 11th, President Sarkozy gave a speech at our embassy in Paris, and he reminded the people of France, but also the world, of the extraordinary friendship that had developed, in part, because of the great sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made over the decades to preserve freedom and democracy. And so, not only am I grateful for the expression of deep friendship that President Sarkozy expressed, but I want to affirm the mutuality of feeling that we have towards the French people.

That partnership has been evidenced by the extraordinary work that we’ve done together in Libya. And I want to thank President Sarkozy for his leadership, as a coalition helped the Libyan people achieve the kind of freedom and opportunity that they’re looking for. That partnership is evidenced in the work we did together in Côte d’Ivoire to ensure that the rightfully elected leader of that country was put in place. And our partnership and our mutual leadership will be required to deal with a range of international issues that have been discussed here at the United Nations and are going to be critical in the months and years to come, including trying to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also trying to find a coordinated world strategy, global strategy, to deal with a economy that is still far too fragile.

And, of course, we still have the joint project to bring stability and transition to Afghan governance. And we are extraordinarily grateful for the sacrifices that the men and women in uniform from France have made in that effort.

On a personal note, I consider Nicolas a friend as well as a colleague. Thank you for your leadership. Welcome. And I look forward to a very productive discussion.

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: (As translated.) I should like to say just how delighted we are to be here in the United States, in New York, alongside Barack Obama.

Now, for we, the people of France, I must say, it’s actually easy to work with Barack Obama. Whatever the crises we’ve had to face together, whatever the initiatives we have taken jointly, on every single occasion we have found a listening, open-minded attitude on the part of our friend, Barack Obama. In particular, when tackling the crisis, which is still upon us today, the leadership that President Obama has shown, and showed at the time, have been of a special value to us all.

There is still much to do, in particular in paving the way to the G20 summit in Cannes. This is our priority; our number-one priority — let me make this very clear — is to find the path to growth worldwide.

Lastly, I wish to say to what extent I am sensitive to the boldness, the courage, the intelligence, and the sensitivity of President Obama, my friend. I liked him before his election; I liked him once he was elected; and I especially appreciate him now, when the tough times are upon us.

And there’s one thing I want to say, perhaps on a more personal note, and that I really mean from the bottom of my heart. When things are as tough as they are right now, when the going gets as tough as it is right now, it is especially precious and important to be able to speak to what is the world’s number-one power — to someone who listens; someone who is sensitive to others; someone who is respectful and aware of other people’s redlines and prepared to take them into account, especially at a time when, as I said, we are facing fresh difficulties, and we really need, together, to go forward.

(Speaking in English.) She speaks like me. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.

END
5:02 P.M. EDT

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