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U.S. State Department warns vigilance in Europe

November 18th, 2017 No comments

The U.S. State Department just sent out a travel alert for Europe from now till Jan. 31, 2018.

They want to make sure American citizens in Europe are especially vigilante about their travel plans and surroundings (especially holiday festivals and events), as there are ongoing terrorist threats in Europe.

I encourage you to go visit Europe – you’ll be thankful you did. Or, if you’re moving there or have just moved there – don’t worry but do be cautious about public gatherings. Don’t let this keep you from enjoying une bouteille de vin with your friends.

I’ve included the main contact information for citizens below. You can see full alert on the U.S. State Department website here. I also highly encourage you to make digital copies of your passport and travel documents, and register for the STEP program below. Travel wise! – Michael

United States Embassy

American Citizen Services Unit

4, avenue Gabriel

75382 Paris Cedex 08

France

Telephone in France: 01 43 12 22 22

Telephone from U.S.: (011 33) 1 43 12 22 22

Website:https://fr.usembassy.gov

American Citizen Services: e-mail – citizeninfo@state.gov

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

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.

Nationwide strikes in France set for April 5

Attention, travelers and residents in France: There will be nationwide strikes Tuesday April 5th. I’ve put an important note from the US Embassy with further info below. Stay safe and travel smart!

April 4, 2016

U.S. Embassy Paris, France

Security Message for U.S. Citizens:
Strikes in France on April 5, 2016

Several unions nationwide have called on their workers to again strike in protest of the government’s proposed reforms to the labor law.

Multiple national unions have called for country-wide strikes on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Affected sectors include:

  • Public education and schools;
  • Postal system;
  • Aviation;
  • Waste removal;
  • Public transport; and,
  • Rail services.

Given transportation difficulties, reaching airports and train stations may take longer than usual.  Lines are likely to be long.  There could be resulting delays to trains and flights throughout France.  Travelers are advised to have their tickets in hand and to allow extra time if traveling on Wednesday.

Please consult various sources of local information as you prepare your plans forTuesday, 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 – input the # of your train and find out whether it will run or not:

http://www.sncf.com/fr/horaires-info-trafic

Twitter feeds for your 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), the latter of which also provides information on traffic conditions to/from CDG and Orly airports.  If you live outside of Paris, consult your local transport systems and news sources, or search “greve 5 avril” in Twitter for updates.

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).

Brussels under attack: What you should know

If you somehow haven’t heard yet, ISIS (Daesh) terrorists carried out bombings at Brussels International Airport and a metro station downtown near the EU HQ on March 22. There are thought to be 34+ deaths and 200+ injured, with those tolls probably to rise as forensics teams struggle to identify victims.

Flights have been canceled in and out of Brussels, as well as Eurostar trains. Brussels metro system is also shut down. Contact your travel company for information on your individual plans. Belgian authorities are calling for vigilance.

You can see up-to-date coverage on media including France 24, BBC, NY Times, Economist, Flanders News (local) and CNN. I also recommend following the news on Twitter. For those of you who are American, I suggested registering for the US State Department travel alerts & warnings and their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The UK’s Foreign Ministry has a similar service, as does Australia.  Belgium’s Foreign Ministry and that of France are also great resources.

In addition to social  media outreach, diplomatic letters of support were sent the world over including from the US and France.

My thoughts and prayers with the families and victims of Brussels. I personally have over 20 friends there and luckily they are accounted for. I’ve been there several times and each time the Belgian people are very welcoming. My heart goes out to you.

 

 

FranceBelgiumSolidarity2016

France extends “State of Emergency” procedures thru May 26

In the wake of last November’s terrorist attacks in France, the mood has somewhat shifted in that people are more cautious as it pertains to security threats. But by and large it is still the charming, beautiful country with a progressive outlook that we know and love. You should still visit, go out and plan to travel, study and/or work there.

But you should also be aware that the French government is stepping up its security efforts around the country. It has recently extended its official “State of Emergency” to allow for its security apparatus to have extended ability to implement measures. You can read the notice from the US Embassy in Paris below.

This should not deter your travel or moving plans, but they may impact timing for planes and trains. An informed traveler is a smart traveler.

United States Embassy Paris, France

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Security Situation in France

March 1, 2016

The U.S. Embassy in France informs U.S. citizens that the government of France has extended the State of Emergency through May 26, 2016, which allows the government to prevent the circulation of individuals and to create zones of protection. Attacks in Europe by terror groups and from persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis are possible.

Local authorities have reinforced security measures throughout the communes in the Ile de France region. These allow for:

  • house arrest of any person whose activities are deemed dangerous,
  • the closure of theaters and meeting places,
  • the surrender of weapons, and
  • the possibility of administrative house searches.

The French Government has decided to re-establish border controls when needed and movement may be restricted in some areas. Travelers should:

  • expect delays at airports and train stations due to heightened security measures.
  • expect increased security at both border checkpoints and toll booths, due to strengthened border controls,
  • contact transport companies for the latest information and to arrive at airports and train stations early.

The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. citizens of our Worldwide Caution. Travelers should exercise particular caution during festivals or events, including Easter and similar religious celebrations. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. U.S. visitors or residents in France should be aware of their local security situation, and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. Specific safety concerns should be addressed to French law enforcement authorities who have responsibility for the safety and security of all visitors to France.

For further information:

Categories: American, France, Paris, security, travel Tags:
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