rfi 2024-02-21 22:35:51



FRANCE

Armenian Resistance hero Manouchian joins France’s Panthéon luminaries

The ashes of Armenian genocide survivor and hero of the French Resistance, Missak Manouchian, were on Wednesday inducted into the Paris Panthéon – 80 years after he and his comrades were executed during the Nazi occupation.

The solemn ceremony shines a light on the significant role that foreigners played in the liberation of France.

Manouchian’s wife Mélinée – also part of the Resistance – joined her husband in the mausoleum of revered historical figures in line with the wishes of his family.

She survived the war and died a French citizen in 1989.

In a speech in front of their coffins in the monument’s nave, French President Emmanuel Macron said Manouchian had wanted to be a poet, but instead became “a soldier in the shadows”.

The decision to give him France’s highest posthumous honour was taken by Macron in 2023.

The names of 23 of his communist comrades – including Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish and Romanian fighters – will be added to a commemorative plaque inside the Panthéon.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended the ceremony despite suggestions by Macron that the presence of her National Rally party would be disrespectful. 

  • France pays tribute to Badinter, minister who won fight to end death penalty

A stateless refugee

Born in 1906 in what was then the Ottoman Empire, Manouchian was an orphan and a survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and 1916.

After arriving in France in 1925 as a stateless refugee with his brother, he led one of the most active armed groups against the Nazis.

The Manouchian group of foreign Resistance fighters was made up of about 60 men and women, including a number of Jews, and was close to the French Communist Party.

They carried out nearly a hundred armed and sabotage operations in the Paris region, including the execution of SS General Julius Ritter, head of the compulsory labour, in September 1943.

“Because these fighters managed to execute a high dignitary of the Reich, they were more hunted than ever,” Macron said in his speech at the Panthéon.

“In their footsteps walked inspectors from the police headquarters.”

In 1944 the group was put out of action when 23 of its members were rounded up and sentenced to death by a German military court.

The fighters were executed on 21 February, 1944, at Mont Valérien near Paris.

The Vichy regime later tried to discredit the Manouchian group and defuse anger over the executions in an infamous affiche rouge (red poster) that depicted the dead fighters as terrorists.

  • Why a far-right gang once tried to steal the corpse of France’s Marshal Pétain

Never naturalised

A communist, a Christian, and an internationalist, Manouchian’s desire to serve his adopted country in the armed forces saw him make several attempts at French citizenship.

But he died stateless: his naturalisation file, kept in France’s National Archives, contains two unfinished applications.

Manouchian had “died for our nation, which never fully embraced him”, Macron said.

By entering the Panthéon, Manouchian becomes the first foreign armed Resistance fighter to be awarded the honour.

The Panthéon already honours eight other French Resistance heroes, including the American-born civil rights activist Josephine Baker.


French history

Tracing the history of France’s hallowed Panthéon temple for national heroes

Armenian Resistance hero Missak Manouchian will be laid to rest Wednesday in France’s Pantheon on the 80th anniversary of his killing by a Nazi firing squad. So-called pantheonisation is France’s highest honour – but what are its origins, and what’s the criteria for entering this secular temple that celebrates the nation’s most eminent figures?

One of the great landmarks of the French capital, the Pantheon – whose architecture is based on the Pantheon in Rome – was the city’s tallest building before the construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

Its history can be traced back to the French Revolution. In 1791 the National Assembly repurposed the neo-classical Church of Sainte-Genevieve into a temple of the “fatherland” dedicated to commemorating the nation’s “great men” – as the gleaming inscription on its facade reads.

Throughout the 19th century, the fate of the Panthéon oscillated between religious and secular use, but in 1885 the death of the renowned writer Victor Hugo solidified its status as a mausoleum honouring the great and the good.

The Panthéon then became the republican equivalent of the Basilica of Saint-Denis, the necropolis of the French kings.

  • Heroes who fought to abolish slavery honoured in Paris Pantheon expo

Who’s eligible?

The selection process for pantheonisation lacks strict rules. The occupants of the Panthéon’s crypt are evidence of the broad interpretation of entry criteria.

A decree handed down in 1885 simply states that “the remains of great men deserving of national honors will be buried there”.

During the Napoleonic empire, military and dignitaries were welcomed. But more than half of the 77 greats who entered the Panthéon between 1806 and 1815 are now relatively unknown.

Since the Fifth Republic began in 1958 the final decision has rested with the president alone.

  • La Bastille – medieval symbol of oppression, modern symbol of liberty

These days, politicians, writers, scientists and activists share the distinguished space. Among them: socialist political figure Jean Jaurès, physicist Marie Curie, French Resistance leader Jean Moulin, philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, Holocaust survivor and politician Simone Veil, and braille writing system inventor Louis Braille.

Curie’s panthéonisation in 1996 marked an historic moment as she became the first woman to be honoured in her own right. Today there are six.

American singer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker notably became the first woman of colour to enter the Panthéon in 2021.

Holding French nationality is not technically required. Manouchian, being relocated to the Panthéon today, died stateless despite making several citizenship attempts. His naturalisation file, kept in France’s National Archives, contains two unfinished applications.

He’s been described by the media as “French by spilled blood”.


UKRAINE WAR

EU approves new round of sanctions against Russia

European Union members gave a provisional all-clear to a 13th package of Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia on Wednesday. It covers bans for nearly 200 organisations and individuals accused of helping Moscow obtain weapons or being involved in kidnapping Ukrainian children.

The new package will add 193 entities and individuals to the list of those banned from travelling to the EU or doing business in the 27-country bloc.

It is understood that the focus of the listings is roughly split between outfits and individuals that are part of Russia’s military industrial complex and those involved in trafficking and kidnapping Ukrainian children.

Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency, announced the move on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

It is expected the package will be formally approved on 24 February – the second anniversary of Russia’s initial incursion into Ukraine.



“This package is one of the broadest approved by the EU,” the message added.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court alleged last March that Russia had transferred at least hundreds of children from orphanages and care homes in occupied regions of Ukraine. Many have been given up for adoption.

The ICC indicted officials including President Vladimir Putin for abducting Ukrainian children, which it called a war crime.

Moscow denies any crime and says it has taken in children from the war zone to protect them. Ukraine says Russia has removed more than 4,000 children.

The new measures also focus on the procurement network supporting Russia’s military, especially supply chains to make drones.

Twenty-seven companies were added to the Annex IV list, which means European firms cannot sell dual-use goods to them.

It is believed the companies added are mostly Russian and include three mainland Chinese firms and one Hong Kong-based company, the sources said.

The package will be formally approved in time for the second anniversary of the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. 


FRANCE – AGRICULTURE

French PM seeks to avert fresh farmer protests with bill of change

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal outlined a package of measures on Wednesday aimed at reassuring farmers that agriculture remained a top priority for the government.

Attal’s attempt at appeasement came three days before the start of the annual Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris.

“France must be sovereign. Agricultural sovereignty is our course,” Attal told a press conference.

Flanked by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau and Christophe Béchu – who holds the Ecological Transition portfolio – Attal added: “We want to place agriculture among the nation’s fundamental interests in the same way as our defence or our security.

“I would remind you that there can be no country without farmers.”

The French government will prepare by the summer a new law to better safeguard farmers’ income and strengthen their position in negotiations with retailers and consumer goods companies, said Attal.

Farmers say they are not being paid enough and have to fork out too much in taxes and are constricted by new rules on the environment. They also claim they face unfair competition from abroad.

Change

Attal said almost all seasonal jobs in agriculture would be exempt from employers’ contributions. “This measure will apply from 2024,” he added.

He also promised that the remainder of aid for formers from the European Common Agricultural Policy would be paid by 15 March.

“In 2015, at the same time, 0 percent of payments had been made, and payment was made a year late,” said Attal.

In France, farmers’ protests have been toned down following weeks of protests that included blocking roads.

Demonstrations in other European countries including Belgium, Greece and Germany have exposed the tensions over the impact on farming of the EU’s drive to tackle climate change, as well of opening the door to cheaper Ukrainian imports to help Kyiv’s war effort.

“Farmers have asked us to go even further. We’ve been faithful to the method I’ve set out: listen and act to achieve results,” said Attal.

The draft policy law will be presented at the end of the week, discussed in the spring, and a joint committee will be set up by June, said Fesneau.

Attal also announced the launch of a parliamentary mission on the Egalim law, which aims to ensure that farmers are properly remunerated.

It will be headed by the MPs Alexis Izard from President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party and Anne-Laure Babault who is a member of the MoDem group.


Space

European satellite set for fiery tumble into Earth’s atmosphere

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Remote Sensing 2 (ERS-2) satellite will take an uncontrolled, fiery plunge into the atmosphere sometime on Wednesday.

Its planned re-entry is part of ESA’s goal of mitigating the problem of space debris.

This natural re-entry of ERS-2, launched in 1995, follows on from its 66 de-orbiting manoeuvres carried out by ESA in 2011. 

ESA ended the once cutting-edge satellite’s operations in 2011.

Quentin Verspieren, ESA senior expert on space debris, told RFI that ERS-2 was designed prior to specific standards for preventing debris and, therefore, didn’t have to comply with current practices. 

Verspieren also explained that at the end of its mission, ESA decided to make an example and introduce modern standards for removing the historic satellite.  

The result is this planned re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere where most of it will burn up on its descent– leaving little trace in outer space.

He added that ERS-2’s re-entry is different from the Aeolus satellite, which re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere last year. 

While ERS-2 will enter the atmosphere fully uncontrolled, Aeolus was able to undergo a manoeuvred re-entry due to its more advanced design. 

European Space Agency satellite close to reentering Earth’s atmosphere

Space debris

Formally known as orbital debris, space debris includes pieces of inactive satellites and rockets that carry them into space, as well as debris from missiles and detritus left behind by astronauts.

Space debris can be as large as a school bus, like the inactive Envisat satellite launched in 2002, or as small as paint chips.

According to Nasa, there were more than 25,000 objects larger than 10cm of debris currently orbitting Earth. Meanwhile, the estimated population of particles between under 10cm in diameter is around 500,000.

As of January 2022, the amount of material orbiting the Earth exceeded 9,000 metric tons.


PARIS OLYMPICS 2024

France launches anti-corruption push ahead of 2024 Paris Olympics

Paris (AFP) – Ahead of the Paris Olympics in July and August, French prosecutors are working on four enquiries into possible wrongdoing, but are the investigations a sign of problems or of genuine efforts to tackle graft?

Andy Spalding, an academic and author who studies corruption in sporting “mega-events” such as the Olympics or the football World Cup, believes French authorities are showing they are serious about delivering a clean Games.

Three preliminary investigations are into possible favouritism in the awarding of around 20 contracts worth tens of millions of euros, while a fourth – revealed on February 6 by AFP – is scrutinising the pay of chief organiser Tony Estanguet.

In an interview with AFP, Spalding, a professor at the US-based University of Richmond School of Law, explained the troubled history of Olympic corruption and why he believes the Paris Games might spell the start of a “new era” of cleaner international sport.

  • Iconic Paris riverside booksellers can stay during Olympics, Macron rules

Question: When did corruption in the Olympics first come to wide public attention?

“The Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 was the first time in which there was hard evidence of corruption that went public. Pre-2002, we know there’s corruption. But we can’t prove it and the world is largely resigned to corruption.

Then in the late 1990s, there’s something sometimes called the “corruption eruption” – a period of time in which all of a sudden the world starts paying a lot of attention to corruption issues.

There are new international conventions; there’s an explosion of scholarship. There are scandals and resignations, new enforcement initiatives.

What we saw in the ensuing Games was not just incidents of corruption, but systemic corruption. Russia with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics was probably the most egregious example of this, where billions of dollars are estimated to have been embezzled in the course of the event.”

  • Paris unveils its only inner-city venue built specially for the Olympics

Question: What has been the effect on the Olympics movement?

“The corruption scandals have damaged the International Olympic Committee brand enormously. That was most obvious in 2015 at the time of the awarding of the 2022 Winter Games, when the only credible candidate, China, was a country that had almost no winter sports tradition.

Other countries just didn’t want them because of the systemic corruption and the cost overruns.

The IOC needs a sustainable business model, so they adopted reforms, attacking the two different components of corruption: one is the corruption at the IOC level, particularly with the executive committee, meaning they needed to reform the bidding process.

Then the second step was addressing corruption at the host level: the organising committee, the municipality, the National Olympic Committee.”

  • Paris Olympics medals to include metal from Eiffel Tower

Question: Part of that approach is a new “anti-corruption clause” in the contract with the Olympics host city. What is this?

France is the first country to be under an enforceable contractual obligation to adopt anti-corruption compliance programs. Nobody knows what it means yet, but starting with Paris, moving forward to the 2026 Winter Games and Los Angeles in 2028, we will have these contractual obligations each time.

You start with a contractual provision. The next step is to provide some guidance on what that means. Then we need operations and some enforcement for breach of contract. When all of those steps are completed, then the clause will mean something.

When any convention or statute is adopted, there is a lag before enforcement. The statute that was the catalyst for global anti-corruption enforcement, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, was on the books for 25 years before we did anything with it.”

Question: How else is Paris 2024 different?

“It’s really important to note that France was awarded the Olympics in 2017, the same year that it adopted a new highly innovative anti-corruption law, Sapin II. That created a freestanding requirement that companies adopt anti-corruption compliance programs to prevent things like bribery, favouritism or extortion. In most of the world, anti-corruption compliance is not legally required.

France applied all this to the Olympics. They put the organising committee under the jurisdiction of the new French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) whose sole purpose is to help companies build compliance programs.

And in reviewing the organising committee, AFA has uncovered issues that are potential red flags. It sends those red flags to prosecutors, and prosecutors are now investigating.

What is that evidence of? Systemic corruption or an innovative anti-corruption initiative working really well? It depends on whether anything is verified. And if it’s verified, how serious it is.

I think Paris could mark the beginning of a new era of anti-corruption law enforcement and anti-corruption measures in the Games.”


Democratic Republic of Congo

France says Rwanda must end support for M23 rebels in DR Congo

France has called on Rwanda to end all support for M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to pull its troops out of the country. This comes on the heels of demonstrations in the eastern city of Goma against both Rwanda and its Western allies.

Fighting between the mostly Tutsi M23 rebellion and Congolese government forces has flared in recent days around the town of Sake, 20 kilometres from Goma in North Kivu province.

The DRC, the UN and some Western countries have been saying for months that Rwanda is supporting the M23 rebels in a bid to control vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.

France’s foreign ministry called on Rwanda to cease all support to the M23 and to withdraw from Congolese territory.  

“M23 must cease fighting immediately and withdraw from all areas it occupies,” it added.

Flag burning

Meanwhile, dozens of demonstrators turned out on Monday, some draped in the DRC flag with red bands around their heads, trampling on the flags of the United States, the European Union (EU), France and Poland.

“These are the flags of countries complicit with Rwanda,” organisers said.

“They are the ones financing our enemies,” Patrick Ricky Paluku, of the Veranda Mutsanga pressure group told RFI, referring in particular to EU investment programmes for Kigali.

  • Fighting escalates in eastern DRC as evidence of Rwanda’s support to rebels emerges

“We are in the street to denounce the crimes of which the Congolese are victims,” Espoir Mwinuka, an activist with the Lucha (Struggle for Change) movement, told the French news agency AFP.

“Rwanda kills us every day and is supported by the international community, which is why we burned these flags”, he added.

They carried placards, reading: “Stop the massacres in the DRC”, “France = M23/Rwanda”, “To be silent is to be an accomplice”.

The demonstrators, mainly young men, marched from the city centre to the road leading to Sake before turning back.

The demonstration was banned by Goma’s city hall but took place peacefully, with no clashes between police and army forces.   

  • Women protest against fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Fear of war

Dozens of soldiers and civilians have reportedly been killed or wounded in the latest fighting, which has pushed tens of thousands of civilians towards Goma.

On Saturday, the Congolese army accused Rwanda of using “drones” to attack Goma airport.

In response, Rwandan authorities published a statement on Sunday, and denounced a real threat to its security. It said that the country is ready to take all measures to defend itself.



The conflict has disrupted food supplies to Goma, affecting more than two million residents and displaced individuals, forcing thousands to seek refuge in the city.

The use of heavy artillery and shelling has killed dozens. Hospitals in Goma have struggled to cope with the influx of injured civilians.

The United Nations and other aid agencies have warned that the fighting risks worsening the humanitarian crisis in the eastern Congo region, where more than 5 million people have been displaced in the four provinces of the region due to conflicts.

The United States is urging calm on both sides, while the Angolan President Joao Lourenço as been appointed as a mediator by the African Union (AU).

A meeting is also being prepared in Luanda to continue the discussions started at the AU summit in Addis Ababa.

Long-term tensions

Militias have plagued the eastern DRC for decades, a legacy of regional wars fought in the 1990s and the early 2000s.

After years of dormancy, the M23 (March 23 Movement) took up arms again in late 2021 and has since seized vast swathes of Nord Kivu province.

The M23 rebels claim to defend ethnic Tutsi interests against Hutu militias whose leaders orchestrated the 1994 Rwandan genocide of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

(with newswires) 


HEALTH

Measles cases rose by 79 percent globally last year, warns WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is concerned by the rapid spread of measles, with more than 306,000 cases reported worldwide last year – a 79-percent increase from 2022.

“We in the measles world are extremely concerned,” said Natasha Crowcroft, a WHO technical adviser on measles and rubella.

She stressed though that measles cases are typically dramatically under-reported, and that the real number was surely far higher.

To get more accurate figures, the UN health agency models the numbers each year, with its latest estimate indicating that there were 9.2 million cases and 136,216 measles deaths in 2022.

Such modelling has not yet been done for last year, but Crowcroft pointed out that 2022 had already seen a 43-percent jump in deaths from the year before.

Measles outbreaks

Given the ballooning case numbers, “we would anticipate an increase in deaths in 2023 as well”, she told journalists.

“This year is going to be very challenging.”

She warned that more than half of all countries globally are currently believed to be at high risk of measles outbreaks by the end of the year.

And some 142 million children are estimated to be susceptible to falling ill.

‘Backsliding immunisation’

Measles is a highly-contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

A major cause of the swelling numbers is the “backsliding immunisation coverage”, Crowcroft said.

At least 95 percent of children need to be fully vaccinated against the disease in a locality to prevent outbreaks, but global vaccination rates have slipped to 83 percent.

There is a great deal of inequity in the distribution of cases, and even more so when it comes to deaths.

Crowcroft pointed out that 92 percent of all children who die from measles live among less than a quarter of the global population, mainly in very low-income countries.

(with AFP)


Ukraine

French aid workers in Ukraine killed by ‘deliberate’ drone attack

The Swiss aid group HEKS said Tuesday that an investigation into the killing of two French staff in Ukraine had determined they died in a “deliberate” drone attack.

“Following the attack, the French and Ukrainian governments have opened a war crimes investigation,” HEKS said in a statement.

French nationals

The two men killed in the attack were HEKS senior security coordinator Guennadi Guermanovitch, 52, and Adrien Baudon de Mony-Pajol, 42, who headed the organisation’s home repair unit.

They had sought and received permission to travel from civilian and military authorities in the Kherson region.

They were travelling in two well-marked white vehicles emblazoned with the HEKS logo and a symbol indicating there were no weapons onboard, and they were all wearing helmets and bulletproof vests.

They had reached Beryslav – a small community on the banks of the Dnipro River near the frontline in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

‘Deliberate’ drone attack

But when they were leaving, “they were suddenly attacked by drones”, the statement said, adding that Guermanovitch and Pajol were fatally injured.

The HEKS investigation showed that its six staff, who had been sent to evaluate the humanitarian situation and determine what aid could be provided, had followed all security procedures.

The four other staff were hurt, but managed to carry their colleagues’ bodies and seek refuge in two nearby houses.

When night fell, they sought medical assistance at a local health centre, before they were taken to Kyiv for specialised treatment the next day, HEKS said.

The organisation said that the injured staff members were “doing well considering the circumstances”.

The three injured French nationals had returned to France, it said.

France has already accused Russia of responsibility for the 1 February strike in the Ukrainian town of Beryslav.

Four other staff – three French nationals and a Ukrainian – were injured in what the Swiss Church Aid group (HEKS) described as a “brutal and unjustifiable” attack.

On 2 February, French President Emmanuel Macron said on X that the attack had been “a Russian strike. A cowardly and outrageous act.”

The Russian ambassador to France was summoned to the foreign ministry over the deaths.

 (AFP)


HUMANITARIAN CRISES

French NGOs angry over drastic cuts to overseas aid budget

France’s announcement of a cut in its development aid has prompted an angry response from French NGOs working abroad, especially in the Middle East and Africa. 

“It’s a real dampener,” says Olivier Bruyeron, the president of Coordination SUD, which brings together 180 French associations and NGOs internationally.

He was reacting to the announcement of an €800 million cut announced by the government as part of a broader savings plan of €10 billion.

Coordination SUD‘s members include NGOs such as Action contre la faim (Action Against Hunger), Handicap International and Médecins du Monde.

Few details have emerged so far, except that  €600 million will come from programs carried out under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and €200 million from the Ministry of the Economy, according to a source at the Ministry of the Economy on Monday.

Quoted by French news agency AFP, the source indicated that voluntary contributions to the United Nations, which covers various development programs, “could be part of the savings”.

Fears for Gaza

Louis-Nicolas Jandeaux, campaigner for the NGO Oxfam, told AFP that he considers the situation “particularly serious” .

He is worried these cuts will affect the United Nations agency for refugees in Palestine to save lives in Gaza, funding for the fight against hunger in East Africa and many other missions.

France announced at the end of January that it was not planning a new payment to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in the first quarter of 2024, after accusations that employees could have been involved in the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October.

  • France suspends development, budget aid to Niger following military coup
  • Cutting UN funds to Gaza puts ‘hundreds of thousands’ at risk, says EU

Another diplomatic source told AFP that other savings could come from the reduction of programs carried out with countries affected by coups d’état in Africa, especially in the Sahel, and in the reduction of funds granted to the French Development Agency.

In addition to the negative effect on aid programs, NGOs and associations have criticised the government’s doublespeak.

“This cut in development aid goes against the political commitments made by the government,” insists Bruyeron.

Tenth global contributor

In 2022, France paid out $16 billion in public development aid, according to the OECD annual report published in April 2023, and even congratulated itself on having become the fourth largest international donor behind the United States, Germany and Japan. Annual figures for 2023 are expected in April.

This record amount for France, however, represents 0.56 percent of its gross national income, making it the tenth global contributor to development aid, still far from the United Nations objective of having each developed country pay back 0.7 percent per year of its GNI.

France itself committed in a law of August 2021 to repay this percentage each year from 2025.

In 2022, only Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway and Germany have reached this target.

(with AFP)


Paris Olympics 2024

Barcelona 1992: New participants, new Olympic dreams

The 1992 Barcelona Olympics was marked by openness and unity after a long period of controversy and conflicts. The political changes in the world in the late 1980s and early 1990s allowed the Olympics to take place without a boycott for the first time since 1972. The Olympics also coincided with the unification of East and West Germany and the dissolution of the USSR and Yugoslavia.

Armando Calvo joined the organizing committee of the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1987, initially as the Director General of Technology and Infrastructure, then as the Director General of Operations, and during the Games, as the Director General of the Olympic Village.

Before joining the Olympic team, he worked for Sony in Spain. This career path was not unusual. He said in an interview with RFI that no one within the Barcelona 1992 organizing committee had experience in organizing major sports events.

Barcelona 1992 opens

On July 25, 1992, the opening ceremony of the Olympics tournament took place.

The theme of the ceremony was the myths and legends of Hercules, who is considered the founder of Barcelona.

Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé were supposed to perform the opening music “Barcelona” at the Games’ opening, but with Mercury’s death eight months before the Olympics, a recording of the duet was played during the ceremony instead.

Another duet, Amigos Para Siempre by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black, performed by Sarah Brightman and José Carreras, was performed live at the opening ceremony.

The mascot of the Barcelona Olympics was a puppy named Cobi, a Catalan sheepdog designed in the Cubist style by Valencia designer Javier Mariscal.

The official emblem of the Barcelona Summer Games was the figure of a person seemingly jumping over a barrier made up of 5 Olympic rings. It was designed by Barcelona artist Josep Maria Trias.

Revamping Barcelona

“In a sense, we put Barcelona on the world map,” Cavlo said commenting on the legacy left after the 1992 Olympics.

“The summer games in Barcelona are  often cited as a positive example of the Olympic impact on the host city. Extensive work was carried out to modernize and reconstruct entire districts of the city on the occasion of hosting the Games.”

The most prominent example of Olympic urban transformation is the port area of Barcelona.

It was decided to build the Olympic Village near the coast; the new districts of Villa Olímpica, Poblenou, and Fórum effectively created a new image of Barcelona as a seaside city.

In the former industrial port, water filtration work was carried out, new beaches and leisure areas were created. As a result, after the Olympics,the area became a bustling residential area and tourist attraction.

Armando Calvo notes that after the Olympics, the flow of tourists to Barcelona increased enormously overall, but he particularly highlights maritime tourism – the appearance of cruise liners in the port of Barcelona.

“The main challenge was that no one within the organizing committee had experience in organizing such a significant event,” Calvo said.

“We talked to people who had worked in other organizing committees. I even lived in Seoul for three months before the Seoul Olympics in 1988 to follow the preparations. But in our organising committee, no one had such experience.”*

The new nations

Like all Olympic Games, the Barcelona edition did not escape the influence of geopolitics.

Sports historian Thierry Therret explained that between 1989 and the 1992 Olympics, history accelerated: the Berlin Wall fell, the communist regime came to an end in Eastern Europe, an active geopolitical process unfolded in the Balkans, new independent nations formed, and recent adversaries united.

“At that time, the Olympic Games were held in Barcelona, that is, in a country that did not face serious geopolitical difficulties, but the world around it was on fire and in the process of rebuilding,” Therret said.

In Barcelona, Germany had single team for the first time since reunification. Armando Calvo recalls that in terms of preparing for the Olympic Games, the unification of communist and capitalist Germany did not pose particular difficulties:

“I remember we had meetings with different national Olympic committees. At the time, I met representatives from the NOC of West Germany and the NOC of East Germany. But ultimately, everything went smoothly: at one point, they simply informed us of the merger, and it posed no organisational problems.”

The bigger challenge, as Calvo recalls, was the emergence of new countries on the Olympic map following the collapse of the USSR and the war in the Balkans.

“Awar was ongoing in the Balkans, and Yugoslavia had ceased to exist. For us, this meant the loss of all our usual contacts, as we worked with the Yugoslav National Olympic Committee. And the NOCs of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina emerged.”

According to historian Thierry Terre, for newly independent nations, having their own Olympic committee and participating in the Olympic Games were signs of international recognition. The IOC, in this sense, almost played a kingmaker role: the registration of a new country’s National Olympic Committee often preceded its legitimization at the United Nations.

 

For the first time, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia were represented at the 1992 Olympic Games as independent nations. “Imagine: at the time, at the beginning of the Olympic Games, we didn’t have a national anthem for Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina. We asked these countries to provide us with a flag and an anthem. We only had the flag and anthem of Yugoslavia,” recalls Armando Calvo.

Furthermore, Barcelona 1992 was the first edition of the Olympic Games where Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia participated as independent nations with their own national teams after the dissolution of the USSR.

Unlike other post-Soviet republics, the Baltic nations managed to submit requests for the registration of their national Olympic committees on time, and their membership, interrupted on the eve of World War II, was reinstated. As a result, individual teams and delegations from each of the three countries traveled to Barcelona.

Neutral Athletes

Serbia, on the other hand, was able to send its delegation to the Olympic Games on the condition that athletes compete in accordance with Olympic neutrality. Calvo, who was responsible for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Village, explains that organisers feared that the war in the Balkans would create conflicts between delegations and that a special place had been prepared in the Olympic Village for Serbian athletes.

However, interactions between national teams from the former Yugoslavia posed no problems during the Olympic Games:

“In the Olympic Village, during the competition – and I can say this with certainty – there were no problems. I myself witnessed the interaction between Serbian and Croatian athletes, I saw how, in the Olympic Village cafeteria, Serbs and Croats sat side by side at the same table, and no problems arose,” recalls Calvo.

“However, Serbian athletes did not have their own flag or anthem at the Barcelona Games.

“From a sports perspective, I remember that the Yugoslav basketball team had been selected for the Olympic tournament, but since Yugoslavia no longer existed, the International Federation had to find a replacement for the Yugoslav team, which also no longer existed. Serbs participated in the 1992 Olympic Games as independent Olympic athletes, meaning they only competed in individual sports and not in team sports.

And when they entered the stadium or won medals, we used the flag and anthem of the Olympic movement,” says Armando Calvo.

Additionally, during the war in the Balkans, the Barcelona Olympic organising committee and the city’s residents provided humanitarian aid to the population of the other Olympic city – Sarajevo, host of the 1984 Winter Games.

Unified Team

In 1991, the USSR collapsed. The new independent states located on its territory did not all have time to request the registration of their own Olympic committee. For this reason, the IOC made an exceptional decision: to allow countries to compete as a unified team from the former USSR.

This team was composed of representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

In the official competition protocols, the team was referred to as “EUN,” the abbreviation for Unified Team. The Olympic flag was raised for the victories of EUN members in team events, and the national flag of the athletes’ country of origin was raised when they won individual events.

At the opening ceremony, each team marched with its own flag, but in front there was a common flag – the Olympic flag.

“In the Olympic Village, each time a new delegation arrived, we organised an official reception to welcome the newcomers, deliver a brief speech, raise the country’s flag, and listen to its national anthem. In the case of the former USSR, we welcomed a delegation composed of 12 groups, each representing a former republic, each with its own flag. In honor of this delegation, we raised the flag of the Olympic movement to the sound of the Olympic anthem,” says Armando Calvo.

Olympic Legacy

“We somehow put Barcelona on the world map,” says Armando Calvo, commenting on the legacy left by the 1992 Olympic Games. Indeed, the Barcelona Summer Games are often cited as a positive example of Olympic influence on a host city.

On the occasion of the games, the city  modernised and renovated entire neighborhoods. The most striking example of Olympic urban transformation is the Barcelona port area. It was decided to build the Olympic Village near the coast; the new districts of Villa Olímpica, Poblenou, and Fórum de facto created a new image of Barcelona as a seaside city.

The former industrial port saw its waters cleaned, and new beaches and recreational areas were created. This territory thus became a lively residential area and a major tourist attraction.

Tourist boats dock at the pier built for the Olympic Games. Armando Calvo says that since the Olympic Games, the flow of tourists to Barcelona has significantly increased, but he particularly emphasizes the importance of maritime tourism with the appearance of cruise ships in the port of Barcelona.

For Calvo himself, the main source of pride in his participation in the organization and realisation of the 1992 Olympic Games was the opportunity to do something good for the community:

“I joined the organizing committee after working in a private company, and after the Olympic Games, I returned to the private sector. I am proud to have been able to work for the city.

“I never thought that in my professional career, I would have the chance to work for people. And within the organising committee, I had the opportunity to create something for the people, for the residents of Barcelona. I am very proud of that.”


Diplomacy

France summons Russian ambassador over Navalny death

Paris has summoned Russia’s ambassador to France after the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in an Arctic prison, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Monday during a visit to Argentina.

Norway’s foreign ministry has also said it is calling on its top Russian diplomat “for a talk” about Navalny’s death.

“In the conversation, Norwegian views will be conveyed about Russian authorities’ responsibility for the death and for facilitating a transparent investigation,” Norway said, adding that the meeting had not yet taken place but would do so shortly.

It followed similar announcements earlier Monday by Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands that they have summoned diplomats from Russian embassies.

  • France says Navalny paid with his life for resisting ‘oppression’

Navalny’s death in a remote prison in the Arctic, where the 47-year-old was serving a 19-year sentence after surviving a 2020 poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin, was announced Friday.

“The regime of Vladimir Putin has once again shown its true nature,” France’s Séjourné said Monday.

Western countries have unanimously pointed blame at the Russian authorities for his death, three years into his sentence, which deprives the opposition of its most prominent figure a month ahead of presidential elections that are expected to enhance Putin’s firm grip on power.

 Political prisoners

Finland’s foreign ministry on X, formerly Twitter, called for Russia “to release all political prisoners” while confirming it had called on the Russian ambassador Monday.

“It is terrible that Alexei Navalny has paid the ultimate price for his fight for a free and democratic Russia,” Hanke Bruins Slot, the Netherlands’ foreign affairs minister, posted on X. “We strongly urge Russia to release Navalny’s body to his family and relatives.”

Earlier Monday, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said in a statement he had summoned Russia’s ambassador, and called for the European Union to consider “a new sanctions regime targeting the internal repression in Russia.”

On Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Madrid “demands that the circumstances” of the death be clarified.

Meanwhile in Moscow on Monday, dozens of Russians, closely watched by police, left flower tributes at a monument to honour the memory of Alexei Navalny.

Several ambassadors, including France’s envoy Pierre Levy, also went to the “Wall of Grief” opposite the Lubyanka building that was the headquarters of the KGB intelligence police in Soviet times and now houses the FSB modern-day equivalent.

The “Wall of Grief” was erected in memory of people who died during Soviet-era repression.

EU reaction

Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya on Monday met EU foreign ministers in Brussels, where she had been invited after the death of her husband triggered Western outrage.

“I will continue the work of Alexei Navalny. I will continue to fight for the freedom of our country,” Navalnaya said. “And I call on you to stand by me.”

  • EU agrees more sanctions against Russia, aid for Ukraine

She spoke as the Kremlin said it had no details about his death, while his mother Lyudmila was denied access to his body for a third day.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pledged to hold Putin to account for Navalny‘s death after meeting his widow.

The EU has already imposed heavy sanctions on Moscow, including on Putin, over the invasion of Ukraine. Officials concede it will be difficult to take significant further action.



(with AFP)


French football

Former Cote d’Ivoire boss Gasset takes over at Marseille

Former Cote d’Ivoire head coach Jean-Louis Gasset will take charge of his first full training sessions on Wednesday of the Marseille squad as they prepare for a Europa League clash against Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday night.

Less than a month after departing from his job with the Ivorians, the 70-year-old Frenchman was installed as Marseille boss until the end of the season.

“It’s an immense honour for me to join this legendary club,” said Gasset during his official presentation.

“I’m eager to get to work with this group of players and prepare for the games so that we can show our worth.”

Gasset, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience, becomes the fourth man at the helm this season after Marcelino, Jacques Abardonado and Gennaro Gattuso.

The former Saint-Etienne boss was available following a fraught end to his time in charge of Cote d’Ivoire.

Change

He steered the team to an opening day victory over Guinea Bissau at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

But the hosts lost their second game in Group A to Nigeria and then a team from the country suffered their worst home defeat with the 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea.

Those consecutive setbacks left Cote d’Ivoire on the brink of elimination from the tournament.

“It was a humiliation,” recalled Gasset. “I said to the president of the football federation that it was impossible to go on. I had key players injured and I thought that resigning was the best thing to do. What happened next proved me right.”

The Ivorian federation appointed Emerse Faé – one of Gasset’s assistants – as they waited to see if the side would qualify as the fourth of the four best third-placed teams.

Surge

Once in the knockout stages, the injured duo of Sebastien Haller and Simon Adringra proved decisive in the surge to the final where they came from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1.

“I’ve got a feeling of being unfulfilled,” Gasset added. “But I took the right decision and I do think that a lot of the good fortune they had was because of the good work that was done before.”

Gasset’s task until the end of the 2023/24 season will be to take Marseille as possible in European club football’s second most prestigious competition after the Champions League.

Lying ninth in Ligue 1 with 30 points after 22 games, they are 23 points behind traditional rivals Paris Saint-Germain who top the table.

Following Thursday night’s game, entertain fellow southerners Montpellier at the Vélodrome on Sunday.

Marseille will go into that derby seeking a first victory since 7 January following five draws and two defeats.

“We’ve all got to do a little bit more,” added Gasset. “Everyone has got to look at themselves in the mirror and say could they have done more.

“Some of the last minute goals have come through individual errors … it’s not the system that has been at fault.”


Paris

Eiffel Tower closed again as staff extend strike

The Eiffel Tower will remain closed for a second straight day Tuesday as staff extend a strike. There was every chance that the monument would also stay shuttered on Wednesday, a union representative said.

The strike started Monday in protest over the way the monument is managed financially.

The tower’s operator, SETE, said on its website that “visits of the monument will be disrupted on Tuesday”.

It advised ticket holders to check its website before showing up, or to postpone their visit. E-ticket holders were asked to check their e-mails for further information.

The stoppage is the second strike at the Eiffel Tower within two months for the same reason.

Unions have criticised operator SETE for its business model that they say is based on an inflated estimate of future visitor numbers, while under-estimating construction costs.

Paris’s most famous landmark attracts nearly seven million visitors a year, around three-quarters of them foreigners, according to its website.

During the Covid pandemic numbers dropped sharply due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022. Last year, it attracted 6.3 million visitors.

Visitor numbers to Paris are expected to swell this summer as the French capital hosts the Olympic Games.

In a joint statement Monday, the CGT and FO unions called on the city of Paris “to be reasonable with their financial demands to ensure the survival of the monument and the company operating it”.

Alexandre Leborgne, a representative for the hard-left CGT labour union, explained that city hall, which is the majority owner of the monument, “refuses to negotiate for now”.

A worker assembly would in a vote on Tuesday confirm the extension of the strike, called by the CGT and FO unions, he said.

(with AFP)


Society

Could the drop in France’s alcohol sales be due to ‘Dry January’?

Sales of alcoholic beverages in France dropped in January, the month after the end-of-year holidays, when people are encouraged to stop drinking.

Supermarket sales of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages went down 6.4 percent in January compared to the year before, according to the consumer insight group Circana.

As inflation drives up the cost of food, consumers have been buying fewer non-essential items, like alcohol, but the drop in January can also be attributed to the Dry January campaign to encourage people to stop drinking the entire month after the holidays, BFM television reported.

  • Doctors lament lack of state support for ‘Dry January’ in France

Alcohol sales in France have been dropping each January, with 13 percent less sold in 2024 than in 2018 – this as the sale of non-alcoholic wine and beer have seen a 48 percent increase over the same time period.

Long-term trend

Last year almost one in three French people said they drank no- or low-alcohol wine or beer, according to consultancy firm SOWINE. Nearly half were under 25.

Worldwide sales of low-alcohol beverages are expected to increase over the next decade to $1.2 billion, according to market researcher Fact.MR.

But non-alcoholic beverages are not set to take over alcohol yet, as they still only represent 3.6 percent of the market.

However, figures show a longer-term drop in alcohol consumption in France.

The French public health authority Sante Publique France last month published a study showing that daily drinking in France has dropped by two thirds over the past 30 years.


EU POLITICS

Germany’s von der Leyen seeks second term as EU Commission chief

Ursula von der Leyen on Monday announced her intention to seek a second term as president of the European Commission, the most powerful institution in Brussels.

The move could make the 65-year-old the most significant politician representing the bloc’s 450 million citizens in a over a generation.

Von der Leyen, who was put forward by her German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, has led the EU through multiple crises, including the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasioàn of Ukraine, which forced overhauls of economic, energy and security policies.

The CDU is expected to rubber stamp her bid when its European umbrella group, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), meets in Bucharest next month.

“The world today is completely different than it was in 2019,” von der Leyen told a CDU meeting in Berlin.

“We’ve been through a lot together over the past five years, and I think you could say we’ve accomplished more than we could ever imagine.

“Not only has my passion for Europe grown but, of course, also my experience of how much this Europe can achieve for its people.”

  • Shaping the future: What’s at stake in the 2024 EU elections?
  • Brussels recommends opening EU membership talks with Ukraine

Prime position

News of Von der Leyen’s candidacy caps off weeks of speculation in Brussels over her political future.

She stands a good chance of extending her reign over the commission for another five years given the EPP is expected to remain the biggest party in the legislature following the 6-9 June European polls.

The race takes place against a backdrop of rising concern over Russia’s influence and former American president Donald Trump’s potential return to the White House.

With Europe’s political mood shifting recently to the right, von der Leyen acknowledged the changes.

“The world is totally different compared to five years ago,” she said in her acceptance speech, as she vowed to defend the bloc “against the divisive forces from within and without”.

(with newswires)


DEFENCE TIES

EU launches naval mission to protect shipping in Red Sea

The European Union on Monday signed off officially on a naval mission to protect international ships in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

In a post on X, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday said she welcomed the EU-led mission, which has been dubbed Aspides – the ancient Greek word for shield.

“Europe will ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, working alongside our international partners,” von der Leyen wrote.

“Beyond crisis response, it’s a step towards a stronger European presence at sea to protect our European interests.”

‘Common defence’

Italian top diplomat Antonio Tajani confirmed the launch during a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, calling it “an important step towards common European defence”.

The mission hopes to put down increased attacks by Yemen’s Houthis, who have been launching missile and drone strikes in the vital shipping corridor.

The EU says the mission’s mandate – set initially for one year – is limited to protecting civilian shipping in the Red Sea and that no attacks will be carried out “on Yemeni soil”.

  • France blames Houthis for escalation of war, defends Red Sea operations
  • France joins 10-nation coalition against Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes

It will involve sending three European warships and airborne early warning systems to the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and surrounding waters.

The overall commander will be Greek, while the lead officer in operational control at sea will be Italian, an EU official said Friday, adding the bloc aimed to have the mission up and running in a “few weeks”.

So far France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium have said they plan to contribute ships.

The United States is already spearheading its own naval coalition in the area and has conducted strikes on the Houthis in Yemen along with Britain.

In the latest incident, a Greek-flagged, US-owned cargo ship was attacked twice in two hours in the Gulf of Aden, which adjoins the Red Sea, maritime security firm Ambrey said.

The Greek-flagged bulk carrier reported a “missile attack” before another projectile hit the water just metres from the ship, Ambrey said.

No injuries or damage were reported in either incident and the ship was continuing its journey to Aden, the report said.

Earlier, the Huthis claimed an attack on a British ship in the Gulf of Aden that was earlier reported by Ambrey.

(with newswires)


Energy

France’s Veolia to buy Hungarian gas-fired power plant

French energy giant Veolia has agreed to buy a 430-megawatt, gas-fired power plant in Hungary from German company Uniper. It is the latest move by Paris to further its involvement in Hungary’s energy sector, which is largely dependent on Russia.

The gas-fired, combined-cycle power plant is located in Gonyu, north-west Hungary.

“This agreement is right in line with our ambitions to develop flexibility capacities, an essential complement to the stability of the European power grid,” said Estelle Brachlianoff, Veolia‘s chief executive officer.

Financial details were not disclosed. The purchase agreement was done via Veolia’s Hungarian subsidiary and the transaction is subject to obtaining the necessary authorisations and complying with regulations, the firm added.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Hungary was “among the first countries globally, in June 2020, to make a legal commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050” and plans to “phase out coal by 2030 at the latest”.



 

Enter France

Hungary receives most of its energy resources from Russia: 75 percent of its natural gas, 80 percent of its oil and all of its nuclear fuel.

Hungary’s energy dependency on Russia partly explains Prime Minister Victor Orban’s reluctance to support EU sanctions on Moscow in response to its war against Ukraine.

  • EU leaders seal €50bn Ukraine aid deal after Hungary lifts veto
  • Is Hungary shifting the focus of its nuclear sector from Russia to France?

In July last year, Hungary received European Commission approval to amend contracts for new reactors at its nuclear power plant (NPP,) awarded nine years ago to Russia’s Rosatom.

The agreement includes building two reactors with a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts at Paks, which already has four reactors.

Last November, Moscow and Budapest signed a schedule for the construction of new reactors at the NPP, expected to be completed in the 2030s.

But France, the EU’s largest nuclear power provider, was quick to jump in.

Coinciding with the Paks expansion deal the Hungarian news agency MTI reported that Hungary would increase French involvement in the project.

Legitimacy

According to Ilona Gizinska, writing for the Center for Eastern Studies, Paris’s commitment goes back further. “France’s role in the implementation of the Paks II project has grown since 24 February 2022,” she says.

After cooperation with Germany’s Siemens stopped, “Hungary … sought to give the French part of the company a greater role in the project,” she explains.

Gizinska says the French cooperation gives the project more legitimacy in the eyes of the European Union.

The exclusion of Russia from nuclear projects like the Paks reactor is unlikely, she says.

“It is possible that the government in Budapest may be interested not so much in finalising Paks II as in extending its cooperation with Moscow,” Gizinska argues, as “Hungary has been benefiting from a Russian loan since 2019, and the work on preparing the plant has proved lucrative for oligarchs linked to the government”.

Strategic partnership

Meanwhile, last September, French multinational Framatome announced in a press release the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Energy of Hungary for the development of a strategic relationship in the nuclear field.

This MoU “lays the foundation to facilitate the extension of the cooperation between Framatome and Hungary” in various segments of nuclear energy, including R&D, the implementation of new technologies, fuel supply and related nuclear materials, as well as long-term operation,” according to the company.


Senegal

Senegalese presidential candidates unite in call for new election date

Fifteen of the 20 candidates who were approved to stand in Senegal’s delayed February presidential poll have called for the new vote to be held no later than 2 April, the day President Macky Sall’s term officially ends.

“The new polling date and the date for the handover between the president and his successor must be held no later than 2 April”, the 15 contenders wrote in a signed letter, published on Monday.

They added that the list of 20 names approved in January should remain the same.

The document was signed by some of the leading contenders, including detained anti-establishment candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye and former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall, who is not related to the president.   

It was not signed by Prime Minister Amadou Ba, who is the presidential camp’s own candidate.

The letter’s signatories expressed “bitterness that, since the decision of the Constitutional Council, no action has been taken by the authorities to implement it”. 

On Saturday, thousands of Senegalese citizens also joined the first authorised protest in Senegal’s capital since President Macky Sall postponed elections.

 

Promises

Sall has said last Friday that he intended to respect the Constitutional Council‘s ruling and will “carry out the consultations necessary to organise the presidential election as soon as possible”.

  • Senegal’s President Macky Sall commits to ‘consultations’ on elections

Sall surprised everyone when he announced the postponement of the 25 February vote just hours before official campaigning was due to begin on 3 February.    

The move plunged Senegal into its worst political turmoil in decades.    

However, when the top constitutional body overturned the decision last week, it left open the question of the election date, and didn’t decide if the ballot will feature the same candidates.

Call for dialogue 

The collective Aar Sunu Election is asking for a vote as quickly as possible, on 3 or 10 March, even if it means reducing the campaign time.

For this citizens’ collective, the “consultations” with the president must only relate to the voting calendar, and the vote must be held with the candidates already selected by the Constitutional Council.

In the opposition, the former Pastef party and supporters of the candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye also shared in a press release their calls for the election to be held “imperatively before the expiration of the president’s mandate” and demanded the release of their candidate in the name of “equal treatment”. 

But within the majority, voices are pleading for the organisation of a broader national discussion before the vote, and to “take the time for dialogue”.

The same demand comes from the candidates who didn’t make the list: They want a “national consultation” to “revise the electoral law” and therefore to start the process from scratch.

Among them is Karim Wade, whose PDS party had requested the postponement of the election.

The country is once again awaiting an announcement from the head of state.

 (with AFP)


France

France to deport Tunisian imam for preaching against France

France’s Interior Minister has asked for a Tunisian imam to be stripped of his French residence permit, after authorities were alerted to his anti-French preaching.

Interior Minister Gerarld Darmanin said that Mahjoub Mahjoubi, an imam in Bagnols-sur-Céze, near Avignon, in the south of France, would be deported.

“I have asked for the repeal of his residence permit in preparation for his deportation,” he wrote on X on Sunday, adding that “no call to hate will be left unanswered”.

Authorities in the Gard region where Mahjoubli preached had been alerted to his anti-French statements, according to BFM television.

In a video that was widely circulated on social media, Mahjoubli, a member of the local Muslim association,said the French flag had a “satanic value”.

He said that the flag was put “ahead of the rule of Allah”, and was intended to divide Muslims.

Sermon

“These satanic flags are worth nothing to Allah,” he said.

In an interview with a local newspaper, Mahjoubli said he regretted his choice of words in a sermon he said was about the end of days, and not intended to be against France.

“It was intended to remind Muslims in the mosque the need to unite under one authority,” he said. “These words were also an occasion to talk about, while the Africa cup of nations was happening, the need for all not to oppose each other behind their own flag”.

An hour before announcing the deportation order, Darmanin wrote that security services have “intensified the fight against radical and political Islam”, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, deporting 26 percent more people last year, compared to 2022.


Sudan crisis

France to host humanitarian conference for Sudan as war enters 11th month

France is to host a humanitarian conference to provide aid to war-torn Sudan in April, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said this week. 

“We will host a humanitarian conference in Paris on 15 April for Sudan and neighbouring countries to help resolve this dramatic humanitarian crisis,” Stéphane Sejourné told the lower house of parliament, without providing more details. 

“It should not become a forgotten crisis,” he added.

The United Nations has urged countries not to forget the civilians caught up in the war in Sudan, appealing for $4.1 billion to meet their humanitarian needs and support those who have fled to neighbouring countries.

  • UN appeals for $4.1bn in aid to alleviate Sudan’s ‘epic suffering’

Food insecurity

The conference will take place exactly a year after the conflict started. 

The war that broke out in April last year between Sudan‘s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, his former deputy and commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, has killed thousands, displaced millions, and sparked a humanitarian disaster.   

  • Over 7.5 million displaced people in Sudan after nine months of war

Around 25 million people (more than half the population) need aid, including nearly 18 million who face acute food insecurity, according to the United Nations.   

The fighting has also caused 1.6 million people to flee abroad, many to neighbouring Chad and Egypt, and displaced 6.1 million from their homes within the country, the UN says.    

The World Health Organization warned that the lean season during summer could trigger catastrophic levels of hunger.

Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad in particular are facing “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary General Jan Egeland told RFI.



International crisis

According to the International Organisation for Migration, nearly 700,000 people have crossed the border toward Chad in 10 months of war in Sudan, fleeing the violence of the belligerents, particularly in Darfur, where minorities are targeted on ethnic grounds.

Last weekend, at the African Union’s two-day summit, the organisation’s Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat painted a “bleak picture” with a “litany of difficulties” confronting many countries, but especially Sudan.    

The country was “bruised, torn, sinking into chaos,” Faki said. 

The head of French diplomacy also underlined that France stood “in support of African regional organisations to facilitate ways out of crises” on the African continent.

 (with newswires) 

International report

Turkey and Egypt turn page on decade of friction with show of friendship

Issued on:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Cairo this week formally ended more than a decade of animosity with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with the two leaders committing their countries to a new era of cooperation.

A military band and gun salute welcomed Erdogan when he arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, as Sisi rolled out the red carpet for his Turkish counterpart.

Not long ago, the two leaders were more used to exchanging angry barbs. But now the talk is about cooperation to prevent Israel’s looming military offensive against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip and the growing humanitarian crisis there.

“We will continue the cooperation and solidarity with our Egyptian brothers for the bloodshed in Gaza to stop,” Erdogan declared at a joint press conference with Sisi.

“In the medium term, we are ready to work with Egypt for Gaza to recover and be rebuilt.”

Decade-long rift

Bilateral relations plunged into a deep freeze after Sisi ousted Erdogan’s close ally, Mohamed Morsi, in a 2013 coup.

Erdogan’s visit to Cairo resulted from intense and ultimately successful diplomatic efforts to end years of antagonism between the leaders.

“Reconciliation, an official visit by the Turkish president to Egypt, a meeting there is in and of itself significant,” observes international relations expert Soli Ozel, a lecturer at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“Given what transpired in the past, obviously, this is a major move on the part of both President Erdogan and President Sisi.”

Clampdown on critical media

For years, groups affiliated with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and critical of Sisi broadcast from Istanbul – further stoking tensions between Turkey and Egypt.

“These Political Islam-inspired narratives across the whole region are obviously something that is considered corrosive by the Egyptian government,” says political scientist Jalel Harchaoui, of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London.

Harchaoui claims moves by Ankara to curtail opposition TV broadcasting in recent years facilitated the rapprochement with Cairo.

“It has always found a home in terms of being able to get broadcast across the region in Istanbul. But Erdogan was able to reduce these freedoms as part of his conversation with Cairo,” Harchaoui says.

Regional realignment

Turkey’s deployment of troops in the Middle East and North Africa is also a point of tension with Cairo. Turkey and Egypt backed rival sides in the Libyan civil war.

But Erdogan, speaking to the media with Sisi, pledged a new era of cooperation.

“We had the opportunity to evaluate the issues in Libya, Sudan and Somalia,” the Turkish president said. “We give full support to the unity, togetherness, territorial integrity and peace of these three brotherly countries.”

  • What are Turkish troops and Syrian militia fighters doing in Libya?

During his Cairo visit, Erdogan underlined that rapprochement with Sisi was part of a more comprehensive policy of repairing ties across the region.

“We never want to see conflict, tension, or crises in Africa, the Middle East or other places in our geography,” Erdogan said.

“With this aim, we are determined to increase our contacts with Egypt at every level for the establishment of peace and stability in our region.”

Libya breakthrough?

Turkey and Egypt are two of the region’s powerhouses, and rivalry between the countries has only exacerbated conflicts in the region, particularly in Libya, argues Libyan security analyst Aya Burweila.

“In general, I think this is good,” she said of their rapprochement. “I think it’s helpful for Libya as well because both sides support different factions in Libya. And the stalemate has gone on for such a long time.

“It’s about time that the existing powers figure out something that everybody can agree on, and there is a deal to be had.”

  • Newly reconciled, Turkey and Egypt could be a force for stability in Africa

Burweila believes Erdogan’s rapprochement with Sisi and the broader region is also born out of the realisation that cooperation is more productive than rivalry.

“I think both parties realised that the best way forward is to cooperate and discuss, and that Turkey has realised that without economic partners in the Middle East, it cannot move forward,” she said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, on a visit to Libya this month, stressed the importance of Erdogan’s meetings in Cairo to secure Libya’s long-term future.

Erdogan and Sisi also discussed the development of the region’s energy resources.

Such cooperation, observers suggest, could mark a new era in bilateral relations between these two regional heavyweights.

The Sound Kitchen

Senegal’s ‘slick goal’

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Africa Cup of Nations. There’s “The Listener’s Corner”, Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz question, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

Facebook news: As you know, there are two different Facebook pages for you – one is the RFI English Clubs page, reserved for members of the official RFI English Clubs, and the other is the RFI Listeners Club page, open to all RFI Listener Club members.

It is confusing, and every day I must decline membership to listeners who mistakenly go to the English Clubs page instead of the Listener Club page.

So we’ve decided to merge the two pages into one: The RFI English Service Listener Forum. You will need to re-apply to the page by answering some questions (which if you don’t, I will decline your membership request). Soon, the RFI English Clubs and the RFI Listeners Club pages will be closed.

It will be less confusing and there will be more radio lovers to interact with, so don’t be sad!

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Masahiro Kobayashi from Kawaguchi-City in Japan.

Welcome Masahiro! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 20 January, I asked you a question about one of Paul Myers’ articles on the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament: “2023 Africa Cup of Nations: 5 things we learned on Day 3 – Robust and reckless”. You were to send in the answers to these three questions: What is the name of the 20-year-old player for Senegal who, as Paul wrote, “scored a slick goal”? Which team was Senegal playing, and, finally, the name of the goalkeeper who could not keep out the young man’s “slick goal”?

The answer is: Lamine Camara is the name of the “slick goal” doer, Senegal was playing The Gambia, and Baboucarr Gaye is the name of The Gambia’s goalkeeper who wasn’t able to repel Camara’s play.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Sultan Mahmud: “Who is your favorite footballer, and why?”

Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Habib ur Rehman Sehal from Kanhewal, Pakistan. Habib is also this week’s bonus quiz winner. Congratulations, Habib !

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Sazdeur Rahman, a member of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh, and Debjani Biswas, a member of the RFI Pariwer Bandhu SWL Club in Chhattisgarh, India.

Finally, there are RFI Listeners Club members Ranjit Darnal from Gandaki, Nepal, and our brand-new RFI Listeners Club member Masahiro Kobayashi from Saitama, Japan.

 Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: Traditional music from Mali for the kora, played by Djelimoussa Sissoko; “Akwaba” written and performed by Dany Synthé, Magic System, Yemi Alade, and Mohamed Ramadan; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “We Came Through the Storm”, written by Jonathan Scales and performed by the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Paul Myers’ article “2023 Africa Cup of Nations: 5 things we learned on Day 30 – Endgame” to help you with the answer. 

You have until 11 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 14 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here

International report

As Turkey bombards Kurdish forces in Syria, is the US preparing to pull out?

Issued on:

Turkish military forces are carrying out an air assault on US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, and Ankara has warned that a land operation may follow. The crackdown comes amid reports that Washington may pull its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

Turkey’s government accuses Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria of being linked to attacks on its army. 

Turkish drone strikes are bombarding oil refineries and electricity production in the Syrian border region controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of ethnic militias and rebel groups.

“The targets are energy infrastructure and that sort of stuff. Obviously, the goal is to make that area not sustainable, as a sustainable haven for the SDF,” says Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat and now regional analyst for the Medyascope news portal.

The SDF’s ranks include the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which Ankara accuses of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The armed movement is considered a terrorist organisation by both Ankara and Washington.

“The end game as defined by the Turkish authorities is to prevent a terrorist statelet [being created] beyond Turkish borders,” explains Selcen.

“This means allowing the PKK or its Syrian affiliates, the YPG and YPJ, to establish a local administration in that area. War on terror is perhaps the number one priority for this government.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month threatened a new land invasion into Syria.

Turkish forces already control a large swathe of Syrian territory from previous operations against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Possible US withdrawal

The SDF is backed by a US military force of around 900 soldiers in the war against the so-called Islamic State group, raising the possibility of a conflict between NATO and its allies.

Ankara’s ongoing assault comes amid reports that Washington is considering pulling its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

“Washington may be preparing to hand off SDF as a partner to the Syrian regime and saying: ‘you guys sort yourselves out, we are actually going to leave’,” said Turkey analyst Sinan Ciddi of the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“The administration is apparently toying with the idea that it’s no longer worth keeping US troops there because they are in harm’s way,” he said.

At least some in the US administration want to explore, if they pulled their troops from northern Syria, “the extent to which Turkey could sort out its problems with the Kurds via engaging with the Syrian regime”, Ciddi added.

US-Turkey reset

A US withdrawal from Syria would relieve years of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.

“Unfortunately, this relationship with the United States and YPG creates a barrier between Turkey and the United States,” said Bilgehan Alagoz, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Marmara University. 

“A NATO ally should not act against other allies’ national concerns,” she said. “That’s the main reason why Turkey perceives US policy in Syria as a national security concern.”

  • Sweden deal unlikely to resolve bitter dispute between NATO and Turkey

With Ankara last month lifting its veto on Sweden’s NATO membership and the White House reciprocating by green-lighting the sale of military jets to Turkey, the NATO allies appear to be seeking to reset ties

Analyst Selcen warns time may be running out for the SDF.

“If the Americans leave, it will be very difficult for the SDF to survive unless they cut a deal with Damascus,” Selcen said. “But the timing is of the essence, of course – they cannot get the same terms that they will get once the Americans leave.”

Damascus compromise

But Selcen suggests if the SDF moves quickly, it could secure a deal with Damascus that ensures its survival – at least in the short term, given the weakness of the Syrian security forces.

“At the end of the day, they will have to come up with some kind of modus vivendi with [Syrian President Bashar Al] Assad. It does not mean that Assad will come to control this region again as he did. But they will have to come up with some sort of a solution with Damascus.”

There could equally be advantages for the Turkish government, he believes.

  • Turkey lays the ground for a smoothing of relations with Syria

“It will also be, in the end, a kind of a safe face-saving formula for Ankara, which can now take Damascus as the main interlocutor to deal with this [Kurdish problem],” Selcen said.

“All these sides will be very happy to see the American presence leave the region – with the exception of, of course, the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian Kurds.”

Opposition to the US military presence in Syria is rare common ground between Ankara and Damascus.

If Damascus was to retake control of the predominantly Kurdish region, analysts say, it could be enough for Erdogan to claim victory over the SDF, end Turkey’s assault, and remove the main point of tension between Ankara and Washington.

The Sound Kitchen

France and the Academy Awards

Issued on:

Happy World Radio Day! Today we’ll celebrate WRD with your greetings and thoughts. There’s the answer to the question about France’s film submission to the Academy Awards, “The Listener’s Corner”, and Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz question too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

And don’t forget, there is a Facebook page just for you, the independent RFI English Clubs. Only members of RFI English Clubs can belong to this group page, so when you apply to join, be sure you include the name of your RFI Club and your membership number. Everyone can look at it, but only members of the group can post on it. If you haven’t yet asked to join the group, and you are a member of an independent, officially recognised RFI English club, go to the Facebook link above, and fill out the questionnaire!!!!! If you do not answer the questions, I click “Decline”.

There’s a Facebook page for members of the general RFI Listeners Club, too. Just click on the link and fill out the questionnaire, and you can connect with your fellow Club members around the world. Be sure you include your RFI Listeners Club membership number (most of them begin with an A, followed by a number) in the questionnaire, or I will have to click “Decline”, which I don’t like to do!

We have new RFI Listeners Club members to welcome: Sami Malik from Northern Pakistan; Habib Ur Rehman Sehal, the president of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan; Pradip Chandra Kundu and Ratan Kumar Paul, both from West Bengal, India, and Mahfuzur Rahman from Cumilla, Bangladesh.  

Welcome one and all! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 13 February, I asked you a question about our article “French film ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ wins best screenplay, foreign film at Golden Globes”. You were to read the article carefully and answer this question: what is the name of the film that will represent France in this year’s Academy Awards?

The answer is, to quote our article: “The Golden Globes traditionally serve as a preview of the Academy Awards, but Anatomy of a Fall, which won the top Palme d’Or award at Cannes, will not represent France for the best international film, with La Passion de Dodin Bouffant, a historical romance between two gastronomists, submitted instead.”

La Passion de Dodin Bouffant is translated into English as The Taste of Things. 

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What do you remember about your first experience traveling?”, which was suggested by Khuki Jahanara Yesmin from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

The winners are: Ras Franz Manko Ngogo, the president of the Kemogemba RFI Club in Tarime, Tanzania. Ras is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Ras!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Hari Madugula, the president of the Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India, and Muhammad Shamim, the president of the Golden Eagles RFI Club in Keralam State, India. Rounding out the list are RFI Listeners Club members Kashif Khalil from Faisalabad, Pakistan, and Zenon Teles, who is also the president of the Christian – Marxist – Leninist – Maoist Association of Listening DX-ers in Goa, India.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: The traditional French accordion song “La Reine de Musette”, performed by Lucy Riddett; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; Claude Debussy’s “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner, written and performed by the composer, and “Roi Fayssal”, written and performed by Ali Toure Farka.  

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Melissa Chemam’s article “Senegalese lawmakers postpone presidential election to 15 December” to help you with the answer.

You have until 4 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 9 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here

International report

Sweden deal unlikely to resolve bitter dispute between NATO and Turkey

Issued on:

Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership after a 10-month delay has spurred hopes of a reset in relations between Turkey and the alliance, but tensions still run deep.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent state visit to Sweden focused heavily on defence amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

While its NATO membership was seen as critical amid persisting concerns over border security, Turkey refused to ratify Sweden’s entry until a long list of demands from its partners were met.

Sweden’s accession saw a lifting of restrictions by NATO countries on military hardware sales to Turkey, says Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat who is now a regional analyst for Mediyacope, a Turkish news portal.

“F-16s are being bought [from the US]. This will keep the Turkish air force up in the air for some time… Deals like this one will keep the relationship afloat,” he told RFI.

F-16 deal

For years, US President Joe Biden blocked the sale of American F-16 fighter jets amid concerns over rising tensions between Turkey and its neighbours over territorial disputes.

With Ankara ratifying NATO’s expansion, the White House has authorised the sale, and Congress is expected to ratify the deal. However it may not be the diplomatic victory Ankara claims.

“The last I heard was the State Department was drawing up a letter demanding the transfer of F-16s as a kind of a certification program,” says Turkey specialist Sinan Ciddi, of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“They could halt transfers if the Turks , for example, continue to antagonise Greek airspace or overflights.”

Erdogan’s advantage?

Erdogan may retain an advantage, though. Hungary has yet to ratify Sweden’s membership and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Oban is a close ally of the Turkish leader.

Last week, acting US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held two days of talks in Ankara. The talks were focused on enabling better cooperation between the US and Turkey.

Analyst Selcen says Turkey’s is still as strategically important to NATO as it was when it joined in 1952 at the height of the Cold War.

“The same geopolitical reasons to keep Turkey as a strong military ally remain valid,” said Selcen. “On the one hand against the north, Russia, and on the other Iran and other terrorist threats.”

The war against the Islamic State jihadists remains a point of tension because of Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish fighters.

These include the YPG, which is affiliated with the PKK, and which has been fighting Turkey for decades and is designated by both the European Union and the US as a terrorist group.

“The US relationship with YPG poisons almost all the potential collaborations,” political scientist Bilgehan Alagoz of Istanbul’s Marmara University says.

So first [the] United States should check its policy towards the YPG, and then Turkey and the United States can start talking about other issues.”

Erdogan, Alagoz adds, is holding NATO hostage to extract concessions over Sweden’s membership.

Along with his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his refusal to impose sanctions against Moscow, this is raising questions over Ankara’s loyalties.

With the threat posed by Russia expected to grow, and the danger of contagion from the Israel-Hamas conflict, resolving the trust deficit between Turkey and its NATO partners has never been more important.

  • French president urges Turkey to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO

The Sound Kitchen

Belgium’s full plate

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Belgium and the EU presidency. There’s “On This Day”, “The Listener’s Corner”, Ollia Horton’s “Happy Moment”, and Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz question too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

World Radio Day is just around the corner (13 February), and we’ll cook up a mighty fine banquet to celebrate. What’s the main course? Your greetings, of course! So get under your blanket with your phone – believe me, the blanket will make your recording broadcast quality – and record your World Radio Day greetings for us. Please, not too long, though. You must get it to us by 5 February. Send your recorded WRD greetings to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

And don’t forget, there is a Facebook page just for you, the independent RFI English Clubs. Only members of RFI English Clubs can belong to this group page, so when you apply to join, be sure you include the name of your RFI Club and your membership number. Everyone can look at it, but only members of the group can post on it. If you haven’t yet asked to join the group, and you are a member of an independent, officially recognised RFI English club, go to the Facebook link above, and fill out the questionnaire!!!!! If you do not answer the questions, I click “Decline”.

There’s a Facebook page for members of the general RFI Listeners Club, too. Just click on the link and fill out the questionnaire, and you can connect with your fellow Club members around the world. Be sure you include your RFI Listeners Club membership number (most of them begin with an A, followed by a number) in the questionnaire, or I will have to click “Decline”, which I don’t like to do!

We have new RFI Listeners Club members to welcome: Sami Malik from Northern Pakistan; Habib Ur Rehman Sehal, the president of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan; Pradip Chandra Kundu and Ratan Kumar Paul, both from West Bengal, India, and Mahfuzur Rahman from Cumilla, Bangladesh.  

Welcome one and all! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 6 January I asked you a question about Belgium, whose turn it is to hold the presidency of the European Union – each member state of the European Union holds the presidency for six months. You were to re-read our article “Belgium faces election juggling act as it takes over rotating EU presidency” because Belgium is tasked with organizing not only the European elections on 9 June but also their internal national elections, and no luck there, those elections are also on 9 June. All that and something else, quite important, falls during the time of Belgium’s presidency, and that was your question: what else is the Belgian presidency tasked with accomplishing during its six-month term? What is one of the biggest issues it also has to deal with?  

The answer is, to quote our article: “One of the big issues it will still have to deal with is the revision of what is known as the ‘multiannual financial framework’, i.e., the European budget for the coming years, and also ensuring that aid to Ukraine does not wane.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “If you could resign from anything, what would it be?”

Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Richard Wasajja from Masaka, Uganda. Richard is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Richard – and welcome back to The Sound Kitchen !

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Mrs. Anjona Parvin, the secretary of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh, and two RFI English Listeners Club members from India: Radhakrishna Pillai from Kerala State, and Samir Mukhopadhyay from Kolkata. Last but certainly not least, there’s RFI English listener Khondaker Shihab Uddin Khan from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: The “Scherzo” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, op. 61 by Félix Mendelssohn, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa; “Quand on est bien amoureux”, a traditional folk song from Belgium performed by Wör; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and “Minha Terra” sung by Ruy Mingas.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “France seeks change to EU nature laws in bid to appease farmers” to help you with your answer.

You have until 26 February to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 3 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here


Sponsored content

Presented by

The editorial team did not contribute to this article in any way.

Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

From 20 to 22 September 2022, the IFTM trade show in Paris, connected thousands of tourism professionals across the world. Sheo Shekhar Shukla, director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, talked about the significance of sustainable tourism.

Madhya Pradesh is often referred to as the Heart of India. Located right in the middle of the country, the Indian region shows everything India has to offer through its abundant diversity. The IFTM trade show, which took place in Paris at the end of September, presented the perfect opportunity for travel enthusiasts to discover the region.

Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, sat down to explain his approach to sustainable tourism.

“Post-covid the whole world has known a shift in their approach when it comes to tourism. And all those discerning travelers want to have different kinds of experiences: something offbeat, something new, something which has not been explored before.”

Through its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shukla wants to showcase the deep history Madhya Pradesh has to offer.

“UNESCO is very actively supporting us and three of our sites are already World Heritage Sites. Sanchi is a very famous buddhist spiritual destination, Bhimbetka is a place where prehistoric rock shelters are still preserved, and Khajuraho is home to thousand year old temples with magnificent architecture.”

All in all, Shukla believes that there’s only one way forward for the industry: “Travelers must take sustainable tourism as a paradigm in order to take tourism to the next level.”

In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


Sponsored content

Presented by

The editorial team did not contribute to this article in any way.

Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

The IFTM trade show took place from 20 to 22 September 2022, in Paris, and gathered thousands of travel professionals from all over the world. In an interview, Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia discussed the importance of sustainable tourism in our fast-changing world.

Also known as the Land of the Beautiful Islands, Malaysia’s landscape and cultural diversity is almost unmatched on the planet. Those qualities were all put on display at the Malaysian stand during the IFTM trade show.

Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia, explained the appeal of the country as well as the importance of promoting sustainable tourism today: “Sustainable travel is a major trend now, with the changes that are happening post-covid. People want to get close to nature, to get close to people. So Malaysia being a multicultural and diverse [country] with a lot of natural environments, we felt that it’s a good thing for us to promote Malaysia.”

Malaysia has also gained fame in recent years, through its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include Kinabalu Park and the Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley.

Green mobility has also become an integral part of tourism in Malaysia, with an increasing number of people using bikes to discover the country: “If you are a little more adventurous, we have the mountain back trails where you can cut across gazetted trails to see the natural attractions and the wildlife that we have in Malaysia,” says Hanif. “If you are not that adventurous, you’ll be looking for relaxing cycling. We also have countryside spots, where you can see all the scenery in a relaxing session.”

With more than 25,000 visitors at this IFTM trade show this year, Malaysia’s tourism board got to showcase the best the country and its people have to offer.

In partnership with Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. For more information about Malaysia, click here.