rfi 2024-02-24 16:35:53



Ukraine crisis

France’s support for Ukraine ‘will not waver’, Macron vows

French President Emmanuel Macron warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin early Saturday not to “count on any fatigue from Europeans” over the war in Ukraine, pledging that France’s support for Kyiv “will not waver”. This comes amid ceremonies marking the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

“Battered and bruised, but still standing. Ukraine is fighting for itself, for its ideals, for our Europe. Our commitment at its side will not waver,” Macron wrote in a message on X marking the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion, which falls on Saturday.

A separate statement from Macron’s office touted the European Union’s support for Kyiv, including accepting refugees, offering civil and military aid, and levelling sanctions on Moscow.

“President Putin’s Russia must not count on any fatigue from Europeans,” the statement said.

“France is also committed to continuing its support on all fronts, including the supply of military equipment, cooperation between defence industries through the development of co-productions, training, intelligence and civilian aid,” it added.

“The outcome of this war will be decisive for European interests, values and security.”

The French pledge of support came as other key Ukrainian allies renewed their commitment to assisting Kyiv.

Sanctions

US President Joe Biden on Friday announced more than 500 new sanctions against Russia, while vowing sustained pressure to stop President Vladimir Putin’s “war machine”.

The sanctions, described as the largest single tranche since the start of the war, also seek to impose a cost for the death last week in a Siberian prison of Putin’s most vocal critic, Alexei Navalny.

Britain, meanwhile, announced Saturday a new £245 million (€286 million) defence package to help boost the production of “urgently needed artillery ammunition” for Ukraine, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisting in an earlier statement that “tyranny will never triumph”.

  • France and Ukraine to sign security agreement during Zelensky’s Paris visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asserted that Ukraine would be victorious, as he attended a ceremony at Kyiv’s Gostomel airport, which was targeted by Russia in the first days of the all-out assault in 2022.

He spoke alongside the Canadian, Italian and Belgian prime ministers and EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen who came to Kyiv to mark the date.

Supporters of Ukraine gathered in France, Germany and other European countries gathered in the streets on Saturday to mark the second anniversary.

True valour

In Britain, King Charles III praised the “determination and strength” of the Ukrainian people.

“Despite the tremendous hardship and pain inflicted upon them, Ukrainians continue to show the heroism with which the world associates them so closely,” the monarch wrote.

“Theirs is true valour, in the face of indescribable aggression.”

The British sovereign went to say he continued to be “greatly encouraged that the United Kingdom and our allies remain at the forefront of international efforts to support Ukraine”.

  • France and allies launch ‘artillery coalition’ to bring more weapons to Ukraine

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived in Kyiv Saturday to preside over a G7 virtual meeting.

It is the first meeting of the G7, which groups the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada, under the Italian presidency.

Italian diplomatic sources said the meeting would last 90 minutes and a joint declaration on Ukraine was due to be adopted.

“Italy, Europe and the West must continue to back Kyiv because defending Ukraine means …. keeping war at bay, protecting our national interests and preventing the international order based on rules from breaking down,” Meloni told Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper in an interview published Saturday.

(with AFP)


Environment

Mixed reactions as France prepares to simplify wolf culling rules

While French farming unions are glad their flocks be better protected from wolves thanks to changes to the government’s five-year management plan for the wild animals, environmental groups are angry.

The 2024-2029 Wolf Plan is supposed to represent a turning point towards a “better balance” between the protection of herds and the conservation of an endangered species, the Agriculture Ministry says.

After disappearing for a while in France, the wolf reappeared in the early 1990s – crossing the Alps from Italy – and its ranks gradually grew. At the beginning of September, 1,104 wolves were counted.

However, their presence is a concern to breeders who say they lost more than 12,000 livestock in 2022 alone.

As a result, they have been calling on the government to increase the quota of wolves to be killed each year.

With an annual shooting quota of 19 percent, up to 209 wolves can be shot in France under existing rules.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau on Wednesday confirmed the decree would be signed on Friday and a final plan would emerge in time for the annual Agriculture Show, which opens on Saturday.

  • Sheep farmers in Aveyron warn against over-protecting wolves in France

‘Right direction’

Claude Font, sheep breeder in Haute-Loire and member of the National Sheep Federation (FNO), welcomed the government’s announcement – hailing in particular a “real work of transparency” on the methods used to estimate the number of wolves.

The FNO represents sheep breeders within the majority agricultural union FNSEA.

“We are simply trying to protect our herds,” underlined FNSEA president Michèle Boudoin, who believes the announcements were going “in the right direction”.

A previous version of the Wolf Plan, presented in September 2023, was criticised by both environmental organisations and breeders.

It already provided for a simplification of shooting protocols, for example by eliminating the obligation for wolf scouts (people responsible for managing the regulation of harmful species) and indentifying the animal before shooting.

  • Eye on France: Bear-faced wolf attack!

Disappointment

Environmental protection associations said they were disappointed and worried about the changes.

Jean-David Abel, head of the biodiversity network France Nature Environnement (FNE), criticised Fesneau for not including scientific research in his handling of the situation.

“He did not ask for a scientific study, but yet he facilitates the shooting as if it were a species of tens of thousands in our country,” Abel told public broadcaster FranceInfo.

“Simplifying shooting is sending a very bad signal,” Cédric Marteau, general director of the League for the Protection of Birds, told French news agency AFP.

Marteau added that dispersing the packs would lead to more attacks by lone wolves. Instead, he says there should be a “real public debate” with more attention to the scientific information.

He said his organisation was thinking about ways to counter the new plan, including through legal channels.

European level

Increasing the shooting “will absolutely not solve the problem”, said Sandrine Bélier of the Humanity and Biodiversity association.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warned in September 2023 against the “real danger” of wolf packs in the European Union – announcing a possible revision of the protection status for this animal. 

The question of the number of wolves present in different European countries is at the heart of many debates between breeders and environmental protection associations.

Under the 1992 European Habitats Directive, most wolf populations in Europe benefit from strict protection.


FRANCE – AGRICULTURE

Paris Agriculture Show opens as angry farmers continue quarrel over costs

French President Emmanuel Macron was met with whistles and insults from angry protesters who clashed with police ahead of the opening of France’s annual Agriculture Show in Paris on Saturday. This comes as farmers continue to protest in France and Europe over rising costs and dropping revenue. 

Facing dozens of policemen inside the trade fair, the farmers were shouting and booing, calling for Macron to resign, using expletives aimed at the French leader.

Shortly afterwards, Macron began his traditional visit with a breakfast meeting with trade union leaders, behind closed doors, before addressing the press. 

He called for the fair to go ahead in a “calm” atmosphere and condemned the clashes between farmers and police officers earlier in the morning.

However, he cancelled a debate he wanted to hold at the farm fair on Saturday with farmers, food processors and retailers, after farmers unions said they would not show up.

Horizon 2040

Instead, Macron proposed to hold a consultation “with all trade union organisations” in three weeks time at the Elysée palace, in particular to “consolidate emergency measures” and “build a French and European agricultural future plan for 2040”.

In 2019, following months of weekly yellow vest protests, Macron launched a similar consultation or ‘Great national debate’ to gather proposals to address the protesters’ grievances.

​​​​

The results were interrupted by the Covid pandemic, and it is unclear the format the debate with farmers will take, though some 200 people – farmers, union members, associations – are expected to take part, according to the Figaro newspaper.

Weeks of roadblocks and a potential “siege” of Paris were called off at the start of February after the government proposed some measures, including a pause in the implementation of the Ecophyto plan to reduce pesticide use.

But farmer unions have continued to pressure the government for more concrete measures to address costs, and local groups have continued road and highway blockages.

  • French farmers have ended their blockades, but the protest isn’t over
  • French PM seeks to avert fresh farmer protests with bill of change

This week Prime Minsiter Gabriel Attal outlined legislation that would include a package of measures, and the launch of a parliamentary mission on the Egalim law, designed to guarantee fair prices for farmers during negotiations from distributors.

He said a specific plan for livestock breeders, who are particularly suffering from a drop in income, will be presented at the agriculture fair.

The Agriculture show is a major event in France, attracting around 600,000 visitors over nine days.

Part of Macron’s visit will also include meeting the hundreds of farmers who have brought their prize cows and livestock from all over the country, including this year’s mascot, Oreillette, a five-year-old brown Normande dairy cow.


Social unrest

French farmers stage tractor protests in Paris on eve of Agriculture Fair

Two tractor convoys caused traffic jams on motorways leading to Paris on Friday as they rolled towards the city centre. The action comes a day before France’s annual Agriculture Fair, where President Emmanuel Macron risks getting booed by farmers upset over soaring costs.

Nicolas Bongay, who heads the Coordination Rurale du Doubs collective that protects farmers interests, said the protests were happing because farmers in the regions were not being heard.

“So we are getting closer to the decision-makers,” he said.

A group of tractors will convene in front of the Agriculture Fair in the early evening.

Debate debacle

A planned “grand debate” on Saturday between the government and farmers groups, meanwhile, has caused controversy.

Macron added fuel to the farmers’ discontent by initially inviting the environmental NGO Soulèvements de la Terre, or Earths Uprisings (SLT), before uninviting them.

In March last year the government accused SLT of encouraging violence at protests near Sainte-Soline in western France, after clashes between police and activists over a controversial irrigation project.

Authorities said around 30 officers were injured, with one left in a coma. At the time the government described the group as “eco-terrorists” and attenpted to disband them.

The government reversed its decision to include SLT in the debate after Arnaud Rousseau, president of the largest farmers union, FNSEA, said he would not participate if the group was included.

The government “understands nothing about the farmers’ issues”, he said.



  • France to shut down climate NGO after protest violence

The debate will include union leaders, industry representatives and leaders of green groups. Agriculture Fair President Jean-Luc Poulain said he was looking forward to “vigorous” exchanges.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal tried to ease tensions with farmers on Wednesday by outlining the implementation of measures announced this month and promising a new law to better safeguard farmers’ income.

EU-wide issue

While local grievances vary, farmers’ protests in France and other European countries have exposed tensions over the impact on farming of a European Union drive to fight climate change and the opening of the door to cheap Ukrainian imports to help Kyiv’s war effort.

Convoys of tractors disrupted traffic around Madrid on Wednesday as farmers protested against what they see as excessive red tape and insufficient state aid.

In Greece, thousands of farmers spent the night in front of parliament to protest against rising fuel and production costs.

In France, farmers largely suspended weeks of protests that included blocking highways after Attal on 1 February promised new measures.

But they continue to insist they are not being paid enough and are choked by taxes, green rules and face unfair competition from abroad. The farmers have been pressing the government to show the first results of the emergency measures before the trade fair.

“We heard the farmers’ call, we made commitments, we are keeping them,” Attal told reporters.

France is wary of farmers’ growing support for the far right ahead of European parliamentary elections in June.

(with newswires)


Cinema

French actress dominates Césars with calls for reckoning on sexual violence

Actress Judith Godrèche received a standing ovation at the 2024 César Awards on Friday as she spoke out against sexual violence in the French film industry. Meanwhile, Cannes Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall dominated the event with six trophies, including best film, giving it new momentum ahead of the Oscars, in which it has five nominations. 

Godrèche, who has become a leading figure in France’s #MeToo movement, denounced the “level of impunity, denial and privilege” in the industry.

She has accused directors Benoit Jacquot and Jacques Doillon of sexually assaulting her while she was a teenager. Both deny the allegations.

“Why accept that this art that we love so much, this art that binds us together, is used as a cover for illicit trafficking of young girls?” Godrèche told the stunned audience.

“You have to be wary of little girls. They touch the bottom of the pool, they bump into each other, they hurt themselves but they bounce back,” she said.

  • French film ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ nominated for five awards at 2024 Oscars

Justine Triet, who became just the second woman to win the best director César, for Anatomy of a Fall, dedicated her award to women who have been hurt.

The thriller about a wife accused of murdering her husband is one of France’s biggest international arthouse hits in recent years.

Dedication to those who speak out

“I would like to dedicate this Cesar to all women (…) to those who succeed and those who fail, those who have been hurt and who liberate themselves by speaking, and those who do not succeed,” said Triet, who in May became just the third woman filmmaker to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film also pulled best film, best actress for Sandra Huller, best supporting actor for Swann Arlaud, as well as best script and editing.

  • See the complete César awards list here

The question of sexual violence was raised from the start in Paris with introductory remarks by actress and director Valérie Lemercier, who presided over the ceremony.

“I will not leave this stage without praising those who are shaking up the habits and customs of a very old world where the bodies of some were implicitly at the disposal of the bodies of others,” she said.



The first award of the night went to Adéle Exarchopoulos for best supporting actress in All Your Faces in which she plays a victim of incest.

She famously walked out of the 2020 award ceremony in protest when Roman Polanski won the best director trophy for An Officer and A Spy. Polanski is still technically a fugitive from US justice over a child sex conviction in the 1970s.

Before the ceremony at the Olympia venue in Paris, around a hundred people demonstrated at the call of the CGT union to support victims of sexual violence.

  • People under investigation for sex crimes barred from French ‘Oscars’ ceremony

Before the awards, French culture minister Rachida Dati deplored a “collective blindness” that “lasted for years” in the industry in an interview with the magazine Le Film Francais.

“Creative freedom is total, but here we are not talking about art, we are talking paedocriminality,” regarding Godreche, she said.

French cinema has been rocked by allegations it has shrugged off sexism and sexual abuse for decades, and criticism that the arts have too long provided cover for abuse.

See all the awards here:

(with AFP)


African history

How Black History month has slowly made its way to France

Black History month took root in the US in the 1920s before becoming a national event by the mid-1970s. Some members of the African diaspora in France have been trying to import it and, in the last decade, have succeeded in establishing a homegrown version. 

Officially observed in the US and Canada each February, and in Ireland and the United Kingdom in October, Black History month is a time to honour the achievements and contributions of key African American figures.

Efforts to launch official celebrations in France, met by mixed reception, have had trouble taking off. 

In February 2012, a group led by Maboula Soumahoro, professor of African American studies at the University of Tours, held a series of events.

They later renamed the event Africana Days, and set them around 10 May, marking the 2001 law in which France recognised slavery as a crime against humanity.

Africana Days lasted four years.

​​​Then, in 2018, an informal Black History month was launched in Bordeaux, a former slave port, by the charity Mémoires & Partages, founded by Karfa Diallo.

Since then, there have been annual celebrations in Le Havre, Guadeloupe, La Rochelle and Bayonne.

In 2022, the month was dedicated to Josephine Baker, the US-born famous dancer and member of the French Resistance during World War II.

  • Defining and celebrating blackness in the face of French universalism
  • Enriching the narrative of Black history and culture in Bordeaux

Sixth edition

This year, for the sixth edition, the theme is Portuguese-speaking Africa and “creolisation” with a celebration of the revolutionary Bissau-Guinean politician Amílcar Cabral. 

From 3 to 29 February, events are organised across France, with an additional one in Cotonou, a port city in Benin, West Africa. 

The program includes round tables, concerts, exhibitions and other cultural events. The main idea is to highlight the links forged between Africa and Europe.

The focus on Portuguese-speaking Africa aims to teach the French public about the richness of cultures and identities that have resulted from colonialisation and other exchanges through history.  

The group organised a series of guided tours to address the traces of slavery in Paris last Saturday.

  • Artist’s quest to honour hidden heroes of fight against French slavery
  • Lisbon street plaques tell story of Portugal’s forgotten slave trade

Later in the day, the main event took place in the 18th arrondissement at Maison Muller with conferences, round tables and a photo exhibition.

The exhibition featured photographs by Michelle Correa, vice-president of Mémoires & Partages in Ile-de-France, taken in her father’s native village in Guinea-Bissau.

She told RFI that she travelled to her father’s village in Guinea-Bissau, a West African coastal country and a former Portuguese colony near Senegal and Guinea. 

“My goal was to observe and show the everyday life of members of my family and the village of Capol, through photography, to show these images back in Europe to other Africans, members of the diaspora, and Europeans,” Correa said.

She documented some rituals, spiritual practices, weddings and moments of reunions.

In the evening, guests discussed the legacy of Bissau-Guinean politician Amílcar Cabral for the whole of Africa.

The Bissau-Guinean painter Nú Barreto, who showed one of his paintings in Bordeaux and joined the conversation at the Paris event, told RFI that it is important to connect Portuguese-speaking Africans with this chapter of their history and teach Cabral’s ideas to the diaspora. 

Cabral led the nationalist movement of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands then the ensuing war of independence in Guinea-Bissau.

Deeply influenced by Marxism, he became an inspiration to revolutionary socialists and national independence movements worldwide before his assassination on 20 January 1973, about eight months before Guinea-Bissau’s unilateral declaration of independence. 

The celebrations continue until 29 February in La Rochelle, Le Havre in France, and in Cotonou in Benin

The Sound Kitchen

A pioneering female French journalist

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Françoise Giraud. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, 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: RFI English journalist Jessica Phelan, our French history expert, was on Alison Hird and Sarah Elzas’ podcast, Spotlight on France Number 105 with a piece on a pioneering French female journalist, Françoise Giraud. You were to listen carefully to the podcast and send in the answers to these questions: What is the name of the news magazine Françoise Giraud co-founded, what is the name of the other founder, and in what year was the magazine first published?

The answer is: L’Express is the name of the magazine, which was first published in 1953. The co-founder’s name is Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What will you remember most about 2023?”

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

The winners are: Fatematuj Zahra, the co-secretary of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.  Fatematuj is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Fatematuj!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Hari Madugula, the president of the RFI Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India; Sultan Mahmud, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh; RFI Listeners Club member Alan Holder from the Isle of Wight, England, and RFI English listener Jibon Akhter Shammi from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Piva” by Joan Ambrosio Dalza, performed by Paul O’Dette; “Respect” by Otis Redding; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Crosstown Traffic” by Jimi Hendrix, performed by Hendrix with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Alison Hird’s article “Why are girls in France flunking maths and how can the equation be changed?” or listen to her story on Spotlight on France Number 106, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 25 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 30 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


ENVIRONMENT

France could meet climate goals if meat consumption is ‘halved’

As farmers from all over France prepare to converge in Paris for the yearly agriculture fair, a new study argues that reducing meat consumption could solve France’s emissions problems. But farmers, already tense after weeks of protests against soaring costs, may not be amenable to reducing their herds – even if the study’s authors argue it could be in their best interest.

If everyone in France cut their meat consumption by 50 percent, the country could meet its climate objectives, according to a new study released this week by Climate Action Network and the French Society For Nutrition.

Based on sustainable diet models provided by food data analyst MS Nutrition, the study shows that it is possible for people to continue to meet their nutritional needs while cutting meat consumption in half.

This would “lead to a reduction in the carbon impact of food of between 20 percent to 50 percent, depending on the related diet changes”.

Nearly a quarter of France’s emissions come from food production, the study says, and 80 percent of agriculture emissions come from raising livestock.

France has committed to reducing agriculture emissions by 46 percent by 2050.

The study comes as the government is working on its national food, nutrition and climate strategy, which currently recommends a weekly maximum of 500 grammes of red meat and 150 grammes of charcuterie, or cured meats, with a priority on poultry over red meat.

Prioritise local, quality meat

The study does not push a vegetarian diet, but sets the maximum amount of meat and charcuterie combined at 450 grammes per week, with an increase of fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains.

Reducing meat is a tall order for a country whose cuisine is focused on meat with few exceptions.

French people on average eat twice as much meat as the global average. A shift would mean a change for farmers, who reacted badly when the national audit office recommended a reduction in cattle herds to reduce methane emissions.

But the report says the shift should not scare off farmers, pointing to the 30 percent of meat imported to France.

“Choosing to eat less meat but of better quality is to prioritise local and quality meat, which will sustain French livestock farmers,” it says.

The shift will have to be gradual, and supported with public policies, which currently do not exist.

The report calls for support for farmers in the ecological transition, along with bans on advertisements of industrial meat products, clear environmental labels, and a limit on profit margins for supermarkets on sustainable products.


NEW CALEDONIA

French mission to New Caledonia unable to solve historic problems

France sent a high-level delegation to its overseas territory of New Caledonia this week with the aim of negotiating ongoing demands for autonomy, easing economic woes and revamping the penitentiary system. But the visit was met with violence as pro-independence protesters clashed with police.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti and Overseas Territories Minister Marie Guévenoux travelled to the archepelago in an attempt to improve ties with Paris.

The visit marked Darmanin’s sixth attempt to initiate inclusive discussions over the political future of New Caledonia – potentially involving modifications to the French constitution.

On Wednesday Darmanin announced the signing of contracts worth nearly €80 million with New Caledonia’s South Province. The deals are intended to improve facilities at the Amédée Island, a key tourist destination off the capital Nouméa that has been badly affected by by erosion.

The next day Dupond-Moretti confirmed the construction of a €500 million penitentiary facility to deal with overcrowding at Nouméa’s existing prison, Camp-Est.

The project, financed by the Public Agency for Justice Real Estate, will be the largest investment planned by the French state in New Caledonia.

Its construction will increase the detention capacity in Nouméa from 391 places and 230 cells to 600 places and 550 cells. It’s to be ready by 2032.

  • Macron urges New Caledonia to build future after independence vote

Angry protests

As the ministers carried out their business in downtown Nouméa, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of some 2,000 protesters angry over moves to amend the constitution and revise rules for local elections.

Under the move, the New Caledonian Congress, provinces and government would undergo two substantial changes.

The president of the government would be directly appointed by Congress, whose number of elected representatives would be reduced from 54 to 32, and whose composition would be modified. 

The proportion of elected representatives from the pro-independence Northern Provinces and Loyalty Islands – which have been slightly over-represented since the Nouméa Accord – would be reduced in favour of the Southern Province, in a bid to redress the political imbalance.



  • Blow for France as Glencore quits struggling New Caledonia nickel mine

No new referendum

The pro-independence movement is upset that the amendment does not set a date for a new vote on self-determination.

Three referendums over a period of five years have all rejected independence.

The territory’s indigenous, largely pro-independence Kanaks widely boycotted a December 2021 referendum that voted 97 percent in favour of remaining part of France.

The Kanaks reject the result, arguing the polls should have been delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

New Caledonia, a French colony since 1853, has deep-rooted tensions between the Kanaks and colonial settlers loyal to Paris.

About 40 percent of the population are Kanaks, most of whom support independence. Pro-independence parties, in power since 2017, aim for full sovereignty by 2025.

The South Pacific territory – which lies 1,200 kilometres east of Australia and 20,000 kilometres from Paris – witnessed its first revolt in 1878, not long after the discovery of significant nickel deposits exploited under French colonial rule.

(with newswires)


France – Armenia

Armenia signs arms contract with France amid boost in military ties

France signed commitments to sell precision rifles to Armenia and train Armenian military officers, their defence ministers said Friday. The move comes as Yerevan seeks to reduce its dependence on Moscow.

Armenia signed a contract with French arms manufacturer PGM to buy the guns, its defence minister Suren Papikian told a news conference in Yerevan alongside his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu.

Armenia has been looking to bolster its defences in recent years as fighting has broken out with neighbouring Azerbaijan.

“Armenia has adopted the idea of modernising the army, we are going to use our own means and the help of partner states,” Papikian said.

“It’s about being able to use all the tools of peace to defend our borders.”

They did not disclose the value of the deal.

The countries also signed an agreement for France to train five Armenian soldiers at its Saint Cyr Coetquidan military academy and offered also to help train non-commissioned officers.

Military adviser

Lecornu confirmed that France would deploy a military adviser specialising in ground-based air defence systems to help Armenia defend itself against “possible strikes by potential aggressors” against civilians.

Armenia “is turning to partners who really provide security,” Lecornu said, in response to a question about frayed relations between Yerevan and Moscow – its historic ally.

Lecornu travelled to Yerevan on Thursday evening with members of parliament and defence industry representatives.

  • France ups military ties with Armenia with first ever visit by a defence minister

The visit comes amid a growing rift between the Soviet-era master Moscow and Yerevan, which has grown angry with the Kremlin over its perceived inaction on Armenia’s long-running confrontation with Azerbaijan.

In October 2023, France announced the sale of defence equipment to Armenia, provoking anger from Azerbaijan.

The deal was announced weeks after Baku seized the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian separatists.

France, home to a large Armenian diaspora, has played a mediating role in the decades-long conflict over control of Karabakh, whose recapture by Azerbaijan led to the exodus of some 100,000 Armenians.

(with AFP)


Senegal

Senegal’s Macky Sall says his mandate as president will end in April

Senegalese President Macky Sall has said his mandate as leader of the West African nation will end on 2 April – adding that it was unlikely a new president would be elected before then.

Sall’s announcement could assuage fears he was planning to extend his rule – an issue that had contributed to a tense political climate, and sometimes violent protests in one of the region’s stable democracies.

During an interview on national television, Sall said he wanted the debate to be “clearly settled”.

His announcement comes after the Constitutional Council, the highest election authority, last week ruled that a 10-month postponement of the vote was unlawful. The election had initially been scheduled for 25 February.

Still no date

Sall said however that he cannot issue a decree to hold the election before a national dialogue takes place.

Civil society groups, political parties and candidates are to join the dialogue, which is set to begin on Monday and will likely finish by Tuesday.

He said that candidates who had not been approved by the Constitutional Council would also be invited.

Prominent opposition figures including the jailed opposition politician Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade, were excluded from the list of 19 candidates approved for the election.

  • Macky Sall to address Senegal, as calls to set election date intensify

“If we find consensus, I will issue the decree immediately to set the date; if consensus is not found, I will refer the matter to the Constitutional Council,” Sall said – adding he did not believe the process would be finished before 2 April.

In case the process runs beyond that date, he said: “What is certain is that there will be no void. We cannot leave a country without a president.”

“I want to make the dichotomy clearly between the election and the end of the mandate.”

Sall said he would follow the guidance of the Constitutional Council on the matter.

Sall last week promised he would abide by the Constitutional Council’s request for the vote to be scheduled as soon as possible, after the crisis triggered violent street protests and warnings of authoritarian overreach.

  • Senegal’s Constitutional council overturns delay of presidential vote

Slowness

Candidates haven’t announced yet if they are going to take part in the dialogue.

One, Mame Boye Diao told RFI that for now he only wants to “rejoice” about the possible release of candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye and Ousmane Sonko, and hopes the presidential election can be held before the month of June.

This week, opposition candidates accused the authorities of “dragging their feet on setting a new date.”

  • Human Rights Watch warns of Senegal repression ahead of elections

Sixteen of the 19 presidential contenders complained about an “inexplicable slowness” in enacting the council’s ruling.

They said the slow resumption of electoral operations showed Sall’s unwillingness to launch a process that would lead to a change of power.

The citizen collective Aar Sunu Election (Let’s Protect Our Election) said it would hold a rally in the capital Dakar on Saturday, the day before the election was due to have taken place.

Protests are also expected on Friday and Sunday, the day the poll was originally supposed to take place, for a march described as Sall’s “farewell party”, in a symbolic gesture.

(with Reuters)


France

Frenchman arrested in Burgundy over theft of 7,000 bottles of wine

A man has been arrested in the prestigious French wine region of Burgundy after allegedly stealing 7,000 bottles worth around 500,000 euros from a string of employers, prosecutors said earlier this week.

Local newspaper the Journal de Saone-et-Loire, which first reported the case, said the 56-year-old was filmed by a security camera taking four bottles of wine from his employer, who went to the police.

A search of his and his mother’s house found the four bottles in addition to what was described as “the work of a lifetime”.

Around 7,000 others had been accumulated over 15 years from other wine estates where the man had worked around the historic town of Beaune, in Burgundy.

They included grands crus from producers in Vosne-Romanee worth more than 1,000 euros, it added.

However, nothing indicates the man had actually sold a single bottle, Dijon prosecutor Olivier Caracotch told the French news agency AFP.

He has been freed on bail and will go on trial this summer.

(with AFP)


FRANCE – SECURITY

France expels Tunisian imam accused of hate speech

French authorities on Thursday expelled a Tunisian imam accused of preaching hatred against women and Jews, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced.

Mahjoub Mahjoubi, an imam in the small southern French town of Bagnols-sur-Ceze, was sent back to Tunisia “less than 12 hours after his arrest”, Darmanin said in a post on X.

He added that it was evidence of how a recently voted immigration law “makes France stronger”.

The law toughening migration conditions was seen as part of the government’s response to the rise of the far-right. It has been strongly opposed by left wing parties.

“Firmness is the rule,” said Darmanin, who slammed what he called a “radical imam who made unacceptable comments”.



  • Macron lays out strategy to tackle Islamist separatism in France
  • Anti-Semitism in France ‘quadrupled’ on back of Israel-Hamas war

‘Violent’ image of Islam

The official order for Mahjoubi’s expulsion, seen by AFP, said that in sermons in February he had given a “retrograde, intolerant and violent” image of Islam that would encourage behaviour against French values, discrimination against women, “tensions with the Jewish community” and “Jihadist radicalisation”.

The imam also referred to Jewish people as “the enemy”, according to the order, which said Mahjoubi called for “the destruction of Western society”.

The imam’s lawyer, Samir Hamroun, said he would appeal the expulsion.

Last year, France expelled a Moroccan imam and an Algerian who had been an official at a mosque that was closed in 2018.

President Emmanuel Macron said in 2020 that he wanted to end the stay in France of about 300 imams sent by other countries. None have been accepted from abroad since January this year.

(with newswires)


Paris Olympics 2024

France to beef up Olympic security with deployment of 10,000 soldiers

Exceptional security measures will be put in place during the Paris Olympics this summer. Paris’ military governor announced that a temporary camp of 10,000 military staff will be deployed in the Bois de Vincennes in eastern Paris.

With 22 weeks to go until the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics 2024, the military contingent in charge of the security for athletes and the public is gradually being unveiled.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, Paris’ military governor Christophe Abad gave further details of the exceptional logistics being put into place.

The10,000 soldiers will be deployed in the Île-de-France region, which takes place from 26 July to 11 August and housed in a military camp on the Pelouse de Reuilly, a large open space in the parkland known as Bois de Vincennes.

“We’ll start setting up the camp at the end of April, with completion scheduled for the beginning of July”, explains General Abad, justifying the camp’s location by the need to be “as close as possible to the heart of Paris”.

Typical overseas military operation camp

The camp, according to the military governor, will be comparable to the standards of those set up during overseas operations, with “removable wooden chalets which can accommodate 25 people and are air-conditioned to cope with the summer heat”.

  • Ply me a river: Seine to shine in Paris 2024 Paris Olympics opening ceremony
  • France approves algorithmic video surveillance to safeguard Olympics

Abad said that if necessary, the time period for the traditional travelling amusement park known as the Foire du Trône would be “brought forward and slightly reduced”.

“We’re bringing a real city out of the ground”, he sums up.

The army will also be responsible for security involving the boats taking part in the opening ceremony scheduled to take place on the Seine river on 26 July.

With the countdown well underway, France is scrambling to recruit security agents in the private sector – with around 20,000 posts still to be filled.

According to public broadcaster FranceInfo, each month, 24 to 36 trainees are trained in a special establishment in Seine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris.

They will be able to be part of the approximately 17,000 agents expected each day during the Olympic events.


FRANCE – RUSSIA

France complains of Russian ‘threats’ to attack military pilots

Paris (AFP) – France’s air force pilots have been threatened with attack by Russian forces during patrol missions in international air space, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said Thursday.

Russian had tried to “take control” of French air force and navy patrols, he told the RTL broadcaster, adding that Russia was “pushing the limits” with such behaviour.

“A month ago, a Russian air traffic system threatened to shoot down French planes over the Black Sea”, which were patrolling in international airspace at the time, he said.

“You have Russian operators threatening French pilots with the shooting down of their aircraft,” the minister said.

In a separate incident, a Russian warship was detected near the Bay of the Seine, an inlet of the English Channel on France’s Normandy coast, he said.

Although the Russian vessel was in international waters, “it was as if it had come to intimidate France”, Lecornu said.

  • EU approves new round of sanctions against Russia
  • French cyber experts reveal vast network of Russian disinformation sites

Cyberattacks, propaganda

The minister’s remarks are the latest in a string of French accusations of aggressive Russian behaviour, including alleged cyberattacks and propaganda directed at France.

Such incidents were “as old as the Cold War“, Lecornu acknowledged, but warned that “Russia is pushing the limits in terms of aggressive behaviour”.

One cyberattack had targeted a French weapons factory, he said.

Lecornu last weekend ordered his ministry to be more vigilant towards Russian “sabotage and cyberattacks”, according to an internal directive seen by AFP on Tuesday.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government is a major supplier of weapons and aid to Ukraine, which has been fighting Russia’s invasion for the past two years.

Macron declared last month that Europe’s priority must be to “not let Russia win”.


FRANCE – Health

Drugs shortage sees France restart local production, target antibiotics use

The French government has published a roadmap to address a growing shortage of medicines. It provides doctors and pharmacists with tools to prescribe alternatives, urges the use of fewer antibiotics and jumpstarts local production of key drugs.

As in much of Europe, France is facing increasing shortages of medications of all kinds – from insulin to anti-cancer drugs, though the most problematic are antibiotics, paracetamol and corticoids

In 2023, the National drug safety agency logged 4,925 low stock alerts, compared to 3,761 the year before.

The new three-year “roadmap” to address these shortages from 2024 to 2027, published Wednesday, plans to increase oversight on 450 drugs considered essential.

Drug shortages are linked to an increase global demand for medication as well as an insufficient local production capacity. Critics also point to pharmaceutical companies who have been raising prices on certain products.

The roadmap encourages doctors to avoid prescribing drugs facing shortages by giving them access to a database allowing them to see their availability in real time.

This will allow them to “either prescribe something else, or work the dosage”, explained Health Minister Catherine Vautrin.

Pharmacists will also be provided with more information about alternatives.

  • Should France guarantee supply of abortion drugs by producing its own?

Reducing antibiotics

In 2023 amoxicillin, particularly for children, was difficult to come by in France, and in the face of shortages of all kinds of antibiotics, the government wants to encourage patients and doctors to use them more judiciously.

Antibiotic use shot up in 2022, following a drop during the Covid pandemic.

“If antibiotic consumption remained globally downward since 2012, it went up in 2022 higher than in 2021,” according to an annual study published at the end of 2023 by the national health agency Santé Publique France 

France remains Europe’s fourth top consumer of antibiotics, warns the roadmap. It encourages doctors to provide patients with “prescriptions for over-the-counter antibiotics”, to explain why they have not prescribed them the medicine.

Beyond information, the government recommends adapting antibiotic packaging, so as not to waste unused medication.

Local production

Part of the plan is to have 25 “strategic medications” produced in France, which depends heavily on products and molecules produced outside of the country and of Europe.

“The best way to not lack something is to make it here, in France and in Europe,” said Roland Lescure, in charge of industry for the Economy Ministry, after a meeting with actors in the pharmaceutical sector.

The government plans to reveal the names of factories that will receive aid to produce in France by May.

The first European paracetamol factory is expected to open in 2025 in Toulouse, which will ease dependence on China, India and the United States, which produce 85 percent of the molecule used in Europe.

(with AFP)


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.


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”.


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) 


FRANCE – STRIKES

Eiffel Tower closed for fourth day as staff continue strike

Paris (AFP) – France’s iconic Eiffel Tower was closed for a fourth day on Thursday as employees extended a strike over the monument’s management, unions said.

The stoppage at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites is the second within two months in protest of what unions say is insufficient investment.

The tower’s operator, SETE, has 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.

Ticket holders will be reimbursed, the operator said.

Unions have criticised SETE for basing its business model on what they say is an inflated estimate of future visitor numbers, while underestimating repair and maintenance costs.

Union representatives were to meet SETE management in the afternoon, they told AFP.

  • Paris Olympics medals to include metal from Eiffel Tower
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Unions have also 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”.

The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around 120 million euros during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Its operator has since received a recapitalisation of 60 million euros, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job.

Visitor numbers at the Eiffel Tower dropped sharply during Covid due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.

The Sound Kitchen

A pioneering female French journalist

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Françoise Giraud. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, 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: RFI English journalist Jessica Phelan, our French history expert, was on Alison Hird and Sarah Elzas’ podcast, Spotlight on France Number 105 with a piece on a pioneering French female journalist, Françoise Giraud. You were to listen carefully to the podcast and send in the answers to these questions: What is the name of the news magazine Françoise Giraud co-founded, what is the name of the other founder, and in what year was the magazine first published?

The answer is: L’Express is the name of the magazine, which was first published in 1953. The co-founder’s name is Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What will you remember most about 2023?”

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

The winners are: Fatematuj Zahra, the co-secretary of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.  Fatematuj is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Fatematuj!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Hari Madugula, the president of the RFI Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India; Sultan Mahmud, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh; RFI Listeners Club member Alan Holder from the Isle of Wight, England, and RFI English listener Jibon Akhter Shammi from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Piva” by Joan Ambrosio Dalza, performed by Paul O’Dette; “Respect” by Otis Redding; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Crosstown Traffic” by Jimi Hendrix, performed by Hendrix with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Alison Hird’s article “Why are girls in France flunking maths and how can the equation be changed?” or listen to her story on Spotlight on France Number 106, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 25 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 30 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

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

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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.


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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.