rfi 2024-03-15 01:05:39



France – Ukraine

Macron warns Europe that Putin won’t stop with Ukraine and urges strong response

French President Emmanuel Macron called President Vladimir Putin’s Russia an adversary that would not stop in Ukraine if it defeated Kyiv’s troops in the two-year-old conflict, urging Europeans to not be “weak” and to get ready to respond.

Macron caused controversy last month after he said he could not rule out the deployment of ground troops in Ukraine in the future, with many leaders distancing themselves from that while others, especially in eastern Europe, expressed support.

“If Russia wins this war, Europe’s credibility will be reduced to zero,” Macron said in a television interview mostly directed at a domestic audience, after French opposition leaders criticised his comments as bellicose.

‘Deeply’ disagrees

Macron said he “deeply” disagrees with the opposition leaders. “Today, deciding to abstain or vote against support to Ukraine, it’s not choosing peace, it’s choosing defeat. It’s different,” he said.

He said it was important for Europe not to draw red lines, which would signal weakness to the Kremlin and encourage it to push on with its invasion of Ukraine. He refused to give details on what a deployment to Ukraine might look like.

“I don’t want to do so. I want Russia to stop this war and retreat from its positions and allow peace,” he said. “I’m not going to give visibility to someone who is not giving me any. This is a question for President Putin.”

“I have reasons not to be precise,” he said.

Paris not at war

Macron said France would never initiate an offensive against Russia, and that Paris was not at war with Moscow, despite the fact that Russia had launched aggressive attacks against French interests in and outside France.

“The Kremlin regime is an adversary,” he said, declining to call Russia an enemy. He also said Putin making threats about nuclear strikes was “not appropriate”.

Macron said Ukraine was in a “difficult” situation on the ground and that stronger support from allies was necessary.

“Peace does not mean the capitulation of Ukraine,” he said. “Wanting peace does not mean defeat. Wanting peace does not mean dropping Ukraine,” he said.

He also said he hoped that the time would come one day to negotiate peace with a Russian president “whoever it might be”, for the first time envisaging the possibility of Putin no longer being in charge in Russia.

Macron also said he had not cancelled a planned visit to Ukraine for security reasons. “That’s what Russia said. You shouldn’t believe them,” he said.

(with Reuters)


ISRAEL – HAMAS CONFLICT

EU claims starvation used as ‘weapon of war’ as aid efforts to Gaza persist

Donor nations, aid agencies and charities are pushing forward with efforts to rush food to Gaza by land, air and sea after the European Union’s top diplomat said starvation had become “a weapon of war” in the devastated Palestinian enclave.

Since the 7 October attacks, the Israel-Hamas conflict has caused mass civilian deaths, reduced vast areas to a rubble-strewn wasteland and sparked warnings of a looming famine in the Palestinian territory of 2.4 million people.

On Tuesday, a Spanish charity vessel – the Open Arms – was on its way to Gaza from Cyprus, where it had set sail towing a barge with 200 tonnes of aid, in a first voyage meant to open a maritime corridor.

The flow of aid trucks from Egypt into Gaza has slowed recently – a trend blamed both on Israeli security checks of cargo and civil unrest in Gaza where desperate crowds have looted aid shipments.

  • France calls for independent probe into Gaza aid delivery deaths

About half a dozen Arab and western nations have airdropped food parcels by parachute into Gaza, and Morocco has sent a planeload of relief supplies via Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

The UN World Food Programme – trying an alternative land route from southern Israel – sent six aid trucks into northern Gaza on Tuesday, through a gate in the security fence.

The WFP reported it had “delivered enough food for 25,000 people” and demanded that, with people in northern Gaza on the brink of famine, they need deliveries every day: “We need entry points directly into the north.”



‘Man-made’ famine

This comes as the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza “is man-made”.

“If we look at alternative ways to provide support, it’s because the land crossings have been artificially closed,” he said, charging that “starvation is being used as a weapon of war“.

Gaza’s food shortages after more than five months of war have killed 27 people through malnutrition and dehydration, most of them children.

Aid agencies have warned that truck deliveries and airdrops have fallen far short of meeting the desperate needs of the population, as European nations and the United States have announced plans to send more relief goods by sea.

  • Thousands of patients need to be evacuated from Gaza, WHO says

Maritime corridor

Last week, US President Joe Biden announced plans for the military to build a pier on Gaza’s coast, and four US Army vessels left a base in Virginia on Tuesday carrying about 100 soldiers and equipment.

Spain’s Open Arms vessel is continuing the 400 kilometre journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza, where US charity World Central Kitchen said work was underway to build a makeshift jetty.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos said Tuesday that “if all goes according to plan … we have already put in place the mechanism for a second and much bigger cargo”.

“And then we’ll be working towards making this a more systematic exercise with increased volumes.”



‘War on children’

The Gaza war was sparked by the 7 October Hamas attacks that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians.

Weeks of talks involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators had aimed to bring a truce and hostage release deal before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but missed the deadline on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on his pledge to “destroy Hamas” – including by sending troops into Gaza’s last area so far spared ground operations, far-southern Rafah.

The prospect of a Rafah invasion has sparked global alarm because it is crowded with almost 1.5 million people displaced by the war, many sheltering in camps of makeshift tents.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, called for an immediate ceasefire and branded the conflict “a war on children”.


WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Macron vows to integrate ‘consent’ into French legislation on sexual assault

President Emmanuel Macron has said he is in favour of adding the notion of “consent” to French law defining rape, the wording of which has been a subject of heated debate across France. 

The legal definition of rape in France includes the notions of “violence, coercion, threat or surprise”, but makes no mention of “consent”.

Women’s rights advocates have called for the law to be tightened by including the concept so that all sex without consent is rape, adding that only a tiny fraction of rapes or attempted rapes lead to a conviction.

  • EU agrees first law on violence against women, fails to find consensus on rape

On 8 March, Macron told a women’s rights group: “I totally understand that consent should be enshrined” in the law. 

“I will inscribe it in French law,” he added in a video filmed by women’s rights group’s Choisir – La Cause des Femmes (Choose – The Women’s Cause), a full version of which seen by French media on Wednesday.

A group of lawmakers is working on a report on whether to add consent to the law that they are to present mid-April.

“It’s good news for women’s rights,” one of them, Greens lawmaker Marie-Charlotte Garin, said after Macron’s remarks.



France rejects ‘consent’ in EU legislation

However, France was one of several countries to argue against including a consent-based definition of rape in an EU law passed last month.

The states in opposition argued that rape does not have the cross-border dimension necessary for it to be considered a crime that comes with common penalties across the European Union.

Macron is filmed in the video saying that he did not believe rape was a “eurocrime”, but did want to change French law.

  • France makes abortion constitution right as world fetes Women’s Day

Constitutional amendment

In 2023, the president promised to have the freedom to resort to an abortion added to France’s constitution after the US Supreme court overturned the half-century-old nationwide right to the procedure in 2022.

Earlier this month, French parliament gave a green light to the constitutional amendment in a historic vote, making France the first country to clearly give the right such protection in its basic law.

Macron has now pledged to enshrine the right in Europe’s basic law.

Last year, Spain approved a new legislation, dubbed the “Only yes means yes” law, under which all non-consensual sex is rape.

Sweden, Greece, Denmark and Finland have also passed similar laws.


French media

French investigative website starts new chapter with all-female leadership

Journalist Carine Fouteau is to take over from the iconic Edwy Plenel at the helm of Mediapart, the investigative website announced Thursday. All four main leadership positions at the company are now held by women.

Fouteau, 49 is now the president and editor-in-chief of Mediapart replacing its co-founder, Plenel, aged 71.

“This long-prepared step is taken in accordance with our values, which always put collective intelligence above personal adventures,” she said in a text posted on the site.

Plenel, was director of Le Monde‘s editorial team from 1996 to 2004 and an emblematic figure of investigative journalism in France.

He co-founded Mediapart in 2008 with François Bonnet, Laurent Mauduit, and Marie-Hélène Smiejan.

In February, Plenel, the last of the co-founders still on the management team, announced that he would step down as president but said he would continue to write.



All four four main leadership positions at Mediapart are now held by women: Fouteau, Cécile Sourd (general manager since 2023), Lenaïg Bredoux and Valentine Oberti (editorial directors since 2023).

Fouteau has worked for Mediapart since the founding of the publication. Previously she worked for the economic daily Les Echos after it was taken over by the luxury group LVMH.

Before taking the helm of the investigative site, she worked on migration issues and was co-editorial director from 2018 to 2023.

“Our project is to make Mediapart a major popular newspaper, which both disturbs and unites, through the strength and quality of its information,” she said.

  • Françoise Giroud, a woman to be reckoned with in French media and politics
  • Press freedom ‘under attack’ in every corner of the globe, UN warns

Mediapart had almost 220,000 subscribers in 2023, about 60,000 more than in 2022.

The turnover is €22.45 million (€21.23 million in 2022) and it reported a net profit of nearly €2.3 million (€2.6 million in 2022).

The company has 137 employees, including 65 journalists.

Mediapart says it is able to guarantee independence thanks to the fact that it relies only subscriptions and secured capital since 2019.

According to Fouteau, in its 16 years of existence, the left-leaning website “has established itself as an indispensable power” thanks to its investigations of political scandals, police violence, or sexual violence.

(With newswires)


HAITI CRISIS

Kenya confirms security mission to Haiti as transitional administration plans collapse

Kenya’s President William Ruto has reportedly confirmed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that plans to send a security mission to Haiti are going ahead, as moves to create a transitional presidential council in Port-au-Prince appear to have collapsed.

Secretary of State Blinken said Wednesday that President Ruto confirmed plans to send a Kenyan-led security mission to Haiti and expected progress in the coming days on a transitional council, although any moves towards finding political consensus in Porte-au-Prince appear to have failed.

Kenya has offered to lead a security mission – largely funded by the United States and Canada – to violence-ravaged Haiti but said the mission was on hold after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned on Monday in a deal pushed by Caribbean leaders and the United States.

  • UN warns of increasing gang violence in Haiti amid calls for Kenya-led peace mission

Confirming an account by Ruto, Blinken said he spoke to the Kenyan leader by telephone and discussed a transitional council that was being formed to name a new prime minister ahead of elections.

Ruto “confirmed Kenya’s preparedness to lead that mission just as soon as this new council is stood up – which we believe will happen in the next couple of days – and an interim president is elected,” Blinken said.

Blinken acknowledged the challenges ahead for Haiti, where public order has broken down and armed gangs control most of the capital.



No agreement on transition plan

However, the proposal to install new leadership in Haiti appeared to be crumbling by Wednesday evening, as some political parties rejected the plan to create a presidential council that would manage the transition.

The plan entails the creation of a panel that would be responsible for selecting an interim prime minister and a council of ministers that would attempt to chart a new path for the country that has been overrun by criminal gangs.

The violence has closed schools and businesses and disrupted daily life across the Caribbean nation, leaving dozens dead.

  • Africa-led mission to Haiti ‘urgently needed’, according to the UN

Jean Charles Moïse, an ex-senator and presidential candidate who has teamed up with former rebel leader Guy Philippe, held a news conference Wednesday to announce his rejection of the proposed council backed by the international community.

Moïse has insisted that a three-person presidential council he recently created with Philippe and a Haitian judge should be implemented.

His ally, Philippe, who helped lead a successful revolt in 2004 against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was recently released from a United States prison after pleading guilty to money laundering, said no Haitian should accept any proposal from the international community.

Philippe accused the international community of being complicit with Haiti’s elite and corrupt politicians and urged Haitians to take to the streets.

Other high-profile Haitian politicians also declined to participate in the proposed transitional council.



Haitian PM in exile

Caribbean leaders who announced the plan for the transitional council have not yet responded to the impasse.

The transition proposal emerged late Monday, following a meeting involving Caribbean leaders, US Secretary of State Blinken and others who are searching for a solution to halt Haiti’s violence.

Hours after the meeting, Henry announced Tuesday that he would resign once the council was in place, saying that his government “cannot remain insensitive to this situation.”

Henry remains locked out of Haiti because gang attacks have shuttered the country’s airports.

He is currently in Puerto Rico.


Hamas Israel conflict

Macron condemns ‘anti-Semitic’ remarks at university’s pro-Palestian protest

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned “intolerable” remarks reported during a pro-Palestinian protest at Paris’ prestigious Sciences Po university on Tuesday. This after students occupying the main lecture hall were accused of barring entry to a Jewish student and insulting her.

The student, a member of the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) was met with shouts of “Don’t let her in, she’s a Zionist”, the union said on X.

The incident sparked condemnation at the highest level of government, with Macron telling Wednesday’s cabinet meeting that the remarks were “unspeakable and perfectly intolerable”.

Around a hundred students occupied the main amphitheatre of France’s most prestigious school of political science on Tuesday, as part of a “European university mobilisation day for Palestine”.



According to a student present in the amphitheatre, interviewed by French news agency AFP, the young woman member of the UEJF was prevented from entering “for security reasons, because she had previously intimidated pro-Palestinian students”.

“She is the only one who could not enter. Other members of the UEJF attended the debates,” she said, speaking anonymously.

“UEJF students are targeted as Jews and Zionists,” the Jewish student association denounced on X, while the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (Crif), Yonathan Arfi, deplored an “atmosphere of antisemitism”.

Disciplinary action

Sciences Po‘s management announced that it would take disciplinary action, informing AFP “that several red lines have been crossed”.

The management said it regretted a “hardening” of relations between students and the “embedding of an unacceptable poisonous climate”.



Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau went to the Sciences Po Foundation’s board to “underline the seriousness” of what happened and urged the university to remain a “place of teaching” and “healthy debates”, its management said.

Government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot said that President Macron had clarified and firmly reiterated his position: “academic institutions are autonomous, but this autonomy does not justify any form of separatism,” she said.

But students on the ground said the government should be more circumspect in its condemnation.

“It’s really sad that unverified information is taken directly to the French president,” said one student who declined to be named. “We don’t tolerate any form of anti-Semitism.”

  • Anti-Semitism in France ‘quadrupled’ on back of Israel-Hamas war
  • Macron says recognition of Palestinian state ‘not a taboo’ for France

The protests attracted praise from left-wing politicians like France Unbowed (LFI) MP Aymeric Caron who wrote on X: “bravo to the students of Sciences Po who are mobilised against the ongoing genocide in Gaza”.

LFI candidate in the European elections Rima Hassan also expressed her “support to all students and faculties mobilising against the ongoing genocide” on Tuesday.

France has seen a rise in pro-Palestinian protests since militant group Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, sparking a retaliatory Israeli military campaign in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza.

At least 31,341 people have been killed during more than five months of war, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

(With newswires)


War in Ukraine

Brussels agrees ‘in principle’ to €5bn package to fund arms for Ukraine

EU member states on Wednesday agreed to add €five billion to a central fund to pay for weapons sent to Ukraine.

The move provides a welcome boost for Kyiv as support from its other major backer, the United States, wavers and its outgunned forces struggle to hold back Russia.

Belgium, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said ambassadors from the bloc’s 27 nations had agreed “in principle” on the plan to support arms supplies to Kyiv in 2024 with five billion euros.



In the wake of Moscow’s 2022 invasion, the European Union for the first time agreed to fund weapons deliveries to a country at war.

Since then it has committed €6.1 billion from its centralmainly to reimburse part of the cost of arms sent by member states to Ukraine.

The push to bolster the EU fund by an extra €five billion was delayed for months amid wrangling from Germany and France.

But according to Politico, “a big chunk of the contributions to the Fund will not actually be in the form of new cash.

“In fact,” the magazine writes, “EU countries can discount their bilateral weapons shipments as “contributions” to the fund. Germany has already said that it won’t pay €1.2 billion but will instead count its own arms shipments as its contribution.”

Compromise

Berlin insisted its bilateral support for Ukraine should be offset against its contribution, and Paris demanded that only weapons produced in Europe should be reimbursed.

Diplomats said Germany, the largest contributor to the fund, had struck a compromise with Brussels to offset a percentage of its own bilateral support against the fund.

They said France was also satisfied by a commitment that countries would prioritise purchases from European defence firms, but could look outside the EU if certain ammunition or systems were not readily available.

  • France is world’s second biggest arms exporter, just ahead of Russia: report

Overall since the Kremlin unleashed its war, Brussels says around 28 billion euros have been spent from member states and EU coffers to support Ukraine’s military.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmygal welcomed the additional money.

“Thank you Josep Borrell for your unwavering support to Ukraine on the road to victory,” he posted on X, referring to the EU’s foreign affairs chief.

On Thursday evening at 20:00, France’s President Emmanuel Macron will talk on national television about France’s role in supporting Ukraine, after the French parliament voted in favor of his Ukraine strategy earlier this week.

  

(With newswires)

Spotlight on France

Podcast: Covid obedience, vasectomies in France, was Rosa Bonheur a lesbian?

Issued on:

Four years after the start of the first Covid lockdown in France, what has been the impact? What’s stopping more men getting vasectomies in France. And why not everyone wants to accept that Rosa Bonheur, the most famous female painter of the 19th century, was a lesbian.

For 55 days, starting 17 March 2022, French citizens were confined to their homes as part of the government’s approach to controlling the then little-understood virus sweeping the planet, which we now know as Covid-19. Historian Nicolas Mariot, co-author of a book about the lockdown, looks into the reasons behind why a majority of people in France accepted the harsh curbs on personal freedom, and asks why there has not been a broader reckoning about the impacts. (Listen @ 2’40) 

Vasectomies are rare in France. The procedure that cuts the tubes in men’s testicles that carry sperm, serving as a permanent form of birth control, was only legalised in 2001. Urologist Vincent Hupertan describes the reservations patients and doctors have about the vasectomies, which have to do with both French culture and how the health system works. And we hear from one man before and after his vasectomy, who was told by his doctor to rethink it in case he ever planned to remarry a younger woman. (Listen @ 17’00)

Rosa Bonheur, born 16 March 1822, was probably the best-known female painter of the 19th century. Writer Anna Polonyi talks about how Bonheur’s paintings of animals are attracting fresh interest from people curious about her personal life, notably her decades-long relationship with a woman. Yet some of the people in charge of guarding her legacy refuse to say that she was lesbian. Polonyi’s web documentary series, The Rosa Bonheur Case, explores Bonheur’s life and how queer artists are represented. (Listen @ 10’15)

Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, Apple podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here) or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).


French football

France football coach Deschamps defends approach towards penalty shoot-outs

France boss Didier Deschamps lashed at on Thursday at one of the country’s top football analysts over practice routines for penalty shoot-outs during major International tournaments.

Hubert Fournier, who heads the French football federation’s, national technical department last month called for more structure in the preparations for the sessions.

During an interview with the French broadcaster RMC Sport, Fournier suggested that Deschamps and other France national team coaches should organise scenarios which helped the players prepare for the intensity of the shoot-outs.

“He ought to offer them a range of exercises that will allow the players taking the kicks to gain more confidence,” Fournier said.

But announcing his 23-man squad for the friendlies against Germany and Chile on 23 and 26 March respectively, Deschamps launched a six-minute tirade about Fournier’s proposals.

“I find the comments inappropriate and I would even say disrespectful,” said Deschamps. “It’s not just about me but about all coaches.”

Fournier’s suggestions come as Deschamps fine-tunes his team preparations for the European championships in June and July in Germany.

For the matches in Lyon and Marseille, Deschamps has drafted in Aston Villa’s Moussa Diaby to vie for a place among a forward line including skipper Kylian Mbappé and the veteran strikers Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann who were part of the team that won the 2018 World Cup.

Defenders Benjamin Pavard and Aurélien Tchouaméni have been recalled. The duo missed the qualifying matches last November against Gibraltar and Greece due to injury.

The French – who lost the 2022 World Cup final in a penalty shoot-out – go into the European championships as one of the favourites.

Status

They lie second in the Fifa rankings behind Argentina and ahead of England and Belgium.

“The shoot-out is a confrontation between the goalkeeper and the person taking the penalty,” added Deschamps who skippered France to the World Cup title in 1998 as well as the the European championships crown in 2000. 

Deschamps, who is only one of three men to have won the World Cup as a player and as a coach, added: “It’s not that I don’t think that these things can be worked on but I am convinced – and my time as a player informs me on this point – that it is impossible to recreate the psychological conditions of a shoot-out while you are in a training session.”

For the matches in Chateauroux and Sochaux, Deschamps has drafted in Aston Villa’s Moussa Diaby to vie for a place among the forwards while defenders Benjamin Pavard and Aurélien Tchouaméni have been recalled. The duo  missed the qualifying matches last November against Gibraltar and Greece due to injury.


Media

European Parliament adopts EU media freedom law

The EU is set to better protect journalists from political pressure and surveillance under an unprecedented media freedom law approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The legislation, backed in a vote by 464 EU lawmakers, with 92 against and 65 abstaining, also enshrines editorial independence and seeks to improve transparency on media ownership.

The law still needs to be adopted by the EU’s 27 member countries before it can come into force.

The law includes protections for the secrecy of journalists’s sources and a ban on using spyware against journalists.

The European Union commissioner for values and transparency, Vera Jourova, hailed the “historic vote”, saying on X that “independent media are essential to democracies” and “it’s the duty of democracies to protect them”.



Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a French media watchdog advocating journalist safety and independence, welcomed the move.

“This law’s adoption marks a major step forward for the right to information within the European Union,” said RSF’s Brussels office chief Julie Majerczak.

She called for EU member countries to “ambitiously” implement the law.

  • Tough talks ahead of EU media freedom law as France insists on use of spyware

The draft text of the European Media Freedom Act was introduced by the European Commission in 2022 in reaction to deteriorating media pluralism and independence in EU countries such as Hungary and Poland, and also as spyware like Pegasus and Predator was being used to target journalists.

Jourova said in a Tuesday debate on the law in the European Parliament in Strasbourg ahead of the vote that its provisions address “clear problems” facing media in Europe.

Those included “interference by governments in editorial decisions, pressure on media of public service, media surveillance of journalists, lack of transparency of media ownership and of state advertising, or lack of coordination among media regulators”.

Limited exceptions

During negotiations on the new law, France insisted on “national security” carve-outs, sparking concerns among journalists and media-freedom organisations.

Exceptions are included in the final law, but not for national security reasons, and only in limited circumstances.

For instance, spyware on devices used by journalists can only be deployed if a number of serious violations are identified, and then only after sign-off from a judicial or independent authority.

EU countries will also be required to ensure sustainable financing of public media organisations, and there are safeguards for journalistic content published online.

The legislation contains provisions for setting up an independent EU committee composed of representatives from national regulatory authorities to examine cases where overconcentration of media ownership might infringe the rules.

The panel would issue recommendations – nonbinding ones – in regards to media pluralism.

(with AFP)


Defence

Dutch government to decide on the purchase of four French submarines

The Dutch government will decide Friday if it will buy four French-made submarines from the Paris-based Naval Group after deliberations lasting nine years.

Dutch media outlet RTL Nieuws, quoting “informed sources” reported that France’s Naval Group is likely to be the one to replace the thirty-year old Walrus class fleet of Dutch subs, beating rivals Saab from Sweden and Germany’s Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS.)

Saab would have partnered with Dutch Damen Shipyards, while Naval cooperates with shipbuilder Royal IHC, another Dutch constructor.

Dutch submarines

According to Jaime Karremann, editor of Dutch navy monitor portal Marineschepen.nl, the Dutch navy has three submarines which all entered service in the early 1990s. A fourth sub was retired in December last year. 

“They are ageing. They really need replacement. That should have happened a long time ago,” he told RFI.

A lot of Dutch politicians prefer a broader Dutch involvement.

00:42

REMARK by Jaime Karremann, editor of navy monitor Marineschepen.nl

“They are not primarily used for coastal defence,” he says, “but rather deployed far from home, in the Atlantic, the Caribbean or the Persian Gulf.” 

“They collect intelligence and can be used to drop special forces.

Some fifteen years ago, the Dutch weren’t convinced that they wanted to replace the vessels at all.

“Until 2013, it wasn’t clear if we shouldn’t get rid of them altogether, like in Denmark,” says Karremann.

But since 2014, the year Russia invaded Crimea, things have changed when expenditure started to gradually rise. “It accelerated over the last couple of years,” he says, “meaning that there’s more space in the budget for submarines.”

Criticism

According to an article by the Telegraaf newspaper on 28 February, which first reported about the possibility of Naval getting the deal, the Dutch navy wants to replace their old fleet with four Barracuda-class submarines at a total cost of up to €6 billion.

The news, however,  triggered a furious response from critics in the Dutch parliament who say that the French company has an unfair advantage over Dutch rivals, as “the Naval Group shipyard, owned by the [French] state, can take larger risks and deliver for prices a commercial wharf can barely compete with,” according to De Telegraaf. A parliamentary debate this Thursday could modify the result.

For France, there is more at stake. “The submarine dossier is high on the agenda” in Paris, says Karremann, pointing to the mega-deal that went south last year.

In 2023, Naval thought it had a massive €31 billion deal with Australia for the construction and sale of twelve conventional subs. But at the last moment, Australia joined forces with the US and the UK in the “Aukus” deal, which included the sale of nuclear fueled ships to Canberra, manufactured in the US and the UK.

  • Sinking of submarine deal leaves Franco-US friendship in tatters

According to a research briefing by the British House of Commons, Australia will still have to wait a while before the subs are ready to sail as they “will be built in the UK and Australia and work will begin by 2030, with a view to entering service…[in]the early 2040s.”

Meanwhile, the document says, Australia will use three Virginia-class submarines which it buys from the US, “with potential for the sale of a further two.”


France

Head of Sciences Po university resigns, accused of domestic violence

The head of one of France’s leading universities said Wednesday he was stepping down after being ordered to stand trial in a domestic violence case.

Mathias Vicherat, director of the prestigious Sciences Po school in Paris, became the target of angry protests by students demanding his resignation after he and his partner Anissa Bonnefont were briefly detained in December, each accusing the other of domestic violence.

“I have been informed that my ex-partner and myself have been ordered to stand trial in a criminal court,” Vicherat, 45, said in a message sent to faculty Wednesday.

His resignation was to “protect” the school from any fallout of the case, he said. “What counts here is not me but the institution,” he said.

Accusations of violence against him had been made in a “vague manner” Vicherat said, and the judiciary would “allow the facts to be established”.

No legal complaint

The criminal case was brought by prosecutors, neither Vicherat nor his former partner having filed any legal complaint against each other.

The Paris prosecutors’ office confirmed that a summons had been delivered to both Vicherat and his ex-partner, on charges of reciprocal domestic violence “leading to an incapacity to work of more than eight days”.

The case will go to trial in the autumn, added a source close to the investigation who asked not to be named.

Vicherat had already stood down temporarily in January after a preliminary investigation was launched and students blockaded the school, protesting against what they said was “impunity” for people committing “sexual and sexist violence”.

Domestic violence

He insisted that he had never committed any acts of domestic violence, but acknowledged that “trust may have been damaged.”

Sciences Po, founded in 1872, is a hugely influential cornerstone of French elite education. Its list of alumni features leading politicians including President Emmanuel Macron and several former French and foreign leaders, as well as top names in literature, media, culture and fashion.

Its reputation was already tarnished when Vicherat’s predecessor Frederic Mion was accused of covering up incest allegations against star political scientist Olivier Duhamel, who was head of the Sciences Po Foundation that has strategic oversight over the university.

  • Head of prestigious Sciences Po university resigns amidst incest scandal

After Mion resigned, Vicherat took over, saying the fight against sexual violence was an “absolute priority.”

Sciences Po’s management said on Wednesday that a new leadership team would be put together in the coming days.

(with AFP)


Global warming

Europe unprepared for ‘catastrophic’ climate risks: EU agency

A European Climate Risk Assessment report published Tuesday reveals that Europe is desperatedly unprepared for the dangers of climate change, specifically vulnerable to wilfires, water shortages, flooding and erosion.

A new EU study has stated that Europe could suffer “catastrophic” consequences from climate change if it fails to take urgent and decisive action to adapt to risks.

The massive, 425-page European Climate Risk Assessment (Eucra) is the first of its kind and identifies 36 climate dangers – including fires, water shortages and their effects on agricultural production – while low-lying coastal regions face threats of flooding, erosion and saltwater intrusion.

“Many of these risks have already reached critical levels and could become catastrophic without urgent and decisive action,” according to the report.

“Eucra identifies three hotspot regions,” Julie Berckmans, a European climate risk expert with the European Environment Agency (EEA) told RFI. These include:

1. Southern Europe

Southern Europe, faces increasing heat and droughts – affecting outdoor workers in the agricultural sector – and tourism, which is hit by brutal wildfires in forest areas.



2. Low-lying coastal regions

Low-lying coastal regions may face flooding and coastal erosion, “especially due to sea level rise,” she says, while a third “hotspot” is identified in the “outermost regions” of the EU, which face particular risk because they are isolated and have weak infrastructure.

3. Outermost regions

“The extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and flooding – as experienced in recent years – will worsen in Europe even under optimistic global warming scenarios and affect living conditions throughout the continent,” the EEA warned.

  • Hottest February ever puts world in ‘unchartered’ climate territory

Fastest warming continent in the world

According to Eucra, 2023 was the warmest year on record, and the average global temperature in the 12-month period between February 2023 and January 2024 “exceeded pre-industrial levels by 1.5C.

” Europe,” the report says, “is the fastest-warming continent in the world.”

Europe is warming twice as fast at the global average.

00:50

REMARK by Julie Berckmans, Expert European Climate Risk with the EEA

Jan van der Made

“We used data from the Copernicus climate change service,” says Berckmans, which shows that “Europe is warming twice as fast at the global average.

“The Arctic is warming even faster,” she says, adding “it is also losing a lot of snow, a lot of ice cover.”

  • Europe on alert as severe drought hits food, energy production

She adds that changing ocean currents are affecting Europe’s climate, while thermal warming and the increased number of heat waves on the continent are driven by air circulation patterns in the atmosphere, which cause more stable, yet hotter weather conditions.

But climate warriors face an uphill battle.

Europe-wide farmer protests  demonstrate unhappiness about increasingly tight environmental regulations, and this may slow down the EU decision making process on climate change.

“It is important to acknowledge these concerns,” says Berckmans. “We also need to remember that people have diverse needs and means to deal with the change. 

“It’s very critical to consider social justice,” but she points out that it is the agricultural sector which is at high risk due to climate change.

  • Global warming threshold of 1.5°C will be broken within 7 years, research shows

Final wake-up call?

Meanwhile, France’s Cour des Comptes (State Audit Court) recently published its yearly assessment for 2024, focusing on climate change.

The 725-page report echoes the concerns of Eucra, pointing out that generally climate change-induced health risk is “still insufficiently controlled,” housing is not protected enough against heat, flooding and drought.

It added that cities adaptation to climate change has come “too late”.

The report adds that France’s rail network is too vulnerable to weather events, the protection of French coasts is insufficient against floods, and nuclear power plants – France’s major source of energy– and electricity transmission networks are too fragile in the face of the increasingly volatile weather conditions.

In general, says Berckmans, EU member states don’t do enough.

“Policy readiness is low, meaning that the will to adapt is low,” while climate action of different EU states lacks coherence.

“Many of the risks are co-owned,” she says, “so there is shared responsibility between the EU and member states.”

Eucra’s report serves as a “wake-up call,” she says, as decades of discussion about global warming and climate change has led to “climate fatigue” among a larger public, but “there is a strong need to make this call.

“There is no scenario where we cannot do anything. There is only one scenario: to act now. And this really is the final wake-up call,” she concludes.


OBITUARY

General Charles de Gaulle’s son, Philippe, dies aged 102

Admiral Philippe de Gaulle, the eldest son of General Charles de Gaulle, has died in Paris at the age of 102, his family has said.

According to Philippe de Gaulle’s son, Yves: “He died on Tuesday night at the Institution Nationale des Invalides, where he had been a resident for two years.”

“We salute the memory of a formidable father and a great Frenchman, whose sense of duty was equalled only by his elegance and modesty.

“Vision, honour and simplicity – that is what Gaullism is all about”, wrote Pierre de Gaulle, another of the admiral’s sons, on social media.



  • Last remaining French D-day veteran Léon Gautier dies at 100
  • A man of inspiration: France honours Charles de Gaulle 50 years after death

Illustrious career

Born on 28 December 1921 in Paris, Philippe de Gaulle – a former student of the Ecole Navale – joined the Free French Naval Forces in 1940.

As an ensign, he took part in campaigns in the North Atlantic until 1944, then in the liberation of France from 1944 to 1945 as part of the Leclerc division.

De Gaulle was promoted to lieutenant in 1948, corvette captain in 1956 and finally admiral in 1980. He ended his military career two years later. 

The eldest of Charles de Gaulle’s three children, Philippe went on to become a senator for Paris between 1986 and 2004, for the centre-right RPR and UMP parties.

He devoted himself to preserving the memory of his father, publishing several works on the General, including the best-selling De Gaulle, mon père

For a “dazzled son”, as he put it, the aim his best-seller was to humanise his illustrious father – an icon during his lifetime, leader of Free France and former President of the Republic – who died in 1970. 


Geopolitics

French parliament votes in favour of Macron’s Ukraine strategy

French lawmakers on Tuesday backed a security accord with Ukraine, after a debate that showed deep divisions over President Emmanuel Macron’s policy towards Kyiv. 

Following a tense debate, the National Assembly lower house held a non-binding vote on the government’s strategy including a bilateral security agreement signed by Macron and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky last month.

Lawmakers eventually backed the pact by a wide margin, with 372 votes in favour and 99 against, while 101 abstained.

The far-right National Rally (RN), which leads Macron’s alliance by a wide margin ahead of the June European elections, abstained, while the far-left France Unbowed party (LFI) voted against it, as expected.

While the vote is symbolic, it gave political parties an opportunity to publicly express their positions in relation to Macron’s strategy on the conflict as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stretches into its third year.

A major hot-button topic

The 10-year security pact with Ukraine includes commitments by Paris to deliver more arms, train soldiers and send up to €3 billion in military aid to Ukraine in 2024.

Macron has also adopted a tougher stance towards Russia, urging Ukraine’s allies to urgently do more. He also did not rule out the presence of Western troops in Ukraine which has created a backlash.

Ukrainian officials had told Reuters they were worried that a vote not overwhelmingly in favour of Kyiv would be negative symbolically and could hurt Macron’s efforts to ramp up his country’s support in the coming months.

Earlier on Tuesday, LFI leader Manuel Bompard told LCI channel that the vote in Parliament on support for Ukraine had “a masquerade dimension”. “This agreement has already been ratified by the President, it is not a binding vote”, he said.

  • EU leaders reject Macron’s suggestion that sending troops to Ukraine is possible

Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old leader of the RN, said his party would abstain because of its “red lines”.

“We need to be very careful”, said Bardella. “Yes to support for Ukraine, but no to war with Russia.”

The RN opposes the dispatch of Western ground troops and the possibility of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO and the EU.

In France’s polarised political landscape, Russia’s war against Ukraine has emerged as a major hot-button topic.

Macron has been seeking to hammer home the importance of greater support for Ukraine, which is running out of ammunition, insisting that Europe’s security is at stake.

French ground troops

Allies of Macron at the weekend lambasted the far-right National Rally at the launch of their European election campaign, accusing them of betraying the interests of France and Europe and flirting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to French broadcaster BFM TV on Monday, Zelensky said that there was no need for French ground troops in his war-torn country as long as “Ukraine holds”.

“Your children are not going to die in Ukraine,” he said.

The Senate upper house was set to hold similar debates on Wednesday.

(with newswires)


Society

French anti-racism group says many temporary work agencies are ‘problematic’

French temporary employment agencies are still discriminating against applicants on the basis of their origin, according to a study published on Tuesday by the French action group SOS Racisme.

This, as the Senate is examining a draft law aimed at introducing more widespread testing to fight discrimination, particularly in employment.

According to a study by SOS Racisme, revealed by France Inter radio on Tuesday, “61 percent of temporary employment agencies tested adopted problematic behaviour”.

The French anti-racism group carried out an initial test three years ago, which revealed that almost one temporary employment agency in two was not complying with the law.

At the time, temporary employment professionals promised to take action to curb the scourge of discrimination

But three years on, SOS Racisme notes that progress is very slow.

  • French government’s anti-discrimination plan will prevent ‘history stuttering’

According to the organisation, in 14 percent of cases, “the person on the other end of the line will spontaneously say, yes, no problem, we’ll do a pre-selection for you”, says Alice Murgier, SOS Racisme’s legal manager.

“That’s a prohibited practice. During the testings carried out, the responses were different: to the request to have people of European type, “rather white people”, the organisation was told that it was possible, “the aim is to do business”.

‘Complacency in discrimination’

But for Dominique Sopo, President of SOS Racisme, things are more devious: “A large proportion of temporary employment agencies will refuse to practise discrimination themselves, because they are well aware that this is totally illegal and that it would implicate them”.

He adds that some agencies “will show a form of complacency in discrimination by saying to the client, ‘make the selection yourself'”.

According to the study, a third of the agencies tested agreed to work with a client who announced that they would sort the CVs themselves. 

On Tuesday, the Senate is due to examine a bill aimed at extending the use of testings to combat discrimination, particularly in employment and access to housing.


US ELECTIONS 2024

Presidential rematch set for US election as Biden, Trump secure nominations

US President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have secured their parties’ presidential nominations with decisive victories in a slate of low-profile primaries, setting up a general election rematch in November 2024. 

The outcome of contests across the states of Georgia, Mississippi and Washington  was never in doubt.

Neither Biden nor Trump faced major opposition with their parties, but the magnitude of their wins has given each the majority needed to claim their party’s nomination at their national conventions that will take place this summer.

Not even halfway through the presidential primary calendar, Tuesday marked a crystallising moment for a nation uneasy with its choices in 2024. 

There is no longer any doubt that the November election will feature a rematch between two flawed and unpopular presidents.

At 81, Biden is already the oldest president in US history, while the 77-year-old Trump is facing decades in prison as a defendant in four criminal cases.

Their rematch – the first featuring two US presidents since 1912 – will almost certainly deepen the nation’s searing political and cultural divides over the eight-month grind that lies ahead.

  • US and French Presidents pledge ‘unwavering’ alliance, but trade dispute looms

Sweeping victories

In a statement, Biden celebrated the nomination while casting Trump as a serious threat to democracy, “running a campaign of resentment, revenge, and retribution that threatens the very idea of America.”

He continued, “I am honoured that the broad coalition of voters representing the rich diversity of the Democratic Party across the country have put their faith in me once again to lead our party – and our country – in a moment when the threat Trump poses is greater than ever.”



In a video posted on social media, Trump celebrated what he called “a great day of victory.”

“But now we have to get back to work because we have the worst president in the history of our country,” Trump said of Biden.

“So, we’re not going to take time to celebrate. We’ll celebrate in eight months when the election is over.”

Both candidates dominated Tuesday’s primaries in swing-state Georgia, deep-Republican Mississippi and Democratic-leaning Washington.

Trump also won Hawaii’s Republican caucus. 

  • Trump hails Super Tuesday wins as Haley set to drop out

Unpopular candidates

Despite their tough talk, the road ahead will not be easy for either presumptive nominee.

Trump is facing 91 felony counts in four criminal cases involving his handling of classified documents and his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, among other alleged crimes.

He’s also facing increasingly pointed questions about his policy plans and relationships with some of the world’s most dangerous dictators.

Trump met privately on Friday with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has rolled back democracy in his country.



Biden – who would be 86 years old at the end of his next term – is working to assure a sceptical electorate that he’s still physically and mentally fit to thrive in the world’s most important job.

Voters in both parties are unhappy with his handling of immigration and inflation. 

He’s also dealing with additional dissension within the Democrats’ progressive base, furious that he hasn’t done more to stop Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Some 161 million Americans are registered to cast their ballots on election day, Tuesday, 5 November. 


Corsica

French government signs deal bringing Corsica a step closer to autonomy

France’s government and elected officials from Corsica have agreed on the wording that could be added to the constitution granting autonomy to the Mediterranean island, a region that is often at odds with the central government in Paris.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Corsican officials in the early hours of Tuesday said they had reached an agreement.

“This constitutional text foresees the recognition of a status of autonomy for Corsica within the (French) republic that takes into account its own interests linked to it being a Mediterranean island, its historic, linguistic and cultural community having developed singular ties to its land,” a first line read.

Darmanin said both sides had also agreed that “laws and regulations can be adapted” on the island.

“We have taken a step towards autonomy” but “there is no separation between Corsica and the republic,” Darmanin said.

They had made no mention of the Corsican language becoming official, he said.

Corsicans have long wanted more say on their own affairs, as well as official status for their language and protection from outsiders buying up land, two thorny requests that Paris has been reluctant to grant.

Supporters of autonomy are in the majority in the local assembly on the island of nearly 350,000 inhabitants.

‘Semi-finals’

Darmanin said that registered voters in Corsica would be consulted on the plan, as would the island’s parliament in Ajaccio, which is currently controlled by nationalists.

Corsica‘s executive council president Gilles Simeoni, an advocate for autonomy, hailed Monday’s agreement as a “decisive step”.

“The principle of a legislative power submitted to oversight from the Constitutional Council” in Paris had clearly been defined, he said.

  • President Macron proposes ‘autonomy’ for French island of Corsica
  • What’s driving nationalist violence on the French island of Corsica?

But he said they still needed to hammer out the finer details of how this regional legislature would operate.

“We’re in the semi-finals. We still need to win the semi-finals and the finals,” he said, using a football metaphor.

Once the text in its final form has been approved by the Corsican parliament, it will then be submitted to a vote by the lower-house National Assembly and upper-house Senate in Paris.

Only if they both give it a green light will it then move on to a combined vote of both houses, in which it will need three-fifths of votes to be enacted.

‘Dangerous step’

However, the right-wing and conservative parties are not happy with the agreement.

The President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, and Bruno Retailleau of the right-wing group the Republicans in the Senate are “fiercely opposed to the legislative power”.

“Contrary to official proclamations, the project on Corsica amounts to constitutionalising communitarianism,” Retailleau wrote on social media platform X, calling the text a “dangerous step.”

“Recognising a historical, linguistic and cultural community amounts to recognising the notion of the Corsican people.”

Senator from southern Corsica-du-Sud, Jean-Jacques Panunzi agreed that the “law remains and must remain in Parliament,” adding that there was a danger that other regions of France might ask for the same thing.

Historic moment

At the end of September during a visit to the island, President Emmanuel Macron spoke of a “historic moment”, where he gave his backing for talks on autonomy and set a six-month period for discussions.

  • Emotions run high as Corsicans bury nationalist Colonna

“It will not be autonomy against the state, nor autonomy without the state, but autonomy for Corsica and within the republic,” Macron told the island’s parliament in Ajaccio at the time.

Corsica shot to the top of the French political agenda in 2022 when widespread violence broke out over the killing in a mainland prison of the nationalist Yvan Colonna.

The independence fighter, jailed for life over the 1998 murder of regional prefect Claude Erignac, was stabbed to death by another inmate.


European Union

Brussels recommends opening EU membership talks with Bosnia

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday Brussels was recommending member states open formal membership talks with Bosnia, in the latest move towards expanding the bloc in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

Moscow’s war on its neighbour has reinvigorated the EU’s drive to enlarge in eastern and central Europe, with its 27 current member states agreeing in December to start talks on joining with Ukraine and Moldova.

Balkan country Bosnia been an official candidate for membership since 2022 but needed to implement a string of major reforms before getting the green light on negotiations with the EU.

Von der Leyen told the European Parliament that Bosnia “is showing that it can deliver on its membership criteria, and on its citizens’ aspiration to be part of our family”.

“This is the reason that we will decide to recommend to the Council to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Impressive steps

The EU executive was to formally present its latest report on Bosnia‘s progress later on Tuesday, ahead of an EU leaders’ summit next week seen as the last chance for Bosnia to open negotiations before June’s European elections.

All 27 EU member states will have to agree to the move before negotiations can be launched.

While cautioning that “more progress is necessary to join our union,” von der Leyen said that “Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken impressive steps towards us.”

“More progress has been achieved in just over a year than in over a decade,” von der Leyen told lawmakers in Strasbourg.

  • The €136bn price tag on Ukraine’s path to joining the EU
  • Western Balkans’ integration into EU in focus at Albania summit

She said Bosnia was now “fully aligned” with the EU’s foreign and security policy, was improving its management of migration flows, and adopting laws to combat both money laundering and terrorist financing.

She welcomed its agreement to include in domestic criminal records the judgements of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

And she also noted further steps towards dialogue and reconciliation in the wake of the country’s 1992-1995 war, with the creation of a new peace-building committee.

“The message coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina is clear,” said von der Leyen. “So our message must be clear too. The future of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies in our union.”

Long process of reforms

Starting the talks is just the beginning of a long process of reforms usually lasting years before a country finally joins the EU.

Balkan nations North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania are already in the queue for membership.

The push for new members is part of an effort to push back against Russian and Chinese influence in the EU’s backyard.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned last week that delaying EU accession for the countries of the Western Balkans risked leaving them open to Russian “infiltration”.

Russia has maintained a close relationship with Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

  • Shaping the future: What’s at stake in the 2024 EU elections?

Dodik, who received one of Russia’s highest honours from President Vladimir Putin last month, has challenged Bosnia’s post-war ruling structure over the past several months.

Dodik on social media welcomed the announcement by von der Leyen but said that it did not mean much without a firm date on when negotiations would actually start.

Dodik wrote that for Bosnian Serbs “the European path is important because it represents the achievement of a major national goal for Serbs – that of living in an economic and political area without borders”, namely with neighbouring Serbia.

(with AFP)


Society

Macron’s euthanasia bill prompts anger from health workers, church

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday faced criticism from French medical workers, political opponents and the Catholic Church over a draft bill, slated for debate late May, that would allow assisted dying for certain terminally-ill patients.

Macron said the bill would include “strict conditions” on allowing people to self-administer a lethal substance, or call on a relative or medical worker if they are incapable.

The move comes after France’s parliament last week enshrined the right to abortion in the constitution, a widely-popular move championed by the president and a world first.

“There are cases we can’t humanly accept,” Macron told Catholic newspaper La Croix and left-wing Libération, saying the “brotherly” law “looks death in the face”.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal wrote on X that the bill would be presented to the French parliament from 27 May. “Death can no longer be a taboo issue and subject to silence,” he added.

But several health workers’ groups declared their “consternation, anger and sadness” at the plan.

Far removed from reality?

Macron “has with great violence announced a system far removed from patients’ needs and health workers’ daily reality, which could have grave consequences on the care relationship,” the associations for palliative care, cancer support and specialist nurses said in a joint statement.

Accusing the government of aiming to save money with the plan, they said that greater resources for palliative care, rather than assisted dying, would fulfil patients’ demands to “die with dignity”.

  • ‘My life, my death’: French woman battles for right to die with dignity

Political opponents accused Macron of hijacking the abortion and assisted dying debates as a diversion in his party’s campaign for 9 June European Parliament elections.

“Purchasing power, security and immigration are the concerns of the French public,” said Laurent Jacobelli, spokesman for the far-right National Rally (RN) currently leading the polls.

The bill is unlikely to become law before 2025 after two readings in each of parliament’s two houses.

At present, French law allows for “deep and continuous sedation” of patients who would otherwise endure great suffering and with a short life expectancy.

Campaign promise

But updating the rules was one of Macron’s presidential campaign promises, and he gathered an assembly of randomly-selected citizens to deliberate.

They issued a non-binding decision in 2023 that assisted dying should be allowed under certain conditions.

The draft law he has now proposed would open assisted dying to adults “fully capable of discernment” – ruling out psychiatric and Alzheimer’s patients, for example.

They would have to be suffering from an “incurable” condition likely to be fatal in the “short or medium term”, causing suffering that is “resistant to treatment”.

  • French citizens group in favour of allowing euthanasia, assisted suicide

Patients’ request for assisted dying would be ruled on by their medical team within two weeks. If approved, they would get a prescription for a lethal substance that could be self-administered.

People suffering from certain conditions, such as motor neurone disease, would be able to nominate someone to administer the lethal dose or get help from a health worker.

Beyond assisted dying, the law would also pump a billion euros into palliative care over 10 years, Macron told the newspapers, also vowing to open 21 new centres in under-served areas. 

Timetable

“France is finally emerging from the dilly-dallying of the last few months,” the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity (ADMD) said in a statement.

The group hailed the “relatively precise timetable” for the law to come before parliament.

But ADMD also objected to some provisions, such as the choice to rule out requests in advance from Alzheimer’s sufferers.

“I hope (the law) will allow us to find what we wish for when we’re close to the end, which is calm,” assisted dying campaigner Loic Resibois, who suffers from motor neurone disease, told broadcaster France Inter.

“Knowing that French law will finally allow us to avoid a situation where we’re not yet dead, but not really alive any more, is very important,” he added.

Meanwhile France’s Catholic bishops categorically rejected the bill.

“A law like this, whatever its aim, will bend our whole health system towards death as a solution,” bishops’ conference chief Eric de Moulins-Beaufort told La Croix.

“What helps people die in a fully human way is not a lethal drug, it’s affection, esteem and attention,” he added.

(with AFP)


Cybercrime

France deploys crisis cell to deal with fallout of major cyberattack

Cyberattacks of “unprecedented intensity” that targeted several French government institutions have been contained, the prime minister’s office said Monday evening. The incident raises security concerns just months before Paris is to host the Olympic Games.

The latest cyberattack to hit France follows a warning from Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s defence adviser just last week that the Olympics games in July and European Parliament elections in June could be “significant targets”.

Attal’s office said several state bodies were targeted but did not provide details.

“Many ministerial services were targeted” from Sunday “using familiar technical means but of unprecedented intensity,” Attal’s office said.

A security source told French news agency AFP that the attacks “are not currently attributable to Russia,” an obvious suspect for many given Paris’ support for Kyiv since the invasion of Ukraine.

The PM’s staff added that a “crisis cell has been activated to deploy countermeasures”, meaning “the impact of these attacks has been reduced for most services and access to state websites restored.”

Specialist services including information security agency ANSSI were “implementing filtering measures until the attacks are over”.

Anonymous Sudan

Several hacker groups claimed responsibility for the attacks on Telegram, a messaging app, including one calling itself Anonymous Sudan which said it had launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on French government network infrastructure.

“We have conducted a massive cyberattack… the damage will be widespread,” said the group, which posts with an avatar of a hooded Guy Fawkes mask in front of a desert scene with pyramids.

Guy Fawkes is famous for his 1605 plot to blow up Britain’s parliament, and his image has become a widespread symbol for revolutionary protest.

  • French cyber experts reveal vast network of Russian disinformation sites

“A lot of different digital government sectors have been affected, including very important websites, with their respective subdomains,” it said.

Anonymous Sudan is a known outfit that has carried out attacks in the past year against websites in countries including Sweden, Denmark and Israel.

Purportedly based in Sudan, it says it targets what it deems to be anti-Muslim activity with some signs that it is sympathetic to Russia.

Unclear motivations

Specialist website Numerama said Anonymous Sudan’s exact motivations were “unclear”, adding however that it had a track record of “targeting enemies designated by Moscow”.

A DDoS attack involves using a computer or network of computers to make a massive number of requests of a target system, overwhelming its ability to respond to legitimate users.

  • France launches ‘cyber city’ to pool resources for better digital security

According to US cybersecurity firm Cloudflare, Anonymous Sudan is one of many groups employing DDoS attacks and organisations can protect themselves against its methods.

The latest cyberattack also follows a call from Defence Minister Sébastien Lecornu last month to step up protection against “sabotage and cyberattack” by Russia, in an internal note seen by AFP that said his ministry was top of Moscow’s target list.

(with AFP)

Spotlight on France

Podcast: Covid obedience, vasectomies in France, was Rosa Bonheur a lesbian?

Issued on:

Four years after the start of the first Covid lockdown in France, what has been the impact? What’s stopping more men getting vasectomies in France. And why not everyone wants to accept that Rosa Bonheur, the most famous female painter of the 19th century, was a lesbian.

For 55 days, starting 17 March 2022, French citizens were confined to their homes as part of the government’s approach to controlling the then little-understood virus sweeping the planet, which we now know as Covid-19. Historian Nicolas Mariot, co-author of a book about the lockdown, looks into the reasons behind why a majority of people in France accepted the harsh curbs on personal freedom, and asks why there has not been a broader reckoning about the impacts. (Listen @ 2’40) 

Vasectomies are rare in France. The procedure that cuts the tubes in men’s testicles that carry sperm, serving as a permanent form of birth control, was only legalised in 2001. Urologist Vincent Hupertan describes the reservations patients and doctors have about the vasectomies, which have to do with both French culture and how the health system works. And we hear from one man before and after his vasectomy, who was told by his doctor to rethink it in case he ever planned to remarry a younger woman. (Listen @ 17’00)

Rosa Bonheur, born 16 March 1822, was probably the best-known female painter of the 19th century. Writer Anna Polonyi talks about how Bonheur’s paintings of animals are attracting fresh interest from people curious about her personal life, notably her decades-long relationship with a woman. Yet some of the people in charge of guarding her legacy refuse to say that she was lesbian. Polonyi’s web documentary series, The Rosa Bonheur Case, explores Bonheur’s life and how queer artists are represented. (Listen @ 10’15)

Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, Apple podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here) or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).

International report

Turkey and Italy consider teaming up to seek new influence in Africa

Issued on:

Turkey and Italy are finding common ground as they seek to expand their economic and diplomatic influence in Africa. The two nations are eyeing opportunities to cooperate on security, energy and migration as France’s traditional influence on the continent wanes.

This month, Somalia’s parliament ratified an agreement with Turkey to provide naval protection and assistance in building a Somali navy, another step in Turkey’s efforts to expand its African presence.

“With this pact, Turkey will protect the Somali coast from pirates, terrorists – anyone that violates our maritime borders, like Ethiopia,” declared Abdifatah Kasim, Somalia’s deputy defence minister. 

The defence deal was followed by a bilateral agreement on energy exploration in Somalia.

Ankara’s growing influence in the region was underscored by a strong African presence at Turkey’s annual Antalya Diplomacy Forum, with seven African heads of state, seven prime ministers and 25 foreign ministers in attendance.

In January, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hosted African leaders at a summit in Rome, where she unveiled plans to expand Italy’s influence on the continent.

“Our future inevitably depends on the future of the African continent. We are aware of this, and we want to do our part,” Meloni declared.

“That’s why we have decided to launch an ambitious programme of interventions that can help the continent grow and prosper, starting from its immense resources.”

  • Italy targets energy, migration with ‘non-predatory’ plan for Africa

Common ground in Libya

Analysts say both countries are considering cooperating as a means of achieving their Africa goals.

“Italy is trying to fulfil a position that Western countries in some way left over the last decades, while Turkey has already been in Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa,” observes Alessia Chiriatti of the Institute of International Affairs, an Italian think tank.

“The main issues for confrontation or cooperation – we will see – will be migration, energy issues, and, of course, the economic development of these countries,” she says.

Also in January, Meloni met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul. The meeting included talks on Africa, with a focus on cooperation in Libya – a country where experts say Ankara has considerable influence, including a military base.

The North African nation is a main transit route for migrants seeking to enter Europe, mainly through Italy.

  • Tunisia brush-off augurs badly for EU push for African migration deals

Italy, France and other European countries see that as a “huge threat”, according to Elem Eyrice-Tepeciklioglu of the African Studies Department at Ankara’s Social Sciences University.

“So there is room to cooperate in this area and to prevent the illegal flow of migrants, and cooperate in the security area as well.”

    On Tuesday, the Italian and Turkish defence ministers held talks in Ankara. Exploiting Libya’s vast energy reserves is also potential common ground.

    France on the outs

    Meanwhile the recent ousting of regimes sympathetic to France in Niger, Mali and Gabon – and with it, the withdrawal of French forces – has severely weakened France’s historical political and economic influence in West Africa.

    That offers an opportunity to Italy and Turkey.

    “Italy could have an important cooperation with Turkey in order to take advantage of the position left aside by some countries like France, like Germany, like the other Western countries in Africa,” says analyst Chiriatti.

    “But it will also depend on the bilateral agenda and bilateral interests expressed by Turkey and Italy,” she adds. “That’s not always the same. So in this sense, we need to see what will happen in the future step by step.”

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

    Business opportunities

    Chiriatti warns that cooperation can easily turn into rivalry in business. But Africa’s vast economic potential is seen as offering plenty of room for partnership.

    “There are several areas where Turkey can cooperate with other countries, including European countries, because Turkish companies are trying to increase their investments,” says Eyrice-Tepeciklioglu.

    “They would like to gain new contracts for large projects, et cetra. Africa is in desperate need of infrastructure. There’s a huge energy deficit and infrastructure gap in the whole continent,” she notes.

    With Italy and Turkey lacking the financial muscle of other influential players on the continent – notably China – both countries have powerful incentives to focus on potential partnership in their bid to expand their influence in Africa.

    International report

    Islamic State attack on Istanbul church raises fear of further terror

    Issued on:

    Heavily armed police are protecting churches across Istanbul day and night after an Islamic State attack on a Catholic church in Istanbul. The terrorist group has warned of further attacks against Christians and Jews.

    Turkish security forces have detained hundreds of suspects in the aftermath of January’s deadly attack on Santa Maria Catholic Church in the Sariyer district, which killed one person.

    The death toll could have been considerably higher if the gunmen’s automatic weapons had not jammed.

    The Islamic State group claimed responsibility in a statement that warned it was targeting Jews and Christians in Turkey. 

    Istanbul’s small Christian community, although fearful, remains defiant.

    “It’s not necessary to be a member of the congregation to be frightened. It’s something that would terrify anyone,” declared Ilhan Guzelis after attending his local church service.

    “We’re scared, but believe me, we’ve never hesitated to come to our church, to worship here, and to pray to God.”

    Game of cat and mouse

    Two men, a Russian and a Tajik national, have been arrested for carrying out the attack, while over a hundred others have been detained across the country.  

    Experts say Turkish security forces are now engaged in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with the terror group also known as Isis or Daesh. 

    “This is a mutual competition between the security forces and terrorist cells,” Murat Aslan of the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (Seta) told RFI.

    “Both sides will try to identify or deceive each other. And in this case, I believe the Daesh terrorists were skilful, at least to bypass the security measures.”

    Aslan warns the job is becoming harder for Turkey’s security forces as the face of Islamic State evolves. He cites changes to assailants’ personal appearance, for example: recent attackers have worn regular clothes and shaved their beards, which helps them blend into a crowd.

    “They are regular citizens. So it’s not that much easier to distinguish exactly who is radical or not, for instance. In the latest incident in the church, the individuals were like regular citizens,” he said.

    Turkish targets

    Adding to security woes is the proximity of Turkey to Syrian territory once held by Islamic State and other radical jihadist groups.

    “There are armed groups in Turkey. They still have baggage in Turkey, the remnants of the armed groups inside Turkey, even Isis remnants back from the Syrian war,” claims Sezin Oney of the Politikyol news portal.

    The last time Islamic State successfully carried out a major attack in Turkey was in 2017, when a gunman went on the rampage during New Year celebrations, killing 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub.

    But Aslan warns that Turkey offers numerous targets.

    “The church attack was really significant in terms of the potential of Daesh,” he says.

    “Turkey hosts a lot of churches and Jewish holy sites. Once [terrorists] enjoy a presence here and set up hidden cells, they can easily select a target.”

    Fears for tourist season

    With Turkey‘s lucrative tourism season only a month or so away, bringing with it further potential targets for Islamic State, the government security crackdown is predicted to intensify.

    Christians like Guzelis have mixed feelings over the presence of such patrols around the city’s churches.

    “After such an incident, it is good for us that [the police] come here to protect us here again, even as a presence; we are grateful for this,” he says.

    “I wish that there would be no such matters, that everyone would live together here as brothers and sisters. But we are sorry for what happened; it creates a bitterness in us.”

    Read also:

    • As Turkey bombards Kurdish forces in Syria, is the US preparing to pull out?
    • With spy raids, Turkey warns Israel not to seek Hamas revenge on Turkish soil

    The Sound Kitchen

    There’s Music in the Kitchen, No 33

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen, a special treat: RFI English listeners’ musical requests. Just click on the “Play” button above and enjoy!

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday. This week, you’ll hear musical requests from your fellow listeners Sultan Mahmud from Naogaon, Bangladesh, Hossen Abed Ali from Rangpur, Bangladesh, and Jayanta Chakrabarty from New Delhi, India.

    Be sure you send in your music requests! Write to me at thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Prezident oldida qo’shiq kuyladi” by Mohisharifa Matchonova, performed by Aida; “Heart of Gold”, written and performed by Neil Young, and “Gypsy Queen” by Chris Norman, performed by Norman and Smokie.

    The quiz will be back next Saturday, 9 March. Be sure and tune in! 

    Spotlight on France

    Podcast: #MeToo hits French cinema, mobile movie theatre, leap year paper

    Issued on:

    How a wave of #MeToo allegations against French directors is shaking up the cinema industry; the Cinémobile movie theatre bringing culture to the countryside; and the satirical news rag that appears just once every four years, on 29 February.

    Seven years after the #MeToo movement shook Hollywood, Judith Godrèche and other actresses in France have broken the omertà around sexual abuse within the French movie industry, accusing several prominent directors of assault. Investigations are underway. Bérénice Hamidi, a specialist in the performing arts at Lyon University, talks about the extent to which this marks a turning point in French cinema culture, which for decades has fostered the idea that artists have “a free pass” to transgress the rules, and that the artist cannot be separated from his art. (Listen @0′)

    With unrest still rumbling among farmers, France’s new culture minister says she wants people in rural areas to have more access to culture. A third of the French population lives in rural communities and Culture Minister Rachida Dati has launched a national consultation on schemes to serve them – schemes like the Cinémobile, a lorry that transforms into a cinema and visits small towns across central France. It’s been running for more than 40 years and despite entertainment being easier than ever to find online, something about the mobile movie theatre keeps audiences coming back. (Listen @18’08)

    French administration has not always made it easy for people born on 29 February – a date that occurs just once every four years. But the satirical Bougie du sapeur newspaper has embraced and indeed lives for the date. Founded in 1980, its previous edition was on 29 February 2020. Editor Jean d’Indy talks about using humour to look at the news of the past four years in this year’s edition. (Listen @12′)

    Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

    Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, Apple podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here) or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).

    International report

    Will Turkey ditch Russian missiles for US military jets?

    Issued on:

    As Turkey’s rapprochement with the United States gathers pace, the future of Turkish-purchased Russian S-400 missiles is increasingly in question. The missile deal is a potent symbol of Ankara’s close ties with Moscow, but Washington is offering to sell Turkey its advanced F35 military jet for the removal of the Russian weapons.

    Ankara was kicked out of the jet program after it purchased Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, which Washington said compromised the F-35’s stealth technology.

    Now Turkey’s purchase of the advanced F-35 military jet could be back on the agenda.

    Acting deputy of Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, during a visit to Istanbul last month, offered to revive the jet sale if the Russian missiles were removed.

    Along with the $2.5 billion (€2.3 billion) price tag for the Russian missiles, Ankara paid a heavy price militarily and economically by being expelled from the F-35 program.

    Founding partner

    Turkey was one of the founding partners of the jet program, with Turkish companies building numerous parts for the plane.

    Diplomatically the missile sale created a deep divide between Turkey and its NATO partners, raising questions over its allegiance to the Western military alliance.

    “After the purchase of the anti-aircraft missiles, which was unprecedented, some people in [President] Erdogan’s cabinet also admitted this was a big mistake,” says Onur Isci, a Russian affairs expert at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University told RFI.

    “Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s was a very costly endeavor.”

    • The escaping Russians finding a better life in Turkey

    The S-400 missile sale was a powerful symbol of deepening Russian Turkish ties and deteriorating relations with Washington.

    The sale came in the aftermath of Ankara’s accusations of Washington’s involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first leaders to offer Erdogan support during the attempted putsch.

    Important symbol

    While the Russian missiles sit in a warehouse undeployed, they remain an important symbol of Erdogan’s close ties to Putin, making their removal difficult for the Turkish president.

    “The buying of the S-400 air defence system from Russia was a diplomatic catastrophe of historical magnitude,” says former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, now a regional analyst.

    “Unfortunately, it is not possible. I am led to believe that Erdogan will walk back from that mistake … It was an unforced error. It was an own goal, whichever metaphor you like.”

    • Turkey’s bid to join EU back on the table at upcoming summit

    However, US-Turkish ties are improving with Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership and Washington’s reciprocating by allowing the sale of F16 jets to Turkey.

    But the F16 is inferior to the F35, which neighbor and rival Greece is set to purchase as part of its military modernisation, causing alarm in Ankara.

    “When you read Turkey’s hawks, everybody is afraid that the air force balance over the Aegean is not tilting or is going to be tilting in favor of Greece,” warns Soli Ozel, who teaches international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University. 

    Waiting game

    Whether Ankara takes up Washington’s offer of F-35 jets in exchange for removing the Russian-made missiles – possibly to a Turkish ally like Azerbaijan, Qatar, or even Libya – depends on the progress of improving relations with the United States.

    “It’s very important if we see any more moves from Washington,” says Yoruk Isik, a geopolitical analyst in Istanbul with the Washington-based Middle East Institute

    “The F35 was the first signal in years that that was a really positive signal from Washington. Ankara is waiting to hear the continuation of that message.”

    Erdogan’s close ties with Putin have benefited Turkey in deferments on energy payments for Russian energy. The Turkish leader is predicted to be looking to Washington to pay a high price to remove the Russian weapons. 

    “Turkey can easily renounce on S-400; it’s a political decision, it’s not a military necessity,” said Huseyin Bagci, head of the Foreign Policy Institute, a research organisation in Ankara.  

    “So far, the S-400 has helped Turkey to increase the level of negotiations with NATO and the United States of America.”

    Ankara’s purchase of Russian missiles was widely seen as a diplomatic triumph for Moscow, dividing Turkey from its NATO allies.

    Their removal would be a similarly significant victory for Washington.


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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.