rfi 2024-03-29 16:05:42



FRANCE – HEALTH

France’s law to ensure people ‘age well’ falls short of expectations

Like many developed countries, France is facing an ageing population and low birth rate. Parliament this week approved a law that aims to help seniors “age well”. After months of debate, however, MPs across the political spectrum worry the final bill isn’t ambitious enough.

The proposed law on “healthy ageing and autonomy” was definitively approved by the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, following a green light from the lower house last week.

“We all want an ambitious reform to meet the challenge of ageing,” Renaissance party MP Annie Vidal told France Info.

One of four rapporteurs involved in examining the legislation, she defended the bill as “pragmatic”.

But it has been criticised by MPs who say the text falls short of the wider plan on senior care and autonomy promised by President Emmanuel Macron during his first mandate.

“While it includes some interesting advances, this text cannot replace an overall strategy proposed by the government,” said Philippe Mouiller, a senator from the conservative Republicans party.

Socialist and green MPs abstained from the vote while the Communist Party rejected the text.

It’s “a publicity stunt to give the illusion of progress on this issue” according to Communist senator Cathy Apourceau-Poly.

Among the key concerns is the need for a clear plan for financing elderly care.

Declining birthrate

France’s birth rate continues to decline, while life expectancy has increased. By 2030, there will be more people over 65 than under 15.

According to national statistics office Insee, some 678,000 babies were born in France in 2023, the lowest figure since World War II.

  • France’s ageing population is having fewer babies and living longer than ever

The first draft of the bill was tabled in April last year and has seen months of debate by lawmakers, who took into account hundreds of amendments.

One of the articles in the newly approved text requires the government to review the plan “every five years”, with a first version required before 31 December 2024.

Visiting rights

The law will protect the right to receive daily visits in health establishments, as well as in places caring for the elderly or people with disabilities.

This came about after many families were cut off from their relatives during the Covid-19 crisis.

A visit can only be refused “if it constitutes a threat to public order” or “a threat to the health of the resident” and that of other members of the establishment, the law says.

The right to visit dying patients or those in palliative care people will now be unconditional, including in the event of a new pandemic.

  • Recognising (and paying) caregivers, the ‘invisible spine’ of France’s health system

Under the law, retirement and nursing homes must also guarantee their residents “the right to welcome their pets”, on the condition that they’re able to care for them properly.

The list of domestic animals and their maximum size is yet to be defined.

Crackdown on elder abuse

Dedicated units are to be set up in each French department where cases of elder abuse can be reported and centralised.

A new feature in the law frees people bound to professional secrecy – such as caregivers, notaries and bankers – to alert the unit without exposing themselves to disciplinary proceedings.

All personal service professionals, including home helpers, will be barred from working if they have been convicted of a crime or misdemeanour. This rule expands a measure that already applied in nursing homes and various medical establishments.

Managers of structures may also be informed of other incidents which do not appear on a staff member’s criminal record, such as an indictment or a conviction contested on appeal.

“The objective is to prevent a rapist from continuing to work with vulnerable people for several years while awaiting the final judgment,” MP Vidal told France Info.

“Employers will be able to take measures to remove the person in question, in particular by assigning them to a position that does not require contact with the public.”

  • Half a million elderly people live in isolation in France – report

Early intervention

To help older people from the first signs of dependence, appointments will be offered from the age of 60 as part of an “early detection and prevention of loss of autonomy programme”.

Under the programme, already tested in several parts of France, people are accompanied to choose their wheelchair, stair lift or hearing aid, as well as arrange their home according to their needs.

Mayors will be also asked to create a register of elderly people or people with disabilities who request certain social and health services.

Such registers are already kept on an opt-in basis and used to check in with vulnerable people in the event of a heatwave. 


artificial intelligence

France appoints engineer to lead artificial intelligence safety summit

French President Emmanuel Macron has tasked engineer Anne Bouverot with organising the world’s next Artificial Intelligence (AI) safety summit, which is set to take place in France.

Bouverot has been asked to continue “ongoing international initiatives to contribute to an open and democratic global governance of AI”.

The first such summit was organised by the UK in November last year in Bletchley Park, of World War II code-breaker fame. It resulted in the Bletchley Declaration, which was signed by 28 countries.

The declaration states that AI has the potential to “transform and enhance human wellbeing, peace and prosperity”, but adds that it should be “designed, developed, deployed and used in a manner that is safe … human-centric, trustworthy and responsible”.

There has been much excitement over the development of artificial intelligence since OpenAI’s ChatGPT arrived on the scene in late 2022, but the concerns over the potential harm the technology could cause have grown in parallel.

Disinformation

For example, the EU called on Facebook, TikTok and other tech giants on Tuesday this week to crack down on deepfakes and other AI-generated content by using clear labels ahead of Europe-wide polls in June.

Brussels especially fears the impact of Russian manipulation and disinformation on the elections, taking place in the bloc’s 27 member states.

The EU has unleashed a string of measures under its newly approved Digital Services Act (DSA) to clamp down on big tech – especially regarding content moderation.

  • Political and tech leaders tackle AI safety at inaugural summit
  • Macron promises to boost investment in French artificial intelligence

Bouverot did her PhD in AI at the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) university, where she is also chairwoman of the board of directors.

She also co-chairs the 15-member Generative AI Committee, which was established on in September 2023 by then prime minister Elisabeth Borne.

The committee has recommended that France invest €5 billion yearly over five years to keep up with the United States and China.

France’s summit will be proceeded by a mini virtual summit on AI to be hosted in May by South Korea, where the Bletchley Declaration and follow-up actions will be discussed.

Earlier this month the G7 – which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada – said there were ongoing efforts to “advance and reinforce inter-operability between AI governance frameworks”.

(with newswires)


Diplomacy

France’s foreign minister to visit China in bid to stabilise relations

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Sejourné will visit China on Monday, Beijing’s foreign ministry has announced, as the two countries mark 60 years of diplomatic relations and seek to strengthen ties.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Sejourné would meet with his counterpart, Wang Yi. The trip may include preparations for a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to France and Italy in May.

France and China have sought to strengthen ties in recent years.

During meetings in Paris last month, Wang told President Emmanuel Macron that Beijing appreciated his country’s “independent” stance on global issues.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and France.

France has in recent years invested huge amounts of money, in nuclear and car construction industries.

  • Six decades of rocky relations between France and China
  • Macron says EU must follow its own course, avoid getting caught up in Taiwan issue

‘Rock star’ welcome

Sejourne’s visit is the second to China by a French foreign minister in less than six months, following a trip by his predecessor, Catherine Colonna, in November.

Macron also visited China last April, receiving a “rock star” welcome at a university in southern China from hundreds of enthousiastic students and fans.

Macron has brushed off accusations of cosying up to Beijing and sparked controversy by saying Europe shouldn’t be a “follower” of the United States in the event of conflict with China over Taiwan.

But despite this, France remains wary of Beijing’s growing assertiveness, especially in the Pacific, where Paris has overseas territories in New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia.

(with newswires)


PARIS OLYMPICS 2024

France seeks help from allies to bolster security during Paris Olympics

Paris (AFP) – France has asked its foreign allies to send several thousand members of their security forces to help guard the Paris Olympics, officials said Thursday, underlining the strains caused by the sporting extravaganza which begins in July.

“Several foreign nations are going to reinforce us in certain critical areas, such as dog-handling capabilities where the needs are enormous,” an official at the defence ministry told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official did not say how many foreign soldiers would be on French soil, but Polish Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz confirmed his country was joining “an international coalition established by France” for the Olympics.

An official in the French interior ministry said separately that in January Paris had asked 46 allies to send 2,185 police reinforcements.

Both officials played down the significance of the requests for foreign assistance.

“It’s a classic move for host countries ahead of the organisation of major events,” the French interior ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

For the Rugby World Cup in France last year, European allies sent 160 police officers to help with security, the official added, with some of them visible to fans as they patrolled the streets.

  • Paris Olympics to cost taxpayers between 3 and 5 billion euros, French auditor says

Security stretched

Securing the Paris Olympics is stretching France’s domestic forces, however, and an attack last Friday on a concert hall in Moscow that killed more than 140 people, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, underlined the stakes.

“The terrorist threat is real, it’s strong,” French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told reporters on Monday, adding that two plots by suspected Islamic extremists had already been thwarted this year.

Up to 45,000 French police and gendarmes are set to be deployed each day during the Olympics, while 18,000 troops are also expected to be mobilised, according to government figures.

Another 18,000-22,000 private security guards will be on the ground for the Games, which run from July 26 to August 11.

The request for foreign help was “for the spectators’ experience, to respond to the capacity challenge of the Games and to reinforce international cooperation,” the French interior ministry official explained.

Germany said in March that it would send an unspecified number of police to France for the Olympics, while French forces are set to travel to Germany when it holds the Euro 2024 football tournament in June and July.

  • France’s epic history of open-air stadiums captured in Paris expo

Unprecedented opening ceremony

The Olympics have been attacked in the past — most infamously in 1972 in Munich and again in 1996 in Atlanta – with the thousands of athletes, huge crowds and live global television audience making it a target.

French organisers have faced persistent questioning over their decision to hold the opening ceremony outside of the athletics stadium for the first time.

Athletes are instead set to sail down the river Seine in a flotilla of boats in a made-for-TV extravaganza. The choice has been resisted by some security officials because of the challenges for police.

The crowd size for the ceremony has been significantly reduced, but 326,000 are set to attend with tickets while hundreds of thousands more are expected on the streets or watching from windows overlooking the waterway.

French security forces are screening up to a million people before the Games, including athletes and people living close to key infrastructure, according to the interior ministry.

France was placed on its highest terror alert on Sunday following the attack in Moscow.


Israel-Hamas war

UN top court orders Israel to open more land crossings for aid into Gaza

The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza – including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into the war-ravaged enclave.

The International Court of Justice issued two new so-called provisional measures in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of acts of genocide in its military campaign launched after the 7 October attacks by Hamas.

Israel denied it was committing genocide and accused South Africa of trying to “undermine Israel’s inherent right and obligation to defend its citizens”.

Thursday’s order came after South Africa sought more provisional measures, including a ceasefire, citing starvation in Gaza.

Israel, which had urged the court not to issue new orders, said it places no limits on aid entering Gaza and vowed to “promote new initiatives” to bring in even more assistance.

In its legally binding order, the court told Israel to take measures “without delay” to ensure “the unhindered provision” of basic services and humanitarian assistance, including food, water, fuel and medical supplies.



It also ordered Israel to immediately ensure that its military does not take action that could that could harm Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Conventions, including by preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The court told Israel to report back in a month on its implementation of the orders.

Israel declared war in response to a bloody cross-border attack by Hamas on 7 October, in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 others taken hostage.

Israel responded with a campaign of airstrikes and a ground offensive that have left over 32,000 Palestinians dead, according to local health authorities.

  • South Africa takes Israel to international court for ‘genocidal’ acts in Gaza

The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, but says roughly two-thirds of the dead are women, children and teens.

Israel says over one-third of the dead are militants, though it has not provided evidence to support the claim and it blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the group operates in residential areas.

The fighting has displaced over 80 percent of Gaza’s population, caused widespread damage and has sparked a humanitarian crisis.

The UN and international aid agencies say virtually the entire Gaza population is struggling to get enough food, with hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine, especially in hard-hit northern Gaza.

South Africa welcomed Thursday’s decision, calling it “significant”.

“The fact that Palestinian deaths are not solely caused by bombardment and ground attacks, but also by disease and starvation, indicates a need to protect the group’s right to exist,” the South African president said in a statement.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, said the ruling must be enforced by the international community.

“It must be implemented immediately, so that this decision does not remain a dead letter,” it said.

(with newswires)


South Africa

Former South African president Zuma barred from May election

South Africa’s electoral officials said Thursday that they had excluded former president Jacob Zuma from May elections, further stoking tensions in the run-up to the polls.

The country is to hold general elections on 29 May in what is expected to be the most competitive vote since the advent of democracy in 1994.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) is on the brink of dropping below 50 percent of the vote for the first time since it came to power at the end of apartheid.

The party is bleeding support amid a weak economy and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Zuma, 81, was forced out of office in 2018 under a cloud of corruption allegations but still wields political clout.

Zuma’s declaration in December that he would campaign for the opposition uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party was a blow for the ANC, as he remains popular with Zulus.

“In the case of former president Zuma, yes, we did receive an objection, which has been upheld,” electoral commission president Mosotho Moepya told reporters, without giving details.

  • South Africa’s ANC and DA look at coalition deal as elections loom

“The party that has nominated him has been informed” as have those objecting to the move, he added.

MK spokesman Nhlamulo Ndlhela told French news agency AFP the party was “looking at the merit of that objection but we will of course appeal it”.

The decision can be appealed before 2 April.

The announcement of Zuma’s exclusion came as the head of South Africa’s biggest opposition party, John Steenhuisen of the Democratic Alliance, refused to rule out a coalition deal with the ANC after the elections.

‘Intellectual property theft’

The electoral commission decision is not the MK’s only problem.

The ANC on Wednesday filed a new court application to stop the MK from using its name, alleging intellectual property theft.

According to the governing party, the uMkhonto we Sizwe name and logo are similar to those of the now disbanded apartheid-era military wing of the ANC, which could deceive or confuse voters.

A court decision is expected to be announced in the coming days.

On Tuesday a court rejected an initial complaint by the ANC, which said the MK was registered unlawfully, allowing the small radical party to stand in the election.

The general election, after which the victor will appoint a president, is set to be tense.

If the ANC falls below 50 percent of the vote it would force the party once led by Nelson Mandela to form a coalition to stay in office.

Latest opinion polls put the ANC on just over 40 percent of the vote, with the main opposition Democratic Alliance on around 27 percent and the MK at 13 percent.

Cronyism, corruption

The electoral commission said that under the constitution “any person who was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine” cannot stand in an election.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail in June 2021 after refusing to testify to a panel probing financial corruption and cronyism under his presidency.

He was freed on medical parole just two months into his term.

But his jailing sparked protests, riots and looting that left more than 350 dead in South Africa‘s worst violence since the advent of democracy.

An appeals court later ruled Zuma’s release was illegally granted and ordered him back to jail.

But on returning to a correctional centre he immediately benefited from a remission of non-violent offenders approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa, his arch-rival and successor.

Besides his 2021 contempt conviction he is facing separate charges of corruption in an arms procurement scandal in the 1990s, when he was vice president.

Zuma cannot in theory seek re-election as he has already served two terms as president.

Final electoral lists are due to be published within around a fortnight.

The electoral commission has received 82 appeals relating to candidates designated by 21 political parties.

(with AFP)


Diplomacy

Macron joins online jokes about cuddly ‘wedding’ pics with Lula

French President Emmanuel Macron joined social media users Thursday in their jokes that likened his cozy pictures with Brazilian President Lula to those from a wedding album.

Images of the pair smiling and warmly embracing during Macron’s three-day visit to Brazil circulated online this week alongside light-hearted captions and montages suggesting a loving relationship between the leaders.

“Some have compared the pictures of my visit to Brazil to those of a wedding,” Macron wrote Thursday on X.

“I tell them it was one. France loves Brazil and Brazil loves France,” he said.

Macron’s tweet was accompanied by picture of himself and Lula smiling during the visit, overlaid on the background of a poster for the romantic 2016 film La La Land.



Lula responded to Macron’s tweet, which was also shared in Portuguese, with emojis of the Brazil and France flags alongside two small love hearts.

One picture shared on social media this week showed the leaders raising their arms underneath a large tree in the Brazilian jungle was edited to show them holding red balloons in the shape of a heart.

“They are going to marry in the Amazon and have their honeymoon in Paris,” joked one user on X, while others said pictures from the trip could make up a wedding album.

Macron’s trip to Brazil saw the two leaders announce a billion-dollar green investment plan for the Amazon.

Lula hailed the relationship between the two countries as one that created “a bridge between the global South and the developed world.”

Macron’s warm relations with Lula mark a departure from the frosty ties between the French leader and Brazil’s former right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, who led the country from 2019 to 2022.

(with newswires)

Read also:

  • Macron says France will help Brazil develop nuclear-powered submarines
  • France’s Macron visits Brazil to launch €1bn Amazon protection plan

Global trade

Is France misguided to keep rejecting the EU-Mercosur trade deal?

While French President Emmanuel Macron has called a proposed trade pact between the European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc a “very bad deal”, analysts say it has its advantages for France. 

Speaking at a business forum in Brazil this week, Macron said the deal, as it stands, did not include sufficient climate guarantees.

“There is nothing that takes into consideration the subject of biodiversity and climate – nothing,” Macron said as he asked for a new deal to be forged.

The long-awaited deal between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay would create a free-trade area of more than 750 million people. First agreed in 2019, it has been on hold since then due to various European concerns.

While Brazil says it is ready to sign, France continues to express reservations. Its farmers have objected to the prospect of allowing in agricultural imports, notably beef, that do not meet strict EU standards.

“We still have time… We should not give up on this deal,” said Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad, speaking at the same event as Macron. 

Haddad added that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would continue to seek a closer relationship with the European market.

Talks with the EU continue. Earlier this month, European officials said “decisive progress” was possible by July.

Trade imbalance

Under Macron, France has proved one of the EU members most reluctant to sign.

Agathe Demarais, a senior research fellow with the European Council of Foreign Relations, argues that Macron’s reservations reflect France’s complex domestic politics: he does not have a parliamentary majority and worries that far-right parties could use the perceived downsides of a deal on France’s beef and poultry sectors to draw votes from farmers in European elections in June.

Proponents of the deal usually point to the vastness of the free-trade area it would create, covering about 20 percent of the global economy.

But, says Demarais, the economic impact on the EU would be small; estimates say the deal would boost the EU’s GDP by no more than 0.3 percent.

Total trade between Europe and Mercosur economies remains modest: the Latin American countries take just 2 percent of the EU’s global exports.

According to the South American bloc’s figures, it exported the equivalent of €3.2 billion of goods to France in 2023 and imported €6.4 billion – creating a trade deficit for Mercosur of €3.2 billion.

Meanwhile the overall trade balance between Mercosur and the EU is €50.4 billion exports to €54 billion imports, leaving Mercosur with a deficit of €3.6 billion. 

Compare this with the EU’s trade with China: in 2023 alone, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, the EU trade deficit with China was a staggering €291 billion, a decrease of 27 percent over 2022.

Pivot from China

Observers see this as an argument to proceed with the Mercosur deal. 

Increased dealings with the Mercosur group could help the EU’s attempts to “de-risk” its relationship with China, says analyst Demarais.

“European institutions are hard at work trying to find ways to convince EU firms to relocate supply chains away from China, ideally to like-minded countries (read: democracies). The EU-Mercosur free trade agreement would help to do just that,” she argues. 

Meanwhile Mercosur may look to sign its own free-trade agreement with China, which could prove a swifter process than dealing with the EU.

“This could weaken the EU’s negotiating position if China imposes fewer conditions on Mercosur,” suggests Detlef Nolte, a specialist on Latin America at the German Council on Foreign Affairs and the German Institute for Global and Area Studies, writing on online media platform Latinoamérica21.

  • China’s president to visit France in attempt to repair trust with EU

Vital raw materials

On top of that, by lowering tariffs on European exports to Mercosur economies – for instance cutting the 18 percent tariff on chemicals and a 14-20 percent tariff on machinery – the deal “could help to convince European firms to develop production lines in Latin America”, Demarais suggests.

She also points out that Mercosur countries possess large reserves of raw materials critical to the EU’s green energy transition.

Brazil, for instance, sits on one-fifth of the world’s reserves of graphite, nickel, manganese and rare earths, while Argentina has the world’s third-largest reserves of lithium, used for batteries in electric vehicles.

Read also:

  • Macron says France will help Brazil develop nuclear-powered submarines
  • France’s Macron visits Brazil to launch €1bn Amazon protection plan

FRANCE – ALGERIA

French MPs pave way for day to mark 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris

Lawmakers in France’s National Assembly on Thursday backed a move that could lead to a day to commemorate the October 1961 police crackdown in Paris that killed dozens of Algerians protesting for their country’s independence.

A parliamentary motion noting the “bloody and murderous repression of Algerians” was proposed by Greens MP Sabrina Sebaihi and Julie Delpech, from President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party.

It encountered opposition from the ranks of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN). 

“The vote represents the first step in the work to recognise this colonial crime, to recognise this crime of the state,” said Sebaihi.

On 17 October, some 30,000 Algerians were urged by the pro-independence FLN party to break a curfew and head to locations around Paris to demonstrate peacefully. 

Under the orders of then police chief Maurice Papon, officers violently broke up the demonstrations.

Disparity

Official figures reported three dead and around 60 injured. However, in the decades since the incident, historians estimate there were at least several dozen victims, whose bodies were dumped in the River Seine.

“Let us spare a thought for these victims and their families who have been hard hit by the spiral of violence,” said Dominique Faure, the minister for local and regional authorities.

Human rights campaigners have long lobbied successive French governments for more transparency in one of the most brutal acts of repression on French soil.

  • 1961 – Algerians massacred on Paris streets
  • France called to fully recognise use of torture during Algerian war

In 2012, President François Hollande paid tribute to the victims who he said were demonstrating for the right to independence.

Macron declared on the 60th anniversary of the crackdown: “The crimes committed on 17 October 1961 under the authority of Maurice Papon are inexcusable.

During the parliamentary debate on Thursday, Faure expressed reservations about a day of commemoration. She said there were already three dates to commemorate what happened during the Algerian war of Independence.

“Much remains to be done to write this history,” Faure added.

“But in my opinion this is the only way to build a sincere and lasting reconciliation. I think it is important to let history do the work before considering a new day of commemoration specifically for the victims of 17 October.”


France

French lawmakers vote in favour of bill to ban hair discrimination

France’s National Assembly on Thursday approved legislation against a form of discrimination that’s often overlooked: prejudicial treatment on the basis of hair. The bill, which still faces a vote in the Senate, is inspired by laws in the United States, where anti-racism campaigners have long argued that black people face unfair pressure to modify their natural hair.

“They called me into the office and said, ‘we know you care about your hair …’ And I said, ‘oh and you don’t?'”

Fanta, a former police officer, is black. She says she’s experienced what’s been dubbed in France discrimination capillaire – hair discrimination.

“They asked me to straighten it because it wasn’t professional. My hair, even if I straighten it, the minute I take a shower it’ll go curly again. So they were telling me: ‘we don’t accept you as you are’.”

The message doesn’t have to be said out loud to get through, says Louis, a student in his early 20s.

“There have been certain times when I’ve had interviews for internships and I’ve realised that my hair was a problem for them, and that people prefer a, how shall I put it, straighter style – no braids, short back and sides.”

Listen to this story on the Spotlight on France podcast:

World first

Such pressure is arguably already illegal in France, where the law bans discrimination on the basis of physical appearance as well as ethnicity.

But a new bill wants to make it explicit: any distinction made between individuals based on “the cut, colour, length or texture of their hair” constitutes discrimination, either in the workplace or more broadly.

The proposal to add that wording to France’s existing criminal and labour codes went before the lower house of parliament on Thursday, where it passed by 44 votes to two. To become law, it now needs the approval of the conservative-led upper house – no easy feat.

If it gets it, France will become the first country in the world to pass national legislation against hair discrimination. Even the US, where laws on the issue were pioneered at the state level, hasn’t yet managed to pass a federal equivalent.

  • Defining and celebrating blackness in the face of French universalism

Pressure to straighten

“Yes, we have a law in France against discrimination, but it’s a global law and it doesn’t talk about hair discrimination,” says Guylaine Conquet.

Formerly a journalist from the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, she’s now an artist and activist based in the US. She is the impetus for France’s hair discrimination bill, which she asked Guadeloupe MP Olivier Serva to put forward in 2022.

“The law is so vague, people don’t see themselves in this law,” she tells RFI. “So that’s why we need to be more precise and say, ‘you cannot prevent a girl from going to school with braids, with cornrows’.”

She too has her own examples to give. Working for French television in Guadeloupe, she says, “people had always told me that to look professional, I had to wear straightened hair”. 

For years she straightened her naturally curly hair – an expensive, laborious process involving chemicals that have been linked to a higher risk of cancer – until it began falling out. 

“In 2015 I decided to go back to natural, which was very hard for me. Because I wasn’t used to my natural hair, which is weird,” she says. Nor were her viewers.

“The audience, they were looking at me, they were sending me messages – you know, it’s not attractive, why am I doing that… So there was a lot of pressure.”

  • Academics under fire for studying race and racism in colour-blind France

Colour-blind?

Conquet, who now lives in Atlanta, says she was inspired by efforts to resist hair discrimination in the US. 

To date 24 states have passed versions of the Crown Act (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”), which protects the right to wear hairstyles such as afros, braids, locks and twists in places of work or education. 

Yet while the US legislation explicitly links hair discrimination to racism, given that it predominantly affects people of African descent, France’s version is supposedly colour-blind.

Citing universalism, its founding value, the country refuses to design public policies for specific groups on the grounds that racial differences don’t – or shouldn’t – exist.

As a result, the wording in the hair discrimination bill does not specify which type or styles of hair are protected – which means, in theory, that it applies equally to white blonds or redheads as to black people.

“This law is more inclusive in France and more people will be protected,” insists Conquet, who says she’s heard from blonds who complain they’re not taken seriously because of their hair colour.

But Rokhaya Diallo, a journalist and author who writes extensively about racism in France, says complaining about certain hairstyles and textures is deeply racially coded.

“It’s really a form of implicit discrimination, where people won’t say straight out that the problem is that you’re black or of African descent, but they’ll say, ‘your hair doesn’t match the image that our business wants to present’.”

  • ‘Black women don’t need to transform themselves to be accepted’: Rokhaya Diallo

Tough case to win

Even if the bill passes, legal experts say discrimination cases – of any kind – are notoriously hard to win.

France’s public rights watchdog received 6,703 complaints of discrimination in 2023, according to its annual report, 2 percent of which related to physical appearance.

One of the judgements it issued last year related to a 4-year-old boy whose teachers repeatedly asked his parents to cut or fasten his long afro hair on the grounds that school rules forbade “fanciful” styles. 

The watchdog found the incident, which took place in 2018, constituted discrimination on the grounds of “physical appearance in relation to gender” and “real or presumed ethnic origin”.

It recommended a review of the rules at that and other schools, as well as anti-discrimination training – but has no power to impose sanctions.

Court cases, which could result in fines or other penalties, remain rare.

Starting a conversation

“Of course things are not going to change from today to tomorrow if the law is voted,” acknowledges Conquet. 

“But at least people are talking about it … This law, I hope, will make people talk more about this issue, and not be complexed anymore about their hair.”

Her next campaign, she says, will be to push for French hairdressers to be trained on curly and coiled hair as part of their professional certification, not just straight hair – another step towards encouraging people of colour to embrace their natural hair.

“We should not be forced to conform to the European style. It’s like you’re asking me to look like you, and I’m not like you,” she says.

“France is diverse. France is not just French in Paris, France is all over the world. I’m Caribbean, I’m French Caribbean… So they have to acknowledge my difference and accept it.”


RFI’s Sylvie Koffi provided additional reporting for this story.

Find an audio version on the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 109.


TRADE POLICY

Poland and Ukraine struggle to thrash out deal on grain imports

Talks were underway on Thursday in Warsaw between the governments of Poland and Ukraine as part of an attempt to defuse a row over grain imports that has caused mass protests by farmers throughout the European Union.

Farmers throughout the 27-nation bloc have been protesting to demand the re-imposition of customs duties on agricultural imports from Ukraine that were waived after Russia’s invasion in 2022.

They say Ukraine’s farmers are flooding Europe with cheap imports that leave them unable to compete.

“It is difficult to expect any breakthrough after these talks, any specific agreement, for example on agricultural issues,” the head of the prime minister’s office Jan Grabiec told state news agency PAP.

“We are still in dialogue and both sides are not fully satisfied.”

Poland has been eyeing a licensing deal for agricultural trade with Ukraine similar to one agreed with Kyiv by Romania and Bulgaria.

On Wednesday, Poland’s Agriculture Minister, Czeslaw Siekierski, said talks were continuing about a system of licensing exports.

However, he added, there were differences over the range of products that would be covered.

Grabiec said almost the entire Ukrainian government would be represented at the talks, which Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Szejna told public radio would also cover cooperation between the countries’ arms industries, cultural issues and energy.

  • EU strikes deal capping Ukrainian poultry and grains to appease farmers

Revised deal

Ambassadors from EU countries reached a revised deal on Wednesday to extend tariff-free food imports from Ukraine until June 2025.

The package will feature safeguards on products such as poultry, eggs, sugar, oats, maize, groats and honey, which will be subject to tariffs if they exceed averages from the past three years.

The onus for a new deal fell on Belgium, the current holder of the En Council’s rotating presidency.

“Ambassadors agreed on a new compromise to extend trade measures (ATM) for Ukraine, securing a balanced approach between support for Ukraine and protection of EU agricultural markets,” the presidency announced on social media.

It added the text would be presented to the European Parliament for a swift resolution.

(with newswires)

 

 


Fake News

RFI targeted by Russian disinformation

Paris – On Wednesday, 27th March, in the afternoon, a fake video report appeared online under the logo of Radio France Internationale.

This video suggests, without any evidence, that an epidemic of tuberculosis is threatening France because of the admission of Ukrainian soldiers into the country’s hospitals.

The dissemination of this false report across various media distribution channels indicates that RFI has been the target of a coordinated attempt to spread misinformation.

First identified by RFI’s Russian and international services, the video has been circulating online since Wednesday, 27 March.

The logo in the top right corner of the image, the graphics, editing, and credits suggest, erroneously, that it was produced by RFI’s editorial team. In reality, it is a false report. RFI is not the source of this content.

The fraudulent production appears to have first appeared online on the messaging app Telegram at 2:47pm Paris time. The Russian account that posted it is called Russie Actualités (Russia News) and has around 4,282 followers.

The narrative of the video asserts, without evidence, that a “Ukrainian tuberculosis epidemic threatens France due to the admission of Ukrainian soldiers for treatment [in French hospitals].”

The accompanying text concludes: “Bedbugs and tuberculosis. If only I could go to the Olympics in France…”

Ten minutes later, new Telegram channels in Russian shared this false report attributed to RFI.

One of those channels has more than 118,000 followers. Both have been identified as significant vectors of pro-Russian propaganda that appeared following the invasion of Ukraine.

This fake new was then posted on VKontakte, the equivalent of Facebook in Russia, followed by X (formerly Twitter) and Russian websites.

Each time, the same word-for-word Russian comment accompanies the video.

This pattern of dissemination, the anti-Ukrainian narrative, and the technique of impersonating a media outlet leaves little doubt about the origin of this information attack.

This tactic has already targeted many French and international media outlets.


If you have any doubts or concerns about the authenticity of RFI-branded content, you can contact the Info Verif unit on WhatsApp at +33 6 89 07 61 09.


Senegal

Results confirm Faye’s large win in Senegal presidential elections

Anti-establishment figure Bassirou Diomaye Faye has comfortably won the Senegalese presidential election with 54.28 percent of votes in the first round, official provisional results have shown.

Faye placed well ahead of the governing coalition’s candidate, former prime minister Amadou Ba, who garnered 35.79 percent.

Aliou Mamadou Dia, who came third out of 19 candidates, won just 2.8 percent of the vote.

The turnout of 61.3 percent was less than in 2019, when outgoing President Macky Sall won a second term in the first-round.

RFI’s correspondents in Dakar reported that Amady Diouf, president of the Votes Census Commission, said that all members agreed on the results.

Faye’s opponents have recognised his victory. It now has to be validated by Senegal’s top constitutional body, which could happen in a few days.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye: From prison to Senegal presidency

Big break

The announcement of the official provisional results clears the way for a handover of power between Sall and his successor in the coming days.

Faye’s election is a first in many ways. It makes it the first time since independence from France in 1960 that an opponent has won in the first round in Senegal.

At 44, Faye is set to become the youngest president in the country’s history. He was freed from prison 10 days before the election.

Faye said in his first speech that he wanted a “break” with the existing political system.

  • Senegal’s opposition hopes promise of new national currency will win votes
  • Podcast: The long path to Senegal’s troubled presidential elections

End of a crisis

Sunday’s election puts an end to three years of tension and deadly unrest, with Senegal plunged into a deeper political crisis in February, when Sall decided to delay the presidential poll.

Dozens have been killed and hundreds arrested since 2021, with the country’s democratic credentials coming under scrutiny.

Faye himself was detained for months before his release in the middle of the election campaign.

International observers hailed the smooth running of Sunday’s vote.

The African Union‘s observation mission commended the “political and democratic maturity of the Senegalese people (and) the generally peaceful political atmosphere of the presidential election”.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday congratulated Faye and “the Senegalese people, who have demonstrated that the right to vote – and have that vote counted – remains democracy’s threshold liberty”.

On Monday Faye pledged to govern “with humility, with transparency, and to fight corruption at all levels”.

(with AFP)

Spotlight on France

Podcast: France-Russia relations, hair discrimination, tax history

Issued on:

How France’s new hardline position on Russia marks a major shift away from decades of pro-Russia policies. The fight to make hair discrimination illegal. And why VAT – a tax introduced 70 years ago – is so important to French finances, despite being deeply unequal.

French President Emmanuel Macron has recently done a U-turn on Russia:  having argued against humiliating Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he has now become one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics. Journalist Elsa Vidal, the head of RFI’s Russia service, author of La fascination russe (The fascination with Russia), talks about France’s long history of Russophile foreign policy and how it has been coloured by a certain anti-Americanism. It led to complacency – even blindness – over Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule. (Listen @0’30)

France’s parliament has begun debating legislation against a form of discrimination that’s often overlooked: prejudicial treatment on the basis of hair. The bill is inspired by laws in the United States, where anti-racism campaigners have long argued that black people face unfair pressure to change their natural hair. Artist and activist Guylaine Conquet, who first came up with the idea for the French bill, explains why France is taking a different approach from the US: her proposal would classify hair discrimination as discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, not race. That’s in line with France’s universalist, “colour-blind” approach to racial discrimination, but also broadens the application of the law to everyone. (Listen @21’10) 

France was the first country to introduce a Value Added Tax (VAT), on 10 April 1954. 70 years later, the tax brings in more than half of France’s revenue, and far more than income tax. Economist Julien Blasco explains that while VAT is regressive, it serves to fund crucial social welfare programmes. (Listen @16’30)

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).


FRANCE – POLITICS

French PM vows to reform benefits, reduce deficit and test four-day week

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has unveiled plans to overhaul unemployment benefits, while promising to reduce France’s spiralling deficit. The government will also test out a four-day working week.

Speaking Wednesday on TF1 television, Gabriel Attal announced the need for a reform of unemployment payments to make up for the deficit that spiralled out of control last year.

The 35-year-old prime minister said he had asked Labour Minister Catherine Vautrin to prepare “new negotiations” with social partners on unemployment insurance, proposing to reduce the length of payments to 12 months from 18.

The proposal was immediately slammed as “unacceptable” by France’s powerful trade unions.



Attal was speaking after having convened a government seminar at his Matignon office devoted to the French workforce. 

A new unemployment insurance agreement – negotiated last autumn by the unions and employers’ organisations – is due to be validated by the government.

This means Attal’s idea of going back to the drawing board has sent the opposition into a frenzy, starting with the far-right’s Marine Le Pen

National Rally deputies denounced what they call “a swindle that has only one aim: to pick the pockets of the French in order to bail out the state’s accounts, which are in deficit because of the government’s incompetence”. 

  • French budget deficit widens but government promises no tax hike

Fears of fiscal ‘downgrade’

This comes as the French government looks for savings after the public deficit slipped to 5.5 percent of GDP in 2023 – according to INSEE figures released earlier this week. This amounts to €15.8 billion more than the government had forecast.

Attal’s cabinet has ruled out raising taxes to make up for the shortfall. 

Although €10 billion in cuts have already been agreed upon for the 2024 budget, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned that additional savings will have to be found from this year onwards, and “at least 20 billion” for 2025.

Attal reaffirmed on Wednesday that his government’s objective is “to bring deficit below 3 percent by 2027”.

Similarly, the government is looking for positive signals to send to financial agencies, which could downgrade France’s credit rating following the example of Moody’s, which considers France’s budget path to be “improbable”.



Unions fight back

A new reform of unemployment insurance, from which the government hopes to extract “a few billion”, would be added to those contested by the unions in 2019 and 2023. 

“The only thing announced by Gabriel Attal this evening is yet another attack on precarious [workers] or unemployed”, said Denis Gravouil, the CGT’s negotiator on unemployment insurance.

CFDT secretary general Marylise Léon said: “The unemployment insurance scheme cannot be a budgetary adjustment variable for the state”.

François Hommeril, president of the CFE-CGC, denounced what he called a “populist discourse” that ignores the situation of an unemployed person faced with the difficulty of finding a job.

Despite the opposition from trade unions, the country is unlikely to see the sort of mass protests that were organised during the government’s pension reform.

Testing a four-day week

When asked about the evolution of a four-day working week, Attal said he was not in favour of reducing working hours.

“We need to get out of this straitjacket of 35-hours a week, where we clock-in and clock-out … to give more flexibility to those who want it,” he told TF1. 

Trials are due to be carried out later this year.

Read also:

  • French city of Lyon tests out four-day work week for public employees

FRANCE – BRAZIL

Macron says France will help Brazil develop nuclear-powered submarines

President Emmanuel Macron has pledged French assistance for Brazilian scientists and engineers in their drive to develop nuclear technology for submarines.

“I want us to open the chapter for new submarines, that we look nuclear propulsion in the face while being perfectly respectful of all non-proliferation commitments,” Macron said at the launch of a conventionally powered Franco-Brazilian submarine in Itaguai near Rio de Janeiro.

“You want it, France will be at your side.”

Macron was speaking during a ceremony to launch Brazil’s third French-designed submarine, which will help secure the country’s long coastline, dubbed the “Blue Amazon.”

Macron and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attended a ceremony in the Itaguai shipyard near Rio de Janeiro, launching the third diesel-powered submarine built in a $10 billion partnership.

The construction of the submarines was outlined in a 2008 deal between Lula and then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, which also included the purchase of 50 Caracal helicopters.

Brazil is also planning to build its first nuclear-powered submarine, the Alvaro Alberto, which would make it the first country outside the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to do so.

The French naval defence manufacturer Naval Group is supporting the design and construction of the submarine, except for the nuclear boiler which is being designed by the Brazilians.



Brasilia has been trying to convince Paris to increase technology transfers to help it integrate the reactor into the submarine and sell it equipment linked to nuclear propulsion.

France has been reticent to transfer such technology due to the challenges of nuclear proliferation.

“There are discussions on the possibility of France cooperating with us, including on nuclear energy, nuclear fuel,” according to the European head of Brazilian diplomacy, Maria Luisa Escorel de Moraes, who recognizes that it is a “strategic, sensitive, delicate matter.”

However, the project has suffered significant delays, mainly due to budget constraints, and the nuclear sub is now expected to be launched between 2036 and 2037, according to the Brazilian navy.

Macron’s whirlwind tour of Brazil kicked off Tuesday with the launch of a plan to raise more than onebillion dollars in green investments to protect the Brazilian and Guyanese Amazon.

  • France’s Macron visits Brazil to launch €1bn Amazon protection plan
  • Macron returns to French Guiana for thorny talks on autonomy and illegal mining

Macron landed on Tuesday in the Amazon city of Belem, where Brazil will host the United Nations COP30 climate negotiations in 2025.

He will also meet business executives in Sao Paulo later on Wednesday and make a state visit to Brasilia on Thursday.

The visit, the first by a French president to Latin America’s economic giant in more than a decade, is also a move to reset ties which had deteriorated significantly under former president Jair Bolsonaro.

 (with newswires) 


Secularism

School principal resigns after receiving death threats in hijab row

French politicians from across the spectrum Wednesday expressed dismay over the resignation of a Paris school principal who had received death threats after asking a student to remove her Muslim veil on the premises.

In a show of support, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, a former education minister, was set to receive the principal later Wednesday, his office said.

Secularism in France

Secularism and religion are hot-button issues in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim community.

In 2004, authorities banned school children from wearing “signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation” such as headscarves, turbans or kippas on the basis of the country’s secular laws which are meant to guarantee neutrality in state institutions.

The headmaster’s departure comes amid deep tensions in the country following a series of incidents including the killing of a teacher by an Islamist former pupil last year.

The headmaster at the Maurice-Ravel lycee in eastern Paris quit after receiving death threats online following an altercation with a student last month, officials told French news agency AFP on Tuesday.

In late February, he had asked three students to remove their Islamic headscarves on school premises, but one of them refused and an altercation ensued, according to prosecutors. He later received death threats online.

According to a school letter sent to teachers, pupils and parents on Tuesday, the principal stood down for “security reasons”, while education officials said he had taken “early retirement”.

In a message addressed to the school’s staff, quoted by French communist daily L’Humanite, the principal said that he had taken the decision to leave “for his own safety and that of the school”.

 

  • ‘Best weapon’ against terrorism is education, says French PM
  • France looks to remove radicalised students from schools

  • Islamism in France: Is Macron missing his target by limiting home schooling?

     

 ‘Collective failure’

“It’s a disgrace,” Bruno Retailleau, the head of the right-wing Republicans faction in the Senate upper house, said on X (former Twitter) on Wednesday.

“We can’t accept it,” Boris Vallaud, the head of the Socialist deputies in the National Assembly lower house, told television broadcaster France 2, calling the incident “a collective failure”.

Marion Marechal, the granddaughter of far-right patriarch Jean-Marie Le Pen and a far-right politician herself, spoke on Sud Radio of a “defeat of the state” in the face of “the Islamist gangrene”.

Maud Bregeon, a lawmaker with President Emmanuel Macron‘s Renaissance party, also took aim at “an Islamist movement”.

 “Authority lies with school heads and teachers, and we have a duty to support this educational community,” Bregeon said.

Socialist Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo called the principal to “assure him of her total support and solidarity”, said her office, adding she was “appalled and dismayed.”

The student lodged a complaint against the principle, accusing him of mistreating her during the incident. She told French daily Le Parisien that she had been “hit hard on the arm” by the principal.

The student is an adult who was at the school for vocational training.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office told AFP on Wednesday that her complaint had been dismissed.

(with newswires)


Guinea-Bissau

Son of former Guinea-Bissau president jailed in US for drug trafficking

The son of a former president of Guinea-Bissau was sentenced to more than six and a half years in prison for involvement in a transnational heroin trafficking conspiracy, the US Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Malam Bacai Sanha Jr, 52, planned to use the proceeds to finance a coup in the West African country that would lead to his eventual presidency and establishment of a “drugs regime,” according to the statement released by the US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

“Malam Bacai Sanha Jr. wasn’t any ordinary international drug trafficker,” said Douglas Williams, special agent in charge of the FBI Houston Field Office.

“He is the son of the former president of Guinea-Bissau and was trafficking drugs for a very specific reason — to fund a coup.”

Sanha was a leader and organiser in the heroin trafficking conspiracy and was involved in its importation from Europe to the United States, according to the statement.

He was arrested along with a co-conspirator after arriving in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in July 2022. They were extradited to the United States shortly afterwards.

  • Ecowas says progress made towards Guinea Conakry’s return to civilian rule

In September 2023, Sanha pled guilty “to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance for the purpose of unlawful importation,” according to Tuesday’s statement.

He was sentenced to 80 months in prison.

Guinea-Bissau has had a history of military coups interspersed with periods of democratic rule — though elected leaders managed to serve a full term since the country gained independence from Portugal in 1974.

Sanha’s father, Malam Bacai Sanha, was initially installed by a junta as interim leader in 1999 before he lost the election the following year.

He won the presidency in a 2009 election, but died while seeking medical treatment in Paris in January 2012 before completing his term.

His son, known as “Bacaizinho” in Guinea-Bissau, has served in several government roles, including as an economic advisor to his father.

 (AFP)


Tunisia

Four Tunisians sentenced to death for 2013 murder of politician Chokri Belaid

Four people were sentenced to death and two to life in prison on Wednesday after a decade-long investigation into the 2013 killing of Tunisian secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

Tunisia still hands down death sentences, particularly in “terrorism” cases, even though a de facto moratorium in effect since 1991 means they are effectively commuted to life terms.

Belaid’s assassination, which was claimed by jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group, dealt a heavy blow to the fledgling democracy established after the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

The slow pace of the investigation triggered accusations of obstructionism against the then ruling Islamist party Ennahdha that have been used by secular President Kais Saied to justify his 2021 power grab that has seen the party outlawed.

  • Tunisian opposition leader Ghannouchi remanded in custody

The court’s judgement was announced on national television early Wednesday after 15 hours of deliberation.

In total, 23 people received sentences ranging from two to 120 years while five defendants were acquitted.

Prosecutor Aymen Chtiba welcomed the sentences, saying: “Justice has been done”.

Fierce opponent

A fierce critic of Ennahdha, Belaid was killed on 6 February 2013, in his car outside his home.

Jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group claimed his killing, as well as that of another left-wing opposition figure, Mohamed Brahmi, six months later.

In 2014, authorities announced that the suspected mastermind of Belaid’s assassination, Kamel Gadhgadhi, had been killed in a counterterrorism operation.

Inquiry into investigation

In June 2022, Tunisia‘s President Saied, who regularly refers to Belaid and Brahmi as “martyrs”, dismissed dozens of judges, some of whom he accused of obstructing the investigations into the 2013 killings.

Last year, the justice ministry set up a special commission to carry out an “in-depth” study of the police and judicial investigations.

Over the past decade, the men’s families and their lawyers have accused political parties and some judges of hindering the investigations.

Those close to Belaid pointed the finger at Ennahdha, accusing the party of having been lenient towards the extremist discourse that had emerged at the time.

The aftermath of the 2011 revolution saw a surge in Islamist radicalism in Tunisia with thousands of jihadist volunteers leaving to fight in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring Libya.

  • Violence and disappointment as Tunisia marks tenth anniversary of revolution

Jihadist attacks in Sousse and the capital Tunis in 2015 killed dozens of tourists and police, although authorities say they have since made significant progress against the extremists.

After the killings, Ennahdha pushed back against the accusations of excessive leniency, blacklisting the formerly legal Salafist movement Ansar al-Charia as a terrorist organisation.

In a statement on Facebook Wednesday, the party welcomed the conclusion of the Belaid trial as a vindication of its repeated denials of any wrongdoing.

The court had concluded “with certainty the innocence of the Ennahda movement”, despite “a desire among certain ideological currents and political parties to make false accusations,” the party said.

 (AFP)


Tennis

Djokovic prepares for French Open tilt without ‘friend’ Ivanisevic

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic continued his preparations for the clay court season on Thursday after announcing a split with coach Goran Ivanisevic.

Ivanisevic, who claimed the singles title at Wimbledon in 2001, joined Djokovic’s team in 2019 and helped the Serb win 12 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic revealed the split with the 52-year-old on social media and posted a picture of himself and Ivanisevic playing the board game Parchisi.

“Our on court chemistry had its ups and downs, but our friendship was always rock solid,” said Djokovic.

In fact, I’m proud to say (not sure he is) that apart from winning tournaments together we also had a side battle in Parchisi going on … for many years.

“And that tournament never stops for us. Sefinjo, thanks for everything my friend. Love you.”

When Ivanisevic was added to the Djokovic camp, his rivalry with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer  was in full flow.

Djokovic, 36, credited the Croatian for improving the variety and consistency of his serve.

“You also brought lots of laughter, fun, year-end No 1 rankings, record-breaking achievements and 12 more Grand Slams [and a few finals] to the count,” Djokovic added.

Ivanisevic – renowned for his volatility during his playing days – never shied away from highlighting the challenges of working with Djokovic.

“He’s not an easy guy, let’s put it this way,” he said after last year’s French Open crown.

“Especially when something’s not going his way. He keeps you stressed, the stress level is always high. It never goes down. But every day you learn something.”

Shock

Following a shock third round loss to the world number 96 Luca Nardi at the Indian Wells tournament in early March, Djokovic pulled out of the Miami Open to reconfigure his game and conserve his energies for the physically gruelling European clay court swing which culminates at the French Open in Paris at the end of May.

After claiming the 2023 French Open to become the first man to win at least three times at each of the Grand Slam tournament venues in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York, Djokovic will this year attempt to join Nadal, Bjorn Borg, Jan Kodes, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Sergi Bruguera and Gustavo Kuerten as the only men to successfully defend a French Open title since professional players were allowed to compete at Grand Slam events in 1968.

Victory in the singles final at the French Open – which is nicknamed Roland Garros – would allow him to eclipse the Australian Margaret Court and stand alone as the most successful singles player in tennis history with 25 titles.


FRANCE – WEATHER

Climate disasters cost French insurers €6.5bn in ‘worrying uptick’

Climate disasters in France cost insurers €6.5 billion in 2023 – a worrying increase in claims that comes as temperature records are successively broken. 

Last year was the third “most severe” in terms of climate-related claims after 1999 and 2022, industry federation France Assureurs (French Insurers) has said – citing destruction from storms Ciaran and Domingos, which lashed parts of the north-west. 

Numerous extreme weather events took place in 2023 – the second warmest year in France after 2022, France Assureurs president Florence Lustman told the French news agency AFP. 

Among them were 15 wind storms with gusts of more than 150km/h, and 14 floods that each hit more than a dozen towns. Storms Ciaran and Domingos alone led to 517,000 claims costing €1.6 billion. 

‘Successive thresholds’

“We are reaching successive thresholds in the cost of climate risk,” Lustman said.  

From 2000 to 2008, France averaged €2.7 billion per year – a figure that rose to €3.7 billion between 2010 and 2019. 

“If I take the average over the last four years, including 2022 and 2023, I’m at €6 billion,” Lustman added.  

However the costliest year so far remains 1999, which was marked by storms Lothar and Martin, racking up a damage bill of €13.8 billion. That was followed by 2022, when climate events cost insurers €10 billion. 

Floods and droughts are considered natural disasters, with the French state bearing half of the cost burden – but hail and other storm damage to homes is the responsibility of insurers. 

Read also:

  • Europe unprepared for ‘catastrophic’ climate risks: EU agency
  • Hottest February ever puts world in ‘unchartered’ climate territory

Spotlight on France

Podcast: France-Russia relations, hair discrimination, tax history

Issued on:

How France’s new hardline position on Russia marks a major shift away from decades of pro-Russia policies. The fight to make hair discrimination illegal. And why VAT – a tax introduced 70 years ago – is so important to French finances, despite being deeply unequal.

French President Emmanuel Macron has recently done a U-turn on Russia:  having argued against humiliating Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he has now become one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics. Journalist Elsa Vidal, the head of RFI’s Russia service, author of La fascination russe (The fascination with Russia), talks about France’s long history of Russophile foreign policy and how it has been coloured by a certain anti-Americanism. It led to complacency – even blindness – over Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule. (Listen @0’30)

France’s parliament has begun debating legislation against a form of discrimination that’s often overlooked: prejudicial treatment on the basis of hair. The bill is inspired by laws in the United States, where anti-racism campaigners have long argued that black people face unfair pressure to change their natural hair. Artist and activist Guylaine Conquet, who first came up with the idea for the French bill, explains why France is taking a different approach from the US: her proposal would classify hair discrimination as discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, not race. That’s in line with France’s universalist, “colour-blind” approach to racial discrimination, but also broadens the application of the law to everyone. (Listen @21’10) 

France was the first country to introduce a Value Added Tax (VAT), on 10 April 1954. 70 years later, the tax brings in more than half of France’s revenue, and far more than income tax. Economist Julien Blasco explains that while VAT is regressive, it serves to fund crucial social welfare programmes. (Listen @16’30)

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

With Somalia naval deal, Turkey steers into strategic but volatile region

Issued on:

A naval agreement between Turkey and Somalia positions the Turkish navy in a strategically vital region, underlining Ankara’s growing ambitions at sea. But analysts warn that the deal threatens to escalate tensions with Somalia’s neighbour, Ethiopia.

Under a ten-year defence agreement ratified earlier this month, the Turkish navy will help protect Somalia’s territorial waters and facilitate training and equipment for the Somali navy.

The deal is just the latest step in Ankara’s deepening relationship with Mogadishu.

“Not only is this the location of Turkey’s largest international military base, it’s also the location of Turkey’s largest embassy in the world,” explains Norman Ricklefs, chair of multinational consultancy group Namea.

“This shows the importance Turkey has placed on Somalia, and rebuilding Somalia as a major state in the Horn of Africa, and making Somalia’s future success part of Turkey’s broader strategic goals in eastern Africa in the Red Sea region,” he says.

Turkey also signed an energy exploration deal with Somalia this month. The East African country is believed to have major oil and gas reserves both on land and within its territorial waters.

Blue-water navy 

Experts see the deepening of ties with Somalia as part of growing international competition for influence in this strategically vital region.

“This will provide Turkey an opportunity to increase its influence in the Horn of Africa,” says Elem Eyrice-Tepeciklioglu, an associate professor of African studies at Ankara’s Social Sciences University.

“Because all those external countries – Gulf countries, Western countries… even Japan – have bases in Djibouti, they are all vying to increase their development in the region, especially for economic purposes. So this is also an opportunity for Turkey,” she says.

The Somali deal comes as Ankara rapidly expands its navy’s so-called “blue-water” capabilities – the ability to operate on the open oceans, far from the country’s home ports.

Turkey has built up a fleet of energy research ships and a growing navy.

“[Naval expansion] focuses on the projection of Turkish military capacity in the maritime domain – both in protecting its own exclusive economic zones and waters, while also helping its allies and partners to do the same,” explains Sine Ozkarasahin, an independent defence analyst.

“And Somalia has been facing an increased threat of piracy.”

Tensions with Ethiopia

Turkey’s deepening military ties with Somalia come as the Horn of Africa nation faces tension with its neighbour, Ethiopia.

In January, Ethiopia infuriated Somalia by signing an agreement with the breakaway region of Somaliland, giving Addis Ababa long-desired sea access.

But Mehmet Ozkan of the Turkish National Defence University says Ankara is well placed to contain any fallout, given its ties with Ethiopia. 

“Military cooperation, personal cooperation, the personal relationship between the leaders – I think relations are pretty good,” he says.

“Because in the region everybody is looking for security cooperation, and it’s same for Ethiopia… Turkey is a security provider for Ethiopia as well.”

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

‘Drone diplomacy’

With Turkish-made military drones widely used by both the Ethiopian and Somali militaries in their wars against insurgencies, Ankara’s so-called “drone diplomacy” has been instrumental in balancing its relations with rivals.

“Turkey has also probably supplied some drones to Somalia – which are operated by Turkish operators, not Somalis – but they’ve been useful in the conflict against Al-Shabaab,” explains analyst Ricklefs.

“I know Turkey has a good relationship with Ethiopia. It has a good relationship with Somalia. So its presence in Somalia is more likely than not – given Turkey’s broader strategic aims in the region – to have a stabilising effect rather than a destabilising effect,” he argues.

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

However, Africa expert Eyrice-Tepeciklioglu warns that, given the region’s volatility, Ankara will still need to tread carefully.

“In the long run, this might lead to Turkey’s involvement in regional conflicts. This is what Turkey was trying to avoid in its Africa policy: it does not want to be a part of African conflicts, but it might be dragged into [them],” she says.

As Turkey extends its influence in one of the most volatile parts of the world, analysts suggest Ankara will need to perfect its diplomatic balancing skills.

The Sound Kitchen

There’s Music in the Kitchen, No 34

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 Bidhan Chandra Sanyal from West Bengal, India, Helmut Matt from Herbolzheim, Germany, 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 program: “Aaj Na Chhodenge” by Rahul Dev Burman, sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar; Simple Symphony by Benjamin Britten, performed by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer, and “Sun is Shining” by Bob Marley, performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

The quiz will be back next Saturday, 30 March. Be sure and tune in! 

Spotlight on Africa

The long path to Senegal’s troubled presidential elections

Issued on:

This is a big election year for Africa, with 16 countries heading to the polls. Close attention is being paid to the delayed presidential vote in Senegal – a West African beacon of democracy that’s been facing increasing instability. RFI spoke to author and economist Ndongo Samba Sylla in the capital Dakar. 

RFI is renewing its Spotlight on Africa podcast, and the first episode zeroes in on one of the continent’s biggest news stories.

Senegal was plunged into political crisis when President Macky Sall unexpectedly postponed elections that had been due to take place by the end of February.

Protests erupted from those supporting opposition candidates, as well as from all corners of civil society. The polls were finally rescheduled for 24 March.

Voters say they’re worried about unemployment and a lack of opportunities for young people – many of whom are quitting the country in search of a better life elsewhere.

Ndongo Samba Sylla helps us to better understand where the unrest has taken the heaviest toll – and what’s really at stake in Sunday’s election.

Also read:

  • Senegal sets March date for delayed presidential election
  • Senegal president calls off February 25 election

     


 

Episode mixed by Guillaume Buffet. 

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 

International report

Deepfake videos used in local elections in Turkey as Erdogan battles for Istanbul

Issued on:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is leading a battle to regain control of Istanbul in hotly contested local elections this month. However, opposition media is warning about deepfake videos in campaign ads, while international rights groups are voicing alarm over social media companies’ willingness to comply with Turkish censorship ahead of the critical polls.

Polls show the elections are going to be a tight contest. But as Erdogan’s AK Party steps up efforts to regain control of Istanbul, an artificial intelligence-generated video of incumbent mayor Ekrem Imamoglu praising Erdogan for his achievements in Istanbul has been circulating on social media. 

Independent media warn of the threat of fake news, as mainstream media, which is mostly under government control, are not verifying the authenticity of the videos.

Deepfake videos

“Deepfake videos are usually not posted on news sites, but they reach millions of people as advertisements. These stick to the candidate.” explains Hikmet Adal , social media editor at Bianet, an independent news portal.

“The voting segment in Turkey is 40 million. When you ask people if Ekrem Imamoglu actually said this, they will say ‘he did’ because they only follow the mainstream media,” added Adal.

During last year’s presidential elections, Erdogan used a video falsely showing his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu with leaders of the Kurdish separatist group the PKK, which is fighting the Turkish government.

Yaman Akdeniz of Turkey’s Freedom of Expression Association fears more fake news videos will appear as election day draws closer.

“We will witness more of these leading into the local elections, which is of course a major concern,” warns Akdeniz,

“And there were some examples of that prior to the May 2023 general elections. A photo of the opposition leader came out with PKK leaders. Even the president of Turkey commented , saying that he knows that it is fake, but they still used it.”

Turkey’s small independent media sector, which is crucial to the exposing of fake news is facing increasing pressure from Turkish authorities. Much of their news is blocked on social media.

“What we’ve seen is that very, very often material, mainly news on social media, is removed and blocked online,” explains Emma Sinclair-Webb senior Turkey researcher of Human Rights Watch

Call for action

Human Rights Watch was among 22 international rights groups calling on social media companies to stand up to Turkish authorities’ demands for removal of postings.

“It’s very concerning to see that authorities are willing to clamp down on free speech, but social media companies themselves are not robust enough to stand up to this pressure,” added Sinclair-Webb,

“We want them to be more transparent and to work together in raising concerns about requests by Turkey to block content that is clearly within the boundaries of freedom of expression and also to contest others in court in Turkey. “

  • Turkey’s presidential challenger faces uphill battle to unite opposition
  • Volunteer army of election monitors prepare to protect Turkey’s vote

A growing number of prosecutions of independent media under a new disinformation law adds to the pressures they face. Many Turks are now turning to international news platforms.

But Turkish authorities are blocking internet access to foreign news sources which broadcast in Turkish like Deutsche Welle and Voice of America.

These portals are only accessible by a virtual private network, or VPN, which circumvents the ban. But now, some of the most widely used VPNs also face restrictions. 

  • Attack on football referee exposes anti-elite resentment in divided Turkey

 “Restricting access to the internet has become a sort of playbook for regimes and authoritarian governments. And so we see across the world an increase in VPN usage, especially in countries like this, like Turkey,” said Antonio Cesarano of Proton, a VPN provider.

 “It’s a cat-and-mouse game. We will try our best to keep fighting and to keep investing in technology that can bring people back online.”

Turkish based independent news providers  warn they are facing a losing battle in verifying fake news.

“As  alternative media, it is not possible for us to fight against this,” said Bianet, social media editor Adal.

“Our teams are very limited to 20 people, maybe 15 people, at maximum. But there is an army behind this.

With opinion polls indicating the Istanbul election too close to call, analysts warn the danger of fake news is likely to grow along with pressure on independent news.

The Sound Kitchen

Senegal’s presidential poll moves forward

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the delayed presidential election in Senegal. There’s a history lesson about Lithuanian’s love of books (and their language), there are your answers to the bonus question on “The Listener’s Corner”, and of course, a delicious dessert from Erwan Rome on “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!

Facebook News: There’s a “new and improved” Facebook page for you, the RFI English Listeners Forum. 

It’s for everyone who reads and listens to us and wants to connect with others, so ask to join, and I’ll sign you up!

The RFI Listeners Club page and the RFI English Clubs page no longer exist; if you belonged to the RFI English Clubs page and not the RFI Listeners Club page, you’ll need to ask to join. I promise I won’t click “Decline” 😊 

Here’s your job: send me your photos for the banner! Send them to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure and subscribe to see all our videos, and Erwan has even made a weekly Sound Kitchen promo for you to hear. Don’t miss out!

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 counselled 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: Orlando Teamah from Monrovia, Liberia.

Welcome Orlando! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 10 February, I asked you a question about the presidential poll in Senegal. On 3 February, just hours before official campaigning was to start, the polls were called off by the incumbent president, Macky Sall. Sall cited as the reason an investigation into two Constitutional Council judges whose integrity in the election process has been questioned.

You were to re-read Melissa Chemam’s article “Senegalese lawmakers postpone presidential election to 15 December”, and answer this question: How many candidates are running for president of Senegal?

The answer is, at the time I asked the question: 20

Here’s an update: Senegal’s Constitutional Council ruled that the vote must be held before Sall’s mandate expires on 2 April. The new date for the poll is 24 March, which leaves the 19 candidates very little time to campaign. And yes, there are now 19 candidates instead of the original 20; on 19 February, Rose Wardini renounced her candidacy following controversy over her dual Franco-Senegalese nationality.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “How do you get to sleep?”, which was suggested by Nasyr Muhammad from Katsina State, Nigeria. 

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Dipita Chakrabarty from New Delhi, India. Dipita is also this week’s bonus question winner. Congratulations Dipita!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Sharifun Islam Nitu, who’s a member of the RFI Amour Fan Club in Rajshahi, Bangladesh, and Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India.

There’s also RFI Listeners Club member Anju Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal, and last but not least, RFI English listener Dilruba Yeasmin Lovely, who’s the general secretary of the Sonali Badhon Female Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Dance With Waves” by Anouar Brahem, performed by the Anouar Brahem Quartet; “Oriental Dance ” by Juozas Gruodis, performed by Martynas Švėgžda von Bekker and Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdottir; the traditional “Jarabi”, performed by Toumani Diabaté and Sidiki Diabaté; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and the Piano Trio in a Minor by Maurice Ravel, performed by Louis Kentner, piano, Yehudi Menuhin, violin, and Gaspar Cassadó, cello.   

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Pratap Chakravarty’s article “India picks pilots for space flight that will blast it into cosmic history”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 15 April to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 20 April 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


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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.