rfi 2024-05-12 16:05:59



Eurovision Song Contest

Swiss rapper Nemo wins 2024 Eurovision Song Contest

Swiss singer Nemo on Sunday called for tolerance and peace after winning the 68th Eurovision Song Contest with The Code.

The entry – a drum-and-bass, opera, rap and rock tune – received 591 votes and propelled the 24-year into Eurovision legend as the first non-binary winner of the title.

“Performing a song where I speak about my story, having touched so many people and maybe inspired people to stay true to themselves, is the most insane thing that has ever happened to me,” said Nemo.

“We need to talk with each other and I hope tonight can be a way of remembering that.”

They are the country’s third winner after Céline Dion in 1988 and Lys Assia who won the first competition in 1956.

Second place went to Croatia, with Baby Lasagna and his song Rim Tim Tagi Dim scoring 547 points. Ukraine’s entry – Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil singing Teresa & Maria – harversted 453 points. The French singer Slimane came fourth.

Controversy

Less than 12 hours before the start of the event at the Malmo Arena, the European Broadcast Union – which organises the competition – ejected the Dutch entrant Joost Klein after Swedish police launched an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour following rehearsals on Thursday night.

After Klein’s exclusion, the Dutch broadcaster Avrotros, denounced the decision.

“We stand for good manners, let there be no misunderstanding about that,” said an Avrotros statement.

“But in our view an exclusion measure is disproportionate to this incident.

“We are very disappointed and upset, also for all the millions of fans who were so excited. What Joost brought to the Netherlands and Europe should not have ended this way.”

The broadcaster said later it would not hand out points to the other contestants.



The disqualification came as the EBU attempted to contain the discontent over the inclusion of  Israel’s entry Eden Golan.

Despite protests in the city centre and outside the auditorium in the run-up to her appearance, her three-minute set passed off without incident. The 20-year-old, who received a message of support before the contest from the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, finished fifth.

The next Eurovision Song Contest will be in Switzerland in 2025.


France – Senegal

Senegal buys back library of poet-president Léopold Senghor from France

More than 300 books collected by the first president of independent Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, will be transferred to Dakar after the Senegalese government stepped in to stop them being auctioned off in France.

In total, 344 volumes will leave the house in Normandy where Senghor spent the final 20 years of his life, several of them personally inscribed by authors including Martinican poet Aimé Césaire

Along with Césaire and other African and Caribbean intellectuals, Senghor was one of the founders of the Négritude black consciousness movement born in 1930s Paris.

“We didn’t want to see the collection split up, given it includes works that document the emergence of the Négritude movement,” said Céline Labrune-Badiane, a historian who helps coordinate an international project to inventory Senghor’s archives.

On the instructions of Senghor’s heirs, his library was to go under the hammer at an auction house in the city of Caen in mid-April, divided into nearly 200 separate lots. 

But the newly elected president of Senegal, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, asked for the sale to be suspended while his government negotiated to buy the complete collection.

That deal was finalised earlier this month.

“Even beyond these particular assets, we believe that Senghor himself constitutes an inheritance: Senegal’s heritage, Africa’s heritage, the world’s heritage,” the Senegalese ambassador to France, El Hadji Magatte Seye, told RFI.

“Saving it from being broken up was essential.”

Scattered heritage

According to the ambassador, Dakar ultimately hopes to incorporate the library into a museum of Senghor’s life.

His former home in the Senegalese capital was opened to the public in 2014.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to gather together the Senghor estate, which is principally divided between France and Senegal,” said historian Labrune-Badiane.

Senghor and his French-born wife, Colette Hubert, moved to France after he stepped down as president at the end of 1980.

They spent the remainder of their lives at her family home in Verson, near Caen, where Senghor wrote much of his poetry. He died in December on 20 December 2001 at the age of 95.

On Hubert’s death in 2019, the house and its contents were left to the town in the hope it would one day be opened to the public.

But while local authorities are working on it, for now the property and its archives remain mostly closed.

Rightful home

Last October, Senegal’s previous administration intervened to stop another auction of items belonging to Senghor and his wife, eventually paying €240,000 to acquire 41 objects – including medals, pens and jewellery – for the Senegalese state.

“From Senegal’s perspective, it’s tough to understand why Senghor left the entirety of his estate in France,” Labrune-Badiane told RFI

“The fact that the Senegalese state has had to buy it back rankles a bit,” she said – all the more so because Senghor has been criticised for maintaining close ties with former coloniser France throughout Senegal’s first decades of independence. 

“But there’s also the sense that this heritage belongs to Senegal.”

Labrune-Badiane hopes to see digital copies of the papers stored at Verson, which are believed to include early drafts of Senghor’s work written from the late 1950s onwards, made available to researchers in Senegal.

“Through these archives we can trace a whole stretch of Senegal’s history from the ’60s to the ’80s,” she said.

Read also:

  • ‘Titanic’ task of finding plundered African art in French museums
  • The challenge of preserving Sudan’s rich heritage for future generations

French football

PSG boss Enrique hails ‘legend’ Mbappé ahead of striker’s final home game

Paris Saint-Germain coach Luis Enrique on Saturday paid tribute to the contributions on and off the field of striker Kylian Mbappé who will leave the club at the end of the season.

“All I can say is marvellous things about Kylian Mbappé as a footballer and person,” Enrique said on the eve of the Ligue 1 clash against Toulouse that will mark Mbappé’s final game at the Parc des Princes.

“I understand his decision,” added Enrique who took over from Christophe Galtier last July. “He has been here for seven years and has become a club legend.

“He has given everything to this club and this club has given him everything as well. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Mbappé arrived from Monaco in 2017 after winning the Ligue 1 title. Lining up with the likes of Neymar, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti and Lionel Messi, he has harvested 14 trophies and become PSG’s record goal-scorer with 255 strikes in just over 300 appearances.

“I have been proud to have him in this team,” added Enrique. “He has helped us and is a leader, and he has done so with a smile on his face.”

Farewell

Mbappé, who made his announcement on social media on Friday night, has not divulged the name of his next club.

But it is widely believed to be Real Madrid. Two years ago, the Spanish giants led a very public courtship with the France international.

But he eventually decided to stay with his home town club and vowed to lead the team to more glory including the Champions League – the one trophy the side has failed to acquire in the 13 years since it was taken over by Qatar Sports Investments.

With a 12th Ligue 1 title and a French Super Cup claimed, PSG will attempt to complete a domestic treble when they face Lyon in the final of the Coupe de France on 25 May in Lille.

Target

“We’ve got one more cup to play for,” Enrique said. “It is important to win it for the club and everyone concerned with it. We need to be ready for that and be ready to win even more trophies.”

PSG secured the domestic crown on 28 April when Monaco lost at Lyon.  Two weeks on from that defeat Monaco can secure a berth in the group stages of next season’s Champions League with a point against Montpellier on Sunday night.

Lille and Brest will vye for the third automatic slot in European club football’s most prestigious competition.

“We’ve known for a long time,” said Enrique of the protracted departure. “But it doesn’t change anything in terms of our general outlook.

“Regardless of those who are here or who are absent, my aim is to be stronger next season.

“PSG will continue to be a great team and we’ll get even better. We will bring in players with strong mentality and players who identify with the club. That’s how life works.”

The Sound Kitchen

Wingèd Victory

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Nike and the Olympic medals. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz and bonus questions, 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!

ePOP News: The early bird gets the worm …

RFI’s ePOP video competition will open on 5 June. There will be more information in the coming days, but you can already start to plan your video.

The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people …you are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

So put on your thinking caps and start planning your video!  

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.

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, Spotlight on Africa, 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 staff 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 that 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 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: Shreyosi Dhali from West Bengal, India.

Welcome, Shreyosi! So glad you have joined us!

You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize. 

This week’s quiz: On 13 April, I asked you a question about an article Paul Myers wrote about the history of Olympic medals: “History of Olympic gold, silver and bronze glitters in Paris museum”. You were to send in the answer to this question: Who is Nike?

The answer is, to quote Paul’s article: “Between 1928 and 1968, the medals for the Summer Games bore Giuseppe Cassioli’s ‘Trionfo’ design of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, holding a winner’s crown with a depiction of the Colosseum in the background.”

So the answer is: Nike is the Greek goddess of victory – not only in athletics but in art, music, and war, too. She is usually portrayed with wings, in the motion of flight.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: What is your favorite “home remedy”?

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

The winners are:  Brand-new RFI Listeners Club member Shreyosi Dhali from West Bengal, India. Shreyosi is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Shreyosi!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are A. K. M. Nuruzzaman, the president of the RFI Amour Fan Club in Rajshahi, Bangladesh; Begum Firoza Hossain, a member of the RFI International DX Radio Listeners Club in West Bengal, India; RFI Listeners Club member Hans Verner Lollike from Hedehusene, Denmark, and RFI English listener Musfika Argina Banu from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: Movements III and IV from the String Quartet op 20 no 6 by Franz Joseph Haydn, performed by the Juilliard Quartet; traditional Greek music for the sirtaki and bouzouki; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Rectangle” for synthesizer and guitar by Jacno, with Jacno on the guitar.  

Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “EU’s Green Deal the target of online disinformation ahead of polls”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 10 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 15 June podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

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

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

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


ENVIRONMENT – POLITICS

Experts weed out flaws in France’s revamped plan to cut pesticides

France is once again facing pushback over its strategy to reduce pesticides. After rolling out version three of its Ecophyto 2030 plan – shelved in February at the height of angry farmer protests – green groups this week joined forces in urging the government to choose public health, not cancer.

The backbone of France’s broader agricultural shift towards agro-ecology, Ecophyto has consistently failed to meet its objective to halve pesticide use since it was first rolled out in 2008. 

Farmers, faced with economic pressures and other industry challenges, have found the switch to alternative methods of pest control daunting – complaining there are not enough incentives or support. 

Sixteen years on, the same problems persist. 

New metrics

The government says its plan, unveiled on Monday, is different because it strives to eliminate the most toxic products, while funnelling 250 millions a year into equipment to protect crops and research into alternative products. 

While the target to cut pesticide use by 50 percent before the end of the decade is intact, the path to getting there has changed. 

France’s old system for measuring pesticides, which counted each dose equally regardless of the toxicity level, has been replaced with a European tool called the Harmonized Risk Indicator (HRI-1), which gives more weight to doses of dangerous pesticides.  

Critics say the new evaluation method, which does not provide information on how many doses are used, might make it seem like farmers are using fewer pesticides than they really are – and offer a false impression of progress. 

“There is a clear desire to hide the truth,” warned French Greens MEP Benoît Biteau. 

  • Study sounds alarm on toxic ‘forever chemicals’ used in EU pesticides

‘Policy of inaction’

While France’s dominant farmer trade union, FNSEA, is reportedly satisfied with Ecophyto III, environmental defenders have lambasted the government for carrying on what they say is a 20-year policy of inaction. 

“The deliberate exposure of farmers and their families and the general public to harmful substances will continue,” lamented an op-ed in Le Monde signed by hundreds of scientists and academic institutions. 

They pointed to a “strong indication of a link between exposure to several pesticides and the development of prostate cancer, lymphoma and leukaemia”, which are on a government list of occupational diseases. 

The most vulnerable people were farmers themselves, and those living near crop fields.  

“The creation by farmers of the Phyto-Victimes association (Agro-chemical Victims Association) in 2011 is proof that the farming world is also aware of the deterioration of health due to the massive use of pesticides,” the op-ed said. 

  • Beekeepers in Cote d’Ivoire help reduce dependence on glyphosate pesticide

Past tragedies

It also pointed to the mass poisoning of up to 90 percent of the people in Martinique and Guadeloupe with chlordecone, a pesticide used on banana plantations until 1993. 

Such past tragedies, they argued, should instruct political leaders on the extent of their responsibilities.  

“The inaction of health and political authorities at the time, despite the data available on the toxicity of chlordecone for humans, led to persistent pollution of the entire food chain,” they wrote. 

While acknowledging the deep crisis being felt by the agricultural world, the piece warned that encouraging productivist agriculture based on the use of toxic chemicals would again risk the health of an entire population while failing to solve the problems faced by farmers. 

Despite the criticism, the government is standing by its rebooted pesticides plan, saying it brings France closer to European standards and will therefore help to forge stronger EU collaboration. 

Plans are afoot for a proposed law in July aimed at revising pesticide regulations. 


India

Deepfakes and deception hinder India’s elections

New Delhi – Fake videos of trusted aides of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have disrupted campaigning in the country’s mammoth elections, in which almost a billion people are voting.

Authorities are examining a deepfake of Home Minister Amit Shah, second-in-command in Modi’s BJP government, which is hoping for a third term in office.

Nine people including opposition Congress members have been detained. But experts say that only specific laws can effectively control evolving technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI).

India’s seven-phase election is rife with complaints of manufactured content bombarding parties and candidates in some of the 543 constituencies where voting has been underway since 19 April.

High-profile complaints

AI videos and voice clips featuring Yogi Adityanath, BJP Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Modi and opposition icon Rahul Gandhi have been viewed by millions despite complaints filed by high-profile victims.

Additional deepfakes of Bollywood star Aamir Khan and Ranbir Kapoor criticising Modi and a picture of actor Ranveer Singh endorsing a political party have prompted calls to thwart attempts to influence India’s 969 million voters.

Eleven civil society groups said in a letter last month to India’s Election Commission that they must introduce measures to increase accountability of political actors who deploy AI.

They asked the watchdog to uphold the integrity of the electoral process and hold political parties, candidates and digital platforms accountable to voters.

Last week Modi, the BJP’s star campaigner, charged Congress with spearheading an AI-led drive to detect disinformation in India – where four more rounds of voting will be held until results are released on 4 June.

  • India’s Modi casts his vote as giant election reaches half-way mark

“The opposition can never win elections on fake videos. They have lost their nerve and so they have to lie about everything. Their sole intention is to incite the people,” Modi told Times Now television.

He said that for months that he has been calling for AI content to be water-marked.

The Congress party hit back. They accused the BJP of using the police to target social media professionals, volunteers and writers who run the opposition’s online campaign.

“This action is nothing but cowardice and shows the BJP is facing a rout in these elections,” said spokeswoman Supriya Srinate.

She accused the ruling party of running the world’s biggest fake news factory.

Crackdown

The commission, meanwhile, ordered parties to delete deepfakes from their social media accounts within a three-hour window upon notification.

It also restrained parties from using tools that distort information or spread misinformation”

But experts warned mere calls for restraint were not enough to shut down AI-led disinformation in India, where people spend more time on their smartphones than in the rest of the world.

  • Nearly a billion people to vote as India kicks off colossal election

“We need a legal framework to tackle infringement of privacy laws and not lip service,” an anonymous lawyer said referring to the Artificial Intelligence Act adopted by the European Parliament in March and the Online Safety Act, which became a British law last October.

Political parties look at WhatsApp as the quickest platform to reach 400 million users in India, where 760 million people log into the internet at least once a month.

Several million also have accounts with Facebook, Messenger, Telegram and Signal while parties spend millions of euros on advertisements despite limits on election expenditure.

McAfee survey

US-based McAfee Software Corp in a survey published 25 April said that 75 percent of interviewed Indians stumbled on content they later discovered to be deepfakes.

Some 57 percent found a fake video or recording they thought was genuine, 31 percent lost money to an online scam and 40 percent of the respondents believed their voice was cloned and used to trick someone they know to part with information or cash.

McAfee added that 80 percent of those surveyed in January and February appeared more concerned about deepfakes than they were in 2023.


French football

New kit brightens up PSG’s Champions League woes and Mbappé’s farewell

The king is dead. Long live the bling. What better way for the Paris Saint-Germain hierarchy to eclipse Kylian Mbappé’s dullness in the Champions League against Dortmund and their elimination from the tournament than by unveiling the side’s revamped home strip for the 2024/25 season.

A fine back to the future thing it is too. A modern interpretation of the kit designed in the 1970s by the fashion legend Daniel Hechter.

The new look is inspired by the urban art that permeates Greater Paris, PSG said in a statement. 

“It’s an original nod to the disruptive identity of the Parisian club, recognised as the club of the new generation,” gushed the hyperbole.

On a prosaic note, the shirt, which costs 149 euros for adults and 129 euros for children, features Dri-FIT ADV technology which has been developed at the Nike Sport Research Lab in Beaverton in the United States.

Work

“Thanks to the work carried out to optimise mobility, breathability and ventilation, the texture and design of the 2024-2025 jersey offers PSG’s players the conditions they need to optimise their experience and help them shine in all competitions.”

Well, yes, except one … the Champions League.

And as avid PSG fans start ordering the wonder gear from this weekend, they will be reflecting on another failed bid to land European club football’s most prestigious trophy.

Those woes were compounded on Friday night when Mbappé confirmed that he will be off to pastures new at the end of season. While the replica shirts get their first airings, the wearers will be pondering who will emerge as PSG’s next star striker.

Elimination

On Tuesday night at the Parc des Princes, Borussia Dortmund – fifth in the German Bundesliga – beat PSG 1-0 to advance 2-0 on aggregate to advance to the Champions League final in three weeks at Wembley. Dortmund will take on Real Madrid who are expected to be Mbappé’s next port of call.

That he should care about the super lustrousness of the new PSG shirt. He’ll doubtless look the part in Madrid’s fabled all-white strip and start the career in the Spanish capital that he nearly launched two years ago.

Mbappé, who was born in Bondy some 20km to the north-east of the Parc des Princes, opted after months of prevarication to stay at his home town club in order to spearhead PSG’s push for their first Champions League trophy. 

But Bundesliga outfits have kiboshed the quests for glory.

In 2023, Bayern Munich accounted for PSG in the last-16 and Dortmund did the damage this month.

A record 12th Ligue 1 title secured, the PSG boss Luis Enrique doesn’t need to field Mbappé on Sunday night against mid-table Toulouse.

But it would be a tad odd if the 53-year-old Spaniard didn’t succumb to sentiment and the melodrama to give Mbappé one last chance to score in front of the faithful especially after the paean to Mbappé on Saturday afternoon.

“All I can say is marvellous things about Kylian Mbappé as a footballer and person,” Enrique enthused.

“I understand his decision. He has been here for seven years and has become a club legend.

“He has given everything to this club and this club has given him everything as well. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Challenge

Mbappé, boasting 26 league goals, is nine ahead of Lille’s Jonathan David – his nearest rival –  and is virtually assured of another Ligue 1 ‘golden boot’ to add to the five stashed away in his cabinet.

He will probably be part of the starting side that contests the final of the Coupe de France against Lyon on 25 May in Lille.

“We’ve got one more cup to play for,” Enrique said. “It is important to win it for the club and everyone concerned with it. We need to be ready for that.”

That bauble their sole focus, Enrique’s men should be too strong for Lyon. And the season should conclude with three out of a four possible trophies.

 Not bad by any standards.

“Regardless of those who are here or who are absent, my aim is to be stronger next season,” added Enrique whose side beat Toulouse in Janaury to lift the French Super Cup.

“PSG will continue to be a great team and we’ll get even better. We will bring in players with strong mentality and players who identify with the club. That’s how life works.”

Replacement

But the absence of a 25-goal-a-season metronome will test Enrique’s feted coaching skills. Gonçalo Ramos and Randal Kolo Muani have three Ligue 1 games and that Coupe de France final to suggest the future can be bright without Mbappé.

Outside the PSG bubble, the intrigue remains as to the identity of the two teams who will join the French champions in the group stages of next season’s Champions League.

On Friday night, third-placed Brest could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Reims to leave them with 58 points after 33 games. Lille can leapfrog Brest on Sunday night with a win at relegation- threatened Nantes.

Monaco, who are second, will secure their berth for the Champions League with a point at Montpellier on Sunday night.

At the other end of the food chain, Le Havre’s 1-0 defat at Nice on Friday night leaves them with an anxious few weeks fighting with Nantes, Lorient, Clermont and Metz to avoid an automatic relegation slot or the relegation play-off place.

Such struggles exist in a galaxy far, far away for the likes of PSG and Mbappé. And if La Liga does become his new domain, the question after his outings with France at the European championships will arise: can the Bondy boy wonder become Madrid’s main man?


Food insecurity

Food shortages and malnutrition reach record levels in west and central Africa

More than 50 million people in west and central Africa will go hungry unless immediate is taken to address food insecurity – which is at an all-time high in the region, UN agencies and NGOs have warned. 

One in 10 people will have difficulty accessing safe and nutritious food in west and central Africa, projections made by organisations including Unicef ​​and Oxfam have found.

A survey published this week looks at escalating food and nutrition insecurity in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria.

It was carried out in coordination with governments and the regional economic bloc, Ecowas.

The report predicts 52 million people in the area will have difficulty feeding themselves during the upcoming lean season: the interval between harvests from June to August.



Worsening crisis

Since 2019, the number of people experiencing food insecurity has quadrupled in west and central Africa, the World Food Programme said. 

This represents four million more people compared to the same period last year.

Children under five-years-old are the first victims. An unprecedented 17 million of them currently suffer from acute malnutrition globally.

In Nigeria, food insecurity could affect 16 percent of the population – about 30 million people.

In Chad and Sierra Leone, up to 20 percent of the population could be impacted.

Meanwhile in Mali’s Menaka region in the north, several thousand people risk suffering from catastrophic hunger, according to the survey, which corresponds to the most serious level of food insecurity.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan are also at risk, says the FAO

Food insecurity will worsen in all studied countries in the coming months except in Guinea, Benin, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Conflicts and climate disasters

Conflicts are the main cause of this increase in food insecurity, according to the NGO International Rescue Committee.



Sadou Soumana, a technical advisor on food security and livelihoods at the International Rescue Committee, told RFI that conflicts destroy means of subsistence by displacing millions, including agro-pastoralists.  

“The fields are no longer exploited, which directly affects the level of agricultural production,” Soumana said.

“Herds of cattle get decimated, which directly affects the main livelihoods of breeders. This is why conflicts play a determining role in food insecurity.”

Climate shocks

The climate crisis is also a serious factor.

Soumana said that 80 percent of Sahel households depend on food from agriculture that relies on rainfall.

He added: “Climate change constitutes one of the accelerators of the degradation of ecosystems, including agricultural operations.

“Climate change and drought are also accelerating soil poverty, which affects the level of yields in the area.”

However, the humanitarian response plan so far is chronically underfunded.

Currently, only 10 percent of the plan is financed for Central Africa.

NGOs say there is a need for more collective action to address the issue of food and nutritional insecurity with sustained funding.


Contemporary art

Marseille art festival tells migrant stories with an Olympic twist

The Spring Contemporary Art Festival – also known as PAC – showcases emerging and well-known artists around dozens of venues in a three-week festival of creativity across south-east France. This year, with the Olympic Games on the horizon, sport has inspired the program, as well as Marseille’s migrant-rich identity.

Marseille is not historically known as a hotspot for the visual arts. The southern French metropolis’s dynamic culture is more centred around food, music, football and its beautiful port and seaside.

But during PAC, more than 160 artists from the emerging French and international scene take centre stage, with free events across the city’s cultural venues and public spaces. 

Decolonial art

Belsunce, a neighbourhood in the heart of Marseille, is a focal point for the contemporary art festival this year. 

La Compagnie is one of Belsunce’s iconic galleries participating in PAC.

Gallery director Paul Emmanuel Odin said that he has watched children grow up in the immigrant neighbourhood over the decades. 

“They are now 30-years-old, like La Compagnie. They tell us what they care about,” he said. 

“Our projects obviously have a decolonial dimension due to our location in this district of Marseille. We see ourselves as a refuge for immigrants, artists, queer people, racialised people and the most vulnerable.”

La Compagnie’s artist in focus, Dalila Mahdjoub, has been linked to the art venue for more than 20 years.

Her show is inspired by a photograph of an internment camp taken in colonial French Algeria by her father and aims to rebalance power in the history of colonisation through language, visuals, films and archives.

“The camp served as one of the prisons during colonial Algeria,” Odin added.

“Camps were a tool for controlling the Algerian population, where half of the indigenous population was interned. From that photo and other archives, her exhibition unfolds to other stories.”

Also in the centre of Marseille, Oct0 Productions hosts British-Jamaican-Jewish artist Hannah Black’s latest show Marked by a Blank or Occupied by a Lie which responds to the war in Gaza.

The Mancunian, who is also a writer, a critic and an activist, moved to Marseille after the 2020 edition of the Manifesta Biennale held in the city. 

Other highlights of PAC’s 2024 edition include open artist studios and an exhibition at Château de Servières with the photographic and video-graphic work of the French artist Moussa Sarr. 

Titled Bamboula, his exhibition includes the French national anthem remixed into party tunes and several rooms with photographs and films responding to his experience of racism as a black man growing up on the French island of Corsica.

The artist is also developing performances, which will be filmed and later shown as video work.

“I work with my body a lot,” the artist, who appears in most of his pieces, told RFI.

“There is always a form of humour in my work too, where my body becomes involved in the issues I deal with, the words I dare to use around blackness, racism and decolonial ideas.

“I’m inspired by what I live every day as a black man.”

Balls and trophies

During the festival, art venues and cultural centres open their doors with the desire to defend creation, artists, and the spirit of sharing.

Opening events coincided with the preparation of the arrival of the Olympic flame in Marseille.

Many venues were inspired to host exhibitions celebrating the spirit of the games and healthy competition, including the iconic Mucem museum, which opened in 2013 on the coastline in Fort Saint-Jean, Friche La Belle de Mai and FRAC Sud (Contemporary Art Regional Fund).

FRAC will host a conference on “Art, Sea and Sport on 17 May.

At Mucem, the exhibition Exploits, Masterpieces aims to question the relationship between art and sport with more than 350 works by nearly 100 French and foreign artists, blending fascination, criticism and humour.

Organised by the Provence Contemporary Art Network, PAC is running from 2 to 19 May across 60 venues.

As well as Marseille, the festival has events in the towns of Aix-en-Provence, Istres and Rousset.

International report

Greek and Turkish leaders ready for diplomacy talks amid Aegean tensions

Issued on:

Greece and Turkey are stepping up rapprochement efforts, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visiting Turkey on Monday for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The trip is part of detente attempts after years of tensions centered on territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. 

Monday’s meeting follows Erdogan’s visit to Athens last December, which was also part of mutual efforts towards bringing the countries closer.

“I think it’s one of the ways in which Turkey and Greece could add more new momentum to the diplomacy that has started,” Berkay Mandiraci, a senior Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group, said.

“They’ve been actually engaged in quite intense diplomacy on different fronts for over a year now.”

Territorial disputes over the Aegean Sea – believed to have vast energy reserves – have brought the neighbours to the brink of war in the past.

Both nations backing rival sides over the divided island of Cyprus has also thwarted previous rapprochement endeavours.

Side-stepping issues 

Erdogan and Mitsotakis are predicted to avoid contentious subjects and are expected to take a one-step-at-a-time approach on areas of collaboration.

Confidence-building measures under discussion include increasing trade, further developments of a recently expanded road at the Turkey-Greece border and ensuring visa-free travel to Turkish citizens for eastern Aegean islands.

“I think they are all important in terms of people-to-people contact, building trust, increasing trade and also improving connectivity and energy cooperation,” Mandiraci said.

“Hopefully this will lead to the opening of a new round of negotiation on the Aegean dispute.”

Conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine are seen to provide further incentive to improving ties as analysts say both leaders realise that bilateral tensions will only exacerbate regional instability. 

“Look at what’s happening in Israel, in Gaza and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both sides want to limit their exposure to foreign risks,” said political scientist Ioannis Grigoriadis of Ankara’s Bilkent University.

“Greek-Turkish relations had gone through a very difficult period until five years ago, but ever since the earthquakes that hit south-eastern and southern Turkey, both sides have declared their willingness to reduce tensions.”

Greece was quick to help Turkey after last year’s earthquakes. But unless territorial disputes over the Aegean are addressed, the rapprochement is considered vulnerable – especially because both militaries are re-arming.

Common ground

“As long as they don’t tackle [the Aegean Sea dispute] and they don’t take the bull by the horns, things will go like a pendulum, backward and forwards,” said Alexis Heraclides of Panteion University in Athens.

“The Greek-Turkish relations in this region is the most complicated of relations. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for them not to make a U-turn and get back to the default position of confrontation and mutual acrimonious accusations.”

But there is cause for cautious optimism given that Erdogan and Mitsotakis renewed their electoral mandates last year.

“Both leaders are very strong domestically and this makes them less eager to listen to the sort of nationalist voices that exist in both countries that are more comfortable with a more aggressive attitude,” said Grigoriadis.


Eurovision 2024

Slimane sings for the love of France in war-torn Eurovision contest

After big flops the past two years, France is betting on the well-known Slimane and his song Mon Amour (My Love) bringing everyone together in one of Eurovision’s most politicised contests ever.

France has not won Eurovision since Marie Myriam in 1977.

It came close in 2021 with the Piaf-inspired Voilà by Barbara Pravi in second place. But the last two years have been a national disappointment.

La Zarra, from Quebec, finished 16th in 2023 and Breton group Alvan & Ahez hobbled in second to last in 2022.

Slimane Nebchi, known professionally as Slimane, has the heavy task of trying to take France into the top 10 at least in Saturday’s final in Malmo, Sweden.

The bookies are on his side: his rousing ballad Mon Amour is tipped to come in 7th.

Grandson of Algerian coalminer

Born in France and of Algerian descent, Slimane has come a long way since starting out in the bars of Paris’s red-light Pigalle district.

He shot to fame after winning The Voice in France in 2016 and has since sold over 2 million albums, reaching 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

“Representing France means a lot,” the 34-year-old singer told France Inter radio in November 2023 when he was picked to represent France.

“It’s crazy – my grandfather came here to France from Algeria to work in a coal factory. He died because of that, and now his grandson is representing France with a song about romance and love à la française. I love that idea; I think it’s beautiful.”



  • Eurovision heartbreak for France as Italy steals the show

Confronting racism

However, the singer has also had to deal with xenophobia since it was announced he would represent France.

“Every day I get a racist comment like ‘Oh, it’s the Arab who’s going to represent us’ or ‘There’s no French singer’,” Slimane told AFP news agency.

He’s opted to brush it off.

“I believe that what I do, my career, my concerts, the people who come to see me of all origins and all faiths are the best response,” he said.

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Apolitical struggle

Eurovision, now in its 68th edition, strives to be a apolitical, but this year it is anything but.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian activists have been protesting in Malmo – home to Sweden’s largest Palestinian community – calling for organisers to bar Israel from the contest over its bombing of Gaza, which Hamas says has claimed almost 35,000 lives.

Organisers have rejected the calls.

“We can’t fail to be moved by the profound suffering of all those caught up in this terrible war,” said the director general of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the event.

“However, the Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political music event and a competition between public service broadcasters who are members of the EBU. It is not a contest between governments.”

The EBU did however tell Israel to change the lyrics of its entry, originally titled October Rain in apparent reference to Hamas’s cross-border 7 October attack that killed some 1,170 Israelis and triggered the war.

The song, renamed Hurricane, will be performed by Israeli singer Eden Golan. 

Critics of the decision to let Israel compete point out that Russia was kicked out of Eurovision in 2022 after its invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus was ejected in 2021 over its government’s crackdown on dissent.

(with newswires)


Slavery

Voices from former French colonies reflect on painful slave trade legacy

It’s been more than two decades since France recognised slavery as a crime against humanity – the first country in the world to do so. On the day France commemorates the abolition of slavery, RFI spoke to citizens from French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion Island – former colonies and now French overseas departments – about this dark period.

Almost four million men, women and children lived as slaves in the French colonies until the abolition of the slave trade in 1848. Thousands of French citizens in those former colonies are the descendants of people that were enslaved.

France has two days to commemorate slavery: 10 May memorialises the slave trade, slavery and its abolition, while 23 May marks a national day for the victims of colonial slavery.

    In 2001, on 10 May, parliament adopted the Taubira Law recognising as a crime against humanity the trafficking and slavery practiced from the 15th century on the African, Amerindian, Malagasy and Indian populations. It was approved by the Senate on 21 May.

    It was tabled by a Socialist lawmaker from French Guyana, Christiane Taubira, who went on to become France’s first black justice minister.

    In 2006, a decree was signed by then President Jacques Chirac to turn 10 May into a national day of remembrance.

    RFI asked citizens of French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Reunion Island what the day means for them.


    Valérie Tribord, singer, French Guyana

    It’s important as it marks a painful chapter of our history. We must not forget.

    The law tabled by Christiane Taubira makes it mandatory to teach the history of slavery during the French colonial empire. It also serves to remember the suffering of our colonial past through memorials and museum exhibitions.

    In Guyana, we commemorate the abolition of slavery on 10 June – the day it was officially announced in 1848. However, 10 May has its importance in ensuring that the future generations learn about the slave trade. More and more research on the topic is helping to uncover aspects of slavery we didn’t know about.


    Franck Salin, writer and director, Guadeloupe

    Personally I celebrate 23 May to honour the memory of my ancestors, as well 27 May – a public holiday in Guadeloupe that marks the official abolition of slavery.

    The duty of remembrance is most important for me. Jean-Charles Salin, the grandfather of my own grand-father, was born a slave. On 23 May, 1998, I marched along with 40,000 French Caribbeans in the streets of Paris, silently demanding that the victims of slavery, our ancestors, be remembered.

    The French state “remembers” the abolition of slavery and the end of the slave trade on 10 May – it’s a sort of pat on the back for what it did.

    It never occurred to anyone to celebrate the Russians and the Americans who opened the doors of the concentration camps at the end of WWII, but people do remember the victims of the Holocaust – and rightly so.

    Why can’t it be the same for the millions of victims of an inhumane slave trade that lasted over three centuries?

    I’m not saying that 10 May shouldn’t exist, I’m saying that the French should know what happened. When I was at school, we didn’t learn about slavery. I had to do my own research up until university.

    What I do hope is that the stigma attached to being descendants of slaves one day disappears – you know, being ashamed of our skin colour and being of African origin.

    This is because centuries of enslavement conditioned us to see ourselves like the slave owners did.


    Muriel Hillion-Toulcanon, artist, Reunion Island

    I confess that 10 May holds no significance for me: I didn’t even know of its existence. Like most people from Reunion Island, the date that makes sense to us when talking about slavery is 20 December. That’s when it was officially abolished on the island, in 1848.

    This is a very important date for us, and nowadays there’s even a week of events across the island to commemorate the abolition of slavery. Maloya, the music and dance we inherited from our enslaved ancestors, takes centre stage during what we also call Fèt Kaf. Kaf refers to the black descendants of slaves.

    During slavery, maloya was almost banned; only a few planters allowed it. The church and plantation owners saw it as something evil – the music of sorcery, its songs mixing all the different languages spoken by the African and Malagasy slaves.

    The abolition of slavery freed our maloya, which expressed the sufferings of slaves. However, it was not until 1981, when a socialist government took over, that a sort of unofficial censorship was lifted off maloya.

    Then in 2009, when Unesco included maloya on its list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, it became accepted on the island as an art form – as did the way people relate to slavery.

    Sacred rituals performed during the 20 December celebrations are now even broadcast on TV – that used to be unthinkable.


    Maddy Orsinet, creole singing school founder, Martinique

    I’m not happy with the idea of regrouping the history of slavery in Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guyana and Reunion under the same 10 May date – as if each territory did not have its own specific turbulent history of enslavement. In Martinique, slavery was officially abolised on 22 May, 1848.

    The French state is putting all four creole territories into the same category without acknowledging their cultural differences. I fear that school teachers might talk about slavery without explaining how it affected each island differently.

    It makes me think about how I learned about WWI at school. I don’t remember the teachers explaining the role played by the harki fighters and the Senegalese riflemen. It took decades before they appeared in the school curriculum.

    But the 10 May official commemorations does put an official spotlight on France’s grim role in the violent slave trade. It’s now part of the law of this country and no one can pretend they don’t know what happened.

    Read also:

    • Why descendants of France’s slaves are still fighting for their memory
    • Heroes who fought to abolish slavery honoured in Paris Pantheon expo

    Environment

    French imports of Russian fertiliser surge since start of Ukraine war

    French imports of fertiliser from Russia have shot up during the Ukraine war – leading to doubts over the government’s promise to ensure that France is able to satisfy its own agricultural needs.

    Between 60 and 70 percent of fertilisers used on French farms have traditionally come from abroad.

    In 2021, 442,000 tonnes of fertiliser was brought in from Russia.

    But in 2023, a year after President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine, 725,000 tonnes were imported.

    Jean-Luc Bourgeaux, MP for Ille-et-Vilaine, raised his fears over the increase with the Ministry of Agriculture ahead of the International Agriculture Fair in February.

    To offset possible criticism, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal outlined a package of measures aimed at reassuring farmers that agriculture remained a top priority for President Emmanuel Macron’s administration.

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

    Flanked by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau and Christophe Béchu – who holds the Ecological Transition portfolio – Attal added: “We want to place agriculture among the nation’s fundamental interests in the same way as our defence or our security. I would remind you that there can be no country without farmers.”

    Ongoing dependence

    But despite bold statements of self-sufficiency, dependence on foreign governments has been continuing.

    In February, Leo Alders, boss of the mineral fertiliser manufacturers group Fertilisers Europe, told the European news website Euractiv that each country within the European Union had to concentrate on making its own fertilisers.

    “If Europe is to ensure food sovereignty, it must maintain resilient domestic production chains with a minimised dependency on imports,” Alders said.

    “Since the war in the Ukraine, the surge in fertiliser imports from Russia has weakened the EU’s food security. One reason is that the fertiliser sector is a high energy consumer.”

    Nicolas Broutin, chairman of Yara France, a Norwegian group specialising in fertilisers, echoed Alders’ anxieties.

    He told Ouest France newspaper: “Fertiliser is the weak point in France’s food sovereignty.”

    “The Russians are slashing prices because they have the cheapest gas on the planet and you need gas to make fertiliser.”

    In the United States, Tony Will, the boss of CF Industries, a global manufacturer of hydrogen and nitrogen products, highlighted the paradox facing countries.

    “What is shocking is that we have tried not to finance the Russian war machine and not to buy Russian gas,” he told Reuters news agency.

    “Yet the United States is prepared to accept urea and ammonium nitrate from Russia, which is in fact nothing more than natural gas converted into fertiliser.”


    France

    Paris mayor warns oil project could threaten city’s water supply

    Paris city council has denounced a project to drill for oil some 80km south-east of the French capital as a potential environmental disaster. Its water board has gone to court in a bid to stop the works, which it says could threaten the city’s drinking water.

    Eau de Paris, the Parisian water agency, filed an urgent request to suspend the permit for the project to expand an existing drilling site near the town of Nonville.

    A local administrative court is expected to decide whether to issue an emergency stay shortly.

    Some 180,000 people in Paris and the surrounding region get their drinking water from nearby drainage areas, the water agency said – warning that the extra drilling would put the capital’s supply at risk.

    In a statement released this week, the office of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo denounced the project – which was authorised by the national government – as “an environmental catastrophe in the making, at a time when water resources are facing more and more threats”.

    Fossil fuel phase-out

    French company Bridge Energies has held a lease to drill for hydrocarbons at Nonville since 2009, in an area limited to 10km².

    It has been seeking authorisation to expand the site for several years, despite local opposition.

    In December 2023, the national government issued a decree granting permission for drilling on an extra 40km² and two more wells on top of the three already in place.

    Environmental activists condemned the decision to authorise new fossil fuel projects, which Greenpeace France said was “in total contradiction” with the government’s commitments to phase out highly polluting energy sources.

    • France to ban oil, gas production by 2040
    • Carbon capture a ‘dangerous excuse’ for burning more fossil fuels

    Questioned about the Nonville project in parliament this week, Industry Minister Roland Lescure said the site had been authorised to operate until 2034 – six years before the deadline the government has set for ending all fossil fuel production in France.

    He added that the expansion project was subject to strict conditions, including close monitoring of chemicals used and any impact on water quality.

    The greater Paris area accounts for two-thirds of all France’s oil production, the remainder coming from the Gironde department in the south-west.

    According to Bridge Energies, which has not commented publicly on the latest opposition to its project, only one of its three wells at Nonville is currently in operation, producing the equivalent of 75 barrels of oil a day.


    SWEDEN

    Israel qualifies for Eurovision final amid Gaza war protests

    Malmö (Sweden) (AFP) – Israel qualified for this weekend’s Eurovision song contest grand finale, defying thousands of demonstrators marching on Thursday in host country Sweden over the Gaza war.

    Singer Eden Golan performed her song “Hurricane” in Thursday’s second semi-final in front of 9,000 spectators at the host city’s Malmo Arena and booked her place in the final thanks to viewers’ votes.

    Israel now joins the group of 26 nations that will compete on Saturday in a contest watched around the world by millions of lovers of the pop sounds – and kitschy shows – that Eurovision promises each year.

    “Well, I feel… I’m so overwhelmed with emotions. It’s truly such an honour to be here, on stage performing and showing our voice, and representing us with pride and making it to the finals is something that’s crazy,” 20-year-old Golan said after securing her place in the final.

    Some online betting comparison sites list Golan as among the favourites to win this year’s edition, hosted in the birthplace of ABBA.

    Other favourites are Baby Lasagna from Croatia, Ukraine’s Alyona Alyona & Jerry Heil, and Nemo from Switzerland.

    • Sweden ramps up Eurovision security amid outcry over Israel’s inclusion

    Street marches

    Israel made its debut in Eurovision in 1973 and has won the contest four times.

    This year, Israel’s participation and the choice of song has seen the contest swept up in the wave of pro-Palestinian protests that have brought thousands to the streets of cities in the United States, Europe and beyond.

    Golan’s song is an adaptation of an earlier version named “October Rain”, which she modified after contest organisers deemed it too political because of its apparent allusions to Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on 7 October.

    As she prepared for her performance, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Golan good luck and said she had “already won” by enduring the protests that he called a “horrible wave of anti-Semitism”.

    The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

    Militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 128 of them remain in Gaza, including 36 who officials say are dead.

    • Israel threatens Eurovision pull-out if entry vetoed

    Growing death toll

    Israel in response vowed to crush Hamas and launched a military offensive that has killed at least 34,904 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

    The high toll in the Palestinian territory has sparked a wave of protests around the world, with several US university campuses paralysed in recent weeks by student sit-ins and demonstrations.

    In Malmo on Thursday, more than 10,000 people including climate activist Greta Thunberg gathered in the main square before marching through the city’s central pedestrian shopping street, according to police estimates.

    Malmo is home to a large immigrant population, including many of Palestinian and other Middle Eastern origins.

    “I am a Eurovision fan and it breaks my heart, but I’m boycotting,” 30-year-old protester Hilda, who did not want to provide her surname, told AFP.

    “I can’t have fun knowing that Israel is there participating when all those kids are dying. I think it’s just wrong.”

    Protesters also held up banners that read “Liberate Palestine” and “EUR legitimises genocide”.

    About 50 protesters made it to the front of the Malmo Arena, before being dispersed by police.

    Protesters also entered the Eurovision Village, set up to allow spectators to watch the show on large screens.

    Elsewhere in Malmo, about 100 counter-protesters gathered under police protection to express their support for Israel.

    • Eurovision geopolitics: French entry in Breton, Ukraine favourites and an OK UK

    ‘I’m still broken’

    Several petitions this year have demanded Israel’s exclusion from the 68th edition of the annual music competition.

    At the end of March, contestants from nine countries, including Swiss favourite Nemo, called for a lasting ceasefire.

    Part of the controversy around Golan’s participation centred around her song “Hurricane”.

    “Take it all and leave the world behind. Baby, promise me you’ll hold me again. I’m still broken from this hurricane,” Golan sings.

    It is not the first time Eurovision has been swept up by divisions over a conflict.

    Russia last participated in Eurovision in 2021 ahead of its invasion of Ukraine.

    In 2022, its state broadcaster was excluded from the European Broadcasting Union, which oversees Eurovision.

    In Malmo, one protester said he wanted Israel to be excluded too.

    “I feel like if they can remove Russia why can they not do it to Israel?” said protester Marwo Mustafa.


    Protests

    Georgian envoy to France resigns over ‘foreign agent’ bill

    Georgia’s ambassador to France has resigned over his country’s draft law on “foreign agents”, which opponents say is inspired by Russia and threatens free speech. Gotcha Javakhishvili also warned the bill would draw the South Caucasus nation away from its path of EU integration.

    Under the legislation, NGOs and independent media receiving more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad would be required to register as agents of foreign influence, or face heavy fines.

    It cleared a second reading in parliament on 1 May, sparking huge street protests in Georgia by demonstrators who see it as authoritarian and inspired by similar legislation used to crush dissent in neighbouring Russia.

    The bill was abandoned last year after mass rallies but was reintroduced in mid-April by the ruling Georgian Dream party who said it would boost transparency.

    The European Union has condemned the bill, saying its passage may endanger Georgia’s bid to join the bloc.

    Javakhishvili wrote on social media on Thursday: “The current tensions and climate generated by the revived draft law in our relations with our foreign friends and partners make my mission … extremely difficult.”

    He said that while he did not personally know any Georgian officials or diplomats who were “openly pro-Russian”, he believed the draft law “may be a kind of tactic to achieve a certain goal”.

    He added: “I no longer see my role and resources in this direction: the move towards Europe.”

    EU bid in the balance

    Geogia’s government says the law is needed to make sure that foreign funding of NGOs is transparent.

    NGOs would be monitored by the justice ministry and would face heavy fines if they refused to share sensitive information.

    Opponents are worried the legislation could be used to silence critical voices ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.

    Several European leaders have warned it is not compatible with European values.

    “Our relationship is supposed to be based on shared values and on support for a strong civil society where lists of ‘enemies of the people’ and anonymous phone calls have no place,” Toivo Klaar, EU’s special representative for the South Caucasus, wrote on X.



    Ongoing protests

    Demonstrators have gathered almost nightly in the capital Tblisi to show their opposition to the bill and have been met by police firing water cannon, tear gas and stun grenades.

    Dozens of protesters have been arrested and over a dozen hospitalised.

    The interior ministry said on Thursday it had arrested six people for assaulting police officers and causing damage at previous protests.

    A string of Georgian activists opposing the bill have reported being beaten by gangs of unknown men on the streets, Georgian media said this week.



    • Georgia will fail as independent state outside EU: jailed ex-leader

    Lawmakers are expected to begin debate on a third and final reading of the bill on Monday.

    It has to be signed off by President Salome Zurabishvili, a French-Georgian national.

    She has vowed to veto the bill, but Georgian Dream has a sufficiently strong majority in parliament to be able to overrule her.

    (with newswires)


    Refugees

    French catering company gives refugee women a recipe for success

    French catering company Bande de Cheffes employs women displaced from their own countries to cook food from around the world. The goal is to make the most of refugees’ talents while allowing them to earn their own living.

    “I deliberately set up Bande de Cheffes as a company and not a non-profit organisation because I wanted to have a concrete social impact on the lives of a few female refugees,” said Charlotte Leluc, who founded the social enterprise in September 2021.

    It started out working with two refugees and now employs eight, as well as between seven and 12 other staff.

    Samah, 32, was among the first to join. She came to France from Sudan in 2017 and joined Bande de Cheffes two months after the company was created.

    “I am so proud of what I have been able to accomplish here,” she told RFI. “I have learned so much; I can run a kitchen, prepare menus, develop new recipes.”

    Samah, who has a degree in management information systems from Sudan’s University of Science and Technology, has new ambitions for her life in France.

    “I want to become a successful businesswoman who helps people in need, like I was in the past,” she said.

    “I want to be in a position where I can now give back.”

    From Iganga to Paris

    Gift came to Bande de Cheffes through, Emmaüs Solidarité, a French homelessness charity in June 2022, after a year and a half of struggling to make it in a country where she did not speak the language.

    “I did not even know how to say ‘bonjour’ when I came here in 2019. I found the grammar so difficult, the ‘tu’, the ‘vous’. But I quickly took lessons and I was fearless in trying to survive: finding jobs as a nanny, looking for a place to sleep each night,” the 28-year old Ugandan told RFI.

    Gift, who holds a certificate in hotel management and catering certificate from Uganda, went on to pass proficiency tests in French. She recently hosted a culinary workshop teaching a dozen French women how to make her signature cake recipe.

    “Ultimately, my dream is to have my own pastry shop,” she said. The first step is to get into a two-year professional training programme in patisserie.

    She also hopes to be reunited with her two children, who remain with her mother in her hometown of Iganga.

    “I think of them everyday and I hope to be able to bring them over one day,” Gift said. “I had to flee Uganda to save my life.”

    • How an African pastry chef brought Chadian chic to Paris

    Brunch with a mission

    “These women are not feeding off the system – they work, they earn an income, they contribute to the economy and pay taxes,” Leluc insists.

    After having spent some 20 years working in the humanitarian sector, from the French Red Cross to the Social Economy ministry, Leluc felt that as a social entrepreneur, she would be in a position to create jobs for exiled women who would otherwise find it difficult, if not impossible, to find work in France.

    As the small company grows, she wants to use the profits to raise salaries and fund training for employees.

    Most of its business comes from catering corporate and public events for clients including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), L’Oréal and the Paris Philharmonic.

    Three times a month, it also serves a Sunday brunch at the stately Art-Deco Chaillot Theatre, overlooking the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero fountains.



    “The view is splendid and the food very good,” said Francesca, an Italian tourist visiting from Venice.

    Her sister Corinne said they were also drawn by Bande de Cheffe’s social mission. “We liked the idea of supporting the women refugees who work here.”

    At the next table, young French couple Kim and Mathieu agreed. 

    “We’d rather our money goes to a cause like this one,” Mathieu said. “And the view is an added bonus.”

    • French-African fusion cuisine breaking down cultural barriers

    Tastes of the world

    Ana’s bacalhau gratin is a firm favourite with the brunchers.

    The 33-year-old from Angola came to France in 2019 and has been working at Bande de Cheffes since February 2022. A secretary in Luanda, she now specialises in cooking savoury dishes.

    Her salt cod gratin is just one of the recipes that the refugee chefs have contributed to the menu, which also includes Samah’s sweet coconut basbossas and Nataliia’s derounis, Ukrainian potato pancakes.

    Nataliia was a midwife in Ukraine for 30 years. She fled to France in March 2022 because of the war with Russia and joined Bande de Cheffes in the following year thanks to an advert posted on Instagram.

    “This is very different from my work back home in Kiev. It’s a new challenge, along with learning a new language,” the 57-year-old told RFI.

    She can’t look for work as a midwife until she has passed the necessary language tests. But until then, she says, “I like working in this place with women from so many different countries”.

    Georgette, from Côte d’Ivoire, agrees. “As a typical Ivoirian, I enjoy teasing and I love how we, all the girls, get along for a good laugh,” she told RFI.

    Part of the team since April 2023, she makes an addictive red chilli sauce and is working on a recipe for abolo, a West African steamed rice cake.

    It’s a far cry from when she first arrived in France in 2018.

    “I thought that France was this Garden of Eden. Then when you come here, you see beggars, people living in the streets,” she told RFI. “I just could not understand how this place works.”

    Now, in addition to her job at Bande de Cheffes, Georgette also volunteers at the Palais de la Femme, a women’s shelter in Paris.

    • Iftar for All: Ramadan handouts highlight food insecurity in Paris

    Sisterhood

    Running the kitchen is former personal chef Laure, one of the company’s French staff members who work alongside the refugees.

    Recruited in April as the kitchen manager, the 52-year old believes her Cameroonian roots help her relate to her colleagues.

    “I think that as a black woman, the refugees from Africa can more easily relate to me, as if I’m their big sister,” Laure told RFI. “And my ambition is to make them shine.”

    Coraline, a 20-year old student at France’s Sciences Po university, has been temping as a waitress at Bande de Cheffes for a year now. She’s also impressed by her co-workers.

    She told RFI: “Food has a language of its own and it is great to see these women, who would otherwise have been left in the shadows, able to share their passion.” 


    Chad elections

    Chad’s military ruler Déby wins disputed presidential vote

    Chad’s interim President Mahamat Idriss Déby has been declared the official winner of the 6 May presidential elections with over 61 percent of the vote, according to provisional results released Thursday, extending his family’s decades-long grip on power. 

    Chad’s electoral commission (ANGE) said Gen Déby had secured 61.3 percent of the vote – comfortably over the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off.

    His closest rival, Prime Minister Succès Masra, won just 18.53 percent.

    The results are due to be confirmed by the Constitutional Council.

    “I am now the elected president of all Chadians,” Déby said in a brief televised address, promising to make good on his commitments.

    Masra had earlier claimed that he had won a “resounding victory” in the first round of voting and warned Deby’s team would rig the results.

    Déby was proclaimed transitional president by fellow army generals in 2021 after his father, Idriss Déby Itno, who had ruled Chad with an iron fist for 30 years, was killed in a gun battle with rebels.

    His victory ensures the Déby family’s three-decade rule will continue.

    Celebrations

    Soldiers in the N’Djamena neighbourhood where Masra’s party is based fired their guns in the air after the results were announced – both in celebration of Deby’s win and to deter protesters from gathering, AFP news agency reported.

    Some frightened people ran for cover or to their homes and the capital’s streets were soon empty.

    Déby’s supporters shouted, sang, sounded car horns and fired their own guns in the air in celebration.

    At least two teenagers were injured by falling bullets, an AFP journalist saw.

    Disputed results

    The results of Monday’s election were announced nearly two weeks earlier than the scheduled release date of 21 May.

    Supporters of Masra had been holding their own ballot count in parallel to the official one.

    In a speech posted on his Facebook page hours before the results were released, Masra said his team’s count “establishes the victory in the first round, that of change over the status quo”.

    “The victory is resounding and without blemish,” he said, warning that Déby’s team would soon announce that he had won and “steal the victory from the people”.

    Masra, a former opposition leader appointed prime minister in January, urged Chadians to “mobilise peacefully to prove our victory”.

    • Chad is ‘not a slave who wants to change masters’, says president
    • Concerns ahead of Chad elections after death of main opposition figure

    Deby and Masra faced eight other candidates who were either relatively unknown or considered not hostile to the regime.

    Former premier Albert Pahimi Padacke came in third with 16.91 percent of votes.

    Turnout was 75.89 percent, according to the head of the electoral commission.

    On Tuesday the European Union condemned Chad’s failure to allow nearly 3,000 civil society members financed by the EU to observe the presidential election.

    The disputed results cap a fraught electoral period marked by the killing of opposition figure Yaya Dillo, the rejection of prominent opposition figures from the candidate list, and other issues that critics say have compromised the credibility of the process.

    (with newswires)


    China-Europe relations

    China’s Xi feted in Hungary, the last stop of his European tour

    Chinese President Xi Jinping was given military honours as he visited Hungary on Thursday – seeking a “new journey” with his closest European Union ally amid divisions with the West over the Ukraine war and global trade. It’s the final leg of Xi’s first visit to Europe in five years, which started in France. 

    Hungarian President Tamas Sulyok received Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan with military honours in the courtyard of the presidential palace in Budapest.

    The Chinese leader had arrived on Wednesday night, attending a state dinner with Prime Minister Viktor Orban on the back of a visit to Serbia.

    In an op-ed published in Hungary’s pro-government Magyar Nemzet daily, Xi praised a “long-standing friendship” that he said was “as mellow and rich as Tokaji wine” – referring to the renowned Hungarian vineyards region.

    Xi’s three-day visit to Hungary marks 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

    Since Hungary began to promote itself as a global hub for the manufacturing of electric vehicles in 2022, several new Chinese businesses have sprung up around the country.

    According to the Hungarian government, the two countries are expected to sign at least 16 different agreements promoting their cooperation in rail and road infrastructure, nuclear energy and the automotive industry.

    The Chinese leader is due to leave Hungary late Friday.

    First stop France

    Xi kicked off his Europe trip on Sunday with a visit to France. His exchanges with French President Emmanuel Macron were cordial but also highlighted tensions between Beijing and the EU over the war in Ukraine and global trade.

    During a three-way meeting with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Macron urged Xi to do what he could to end the war in Ukraine, and not to allow the export of technology that could be used by Russia.

    Xi warned the West not to “smear” China over the conflict and also hit back at accusations that Chinese overcapacity was causing global trade imbalances.

    Europe is concerned that while officially neutral over the Ukraine conflict, China is essentially backing Russia, which is using Chinese machine tools in arms production.

    • Macron hosts Xi in French Pyrenees to talk Ukraine and ongoing conflict in Gaza.
    • France urges coordination with China on Ukraine, trade at Paris summit
    • Serbia plays China card against European Union

    Serbian ally

    On the second leg of his Europe tour, Xi flew to Serbia, a non-EU country that is probably Beijing’s staunchest supporter on the continent.

    Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic reaffirmed his strong support for China’s sovereignty over Taiwan as he gave a lavish welcome to Xi.

    China has poured billions into Serbia and neighbouring Balkan countries, particularly into mining and manufacturing, and last year Beijing and Belgrade signed a free trade agreement.

    China also had plans to construct a branch of its prestigious Fudan University in Belgrade, but the multi-million dollar project was quietly shelved after protests when local media found out the buildings would replace a project for cheap student housing. 

    NATO bombing

    Xi’s visit also coincided with the 25th anniversary of the 7 May, 1999 US bombing of the Chinese embassy there, which killed three people.

    The embassy was hit during a months-long, US-led NATO campaign targeting Serbian security forces who were at war with ethnic-Albanian insurgents in Kosovo.

    The US later apologised, saying outdated maps had led the pilot to strike the wrong target.

    On Tuesday, Xi wrote in Serbian daily Politika that NATO had “flagrantly bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia” – warning that China would “never allow such tragic history to repeat itself”.

    But according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, Xi did not physically visit the site of the embassy building, in a “calculated move” so as to “not to stoke tensions with the West.”

    (with newswires)


    SUDAN CRISIS

    Call for sanctions amid claims of ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s West Darfur

    Militias in Sudan killed thousands of people – including children – during a wave of violence last year in West Darfur, the NGO Human Rights Watch said as it accused armed groups of crimes against humanity and genocide.

    Attacks by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias in and around West Darfur’s capital, El Geneina, amount to ethnic cleansing against the Massalit and other non-Arab populations, according to a HRW report published Thursday.

    Evidence compiled between April and November 2023 documents instances of torture, rape and looting mainly in neighbourhoods belonging to the Masalit tribe, with abuses escalating again in early November. 

    HRW wants the UN and the African Union to impose an arms embargo on Sudan and sanction those responsible for the crimes, including the RSF leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who is widely known as Hemedti.

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

    HRW also wants a military presence in the region to protect civilians.

    “The large-scale atrocities committed in El Geneina should be seen as a reminder of the atrocities that could come in the absence of concerted action,” Tirana Hassan, HRW’s executive director, warned. 

    Between June 2023 and April 2024, HRW employees interviewed more than 220 people in Chad, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan. 

    Researchers also analysed more than 120 photos and videos of the events, satellite imagery, and documents shared by humanitarian organisations to corroborate accounts of grave abuses which the RSF denies.

    • Why aid isn’t a lasting solution for millions facing famine in war-torn Sudan

    Targeting civilians

    The violence in El Geneina began on 24 April 2023 – nine days after fighting broke out in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF.

    The RSF clashed with a Sudanese military convoy travelling through El Geneina. Then the RSF and its allied groups attacked Massalit neighbourhoods, clashing with predominantly Massalit armed groups defending their communities.

    Over the following weeks – and even after Massalit armed groups lost control of their neighbourhoods – the RSF and allied militias systematically targeted unarmed civilians, says the report.

    The violence culminated in a massacre on 15 June, when the RSF and its allies opened fire on a convoy of civilians trying to flee.

    • Chad, WFP warn of ‘catastrophic’ food insecurity amid influx of Sudan refugees

    Witness accounts say the RSF and militias pursued, rounded up and shot men, women and children who ran through the streets or tried to swim across the Kajja River. Many drowned. Older people and injured people were not spared.

    A 17 year old boy described the killing of 12 children and five adults from several families: “Two RSF forces … grabb[ed] the children from their parents and, as the parents started screaming, two other RSF forces shot the parents, killing them.”

    “Then they piled up the children and shot them. They threw their bodies into the river and their belongings in after them.”

    Ongoing attacks

    The assaults continued on tens of thousands of civilians who tried to cross into Chad, leaving the countryside strewn with bodies. Videos published at the time show crowds of civilians running for their lives on the road linking El Geneina to Chad.

    HRW also documented the killing of Arab residents and the looting of Arab neighbourhoods by Massalit forces as well as the SAF’s use of explosive weapons in populated areas in ways that caused unnecessary harm to civilians and civilian objects.

    The RSF and allied militias escalated their attacks again in November, targeting Massalit people who had found refuge in the El Geneina suburb of Ardamata, rounding up Massalit men and boys and, according to the UN, killing at least 1,000 people.

    Women and girls were raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence, the report says.

    The acts were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against the Massalit and other non-Arab civilian populations of Massalit-majority neighbourhoods and include crimes against humanity, HRW said.

    Action demanded

    The report requested “urgent action” from governing bodies worldwide, including an investigation into the intent of the RSF and allies to commit genocide. 

    “If so, they should act to prevent its further perpetration, and to ensure those responsible for its planning and conduct are brought to justice,” it added. 

    Last month French President Emmanuel Macron chaired an international conference to address the conflict in Sudan that raised more than €2 billion in aid.

    “It is a conflict imposed on the people that only produces grief and suffering, provoking one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world,” Macron said during the conference.

    “It is our duty was to show that we are not forgetting what is going on in Sudan and there are no double standards as the world focuses on other crises.”

    Despite Macron’s overtures, HRW says governments are failing to back up their words.

    “The global inaction in the face of atrocities of this magnitude is inexcusable,” Hassan said.

    “Governments should ensure those responsible are held to account, including through targeted sanctions and by stepping up cooperation with the International Criminal Court.”

    (with newswires) 


    FRANCE – HEALTH

    Toddler dies as France’s Mayotte seeks to contain cholera epidemic

    A three-year-old boy has become the first person to die in a cholera epidemic that has gripped the French overseas department of Mayotte since March. Health Minister Frédéric Valletoux was travelling to the island on Thursday to meet with local health authorities.

    Mayotte has been battling an outbreak of the disease first detected in migrants from Democratic Republic of Congo who had transited through the neighbouring Comoros islands.

    Since mid-March, 58 cases have been identified.

    The first fatality was a boy who lived in the town of Koungou, the second largest after the capital Mamoudzou.

    Valletoux is to visit Koungou and local hospitals during his two-day trip, which the health ministry said would also be dedicated to prevention and cooperation between caregivers.

    The Minister for Overseas Territories Marie Guévenoux is also expected on the island.

    Overpopulation, poverty

    Overpopulation and poverty have led to dangerous sanitary conditions in Mayotte, France’s poorest department.

    Cholera is a bacterial disease transmitted through contaminated water or food. It typically causes severe diarrhoea, vomiting and muscle cramps, and can lead to death from dehydration.

    • Cholera cases in the French department of Mayotte double in two days
    • How overseas Mayotte became ‘a department apart’ within France

    Mortality is higher among children, the elderly and vulnerable people.

    The Indian Ocean island is also suffering from a water crisis, leading to the consumption of unclean and potentially contaminated water.

    Last week, France announced the arrival of 18 new reservist doctors and nurses as reinforcements – in addition to the 49 reservists already present.

    Authorities have also launched an operation against unsanitary housing, insecurity and illegal immigration, while a cholera vaccination campaign is being organised.

    International report

    Greek and Turkish leaders ready for diplomacy talks amid Aegean tensions

    Issued on:

    Greece and Turkey are stepping up rapprochement efforts, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visiting Turkey on Monday for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The trip is part of detente attempts after years of tensions centered on territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. 

    Monday’s meeting follows Erdogan’s visit to Athens last December, which was also part of mutual efforts towards bringing the countries closer.

    “I think it’s one of the ways in which Turkey and Greece could add more new momentum to the diplomacy that has started,” Berkay Mandiraci, a senior Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group, said.

    “They’ve been actually engaged in quite intense diplomacy on different fronts for over a year now.”

    Territorial disputes over the Aegean Sea – believed to have vast energy reserves – have brought the neighbours to the brink of war in the past.

    Both nations backing rival sides over the divided island of Cyprus has also thwarted previous rapprochement endeavours.

    Side-stepping issues 

    Erdogan and Mitsotakis are predicted to avoid contentious subjects and are expected to take a one-step-at-a-time approach on areas of collaboration.

    Confidence-building measures under discussion include increasing trade, further developments of a recently expanded road at the Turkey-Greece border and ensuring visa-free travel to Turkish citizens for eastern Aegean islands.

    “I think they are all important in terms of people-to-people contact, building trust, increasing trade and also improving connectivity and energy cooperation,” Mandiraci said.

    “Hopefully this will lead to the opening of a new round of negotiation on the Aegean dispute.”

    Conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine are seen to provide further incentive to improving ties as analysts say both leaders realise that bilateral tensions will only exacerbate regional instability. 

    “Look at what’s happening in Israel, in Gaza and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both sides want to limit their exposure to foreign risks,” said political scientist Ioannis Grigoriadis of Ankara’s Bilkent University.

    “Greek-Turkish relations had gone through a very difficult period until five years ago, but ever since the earthquakes that hit south-eastern and southern Turkey, both sides have declared their willingness to reduce tensions.”

    Greece was quick to help Turkey after last year’s earthquakes. But unless territorial disputes over the Aegean are addressed, the rapprochement is considered vulnerable – especially because both militaries are re-arming.

    Common ground

    “As long as they don’t tackle [the Aegean Sea dispute] and they don’t take the bull by the horns, things will go like a pendulum, backward and forwards,” said Alexis Heraclides of Panteion University in Athens.

    “The Greek-Turkish relations in this region is the most complicated of relations. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for them not to make a U-turn and get back to the default position of confrontation and mutual acrimonious accusations.”

    But there is cause for cautious optimism given that Erdogan and Mitsotakis renewed their electoral mandates last year.

    “Both leaders are very strong domestically and this makes them less eager to listen to the sort of nationalist voices that exist in both countries that are more comfortable with a more aggressive attitude,” said Grigoriadis.

    The Sound Kitchen

    Wingèd Victory

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Nike and the Olympic medals. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz and bonus questions, 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!

    ePOP News: The early bird gets the worm …

    RFI’s ePOP video competition will open on 5 June. There will be more information in the coming days, but you can already start to plan your video.

    The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people …you are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

    So put on your thinking caps and start planning your video!  

    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.

    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, Spotlight on Africa, 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 staff 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 that 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 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: Shreyosi Dhali from West Bengal, India.

    Welcome, Shreyosi! So glad you have joined us!

    You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize. 

    This week’s quiz: On 13 April, I asked you a question about an article Paul Myers wrote about the history of Olympic medals: “History of Olympic gold, silver and bronze glitters in Paris museum”. You were to send in the answer to this question: Who is Nike?

    The answer is, to quote Paul’s article: “Between 1928 and 1968, the medals for the Summer Games bore Giuseppe Cassioli’s ‘Trionfo’ design of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, holding a winner’s crown with a depiction of the Colosseum in the background.”

    So the answer is: Nike is the Greek goddess of victory – not only in athletics but in art, music, and war, too. She is usually portrayed with wings, in the motion of flight.

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: What is your favorite “home remedy”?

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

    The winners are:  Brand-new RFI Listeners Club member Shreyosi Dhali from West Bengal, India. Shreyosi is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Shreyosi!

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are A. K. M. Nuruzzaman, the president of the RFI Amour Fan Club in Rajshahi, Bangladesh; Begum Firoza Hossain, a member of the RFI International DX Radio Listeners Club in West Bengal, India; RFI Listeners Club member Hans Verner Lollike from Hedehusene, Denmark, and RFI English listener Musfika Argina Banu from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

    Congratulations winners!

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: Movements III and IV from the String Quartet op 20 no 6 by Franz Joseph Haydn, performed by the Juilliard Quartet; traditional Greek music for the sirtaki and bouzouki; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Rectangle” for synthesizer and guitar by Jacno, with Jacno on the guitar.  

    Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “EU’s Green Deal the target of online disinformation ahead of polls”, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 10 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 15 June 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. 

    Spotlight on France

    Podcast: Pro-Palestinian student protests, French euroscepticism, Channel Tunnel

    Issued on:

    How student protests in support of Palestinians at Paris’s political science institute are different from those in the US, a look at France’s growing disaffection with Europe, and the long birth of the Channel Tunnel linking France to Britain – 30 years old this week. 

    Student protests against Israel’s war in Gaza came to a head in the past week, when the president of the prestigious Sciences Po university called the police to forcibly clear out an occupation of the Paris campus’ main building. Some have called the protests an imitation of what is happening in the United States, but the scale, scope and politics are a bit different. Students talk about why they have joined the protest movement, their shock over reactions by government and police, and compare today’s mobilisation with student protests of the past. (Listen @0’00)

    On Europe Day, and with only a month to go before EU elections, surveys are showing France is an increasingly eurosceptic nation – only a quarter of the population place their trust in Europe and its institutions, and even fewer are optimistic about the EU’s future. The disaffection with Europe comes as polls also show the far-right, populist National Rally is tipped to oustrip President Macron’s ruling party in the elections. Laetitia Langlois from Angers University examines what’s behind growing eurosceptism in France and what it means for President Emmanuel Macron. (Listen @16’30)

    The Channel Tunnel turns 30 years old this week. Officially opened on 6 May 1994, it was the culmination of two centuries of dreaming about a land link between France and the UK. (Listen @9’30)

    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

    Turkey cuts trade with Israel but seeks role in resolving Gaza conflict

    Issued on:

    Turkey has cut off trade with Israel as bilateral relations deteriorate over the Gaza conflict. The move follows domestic calls for a tougher stance against Israel, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking a more prominent regional role.  

    The Turkish Trade Ministry announced Friday that all exports and imports with Israel have been cut until uninterrupted and adequate humanitarian aid is allowed into Gaza.

    The Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, was quick to condemn the move, saying it violated trade agreements and was the action was that of a “dictator”. 

    It follows Erdogan’s high-profile meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last month.

    Domestic criticism

    Erdogan’s actions are seen as an attempt to quell growing domestic criticism of his complicated stance on the war – on one hand maintaining trade with Israel, while on the other condemning the country’s war with Hamas. 

    “In order to convince conservative voters that there is no such thing as a hypocritical approach… they are taking a tougher stance and necessary measures,” says Selin Nasi, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics.  

    Nasi says Erdogan could further deepen Turkey’s ties with Hamas, especially if cut theirs.

    “We know that Qatar has been facing a lot of pressure in the international arena because of its ties with Hamas,” she points out.

    “Turkey might emerge as a potential candidate country to host Hamas if Qatar decides to send Hamas members abroad.”

    • Turkish government looks to regain ground by limiting ties with Israel

    Regional cooperation?

    Erdogan’s party was handed a thumping defeat in March local elections, which saw many of his traditional conservative religious voters abstaining or voting for opposition parties – a move blamed in part on ongoing trade ties with Israel.

    However, Ankara is seeking a wider role in resolving the Gaza conflict. Erdogan is also stepping up diplomatic efforts with Egypt after hosting Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry in April.

    Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been warming after years of tensions, and analysts say there’s room for cooperation.   

    “Both are very active in the rhetorical space in terms of their deep sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza. At the same time, they maintain their diplomatic and security ties with Israel,” says Jalel Harchaoui at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

    “Both are known – particularly Egypt, from Washington’s perspective – for their direct communication line [with Hamas]. Both use that as a source of leverage vis-a-vis the West,” he explains.

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

    But analysts warn Erdogan’s public attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu limit any mediating role for Turkey. 

    “At some point, the government has to moderate its tone, to repair its dialogue with Israel, because as it stands Turkey is no longer perceived as an impartial, third-party actor that can take on a role as a mediator,” says Nasi. 

    She nonetheless believes there is room for Ankara to play a constructive role.

    “Instead of perhaps endorsing Hamas, Turkey has to shift to a more balanced position between Hamas and Fatah and perhaps put its energy and resources into reconciling different rival Palestinian factions.”

    Washington visit postponed

    Erdogan this month blamed Iran and Israel for increasing tensions, a break from only criticising Israel. Analysts say Turkey’s close ties to Hamas could counter Iran’s influence on the group. 

    However, Erdogan’s overtures to Hamas were a factor in the postponement of a planned visit to Washington in May, which was blamed on scheduling issues. 

    “It’s impossible not to rule out Gaza as one of the reasons for the cancellation,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

    “I think at a time when people are talking about mass graves and there are protests all around US campuses, the Turkish president does not want to be seen with the president of the United States,” she suggests.

    However, Aydintasbas suspects Washington, too, may not be unhappy about that Erdogan’s visit was put on hold. 

    “I don’t think the White House is in a place – for all types of reasons, including the domestic difficulty of this issue – to be hosting a world leader who’s going to criticise in front of cameras the US position on Gaza,” she says.

    Despite the visit’s postponement, Washington and Ankara say they remain committed to high-level cooperation.

    While doubts remain about what meaningful role Turkey can play in resolving the Gaza conflict, given the scale of the crisis, the region needs all the help it can get. 

    The Sound Kitchen

    From Paris to Beijing

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about diplomatic relations between China and France. There’s a salute to the month of May, “The Listener’s Corner”, Ollia Horton’s “Happy Moment”, and Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions 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!

    ePOP News: The video competition will open on 5 June. Time to start thinking about your video entry … more news in the coming days, but you can start to reflect on your subject. I certainly expect to see a billion entries from the RFI English community!

    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.

    We have a new/old podcast! RFI English has revived our monthly podcast Spotlight on Africa. It’s produced and hosted by Melissa Chemam from our newsroom’s Africa desk. Every month, Melissa will take an in-depth look at one of the leading stories on the continent today, with interviews and analysis from on-the-ground specialists.

    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, Spotlight on Africa, 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 staff 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 that 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 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: Shreyosi Dhali from West Bengal, India.

    Welcome, Shreyosi! So glad you have joined us!

    You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize. 

    This week’s quiz: On 6 April, I asked you when diplomatic relations were established between China and France. 

    The answer is: 60 years ago, on 27 January 1964.

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “If you could choose the time in history you could have lived, which era would you choose?”

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

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

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Sultan Mahmud Sarker, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh; Rasheed Naz, the president of the Naz Radio France and Internet Fan Club in Faisal Abad, Pakistan; Nuraiz Bin Zaman, a member of the RFI Amour Fan Club in Rajshahi, Bangladesh, and RFI English listener Abdul Rehman, who’s a member of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan.

    Congratulations winners!

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “The Lusty Month of May” from the American musical Camelot by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, sung by Vanessa Redgrave; the traditional Chinese “Sun Quan the Emperor”; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, played by Glenn Gould.

    Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “French stars Omar Sy and Eva Green part of 2024 Cannes Film Festival jury”, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 27 May to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 1 June podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

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

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

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

    International report

    Aid flotilla from Turkey aims to break Gaza blockade but risks fresh crisis

    Issued on:

    A group of international activists are seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza with a flotilla of vessels carrying aid. But with 10 people killed by Israeli security forces in a similar mission 14 years ago, fears are growing that the latest flotilla could provoke a fresh crisis. 

    The loading of medical supplies and food is underway on the Akdeniz, an old ferry boat that will lead the flotilla of three ships carrying over 5,000 tonnes of aid to Gaza.

    At a press conference, the flotilla’s organisers, a coalition of international and Turkish humanitarian groups, claimed the flotilla is not just about delivering aid.  

    “We hope to break the illegal naval blockade of Gaza that Israel has had on it for decades,” Ann Wright of US Boat to Gaza explained to RFI. 



    Wright acknowledged the aid they plan to deliver will do little to alleviate the humanitarian crisis but hopes it will open the door to more assistance.

    “We hope to certainly bring food and medicines that are needed by the people of Gaza. But it’s a small drop in the bucket. We’re calling for the border of Rafah to be opened, where tons of food are waiting. It’s criminal that the world has not forced the entry of these trucks into Gaza.” 

    Wright said the issue was being forced because “people that are starving and suffering genocide must have assistance”.

    If the governments won’t act, “we, the citizens will”, she said.

    Flotilla in 2010

    In 2010, ten people died the last time a flotilla sought to break Israel’s Gaza blockade.

    When Israeli commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara, which was leading the flotilla, activists said they were aware of the dangers they faced, but given the humanitarian crisis in Gaza it was a risk worth taking.

    • France condemns killing of Gaza NGO workers as US pressed to toughen stance with Israel
    • Turkish court indicts Israeli soldiers two years after flotilla raid

    “We are conscious that it’s not a mission without any danger,” said Nima Machouf is with the group, Canada Boat to Gaza.

    “But the danger and the horror is part of the horror that we want to denounce that it is faced by Palestinian people. Gaza people need medical support and need food.”

    Flotilla participants are given lessons on how to de-escalate a possible confrontation with Israeli forces. There has been no comment from Israeli officials.

    Gallia Lindenstrauss, an analyst with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Avi, warns the risks are real given the tensions in the region.



    “Both on the Israeli side and on the Turkish side, there is an understanding of how dangerous things might get out of hand. So I think there will be caution, both from the Turkish side and the Israeli side,” said Lindenstrauss.

    “But obviously, this is a very, very intense time now in Israel. And, also, I would be very careful, and hope that, the authorities are on both sides are aware of what they need to do to make sure that this will not escalate into violence.”

    Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is likely to have the final say on whether the flotilla will leave, has not commented on the mission. 

    But Erdogan met with Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh last Saturday, in which humanitarian aid to Gaza was discussed – a meeting Israel condemned. 

    Whatever risks flotilla organisers say they are determined to deliver aid to Gaza.

    “Of course, we are worried, but, we think that, the time is now to act,” said Torstein Dahle, a former Norwegian parliamentarian of Ship to Gaza Norway

    But Dahle says the flotilla is looking for international protection.

    “We demand support from national governments, from everybody who has influence on this matter, to facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid to the starving people of Gaza,” he said.


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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.