rfi 2024-05-19 01:05:31



Euroscepticism

Have the French fallen out of love with Europe?

Although France is a founding member of the European Union, surveys show Euroscepticism is on the rise in the nation. In the lead up to the EU elections, RFI looks at what’s feeding the disenchantment and what, if anything, can be done to rekindle the flame.

The European project has been fuelled by French men. Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann helped lay the foundations for what would become the EU, Jacques Delors founded the single currency and Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterrand and incumbent President Emmanuel Macron have all championed Europe and its values of peace, unity and democracy.

But surveys suggest France’s love affair with Europe is going through a rocky patch.

The European Commission’s 2023 Eurobarometer ranked France bottom of the 27 member states with only a third saying they trusted the EU. It also found the French were the most pessimistic about the EU’s future.

A poll published on May 8 showed 46 percent were “worried” about Europe, while another survey showed half were not interested in EU elections.

“Mistrust of the EU is higher in France than our neighbours,” says Laurence de Nervaux, head of the think tank Destin Commun, citing its recent research.

“Only 41 percent of the French consider belonging to EU is a good thing compared to 54 percent of Germans and 61 percent of the Spanish.”

Meanwhile, the number of people saying the EU had a negative impact on their lives went up from 27 percent to 37 percent between 2021 and 2024.  

“We see that discontent is growing,” de Nervaux told RFI.

Spectre of Frexit

With mounting discontent, support for the far-right populist National Rally (RN) party is also growing.

Its candidate, the telegenic MEP Jordan Bardella with his 1.2 million followers on TikTok, is polling well ahead of both Macron’s Renaissance party candidate Valérie Hayer and the Socialist Raphael Glucksmann.

According to de Nervaux, more than a third of French voters are in favour of leaving the EU, compared to 24 percent in neighbouring Germany.

While the RN no longer officially supports leaving the EU or abandoning the Euro currency, the spectre of Frexit still looms.

“After the chaos following Brexit in 2020, the top leaders of the National Rally stopped talking about Frexit almost overnight,” says Laetitia Langlois from Angers University, who has researched Euroscepticism in the UK.

“But some hardcore supporters are still determined to leave the EU. Some would like to push for a more Europhobic, not just Eurosceptic, discourse on Europe.”

De Nervaux says the RN electorate is the only group where a majority – 56 percent – support Frexit.

“The nationalist fantasy of Frexit remains the marker of far-right culture, even if its leaders deny that today,” she adds.

Listen to a conversation with Laetitia Langlois in the Spotlight on France podcast

Bermuda triangle

Like other populist parties, RN slams the EU as a remote, elite institution that works for the interests of big business, rather than ordinary working people, and facilitates mass immigration.

The EU’s institutions are seen by many as an “enormous machine only making norms and regulations,” says Langlois.

“The RN takes advantage of this and exaggerates the bureaucratic dimension.”

And yet “it does a lot for people’s everyday lives,” she notes, pointing to the EU’s Erasmus student exchange programme and large sums invested in poorer parts of Spain, Italy and pre-Brexit Scotland.

But the complex inner workings of its institutions don’t help foster an understanding of and attachment to the EU system.

Even French politicians, accustomed to a very different political system from the EU, are disorientated, says European affairs consultant Yves Bertoncini.  

“France’s political system under the 5th republic is a presidential monarchy where winner takes all, whereas the European system is more federal, based on the dispersion of power,” he told RFI.

“We need to double down on our pedagogy because the institutional triangle  – EU Parliament, Commission and European Council – is like a Bermuda triangle for the French. We’re not used to it.”

  • Europe Day: rise of populism and shifting dynamics ahead of crucial elections

Poor communication

De Nervaux says France’s mistrust of Europe and its institutions is largely down to ignorance – 65 percent of the French say they don’t have a clear vision of the way the EU functions and its policies, compared to 42 percent of Germans. 

She blames the higher ignorance largely on French media, which is among those in the bloc covering European issues the least.

The EU hasn’t been great at blowing its own whistle either, de Nerveux points out, citing a failure to communicate well on its capacity to make collective decisions such as its Covid vaccination campaign, the post-Covid recovery plan and support for Ukraine.

“When we ask people what Europe has brought them, they talk about the Europe of 20 or 30 years ago – of Schengen and the Euro – but they don’t refer to these recent episodes.”

Even if the French are interested in Ukraine, de Nerveux insists they are more preoccupied by domestic issues than geopolitical or international ones.

“Their main preoccupation is purchasing power,” she says, adding that they need to be reminded of what Europe brings them in their daily lives.

“There is the mistaken perception that the EU had a negative impact on inflation but the truth is that the Eurozone has played a more protective role in terms of inflation, whereas in the UK [post-Brexit] it exploded.

“And to take a very concrete example, one meal out of four distributed by the Restos du Coeur food charity is financed by the EU.”

  • EU members agree to historic €750bn coronavirus recovery plan

Pragmatic and lucid

The picture is not all bleak, even where surveys are concerned.

A recent Ifop poll also found that nearly 60 percent of the French said they were proud to be European.

“Beyond the mistrust, the French have a pragmatic and lucid attachment to Europe,” says de Nevreux.

And in a “dangerous, complex and unstable world,” a majority of French people describe their relationship with Europe as “necessary”.

Faced with superpowers China, the US and Russia, Macron’s “vision of building a strong Europe is widely supported by the French,” she says, noting that they “also want Europe to take the lead on climate issues”.

There’s even a willingness to get to grips with EU institutions says Langlois, underlining the unexpected success of the French TV series Parlement.

The first three series drew in 7 million viewers, with a fourth out soon.

Additionally, Christophe Préault, of the pedagogical All of Europe website, says there’s growing interest in European issues like economy, defence and security. Connections to their site have “doubled since January”.

He’s calling for more education on the EU.

“Kids are taught about how the 5th Republic works but do we teach how the EU functions? No. And yet it’s where we live and work.”

Get them young, says de Nevreux: “Children should learn the 27 member states like they learn the alphabet.”


Climate change

D-Day’s historic beaches threatened by rising sea levels

As France prepares to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings that helped change the course of World War II, the historic beaches and coastlines where Allied forces landed are once more under attack – but this time from rising sea levels linked to climate change.

A 100-kilometre stretch of Normandy’s coastline bears witness to the 6 June 1944 D-Day landings.

Millions of visitors are drawn each year to walk its coastal paths and contemplate bunkers, shipwrecked vessels and other vestiges of war in memory of those that died or suffered.

Nowadays, the sea that brought in 150,000 Allied soldiers is threatening those heritage sites. Chalk cliffs and dunes are being eroded, while marshes and land reclaimed in the 18th and 19th centuries risk submersion.

According to the Normandy climate change report, two-thirds of the coast are being eroded and – over the last 80 years – “Normandy’s chalky cliffs have moved back by an average of 20-25cm per year”.   

The famed D-Day beaches – codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – look nothing like they did in 1944.

“They’re suffering from both erosion and the risk of flooding,” Régis Leymarie, a geographer with the Coastal Conservatory in Normandy, told AFP news agency.

“We’re in the process of moving from historic sites to places for interpreting history”.

In low-lying areas like the Gold Beach, marshes at Ver-sur-Mer “the environment will be transformed in 10 years or so,” he added.

  • Climate change weakens fragile French coastline

Powerless to intervene

In Graye-sur-Mer, north of Caen, the sea has toppled entire bunkers, with locals fearing the changing landscape is washing away important souvenirs of the war.

Charles de Vallavieille, mayor of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and director of the Utah Beach Museum, recalls seeing “veterans waving to the sea and crying ‘Utah is the beach, it’s the emotion of the beach’”.

He regrets they receive little help in trying to battle mother nature.

“We don’t have the right to lay down stones [or] to do anything to stop the advance of the sea,” he told AFP.

“The law protects dykes but not dunes. We can’t get help, even though it’s a problem that affects the whole coast – protect one place and the water will go elsewhere”.

  • D-Day in numbers

US investment

The Bessin Cliffs – where German artillery batteries pounded the beaches from hard-to-reach promontories such as Pointe du Hoc – are gradually wasting away under the impact of waves, sea salt, thawing and refreezing.

The site is of special importance to Americans. On the morning of 6 June, 200 US rangers scaled the 30-metre-high Pointe du Hoc and seized the German artillery installations that could have fired on American troops landing at Omaha and Utah beaches.

The site is managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) in memory of the 135 rangers who died on that day.

In 2010, US authorities spent nearly €5 million to reinforce the cliff and prevent the observatory from falling into the sea.  

By 2022, the US invested another €6 million to try and secure the whole site after the Pointe was badly damaged.

Coastal paths have been “set back 20 metres” to ensure public safety, the ABMC has said.

Sea levels are currently rising by a few millimetres every year so “it’s only over two or three generations that we realise this,” said Leymarie. 

“We’re coming to the end of the D-Day landing sites as we knew them, and nature will reclaim its rights.”

(with AFP)


Crime

Armed robbers hit jeweller’s in Paris tourist hotspot

A group of armed robbers snatched jewels Saturday from a high-end shop near Paris’ world-famous Champs Elysees avenue before making their escape on motorbikes, a police source said.

The three-strong team, one of them armed with a long weapon, may have made off with several million euros in loot, based on a double robbery at the same Harry Winston jeweller’s in 2007 and 2008.

A gunshot was heard outside the shop on Avenue Montaigne, a police source familiar with the case said, with the source saying the robbery happened around 11:45 am.

It had been a “warning shot” with “no-one injured”, the source familiar with the case added.

Paris prosecutors said an investigation was underway.

The source close to the case said it could be “several days” before the precise value of the robbery is known.

In the 2007-08 case, 900 items worth a total of €78.9 million were stolen in one of the largest such heists anywhere in the world.

A Paris court sentenced eight men in 2015 to jail terms from nine months to 15 years over the robbery. The violent scenes in central Paris come days after highly organised gunmen freed a convict from a prison convoy in northern France, killing two guards.

Locating and apprehending the fugitives is a major priority for the government as it seeks to show it is serious about public order ahead of European elections in June and the Olympic Games in July-August.

  • Armed thieves who attacked Paris Chanel boutique still at large

(With newswires)

 


AFRICA – HEALTH

Why extinguishing Africa’s dirty cooking fuel crisis is a global priority

The scourge of dirty cooking fuels in Africa – an invisible killer for half a million women and children each year – stirred up pledges of €2.2 billion in Paris this week as oil and gas companies joined efforts to bring about access to healthy cooking methods by 2030.  

Four in five Africans – mostly women and girls – cook their food over open fires and primitive stoves that are powered by polluting fuels such as wood, charcoal, kerosene and animal waste.  

Three-quarters of people rely on these smoky, rudimentary cooking systems for their meals. Much of the time they’re used inside small and enclosed spaces. 

Among the harmful toxins released: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter.

The result, according to the World Bank, is the premature deaths of about 600,000 Africans a year – making dirty cooking an even bigger killer than malaria. 

Then there are the hundreds of billions of euros in associated health and climate impacts, including increased carbon emissions and deforestation. 

Forgotten issue

“This summit has delivered an emphatic commitment to an issue that has been ignored by too many people, for too long,” said Fatih Birol, director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which convened the Paris event, held on Tuesday.  

Pledges came from the European Union, the African Development Bank, countries like the US, investment bodies and oil and gas companies including TotalEnergies and Shell. 

Some 2.3 billion people around the world lack access to cooking with clean fuels (biogas, ethanol and liquified petroleum gas) and electric stoves.

  • Food shortages and malnutrition reach record levels in west and central Africa
  • Why reviving old crops is key to saving Africa’s degraded soils

But despite the scale of the problem, Birol has said that fixing it is relatively uncomplicated. 

“The barriers to delivering on the promise of clean cooking for all are not technical,” he wrote in a report last year. 

“What is encouraging and disturbing, in equal measure, is that this huge environmental, economic and human challenge could be solved with relatively modest investment.” 

Women hit hard

Access to clean cooking fuel has also been labelled a gender equality issue given the hours women spend each day collecting wood – time that could be spent on work or education. 

The Clean Cooking Alliance, a US-based non-profit, estimates that women and children in developing countries spend up to 20 hours a week gathering wood to prepare meals for their families. 

Meanwhile the global economic cost of that lost time is put at $800 billion a year. 

The IEA estimates that Africa needs $4 billion in yearly investments to transition away from dirty cooking methods by 2030.  

Birol has suggested the sale of carbon credits could help to meet that goal, while the IEA would ensure “good quality” projects to avoid greenwashing. 


French overseas departments

One more killed in New Caledonia as troops try and restore order

One more person was killed Saturday and two injured in France’s Pacific territory of New Caledonia as security personnel tried to restore order after a fifth night of riots and looting that has now claimed six lives.

The incident occurred in the archipelago’s northern Kaala-Gomen area, General Nicolas Mattheos said. An informed source said the dead man and one of the injured were a father and son trying to cross a barricade erected by rioters.

Bands of heavily armed French marines and police patrolled the capital Noumea, where streets were filled with debris from another night of violence that had already killed five people and injured hundreds.

Reporters working for the French press agency AFP in the city’s Magenta district saw vehicles and buildings burned, with a phalanx of riot police trying to reassert government control.

Overnight, residents reported hearing gunfire, the drone of helicopter rotors and “massive explosions,” what seemed to be gas canisters blowing up inside a building that was set alight.

Helene, aged 42, told AFP that she and neighbours had been manning makeshift barricades in two-to-three-hour shifts, as they waited for thousands of French security forces being flown 17,000 kilometres (10,600 miles) to impose order

“At night we hear shooting, and things going off,” she said. “Helicopters and army planes landing, which is sweet music to our ears.”

For almost a week, the usually unhurried oceanside city has been convulsed.

Two gendarmes have been killed: one shot in the head and a second shot in friendly fire, officials said.

  • France deploys reinforcements to quell deadly New Caledonia riots

Three other people, all Indigenous Kanaks, have also been killed: a 17-year-old and two men aged 20 and 36.

The unrest has been blamed on economic malaise, social tensions and — above all, a political fight between mostly Indigenous pro-independence activists and Paris authorities.

Paris has accused a separatist group known as CCAT of being behind the riots.

Ten independence activists have been placed under house arrest, according to authorities, who accuse them of organising the violence.

On Friday CCAT issued a statement calling for “a time of calm to break the spiral of violence”.

  • Could nickel reserves be the key to independence for New Caledonia?

(With newswires)


Gastronomy

Tiny ‘bare bones’ Mexican taco restaurant wins Michelin star

El Califa de Leon taqueria is among the first restaurants in Mexico to be awarded a star by the prestigious Michelin Guide – an accomplishment its owner credits to “love and effort.”

El Califa de Leon is one of 18 restaurants given either one or two stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide Mexico unveiled this week.

The longstanding family business specialises in just four types of tacos and has room for only a few customers at a time in the San Rafael district of Mexico City.

“This taqueria may be bare bones with just enough room for a handful of diners to stand at the counter but its creation, the Gaonera taco, is exceptional,” the Michelin Guide said on its website.

“Thinly sliced beef filet is expertly cooked to order, seasoned with only salt and a squeeze of lime. At the same time, a second cook prepares the excellent corn tortillas alongside.

“The resulting combination is elemental and pure.”

The Gaonera, which costs a little over four dollars, was created in honor of the celebrated Mexican bullfighter Rodolfo Gaona, whose nickname in the ring was “El Califa de Leon.”

The restaurant was founded more than 50 years ago by the parents of current owner Mario Hernandez.

“My father said, ‘Do you want me to tell you the secret of the meat? There is no secret,” only “love and effort,” the 66-year-old said outside, his voice full of emotion.

Hernandez said his father taught him to always take care of quality, customer service and prices, because “life is a wheel of fortune with high times and low times.”

‘Well deserved’

On Wednesday, the usual office workers and other regulars were outnumbered by dozens of journalists and gastronomy experts attracted by the Michelin star.

The tacos “are really delicious,” said 19-year-old gastronomy student Hector Lancastre, adding that the international recognition was “well deserved.”

Tire-manufacturing brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin launched their first guide in 1900 to encourage motorists to discover restaurants around France.

It has since expanded to dozens of destinations around the world.

(with AFP)

The Sound Kitchen

Forgotten Sudan

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Sudan conference in Paris. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers – who also cooked up “Music from Paul” for us this week – 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: Arifa Alam Dolan from Natore, Bangladesh.

Welcome, Arifa! 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 RFI English journalist Melissa Chemam wrote: “Sudan conference opens in Paris to try and fix ‘forgotten’ crisis”. The crisis in Sudan has been pushed out of the global conversation by other ongoing conflicts – such as those in the Middle East or Ukraine – and only five percent of the 3.8-billion-euro target in the UN’s latest humanitarian appeal has been funded so far this year, according to the French foreign ministry.

You were to re-read Melissa’s article and answer this question: Aside from France, Germany, and the EU, who else was included in the conference?

The answer is, to quote Melissa’s article: “The ministerial meeting was held behind closed doors, and also brought together representatives from Sudan’s neighbours, as well as from Gulf nations and western powers, including the United States and Britain, along with regional organisations and the UN.”

The meeting was a success: French President Emmanuel Macron said the Paris conference raised more than 2 billion euros in aid to help Sudan and its neighbouring countries.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Sultan Mahmud Sarkar, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh: “What is your favorite flower, and why?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Father Steven Wara, who lives and serves at the Cistercian Monastery in Bamenda, Cameroon.  Father Steven is also the winner of the week’s bonus question. Congratulations Father Steve!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are RFI Listeners Club member Samir Mukhopadhyay from West Bengal, India, and RFI English listeners Bidhan Chandra Sanyal from West Bengal, India; Umesh Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal, and Shihab Ahamed Khan from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: The “Allegro moderato” from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330, played by Vladimir Horowitz; “Dancin’ Pants” by Quincy Jones, performed by the Quincy Jones Ensemble; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Peg” by Walter Becker and Donald Fage, performed by Steeley Dan.

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 Melissa’s article “South Africans lose faith in ruling ANC as income inequality grows”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 17 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 22 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. 


NEW CALEDONIA

Azerbaijan accused of stirring unrest in New Caledonia as tensions persist

France says it has “no doubt” that Azerbaijan is stirring tensions in New Caledonia despite the vast geographical and cultural distance between the oil-rich Caspian state and the French Pacific territory.

In what is the latest in a litany of tensions between Paris and Baku, France has directly accused Azerbaijan of being behind an alleged disinformation campaign that has fomented the riots in New Caledonia.

Azerbaijan rejects the accusation over this week’s unrest, which have led to the deaths of at least five people and rattled the government in Paris.

The riots in New Caledonia – the French overseas territory lying between Australia and Fiji – were sparked by moves to agree a new voting law that supporters of independence from France say discriminates against the indigenous Kanak population.

Paris has pointed to the sudden emergence of Azerbaijani flags alongside Kanak symbols in the protests. A group linked to the Baku authorities is openly backing separatists while condemning Paris.



“This isn’t a fantasy. It’s a reality,” Darmanin told television channel France 2 when asked if Azerbaijan, China and Russia were interfering in New Caledonia.

“I regret that some of the Caledonian pro-independence leaders have made a deal with Azerbaijan. It’s indisputable,” he alleged.

But he added: “Even if there are attempts at interference… France is sovereign on its own territory, and so much the better”.

  • France deploys troops, bans TikTok to quell deadly New Caledonia unrest

Historical enemies and allies

In images widely shared on social media, a reportage broadcast Wednesday on the French channel TF1 showed some pro-independence supporters wearing T-shirts adorned with the Azerbaijani flag.

Tensions between Paris and Baku have grown in the wake of the 2020 war and 2023 lightning offensive that Azerbaijan waged to regain control of its breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region from ethnic Armenian separatists.

France is a traditional ally of Christian Armenia, Azerbaijan’s neighbour and historic rival, and is also home to a large Armenian diaspora.

Darmanin said Azerbaijan – led since 2003 by President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father Heydar – was a “dictatorship”.

  • France, Russia stand on opposite sides of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

‘Baku Initiative Group’

Azerbaijan invited separatists from the French territories of Martinique, French Guiana, New Caledonia and French Polynesia to Baku for a conference in July 2023.

The meeting saw the creation of the “Baku Initiative Group“, whose stated aim is to support “French liberation and anti-colonialist movements”.

The group published a statement this week condemning the French parliament’s proposed change to New Caledonia’s constitution, which would allow outsiders who moved to the territory at least 10 years ago the right to vote in its elections.

Pro-independence forces say that would dilute the vote of Kanaks, who make up about 40 percent of the population.

“We stand in solidarity with our Kanak friends and support their fair struggle,” the Baku Initiative Group said.



Olympics disinformation campaign

Last November, France linked Azerbaijani figures to a disinformation campaign aimed at tarnishing its reputation as host of the 2024 Olympic Games.

Baku also rejected those accusations.

Viginum – the French organisation responsible for combating foreign digital interference – warned of a cyberattack denigrating the Olympic Games, attributed to Azerbaijan.

The recent presence of #BoycottParis2024 in New Caledonia has also raised questions over Baku’s interference in the unrest. 


SENEGAL – FRANCE

Senegal’s PM Sonko questions future of French military presence in Dakar

Senegalese Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko has raised the possibility of closing French military bases in the West African country in a wide-ranging speech that also touched on the euro-backed CFA franc currency, oil and gas deals and LGBTQ+ rights.

The newly elected Sonko, who gained power when his hand-picked presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye won a decisive victory in March, is known for criticising perceived overreach by France in its former colony.

France has about 350 troops stationed in Senegal.

“More than 60 years after our independence … we must question the reasons why the French army still benefits from several military bases in our country and the impact of this presence on our national sovereignty and strategic autonomy,” Sonko said.

He was speaking at an event at Dakar University on Thursday night alongside French hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who is visiting the country.

Sonko said Senegal’s desire for autonomy over its security was incompatible with the lasting presence of foreign military bases.

While many countries had promised defence deals, this does not justify the fact that a third of the Dakar region was occupied by foreign garrisons, he added. 



  • Senegal’s Sonko welcomes hard-left Mélenchon in symbolic visit to Dakar
  • Senegal’s President Faye appoints Ousmane Sonko as prime minister

Sahel ‘brothers’

Neighbours Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have pushed out French troops and turned to Russia for help in fighting jihadist insurgencies on their territory.

They have also turned away from the West African bloc Ecowas, which condemned their coups, and formed their own alliance of Sahel states.

But Sonko had friendly words for them on Thursday.

“We will not let go of our brothers in the Sahel and we will do everything necessary to strengthen the ties,” he said.

Senegal, which shares the euro-pegged CFA franc currency with seven countries, would like a flexible currency pegged to at least two currencies to help absorb shocks and support export competitiveness, he added.

Sonko reiterated promises to renegotiate oil and gas contracts in Senegal, where production is due to begin this year.

‘Restraint’ on LGBTQ+ rights

He called on Western countries to show “restraint, respect, reciprocity and tolerance” on social matters including LGBTQ+ rights and gender equality.

Homosexuality had always existed in Senegal, he said, but the country had “managed” it and would continue to do so according to its socio-cultural realities.

“Senegal and many other African countries cannot accept any truth in legalising this phenomenon.”


Cannes Film Festival 2024

Postcard from Cannes #2: the rising potential of immersive cinema

The Cannes Film Festival has rolled out the red carpet for immersive cinema and, for the first time, its own competition. With evolving techniques in virtual, augmented and mixed reality, storytelling is being taken to a whole new level.

The Cineum, with its steely grey Guggenheim-like shape emerging on the horizon, is just 20 minutes from downtown Cannes in the beachside suburb of La Bocca.

Opening in time for the Cannes Film Festival in 2021, the cinema complex is this year home to the festival’s immersive cinema program – with 14 international interactive projects, eight of them running in a brand new competition.

A goal for organisers is convincing spectators that the immersive experience is not simply for gamers.

For creators like Romanian Ioana Mischie, the technology has exponential potential, not just due to its technological innovation, but also for its human elements.

The viewer can step into someone else’s shoes and “be immersed” in the story, allowing for a deeper message. 

Mischie’s Human Violins is a virtual reality multi-player project: several people wear goggles, connect to the experience and interact with each other.

Art in dark times

Mischie sees the technology not only only as a way forward but a form of bridging past and present.

Human Violins explores the story of Alma – a 15-year-old sent to a death camp with her Jewish family during the Second World War. She took only her precious violin with her, which can be “played again” thanks to VR handsets.

“What we did was archive a story of the past in Virtual Reality (VR) and it actually has turned out to be a manifesto for the future,” she says.

“It’s the power of art in very dark times. Immersive creations allow us to express humanity in completely new ways,” she explains, adding that the project originated as a tribute to her father, a violin music lover.

“It’s a playground, a room for innovation, a room for visionary thinking and ultimately a huge revolution,” Mischie says.

  • From glitz to grit, here’s what’s making a buzz at this year’s Cannes

But challenges remain on how to sustain a rapidly evolving art form. For Jeremy Sahel, French co-producer of Human Violins, “the future is already the past”.

“In one year, the technology we used for this will need to be updated,” he tells RFI.

“Sometimes, we have to work for ten years after doing a piece to continue to make it available to the public. That’s the main difficulty for our industry.” 

Someone elses’ shoes

Nearby is Noire (Coloured) – an augmented reality, location-based experience by French collaborators Stéphane Foenkinos and Pierre-Alain Giraud based on French writer Tania de Montaigne’s essay.

Set in the United States’ 1950s segregated south, the audience follows 15-year-old Claudette Colvin who is thrown in jail after she refuses to give up her seat for a white woman on a bus.

The mixed reality project combines a variety of techniques. Unlike Human Violins, its goggles have clear lenses with real set décor visible alongside projected images.

“It’s as if you are traversing the film, you are able to walk through it as if the actors were ghosts,” visual supervisor Giraud explains, adding that the pre-filmed actors are projected as holograms.

As de Montaigne’s narrative evolves, landscapes and interiors materialise with lifelike characters appearing at an intimate distance. 

From sitting on the bus with Claudette to hearing her trial, the physical immersion makes for a poignant and memorable experience.

Joining body and mind

For Emil Dam Seidel from Denmark, immersive techniques are a way of exploring a cinematic experience by engaging the body alongside the mind.

Telos I, designed by Seidel with dancer Dorotea Saykaly, is a holographic, mixed reality film and dance installation projected through a glass pyramid in a dark room accompanied by a mysterious soundtrack.

  • Restored cut of century-old Napoleon epic to screen at Cannes Film Festival

“We’re looking at something that is fake but it feels real,” Seidel says.

“It’s a new beginning. We are taking cinema back to its roots and becoming experimental again, like the Lumière brothers.” 

Opening up

“We want to demystify the notion of immersive cinema being a purely individual pursuit for gamers,” says Elie Levasseur, project manager for the Immersive Competition, adding that it is also a “collective experience” for up to 25 people.

Levasseur says that immersive cinema will not replace classic cinema but develop parallel while borrowing from cinema, theatre, art and dance.

“The invention of photography didn’t wipe out painting,” he says.

“On the contrary, it forced it to explore new levels of expression.”


FRANCE – CRIME

French police shoot dead man trying to set fire to Rouen synagogue

French police on Friday killed an armed man who was trying to set fire to a synagogue in the northern city of Rouen. It’s unclear if the incident is terror-related.

“National police in Rouen neutralised early this morning an armed individual who clearly wanted to set fire to the city’s synagogue,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on X.

“I congratulate them on their responsiveness and their courage.”

Police sources said officers were told that smoke was rising from the synagogue, and came face to face with the man when they got there.

Media reports said the man was armed with a knife and an iron bar. He approached police, who then opened fire in an incident that took place about 6.45am.

There were no other victims. The man has yet to be identified.

Two investigations have been opened: one into the fire at the synagogue, and another into the circumstances of the man’s death.

  • French government launches consultations on fighting anti-Semitism
  • Macron promises France will be ‘uncompromising’ when it comes to anti-Semitism

Religious tensions

France has the largest Jewish community of any country after Israel and the United States, as well as Europe’s largest Muslim community.

Tensions and anger have grown in France over the Israel-Hamas war.

“Attempting to burn a synagogue is an attempt to intimidate all Jews,” Yonathan Arfi, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), wrote on X.

“Once again, there is an attempt to impose a climate of terror on the Jews of our country.”

Elie Korchia, president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France, paid tribute to the police who she said had prevented another anti-Semitic tragedy.

“On the eve of Shabbat, an armed individual who wanted to set fire to the consistorial synagogue in Rouen was neutralised by police officers who were nearby,” he wrote.

France’s Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office told AFP it was assessing whether to take up the case.

(with AFP)


GAY RIGHTS

LGBTQ+ gains thwarted by enduring discrimination and violence

Despite legal advancements and greater openness about sexual orientation, discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ people is on the rise in places including Europe – while elsewhere in the world many countries still criminalise same-sex relationships.

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – and this year’s theme is No one left behind: Equality, freedom and justice for all, highlighting both the progress and ongoing challenges in protecting LGBTQ+ rights.

Significant strides have been made to protect sexual and gender minorities.

Since 2019, 11 countries have legalised marriage equality. Since 2017, 13 countries have removed laws criminalising LGBTQ+ sexuality.

But despite these advances, discrimination and stigma persist. Many countries still criminalise consensual same-sex relationships, with some imposing the death penalty. 



European spike

In a study described as “clear wake-up call”, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) this week found violence against sexual and gender minorities had risen across Europe over the last five years

Europe is facing a “paradox”, FRA director Sirpa Rautio said.

While people are more open about their sexual orientation compared to the last report in 2019, “alarming rates of violence tell a different story”. 

More than one in two LGBTQ+ people now talk openly about their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, as well as their sexual characteristics.

“But most of them still avoid holding their partner’s hand in public for fear of being attacked,” the FRA said.

This was the case for 60 percent of those surveyed in France, compared with an EU average of 53 percent.

  • France is less racist, sexist and homophobic than 20 years ago: report
  • Greece to legalise marriage and adoption by same-sex couples

The number of those who said they had been victims of violence rose to 14 percent, slightly more than in 2019, with transgender people being particularly targeted.

Harassment now affects more than half of those surveyed, compared with 37 percent previously.

The situation is particularly bad at schools, where two-thirds say they have been bullied.

But discrimination remains largely invisible, with only a low percentage reporting an incident to the authorities.

In Hungary, where LGBTQ+ rights have regressed in recent years, only a fraction of people feel the government fights prejudice and intolerance against them – the lowest percentage in the bloc.

Rights groups have also found a rise in violence against LGBTQ+ people in Greece, which legalised same-sex marriage in Febrary.

Despite this, there have been reports of victims of “unprovoked violence … usually homophobic and transphobic verbal attacks often resulting in physical violence”.

Argentina backsliding?

Argentina has been a Latin American leader in gay marriage and identity legislation, with a 2021 law allowing non-binary people to mark their gender with an “X.”

But a deadly hate crime in the capital Buenos Aires this month shocked many in a nation that prides itself on gay rights.

Three women died after a man threw a Molotov cocktail at the home of two lesbian couples, setting it ablaze.

Many fear a backsliding in their freedoms under libertarian President Javier Milei.

Since taking office in December, Milei has scrapped the national women’s affairs ministry and the anti-discrimination agency, and banned the use of gender-inclusive language in the military.



Ugandan hurdles

A year after Uganda enacted one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws, many LGBTQ+ exiles are struggling to start over – facing a host of new hurdles alongside some of the same old threats that forced them out.

From Canada to Kenya to Germany, their new homelands have not proved the sanctuary that many LGBTQ+ Ugandans hoped.

Finding work, a home, safety and acceptance have proved elusive for many who felt forced out by Kampala’s tough anti-homosexuality laws.

Yet even this new half-life is better than the old one.

  • Uganda’s president signs harsh anti-gay bill into law

“Every queer person would love to leave Uganda,” said Henry Mukiibi, a bisexual man who swapped Uganda for neighbouring Kenya in late 2023 under fear of arrest for his activism.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law in May 2023, prompting international sanctions and widespread condemnation.

While Uganda has long criminalised gay sex, the new law was tougher yet – imposing the death penalty for “serial offenders” and a 20-year prison sentence for the “promotion of homosexuality”.

There has been a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ abuse, including cases of torture, rape and evictions, as ordinary citizens grew emboldened by the government stance.

The United Nations says close to 600 people have faced rights violations and abuses in the past year due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.


ISRAEL – HAMAS WAR

Israel says South Africa genocide case at UN court ‘totally divorced’ from facts

The Hague (AFP) – Israel lashed out Friday at South Africa’s case before the UN’s top court, describing it as “totally divorced” from reality, as Pretoria urges judges to order a ceasefire in Gaza.

A top lawyer for Israel painted the South Africa case as a “mockery” of the UN Genocide Convention it is accused of breaching.

“South Africa presents the court for the fourth time with a picture that is completely divorced from the facts and circumstances,” Gilad Noam told the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Pretoria has petitioned the ICJ to order a stop to the Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah, which Israel says is key to eliminating Hamas militants.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday the ground assault on Rafah was a “critical” part of the army’s mission to destroy Hamas and prevent a repetition of the October 7 attack.

“The battle in Rafah is critical… It’s not just the rest of their battalions, it’s also like an oxygen line for them for escape and resupply,” he said.

  • France repeats ‘strong opposition’ to any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah

Netanyahu ordered the Rafah offensive in defiance of US warnings that more than a million civilians sheltering there could be caught in the crossfire.

Friday in the Hague, Noam told the court Israel was “acutely aware” of civilians concentrated in Rafah.

“It is also acutely aware of Hamas efforts to use these civilians as a shield,” he said.

Noam said there had been no “large-scale” assault on Rafah but “specific and localised operations prefaced with evacuation efforts and support for humanitarian activities.”

A few dozen protesters rallied in support of Israel outside the Peace Palace seat of the ICJ, showing pictures of some of the hostages held by Hamas.

And the sitting was briefly interrupted as Israel was concluding its statement, with a woman heard shouting “liars” in the court.

‘New and horrific stage’

On Thursday, lawyers representing Pretoria presented judges a litany of allegations against Israel, including mass graves, torture and deliberate withholding of humanitarian aid.

South Africa had hoped, when we last appeared before this court, to halt this genocidal process to preserve Palestine and its people,” said top lawyer Vusimuzi Madonsela.

“Instead, Israel’s genocide has continued apace and has just reached a new and horrific stage,” added Madonsela.

But Noam said that South Africa’s accusations made a “mockery of the heinous charge of genocide.”

  • Israel qualifies for Eurovision final amid Gaza war protests

“Calling something a genocide again and again does not make it genocide. Repeating a lie does not make it true,” he said.

“There is a tragic war going on but there is no genocide.”

It is the fourth time South Africa has appealed to the court, with Israel accusing them of abusing the procedure.

“If anyone should be told enough is enough, it should be South Africa, not Israel,” said Noam.

“At what point do we say ‘enough’ to South Africa’s repeated attempts to exploit the provisional measure procedure of this court in such a vile and cynical manner?”

‘Protection from genocide’

In a ruling that made headlines worldwide, the ICJ in January ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent genocidal acts and enable humanitarian aid to Gaza.

But the court stopped short of ordering a ceasefire and South Africa’s argument is that the situation on the ground – notably the operation in the crowded city of Rafah – requires fresh ICJ action.

The orders of the ICJ, which rules in disputes between states, are legally binding but it has little means to enforce them.

It has ordered Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine, to no avail.

South Africa wants the ICJ to issue three emergency orders – “provisional measures” in court jargon – while it rules on the wider accusation that Israel is breaking the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

Student Gaza protests in Europe spread, sparking clashes and dozens of arrests

It wants the court to order Israel to “immediately” cease all military operations in Gaza, including in Rafah, enable humanitarian access and report back on its progress on achieving these orders.

The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Out of 252 people taken hostage that day, 128 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 38 who the army says are dead.

At least 35,303 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war broke out, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.

Israeli military says 279 soldiers have been killed in the Gaza military campaign since the start of the ground offensive on October 27


INDIA ELECTIONS

Indian opposition accuses Modi of divisive rhetoric as religion sours polls

With India’s mega-election underway, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is holding onto hope of seeing his ruling Hindu nationalist BJP win a third consecutive term. But ahead of the resumption of voting Monday, the opposition has accused India’s election watchdog of not doing enough to stop Modi’s polarising claims.

The opposition India National Congress Party’s complaints to the Election Commission were triggered by 74-year-old Modi’s 21 April visit to Rajasthan state. 

During the trip, Modi accused the Congress Party, led by Rahul Gandhi, of plotting to redistribute wealth of Hindus among Muslims – India’s single largest religious minority – if it came to power.

“You are talking in your manifesto of snatching gold ornaments,” Modi told a rally in the state’s Banswara district.



Modi claimed that the Congress had said Muslims were “the rightful inheritors of the nation’s wealth”. 

Following the speech, Congress asked the electoral commission – that is charged with enforcing election rules to prevent parties promoting division based on religion, caste, or language in the multi-ethnic nation – to take action against Modi.

The party maintains his allegations were “divisive, malicious and targeted a particular religious community” and aimed to foment hostility.

His statements were “far worse than any other made by a sitting prime minister in the history of India,” the opposition also claimed. 

The party also insisted their 2024 poll manifesto did not mention stealing anything from Hindus.

  • India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence

Delayed response under fire

The watchdog did not issue any rulings against Modi’s party, but did ask for a response from BJP chief J.P. Nadda, to answer for the PM’s divisive speech.

They also sent a notice to the Congress in response to three complaints filed against them by the BJP.

The Congress hit back saying the commission was “setting a precedent of helpless inaction” by delaying a response to their complaint until 25 April.

In a letter sent last Friday, the opposition claimed that the commission’s choice not to penalise the BJP would further their use of religious symbols and rhetoric in campaigning – in violation of electoral laws. 

“The commission’s failure to take suitable action will further undermine its credibility,” said Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury, as other opposition groups joined the Congress’ criticisms. 

Yechury added that the commission’s inaction will lead to further corruption of an “environment for a free and fair poll”.

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

‘State versus Muslim’ vote

Modi’s comments have marked a change in BJP’s election tact.

Previously, the party had focussed on talks of building a majestic Hindu temple, developing a muscular foreign policy, growing the economy and shrinking dependence on technology imports.

“It is not a Hindu versus Muslim election. It could be called a ‘State versus Muslim’ election,” the popular Frontline magazine said.

Monday will mark the beginning of the fifth leg of what is the worlds largest democratic election, with almost one billion eligible voters. 

Voting will be held in 49 seats in eight states including two in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir and three in states run by opposition parties at odds with Modi’s Hindu nationalists.

Since the 19 April start of the staggered balloting, Indians have voted in 379 constituencies, with 163 seats remaining. 

Final election results are expected on 4 June.


FRANCE

French court confiscates Bordeaux wine chateaux from Chinese magnate

A French court ruled to confiscate nine Bordeaux wine country chateaux acquired by a Chinese tycoon convicted of laundering Chinese government funds.

The sentenced 63-year-old Naijie Qu is a wealthy businessman, Bordeaux wine enthusiasist and head of Haichang Group, a trading and shipping conglomerate with interests in property, tourism and agriculture based in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian.  

Haichang was one of the most ambitious investors in a Chinese buying spree of France’s most famous wine-growing regions in the early 2010s.

But the millionaire’s adventure came to an end on Wednesday before the Paris Criminal Court who sentenced the Chinese entrepreneur to a suspended three-year jail term with a fine of one million euros.

The fine was 400,000 euros more than requested by prosecutors, who had asked for a four-year suspended jail term.

The court also ordered the confiscation of debts and nine of Qu’s chateaux, totalling 35.5 million euros.

His employee, 54-year-old Jian Liu, was also sentenced to eighteen months in prison and fined 50,000 euros for fraud related charges. 

Fraud and forgery

French police seized the estates in 2018 after finding evidence of tax fraud and use of forged documents, including papers to obtain a 30-million-euro loan from the Chinese bank ICBC’s branch in Paris.

Qu’s twenty plus Bordeaux chateaux, which cost him some 60 million euros, were put in the name of his wife in Hong Kong via a series of elaborately named shell companies in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.

China’s National Audit Office has said that Haichang was granted public money by state authorities to buy foreign technology but instead purchased vineyards in France.

It’s a landmark case for France with the third largest penalty for “ill-gotten gains” after the convictions of Teodorin Obiang, the son of the Guinean president, and Rifaat el-Assad, uncle of the Syrian president.

China is the leading export location for Bordeaux wines. In 2021, for every five bottles of Bordeaux, one was sold to China

Spotlight on Africa

South Africa’s 2024 Elections: young voters and the legacy of apartheid

Issued on:

South Africa is holding general and provincial elections on 29 May. In this episode of Spotlight on Africa, we look at young people and the elections and how  the country has changed since the end of apartheid in 1994.  

First, we talked to the director of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, Ivor Ichikowitz, who outlines the impact of corruption in South Africa and why the youth vote will be important. 

We also talked to Mary Paccard and Vincent Jackson, two South Africans living in France, who discuss how and why they campaigned for the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, from abroad. 


Episode mixed by Vincent Pora.

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 


France – Belgium

France’s Le Pen sues Belgian far-right party to stop using her image

Far-right French leader Marine Le Pen has sued a Belgian party to stop it using her face on election pamphlets to drum up votes.

Le Pen never gave permission for her image to be used by Belgium’s extreme-right Chez Nous (Our Home) party, her Belgian lawyer Ghislain Dubois said on Wednesday.

Two letters ordering Chez Nous to stop and a court complaint asking for daily fines to be imposed were needed before the party complied, he added.

The head of Chez Nous, Jerome Munier, confirmed the party had withdrawn the Le Pen pamphlets and told members to avoid using images subject to copyright.

He expressed regret that some members had distributed pamphlets bearing Le Pen’s face.

Belgium national elections

Chez Nous, founded in 2021, is fielding candidates in Belgium‘s 9 June national elections. The party is active in the country’s southern, French-speaking region.

Le Pen has handed over the reins of the National Rally (RN) party to 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, but remains a presidential hopeful for the party.

The daughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has strived to remake both her image and that of her party to make them more acceptable to mainstream French voters.

Voter surveys put it ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s party in EU elections also to be held on 9 June in France.

(with AFP)


MAYOTTE – HEALTH

Residents of crisis-hit Mayotte warned to avoid ‘defective’ bottled water

People in the French overseas department of Mayotte battling a dual water crisis and cholera epidemic have been warned not to drink a batch of “defective” bottled water imported to the Indian Ocean archipelago.  

Health authorities said water bottles from the Cristaline Elena brand with the M1 03/11/25 batch number “smelled of hydrocarbons” and were not safe for consumption. 

The number of bottles affected was not revealed, but they are believed to have been distributed to several supermarkets. 

An earlier batch of Cristaline bottles was deemed unfit for consumption last January. 

Access to drinking water has been severely disrupted on Mayotte since September – with running tap water to homes cut off one day out of every three.

Devastating drought 

France’s poorest department, Mayotte is facing its worst drought since 1997. Its water supply depends largely on rainwater. 

The lack of rain has been aggravated by poor infrastructure and investment in a territory that is also under pressure from illegal immigration from the neighbouring Comoros. 

  • Toddler dies as France’s Mayotte seeks to contain cholera epidemic
  • How overseas Mayotte became ‘a department apart’ within France

Making things worse is a recent cholera epidemic that claimed its first life, a three-year-old boy, last week. 

Many inhabitants of live in unsanitary conditions with very limited access to water. 

In an interview with daily Le Parisien, former Mayotte health director Dominique Voynet said cholera was largely being spread by drinking water supplies and sanitation networks that have been “failing in Mayotte for years”. 

The latest figures show at least 76 people have been infected by cholera since March. 


Slovakia

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Fico expected to survive after being shot

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s condition has stabilised overnight but is still “very serious”, the deputy prime minister said on Thursday – a day after Fico was shot multiple times.

Surgeons spent hours in the operating theatre overnight, battling to save the 59-year-old leader after the attack, which has been condemned around the world.

“During the night doctors managed to stabilise the patient’s condition,” deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak told reporters gathered at the hospital where the Slovak premier was being treated.

“Unfortunately, the condition is still very serious as the injuries are complicated,” added Kalinak, who is also the defence minister and Fico’s close ally hailing from his Smer-SD party.

The director of the Banska Bystrica hospital, where the Slovak premier was transported after sustaining gunshot wounds, said Fico underwent a five-hour surgery carried out by two teams.

“He will stay at the intensive care unit,” Miriam Lapunikova said.

Shock attack

Footage of events just after the shooting showed security agents grabbing a wounded Fico from the ground and hustling him into a black car. Other police handcuffed a man on the pavement nearby.

Police detained a suspect at the site of the attack in Handlova, President Zuzana Caputova told reporters.

“I am shocked, we are all shocked by the terrible and heinous attack,” she added.

  • Macron joins global leaders in condemning gun attack on Slovakian prime minister
  • Slovakia announces end of military aid to Ukraine

Kalinak said earlier the attack was a political assault. “It’s absolutely clear, and we have to react on that.”

Fico, whose Smer-SD party won the general election last September, is a four-time prime minister and political veteran accused of swaying his country’s foreign policy in favour of the Kremlin.

Suspect not named

Media reported that the suspected gunman was a 71-year-old writer, but police have not named any suspects.

The alleged suspect’s son told Slovak news site aktuality.sk he had “absolutely no idea what father was thinking, what he was planning, why it happened”.

Analyst Grigorij Meseznikov said “there has been no (previous) attack on any minister or prime minister in Slovakia.”

“I only remember the case of former minister of economy Jan Ducky who was shot dead in 1999,” he added. “But he had not been politically active anymore when he was killed.”

World leaders immediately condemned the attack, including US President Joe Biden who said he and the first lady “are praying for a swift recovery, and our thoughts are with his family and the people of Slovakia.”

(with AFP)


Cannes Film Festival 2024

Postcard from Cannes #1: Fiction is reality and reality is fiction

The Cannes Film Festival officially opened on Tuesday evening with a cheeky speech by hostess Camille Cottin, an emotional homage to Hollywood icon Meryl Streep, and a disconcerting deadpan film about making a film. You could call it a perfect cocktail to kick off the 77th edition of the international event.

Drops of rain fell as guests, stars and jury members posed on the red carpet in front of the Palais des Festivals for the opening night.

But it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the crème de la crème who filled the plush velvet seats of the Louis-Lumière theatre for a ceremony simultaneously broadcast in over 700 cinemas across France.

At 7.15pm sharp, the hostess of the soirée, Camille Cottin – of Call My Agent fame – appeared on stage, in a long black gown, slightly breathless from all the excitement.

“You may not be aware of this, but you are about to enter a parallel universe called the Cannes Vortex…where you plunge into darkness to find light”, she smiled mischievously, accompanied by the Worakls orchestra.

  • Cannes reveals 22-film line-up featuring Coppola and Cronenberg

Living and breathing cinema

Without skipping a beat, she listed all the sorts of crazy things that happen in Cannes: sleepless nights, living and breathing cinema.

“We watch films all day long and we discuss them all night long. Nobody speaks the same language, yet we all understand each other. (…) It sounds insane, but it’s true.”

On a  more serious note, she pointed out that although many cinema traditions would be upheld, there would be one notable exception – “no more ‘casting couch promotions’ in the company of powerful movie men… thanks to the adoption of the #MeToo law,” she said, referring to the international movement calling out sexual abuse in the industry.

She then solemnly introduced the gender-balanced, eight-member jury – four women and four men, who took their seats on the stage to warm applause.

Ebru Ceylan from Turkey, Lily Gladstone from the United States, Eva Green and Omar Sy from France, Nadine Labaki from Lebanon, Spain’s Juan Antonio Bayona, Italy’s Pierfrancesco Favino and Japan’s Kore-eda Hirokazu.

  • French stars Omar Sy and Eva Green part of 2024 Cannes Film Festival jury

Then came a punchy medley of clips from films to “introduce” Greta Gerwig – the president of the feature film competition jury and only the second woman director to hold the post.

Sparkling in her long grape-purple gown with plunging neckline, the American director and actor responded humbly by saying she felt honoured to be worshipping a “sacred art” in the “temple of cinema”.

Modern Love

She was moved by the dazzling performance of singer Zaho de Sagazan, who came to sing David Bowie’s Modern Love, the worldwide hit and the soundtrack to Gerwig’s film, Frances Ha (2012).

The audience was then treated to a neat flashback of best-of moments in the half-century career of Hollywood icon Meryl Streep, who was presented with an honorary Palme d’Or by French film star Juliette Binoche.

Binoche came on stage in a bright red dress with her hair slicked back as if she’d just come back from a dip in the sea.

She unfolded a few pages of script and recited her speech like a nervous school girl, her words sprinkled with laughter and tears.

  • Hollywood actress Meryl Streep to receive honorary Palme d’Or at Cannes

“Your face and your voice are part of our lives. You made us feel emotions. You made us grow. When I see you on screen, it’s not you I see, it is a flow that goes through you,” Binoche said.

“And that is what being an actor is all about. But in reality, it is much more. It is a link created by your presence, letting beauty come to you. What flows through you in an instant is intent, thought, energy, love, truth.”

Film within a film

Streep was visibly moved, and also complimented Binoche on her stunning cinema career – especially for her role in La Passion de Dodin Bouffant (The Taste of Things), which won Best Director at Cannes in 2023.

“When I was in Cannes 35 years ago, for the first time, I was already a mother of three,” Streep recounted. “I was approaching 40 and I thought my career was over. At the time, for an actress, that was a reasonable prediction. The only reason I’m here tonight is because of the wonderful artists I’ve worked with…”

After a quick group photocall – the lights dimmed and it was time for the opening film, Quentin Dupieux’s Le Deuxième Acte (The Second Act).

Starring Vincent Lindon (Jury president in 2021), Léa Seydoux, Raphaël Quenard (Césars award for best actor), Louis Garrel and Manuel Guillot, it is a surreal voyage into a kind of filmic no-man’s land – a film within a film with a slightly futuristic edge.

Disconcerting to say the least, with lots of twists and hilarious off-beat moments – the quartet swing wildly from being “themselves” to being their “fictional” selves and back again – taking the audience precisely into the vortex Cottin predicted.

Click here to see RFI’s coverage of the Cannes Film Festival from 14 – 25 May, 2024.


Cannes film festival 2024

AI cameras to be tested at Cannes Film Festival ahead of Paris Olympics

Security using artificial intelligence is being deployed at the Cannes Film Festival in a test for potential applications at the Paris Olympics two months later.

Some 40,000 attendees – and some of the world’s biggest movie stars – fly into the French Riviera for the Cannes film festival from Tuesday to 25 May.

Local authorities say they are using 17 experimental cameras equipped with AI technology that are supposed to “identify events or behaviours deemed suspicious” and help detect abandoned packages, weapons and people in distress.

The Cannes town hall has been asking to implement them since 2019 but has only been given permission thanks to changes in surveillance laws introduced for the Olympics that kick off in Paris in July, according to mayor David Lisnard.

He said the town already had the “densest video protection network in France”, with 884 cameras, one for every 84 residents.

  • France approves algorithmic video surveillance to safeguard Olympics

Cannes also has 462 emergency call buttons spread across public spaces and buildings.

There were concerns that mobilisation for the Olympics would deprive the festival of police resources.

But Paris authorities say they are sending some 400 security forces in addition to the 200 officers and 66 surveillance agents already in Cannes.

The festival has a further 400 security guards around the main venue, the Palais des Festivals – not to mention the many private security agents employed at all the beach, villa and yacht parties.

(with AFP)

The Sound Kitchen

Forgotten Sudan

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Sudan conference in Paris. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers – who also cooked up “Music from Paul” for us this week – 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: Arifa Alam Dolan from Natore, Bangladesh.

Welcome, Arifa! 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 RFI English journalist Melissa Chemam wrote: “Sudan conference opens in Paris to try and fix ‘forgotten’ crisis”. The crisis in Sudan has been pushed out of the global conversation by other ongoing conflicts – such as those in the Middle East or Ukraine – and only five percent of the 3.8-billion-euro target in the UN’s latest humanitarian appeal has been funded so far this year, according to the French foreign ministry.

You were to re-read Melissa’s article and answer this question: Aside from France, Germany, and the EU, who else was included in the conference?

The answer is, to quote Melissa’s article: “The ministerial meeting was held behind closed doors, and also brought together representatives from Sudan’s neighbours, as well as from Gulf nations and western powers, including the United States and Britain, along with regional organisations and the UN.”

The meeting was a success: French President Emmanuel Macron said the Paris conference raised more than 2 billion euros in aid to help Sudan and its neighbouring countries.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Sultan Mahmud Sarkar, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh: “What is your favorite flower, and why?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Father Steven Wara, who lives and serves at the Cistercian Monastery in Bamenda, Cameroon.  Father Steven is also the winner of the week’s bonus question. Congratulations Father Steve!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are RFI Listeners Club member Samir Mukhopadhyay from West Bengal, India, and RFI English listeners Bidhan Chandra Sanyal from West Bengal, India; Umesh Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal, and Shihab Ahamed Khan from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: The “Allegro moderato” from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330, played by Vladimir Horowitz; “Dancin’ Pants” by Quincy Jones, performed by the Quincy Jones Ensemble; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Peg” by Walter Becker and Donald Fage, performed by Steeley Dan.

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 Melissa’s article “South Africans lose faith in ruling ANC as income inequality grows”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 17 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 22 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 Africa

South Africa’s 2024 Elections: young voters and the legacy of apartheid

Issued on:

South Africa is holding general and provincial elections on 29 May. In this episode of Spotlight on Africa, we look at young people and the elections and how  the country has changed since the end of apartheid in 1994.  

First, we talked to the director of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, Ivor Ichikowitz, who outlines the impact of corruption in South Africa and why the youth vote will be important. 

We also talked to Mary Paccard and Vincent Jackson, two South Africans living in France, who discuss how and why they campaigned for the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, from abroad. 


Episode mixed by Vincent Pora.

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 

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. 


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

Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


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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.