rfi 2024-06-11 00:13:45



French elections 2024

Why did Macron call snap elections and what does it mean for France?

Polls had barely closed for the European elections when President Emmanuel Macron called voters back to the ballot box to elect a new French parliament – three years ahead of schedule. What’s behind his surprise decision, and what happens next?

“After today, I cannot act as if nothing had happened,” Macron told viewers in a prime-time address to the nation on Sunday night, reacting to early results from EU elections that showed a surge for his far-right opponents.

Their gains – which saw the far-right National Rally (RN) win more than double the number of seats in the European Parliament that Macron’s centrist bloc secured – would push him to give French voters the chance to change their own parliament early, he announced.

“France needs a clear majority if it is to act in serenity and harmony,” Macron said, “not political bargains and precarious solutions”. 

“Nothing could be more republican than giving a sovereign people their say.”

But if the President presented it as the only democratic thing to do, others say his move is a gamble calculated to give the opposition an opportunity to fail.

  • France gears up for legislative elections after right-wing gains in EU polls

At the head of a minority

Macron’s argument is that the EU election results set the nail in the coffin of a parliament that was already struggling. 

His Renaissance party and its allies lost their majority in the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament, in the last legislative elections of June 2022.

That vote resulted in heavy losses for Macron’s bloc and gains for both the far left and far right. The President’s coalition remained the largest faction, but the RN became the single biggest party opposing it.

Since then Macron’s camp has struggled to get bills passed. For some of its flagship measures – notably the pension reforms that caused months of protests last year – it bypassed the assembly altogether by invoking a constitutional clause that allows legislation to be passed without a vote, a controversial measure intended as a last resort.

  • France’s article 49.3 a handy constitutional tool to bypass parliament

The RN’s success in the European elections made Macron’s government look even weaker. With 31.4 percent of the vote to the Macronists’ 14.6 percent, RN leader Jordan Bardella called the results a “stinging rejection” of the president.

It’s not quite the trouncing the RN would claim when barely more than one in two eligible French voters turned out, but if nothing else it’s a sign that Macron’s supporters are less enthusiastic than Bardella’s.

The President is banking on voters proving more motivated when it’s their national parliament at stake. 

In his speech, he said he trusted the French public to show up “massively” for the snap polls – as well as to choose wisely. 

Fractured political landscape

But with less than three weeks until the first round of voting on 30 June, Macron hasn’t left himself much time to win anyone over. 

And if he’s relying on mainstream parties across the spectrum to unite against the far right – as they have done in French elections of the past – that might be a losing bet. 

The Republicans, the right-wing party that dominates the upper-house Senate, have already ruled out an alliance with Macron’s camp.

Meanwhile the left is splintered, the broad coalition that helped it make gains in parliamentary elections two years ago having imploded amid disagreements over the war in Gaza. 

  • Can France’s left wing unify to counter far right in legislative elections?

The only faction heading into the snap polls with momentum, in fact, is the RN – which welcomed Macron’s decision warmly. 

It’s far from guaranteed a win, however. A group needs 289 out of the assembly’s 577 seats for an outright majority; currently the RN has 89, and a similar percentage of the vote that it won on Sunday would get it around 182. (Macron’s bloc, for context, has 245.) 

The more likely outcome, according to pundits, is that the vote will produce an even more fragmented parliament and greater deadlock.

Cynical move?

None of this is any secret to Macron – which has led some to suspect that his decision to call elections is a cynical ploy to trip up the RN.

Either they can’t repeat their success of the European elections when more voters show up, or they end up repeating it and still not having enough seats to govern alone. 

Most cynically of all, it’s been suggested, Macron may be willing the RN to get its first ever shot at governing France – calculating that will undercut its efforts to portray itself as an anti-establishment force for change.

Whoever ends up leading the parliament, Macron will remain president. His time in office, which is decided in separate elections, is not up until 2027.

Before then, appointing Bardella prime minister – as Macron would be forced to do in the event of an RN-led parliament –could be calculated to weaken the party and stop it claiming France’s highest job.

That’s what Macron himself has done in the past two presidential elections of 2017 and 2022, which put him head to head against the RN candidate Marine Le Pen.

He won’t be eligible to stand again in 2027, having already served the maximum two terms. But his “poker play“, as French media has dubbed the choice of snap polls, might just be his attempt to have a say in how the next presidency shapes up.

In the meantime, it’s already having concrete consequences. The National Assembly was dissolved with Macron’s announcement, meaning legislation due for debate – including a bill on assisted dying and the proposed merger of French public broadcasters – is now on hold.

Candidates have until 14 June to announce they’re running, and campaigning officially begins on 17 June.


World War II

French, German Presidents mark 80th anniversary of martyred village

French President Emmanuel Macron and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the village of Oradour-sur-Glane on Monday, where Nazi troops murdered more than 600 civilians in 1944.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned against the dangers of nationalism Monday, as he visited a World War II massacre site in France a day after European elections saw advances for the far right.

“I would like to express on behalf of Germany my dismay and my affliction at these inconceivable crimes, so cruel and inhuman, perpetrated here by Germans (…)”, Steinmeier said at a commemoration ceremony for the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, where Nazi SS soldiers massacred civilians in 1944.

“And I would like to share with you the feeling of shame that inhabits me regarding the fact that assassins subsequently remained unpunished, that they did not atone for the most serious crimes. My country surrendered in this very way guilty again,” he added.

Only six people escaped one of the worst massacres of civilians by the Nazis in Western Europe, which left 643 dead: men shot with machine guns by the Waffen SS, then some 450 women and children in the church, before the village of Oradour-sur-Glane was set on fire.



The German President also mentioned Sunday’s European elections, marked by the progression of the far right, particularly in France and Germany.

“Let us never forget the damage done in Europe by nationalism and hate. Let us never forget the miracle of reconciliation the European Union has worked,” he declared.

  • France remembers Oradour, a WWII massacre and the martyred village left behind
  • French president dissolves parliament after far-right National Rally’s EU elections victory

French President Emmanuel Macron responded by calling post-war Franco-German ties “the lifeblood of our European project”.

“It is in this memory, in the ashes of Oradour, that we have to ensure the strength of this reconciliation is reborn.”

 

Macron is facing a political upheaval since he called new national elections for France’s parliament on Sunday night, after disastrous results for his Renaissance party in the European vote.

While Macron hopes to break the deadlock of a hung parliament that has dogged his second term since 2022, the far-right National Rally (RN) looks set to make significant gains from its current 88 lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Germany will not hold a snap election despite calls for Chancellor Olaf Scholz to step aside after his ruling coalition’s dismal performance in the EU election, a spokesman said Monday.

  • Remembering D-Day’s heavy toll on French civilians

Scholz’s coalition suffered a stinging defeat, with all three parties in his government trailing the conservatives and the far right, preliminary results showed.

The chancellor’s Social Democrats (SPD) scored their worst result ever at 14 percent, third behind the far-right AfD at around 16 percent, and well behind the conservative CDU-CSU bloc’s 30 percent.

The Greens recorded 12 percent while the liberal FDP took five percent.

(with AFP)


French politics

Can France’s left wing unify to counter far right in legislative elections?

French leftist and green parties won over 31 percent of the vote in Sunday’s European parliament election, but they can only hope to face down the far right in the upcoming snap legislative elections if they work together. This will not be an easy task, as the leftist electoral coalition created for the 2022 legislative elections is in shambles.

Following the strong showing of the National Rally (RN) in Sunday’s European parliament election, leaders of all of France’s left wing parties called for unity in order to keep the far right from making inroads in legislative elections called by French President Emmanuel Macron after he dissolved parliament.

Coming in third, behind the far-right National Rally (31 percent) and Macron’s Renaissance (14.6 percent), the Socialists won 13.83 percent of the vote on Sunday.

Together with the hard-left France Unbowed, the Communists and the Greens, leftist parties won about 31 percent of the vote, making a union a possible force against the far right.

What kind of union?

However, there are strong disagreements over what a leftist union would look like today, after the Socialists pulled out of the Nupes alliance, created for the 2022 legislative elections.

The parties have just 20 days to sort out their differences before the first round of the legislative election on 30 June.

Socialist party secretary Oliver Faure called for a union of the left to keep the far right out of the government.

  • French President dissolves parliament after far-right National Rally’s EU elections victory

“The far right is not just at the gates of power, it has a foot in the door,” he said on France Info Monday, calling for a “popular front” against the far right in the elections.

He was echoing a call from France Unbowed deputy François Ruffin, who on Sunday called for a “popular front” – a reference to the leftist coalition that put the first-ever Socialist prime minister in power in France in 1936.

More of a unifier than his fellow France Unbowed members, Ruffin called on leftist political leaders to stop trading insults and work together.

What platform?

“We are at the moment building the bases of a hopeful alternative on the left,” Socialist MEP Chloe Ridel told RFI on Monday, adding that the party is ready to present an “alternative” to the far right, with a “gathering of the forces of the left and the ecologists based on a clear and renewed platform”.

  • Far-right gains jolt France but European centrist bloc holds in EU vote

The platform is a sticking point between the Socialists and the France Unbowed, whose leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon agrees on the principle of unity, but questioned the basis of it.

“We already have a shared platform,” he said in a message on X, referring to the Nupes alliance, whose policy was driven by France Unbowed priorities, including withdrawing from nuclear energy or pushing for a minimum retirement age of 60, which not all Socialists or Communists agree on.

Left without Melenchon?

The Nupes alliance broke up largely because of disagreements over the dominance of Melenchon, who was positioned to become prime minister if the alliance won enough seats.

Any new union will have to decide whether to keep the same strategy, and try to hold onto the 150 seats won because of the alliance, or to change candidates to include more Socialists.

And what to do with the Greens? Scraping by with just over the five percent needed to have seats in the European Parliament, the Greens are in tatters.

“We want unity. Simple. Basic,” wrote Marie Toussaint, head of the Greens’ list.

Party secretary Marine Tondelier said the party was ready to do what is necessary, as “the moment is too serious to spend hours tearing each other apart”.


European elections 2024

France gears up for legislative elections after right-wing gains in EU polls

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he was confident that the French would make the right choice in snap legislative elections he called on Sunday after his centrist alliance was beaten by the far right in EU elections. France will vote for a new parliament (National Assembly) on 30 June, with a second round on 7 July.

“I am confident in the capacity of the French people to make the right choice for themselves and for future generations. My sole ambition is to be useful to our country that I love so much,” Macron said on X.

His shock announcement came after EU election projections showed the far-right National Rally (RN) had scored more than double the votes of his centrist alliance in the French vote.

In his address to the nation on Sunday, Macron noted that in total far-right parties in France had won almost 40 percent of the vote.

“It is a situation to which I cannot resign myself … I cannot act as if nothing had happened,” Macron added.

  • 2024 European Election Projections and Results

Roll of the dice

Macron’s unexpected decision, which amounts to a roll of the dice on his political future, could hand major political power to the far-right after years on the sidelines, and neuter his presidency three years before it ends.

“This will be the most consequential parliamentary election for France and for the French in the history of the Fifth Republic,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RTL radio.

The legislative vote will take place on 30 June, less than a month before the start of the Paris Olympics, with a second round on 7 July.

  • French president dissolves parliament after far-right National Rally’s EU elections victory

The outcome will likely depend on how committed leftist and center-right voters are to the idea of blocking the far-right from power.

Analysts said Macron’s decision aimed to make the best of his weak position, reclaiming the initiative and forcing Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) into election mode faster than it would have liked.

Macron’s surprise move appeared to have caught some far-right leaders off-guard.

RN leader Bardella a candidate for PM

“We didn’t think it would be immediately after the European elections, even if we wanted it to be,” the deputy chairman of the RN, Sebastien Chenu, said on RTL Radio, adding: “Elections are rarely a gift and in this context, they aren’t.”

He called for right-wing lawmakers from outside the RN to swell its ranks in its battle to beat Macron, and said the party’s president, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, would be its candidate for prime minister.

Led by Bardella, the RN won about 32 percent of the vote on Sunday, more than double the Macron ticket’s 15 percent, according to exit polls. The Socialists came within a whisker of Macron, with 14 percent.

Macron’s Renaissance party currently has 169 lower house lawmakers, out of a total of 577. The RN has 88.

If the RN wins a majority, Macron would still direct defence and foreign policy, but would lose the power to set the domestic agenda, from economic policy to security.

(with newswires)


European elections 2024

Far-right gains jolt France but European centrist bloc holds in EU vote

Far-right gains in the EU elections caused a political earthquake in France on Sunday, but mainstream parties retained a majority in the bloc’s parliament.

French President Emmanuel Macron dissolved the national parliament and called a snap election after exit polls indicated that far-right leader Marine Le Pen‘s National Rally (RN) had decisively beaten his liberal party in the European elections.

Results showed the National Rally at 31.5 percent, securing 30 seats in the upcoming EU parliament, more than double the 14.6 percent and 13 seats for Macron’s Renaissance party.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also faced disappointing news, with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) taking second place at 16 percent, ahead of his Social Democrats at 14 percent

  • French PM steps in to boost Macron’s ailing EU parliament campaign
  • French president dissolves parliament after far-right National Rally’s EU elections victory
  • EU readies for key elections with far right forecast to surge

Far-right progress

The stinging blows for Europe’s most powerful centrist leaders meant that the far-right was on course to boost its presence in the EU’s transnational parliament.

In announcing his decision, Macron said he refused to “resign” himself to “far right parties… progressing everywhere in the continent.”

But it was far from a clean-sweep for the far-right which fell short of expectations in the Netherlands and Belgium, with the picture still emerging elsewhere.

And crucially, parties on the extreme right remain divided – making them likely to remain on the sidelines in Brussels.

A preliminary projection from the parliament showed the three main centrist parties set to maintain a clear majority, albeit slightly reduced, with 401 out of 720 seats up for grabs.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) came first with 184, followed by its two main partners – the centre-left Socialists and Democrats on 139 and the centrist Renew Europe on 80.

“Today is a good day my friends. We are the strongest party. We are the anchor of stability,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who is seeking another term in charge, told her EPP grouping.

“Together with others we will build a bastion against the extremes from the left and from the right. We will stop them. This is for sure.”

Green losses

The crushing victory for Le Pen in France had been widely predicted – and her party had already come first in the European polls in the country in 2019.

“A deep humiliation as expected for Macron’s centrist camp in today’s European elections,” wrote Eurasia Group analyst Mujtaba Rahman.

Elsewhere around Europe, Green parties appeared among the biggest losers of the night – as right-wing opponents channelled discontent into anger at EU’s environmental push.

More than 360 million people across the EU’s 27 nations were eligible to vote to help shape the European Union’s direction over the next five years.

The election came as the continent is confronted with Russia’s war in Ukraine, global trade tensions marked by US-China rivalry, a climate emergency and the prospect of a disruptive new Donald Trump presidency.

Horsetrading begins

Now the voting is over, the horsetrading will begin as EU leaders and lawmakers look to select who runs the powerful European Commission over the next five years.

Von der Leyen remains favourite – but it is still to be seen if she will get the nod from the bloc’s 27 leaders and then be able to ensure the centrist groups back her in parliament.

The picture was set to become clearer with the results from Italy –  where Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni‘s post-fascist Brothers of Italy is expected to triumph.

Meloni is being courted both by von der Leyen – who needs her backing for a second mandate – as well as Le Pen and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who would like to form a far-right parliament supergroup.

European Election Results

European Election Results

The 2024 European elections take place between 6 June and 9 June across the European Union’s 27 member states. Around 400 million voters will head to the polls to elect 720 members of the European Parliament, including 81 MEPS from France. Follow the live results of the European Elections as the new European Parliament takes shape.


Uganda

Ugandan environmental activist freed after five days in detention

An environmental activist in Uganda who is opposed to a huge oil project led by French giant TotalEnergies has been freed after five days in detention, his employer said Monday. 

Stephen Kwikiriza was found on Sunday evening dumped on a roadside in Kyenjojo, about five hours’ drive west of the capital Kampala, said Samuel Okulony, director of the Environment Governance Institute (EGI).

The activist said he was beaten by army officers, Okulony said in a message to French news agency AFP, adding that he was being treated in a Kampala hospital.

“He is alive, is now safe, and is reconnecting with family. His condition is not good after having suffered severe beatings, mistreatment and abuse throughout the week.”

A senior military officer on Monday confirmed Kwikiriza’s detention.

“He was taken into custody for questioning regarding his illegal activities including mobilising fellow activists to oppose the oil pipeline,” the officer told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that he was released after interrogation.

“I have not been made aware of him being beaten during interrogation, it’s a matter that can be investigated and verified.”

International pressure

Okulony lauded “international pressure” for the release of Kwikiriza.

Global rights groups had raised concerns about Kwikiriza’s fate after he went missing on Tuesday.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) described it as a “particularly worrying escalation of repression”.

  • TotalEnergies signals land review for contentious mega projects in Africa
  • Ugandans sue TotalEnergies in France, accusing it of human rights violations

FIDH said 11 environmental activists “were kidnapped, arbitrarily arrested, detained or subjected to different forms of harassment by the Ugandan authorities between May 27 and June 5, 2024”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had also voiced concern about Kwikiriza’s disappearance.

“The Ugandan government needs to end its harassment of opponents of oil development in the country, such as the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project,” Myrto Tilianaki, senior environmental rights advocate at HRW, said in a statement.

Dire consequences

TotalEnergies signed an agreement with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) in 2022 to develop Ugandan oil fields and ship the crude via a 1,445-kilometre pipeline to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port of Tanga.

President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda with an iron fist since 1986, has regularly praised the oil project as an economic boon for the impoverished landlocked country.

The first oil is expected to flow in 2025 – almost two decades after the reserves were discovered in Lake Albert in northwestern Uganda.

Environmental groups say the project is having dire consequences for local communities and the environment in an area of rich biodiversity, and have accused TotalEnergies of greenwashing.

TotalEnergies in Uganda said in a statement it “does not tolerate any threats, intimidation, harassment or violence against those who peacefully and lawfully promote human rights in relation to our activities”.

(with AFP)


Energy

Gas bill to increase by 12 percent in July, French energy body says

The average price of gas bills for millions of French consumers will rise by 11.7 percent in July compared with June, as a result of a rebound in prices and, above all, an increase in distribution network tariffs.

The gas bills of millions of French people will rise by an average of 11.7 percent in July compared with June, mainly as a result of higher distribution costs, the French energy regulator CRE announced on Monday.

The distribution network operator GRDF bills suppliers, who, if the prices rise, can pass on the cost to consumers.

In July, the average reference price will be €129.2 per megawatt-hour (MWh), including VAT, compared with 115.7 euros per MWh in June, according to the monthly reference index published by CRE.

However, the regulator argues that even if this price has increased, it remains 4.7 euros per MWh below the average price on 1 January 2024, a fall of 3.5 percent.

Average annual bill of €1,184

CRE has provided an estimate of the annual bill for private customers with a variable-price gas offer. This would average €1,184, compared with €1,060 per year in June and €1,227 in January.

The reference price is published “as an indication” because suppliers remain “free to set the price conditions for their offers” and to pass on the increase or not on the bill, says the CRE.

  • French budget deficit widens but government promises no tax hike
  • French electricity prices to increase with phase-out of energy crisis tax cuts

The increase should in the end affect the vast majority of the 10 million or so residential customers connected to the GRDF gas distribution network, according to the national energy ombudsman. 

This increase comes on top of the doubling since 1 January of a tax paid by gas suppliers.

(with AFP)


Art

Artworks stolen in Nazi-occupied Paris donated to the Louvre

Eighty years after they were looted from a Jewish family during the Nazi Occupation of France, two 17th-century still-life paintings have been returned to the heirs of their rightful owners – who have donated them to the Louvre Museum in Paris. 

The two paintings, “Still Life with Ham” by Dutch artist Floris van Schooten and “Food, Fruit and Glass on a Table” by Peter Binoit of Germany, are now displayed alongside historical documents giving information on the Javals – the family that owned them until 1944. 

The works are believed to have been looted that year from the family’s mansion in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, according to the French Ministry of Culture, which helped trace the rightful owners.

Five members of the family were deported and murdered at the Auschwitz death camp, while others fought in the Resistance or went into hiding.

Their living beneficiaries were finally identified last year thanks to the efforts of researchers at the culture ministry, the French national archives and CIVS, the commission responsible for examining reparation claims from victims of France’s antisemitic wartime laws. 

The heirs handed the works over to the Louvre in a ceremony last Tuesday, attended by 48 of the Javals’ descendants.

It is a “duty of memory towards my family, who were robbed and persecuted, whose history speaks to current generations”, one of them, Marion, told French news agency AFP, asking to remain anonymous.

  • France passes law to help return art looted by Nazis to Jewish owners

‘Never forget’

The new display “testifies to a rich and interesting group of people” who had very different destinies, she said.

The museum’s director, Laurence des Cars, told French news agency AFP it was a “call to never forget, a commitment to transmitting memory and a constant call to action”.

The Javals’ paintings are thought to have been among thousands of stolen artworks taken to Germany in the autumn of 1944.

Surviving family member Mathilde Javal officially asked for the paintings to be restituted when the war ended in 1945, but errors in the spelling of her name and address held up the process, according to the Louvre.

Her letter is now presented alongside the paintings.

Instead of being returned, the two still lifes ended up in the Louvre in the 1950s as part of the French state’s collection of looted works whose rightful ownership is unclear.

Under the National Museum Recovery programme, thousands of them have been entrusted to national museums for safekeeping.

The government has also asked genealogy experts to help hunt down the living owners, though that initiative is limited to a small number of items.

  • French culture minister returns 15th century art stolen by Nazis during WWII to rightful owners

Thousands of pieces stolen

Around 100,000 cultural objects were looted or sold under duress in France during the Nazi occupation of 1940-45, mainly from Jewish families. Many were transferred to Germany.

Around 60,000 works came back to France after the war, of which 45,000 were returned to their owners by a special commission that operated until 1949.

Of the remaining 15,000, around 13,000 were sold by the state and 2,200 entrusted to museums.

The Louvre holds 1,610 of the artworks, including 791 paintings.

(with AFP)


Roland Garros 2024

Alcaraz outlasts Zverev over five sets to win first French Open title

Third seed Carlos Alcaraz hoisted a first French Open crown on Sunday after a five-set victory over the fourth seed Alexander Zverev. The match on Court Philippe Chatrier finished  6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 after four hours and 19 minutes. Alcaraz, 21, becomes the youngest man to win trophies at Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open.

“It’s incredible you’ve won three Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces and you’re only 21-years-old,” said Zverev after receiving his runners-up trophy from six-time winner Bjorn Borg.

“You’re an incredible player,” he added. “To Carlos’s team, you’re doing an incredible job. To my team, we were close but not enough … hopefully one day we will be able to hold this trophy together.”

Alcaraz returned the compliments to Zverev.

“I know that everyone in my team is trying to help me improve as a player and grow up,” he added.

“I call it a team but it is my family. It’s amazing to have my real family here. I remember the time running home from school to watch the French Open on TV and now I’m holding the trophy in front of you.”

Zverev started disastrously. He notched up two double faults on his way to losing his serve.

Chance

Fortunately for the 27-year-old German, Alcaraz was in equally munificent mood. And the Spaniard –  the youngest man to appear in finals at Grand slam tournaments on hard courts, grass and clay – lost his own service.

They steadied their respective ships until Alcaraz, showing a more buccaneering spirit, broke to lead 3-2 and consolidated his advantage.

Zverev displayed commendable fortitude to save two break points on the way to reducing the deficit to 4-3. But Alcaraz surged again to collect the next two games and the set 6-3 in 44 minutes.

The start of the second began with Alcaraz fending off three spearate break points to get his nose in front.

But Zverev broke through to lead 3-2 and he held on to take control of the set after one hour and 24 mins.

Power

With more punch in the Zverev forehand, Alcaraz began to struggle and a third double fault brought Zverev a 5-2 lead. He wrapped up the set 6-2 to level the match at one set apiece after one hour and 35 minutes.

The third was a tense, jagged affair. It turned on two Alcaraz returns getting held up in the wind and foxing Zverev.

But from 5-2 up, Alcaraz lost his way. Zverev surged through to 7-5.

But that was effectively as good as it got for Zverev who was playing in his second final at a Grand Slam tournament.

Alcaraz broke for a 2-0 lead in the fourth courtesy of a spectacular running forehand pass. He added two more games as Zverev faltered. But Alcaraz  never seemed totally convincing. Zverev cut the deficit to 4-1 but lost his serve to give Alcaraz, at 5-1 up, the opportunity to serve for the set. 

Solid

After messing up his chance in the third set, Alcaraz succeeded. And a curious match was all square after three hours and 23 minutes.

Tension inevitably plagued the early exchanges of the decider. Zverev missed two presentable volleys at the net and added a sixth double fault on his way to gifting Alcaraz a 2-1 advantage with his service to follow.

But even then Alcaraz seemed intent on returning the compliment.

Zverev squandered four points – three of them consecutive – to level at 2-2.

Alcaraz finally moved to 3-1. Zverev, who came from a double break down in his match against Tallon Griekspoor, refused to yield and saved a point which would have given Alcaraz a 4-1 advantage.

Leading 3-2, it was then the turn of Alcaraz to wobble and give Zverev an opening to gain parity at 3-3.

But he made it to 4-2 and then turned on the after-burners during Zverev’s serve to stand at 5-2 with a big hand on the trophy.

The Coupe des Mousquetaires soon became available for a happy hug.


Roland Garros 2024

Roland Garros: Five things we learned on Day 15 – Intensity and rethinks

Would you believe it, the organisers of the tournament are going to rethink the whole night session gig. So we must not ask how did they even get into the position where they’re thinking about a rethink. Clearly not enough intensity. Ask Alexander Zverev about that.

Start

Before the mortal combat between fourth seed Alexander Zverev and third seed Carlos Alcaraz commenced on Court Philippe Chatrier, the paying gaggle were treated to  something soft and fluffy. A 50-piece orchestra of strings and brass regaled us with a section from Rossini’s William Tell overture while 10 people waved racquets left and right and centre. In the next piece, ball boys and girls joined the swirling throng who had whipped out black scarves to adorn their movements. And then the fly-over from the Patrouille de France who can do all kinds of acrobatic stunts up there in the heavens. Everyone clapped.

Beast man

Back on terra firma of the Court Phillipe Chatrier, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev performed myriad athletic wonders over four hours and 19 minutes. Tense and edgy, it was. Hardly surprising really as both were playing in their first final at the French Open. Just as he did at the US Open final in New York in September 2020, Zverev lost. “We’re both physically strong,” said the German. “But he’s a beast. He’s an animal, for sure. The intensity he plays tennis at is different to other people.” But, hola, not only is the 21-year-old Spaniard tough. He thinks. “He changed his tactic a lot in the fifth set,”  Zverev bemoaned. “He started to play a lot higher, a lot deeper for me to not create as much power. He’s a fantastic player and physically he’s fantastic.”

Mark of the beast

Oh these young men are such cards. Freshly anointed French Open champion Carlos Alcaraz plans to head off to the tattoo shop. “It’s going to be in the left ankle,” said the 21-year-old Spaniard who had a mark put on his right ankle after winning Wimbledon last July. “I think so … with the Tour Eiffel with the date of today.”

Probe

As part of our undying commitment to readers, after the anglophone journalists left Alexander Zverev’s press conference, the review stuck around to listen to Zverev’s answers to the German media. Since we are well brought up, we raised a hand to pose a question. My, how impolite the press conference chairman was. “Questions in German only,” he barked. We didn’t snarl back but responded in German to say we were aware of this and the chairman was startled into silence. Zverev answered our question about his run at the tournament. “Yes I’m proud to reach the final,” said the 27-year-old. “But also no. Because at the end of the day, you want to win. That’s quite simple. You want to hold up a trophy and I haven’t done that today.”

Another day, another final, another loss

Jasmine Paolini reached the women’s singles final on Day 14 and lost to Iga Swiatek. In the women’s doubles final on Day 15, she and partner Sara Errani went down to Coco Gauff and Katrarina Siniakova. It finished 7-6, 6-3. But Paolini was as upbeat as she was after her loss to Swiatek in the singles final. “It is tough to accept the defeat,” said the 28-year-old Italian. “It’s been two, almost three weeks here and they have been, of course, positive weeks, so we have to be happy with these days.” 


2024 Roland Garros

Victories for Swiatek and Alcaraz illuminate French Open as shadows persist

Just as one French Open hegemon was offered his silky soft slippers to shuffle off into his living legend room, along comes a devotee to replace him.

Iga Swiatek, an avid Rafael Nadal fan-girl won her third French Open title on the trot – her fourth in five years – and Carlos Alcaraz claimed his first to conclude a tournament where the organisers fell into flurries over the behaviour of fans and increasingly unsustainable excuses over why women’s matches fail to have equal TV prime time billing as men’s ties.

Since his debut in 2005, Nadal had spent his birthday on 3 June playing or preparing to feature at the French Open.

Following an injury-hit couple of years, 2024 was different. Without the necessary preparation due to his aches and pains, he was relatively easy pickings for the fourth seed Alexander Zverev who had just won the Italian Open in Rome.

On his run to his 14th French Open title in 2022, Nadal was in serious trouble in the semi-final against the German before Zverev slipped and twisted his ankle.

Progress

Two years on from that catastrophe, Zverev’s surge to his first French Open final was the redemption story par excellence. It was overshadowed though by the start of a domestic abuse court case brought against him by his former girlfriend.

The case was dropped and a settlement was reached just before he took to Court Philippe Chatrier against Casper Ruud for the semi-final.

After losing the first set, Zverev was as curt in dealing with the ailing Norwegian as he was with journalists seeking to prod him for a reaction to the legal dispute.

“That’s what dropping the case is. That is innocence,” he said. “They’re not going to drop the case if you’re guilty at the end of the day. I don’t know what translations you have, but that’s what it means.

“Done. We move on. I never ever want to hear another question about the subject again. That goes out to everybody.”

And when someone measuring 1.98 makes such a request, sense usually dictates obedience.

Chance

Zverev – playing in his second final at a Grand Slam tournament – used his height to defuse the kick serve to the backhand that Alcaraz weaponised to such devastating effect during his four-hour five-set epic in the semi-final against the second seed Jannik Sinner.

But Zverev succumbed to Alcaraz’s greater intensity over four hours and 19 minutes on Sunday afternoon into early evening.

“He played fantastic,” conceded Zverev an hour after his defeat to the 21-year-old Spaniard whose victory made him the youngest man to win on the hard courts at the US Open in New York, on the grass courts at Wimbledon and on the clay in Paris.

“He played better than me the fourth and fifth set, added the 27-year–old German.

“I felt like this Grand Slam final I did everything I could. At the US Open I kind of gave it away myself. It’s a bit different this time.”

The women’s showdown lasted 68 minutes. Jasmine Paolini was simply overwhelmed.

Playing in her first final at one of four Grand Slam tournaments in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York, the 28-year-old Italian began positively and broke Swiatek to lead 2-1 in the opening set.

Such brashness. It was upbraided: 10 consecutive games to take the set and start the preparations for the victory speech.

“She’s playing unbelievably here,” said Paolini, who will rise to a career high number seven in the world on Monday.



“She’s taking the balls early, taking time away from you but also using lots of spin.

“She can defend really, really well. On clay, she’s unbelievable. But also on hard court, come on, she’s won so many tournaments this year.

“But I think to play her here at the French Open … it’s something different. She’s won already four titles, and she’s just 23-years-old!”

And growing in authority.

After battling through a three-hour second round match against the former world number one Naomi Osaka during which she had to save a match point, Swiatek used her on-court interview with former player Alex Corretja to appeal for better behaviour from spectators in the stands.

 “You know I love you guys and I love playing here,” she said as she looked around Court Philippe Chatrier. “But please don’t call out.”

Choking back tears of exhaustion and anxiety over what she was saying, she added: “The players are trying to focus and perform at our best to please you. You’ve paid money and we’re playing for money and a point here and there can make all the difference.”

In less than 24 hours, organisers banned fans from drinking alcohol while watching matches and umpires were urged to calm crowds between the points.

“We’re happy to see there’s an atmosphere, emotions and that the spectators are there,” said tournament director Amélie Mauresmo.

“However, we will be uncompromising with respect to the players and the game. If there’s the slightest behaviour that oversteps the mark, it will be the exit,” she added.

Equality

Mauresmo was less dogmatic about the issue of equal billing for women’s matches in the 8.15pm night session. Since it was introduced in 2022, men’s ties have been to the fore.

In 2024, all 11 sessions featured a game from the men’s draw.

“It’s not a matter of how interesting the matches can be or could be,” she said. “It’s a matter of the length of the matches in terms of the people that are coming to watch the match.

“If 15,000 people are coming, it’s complicated for us to think that maybe it’s going to be very, very short match.

Image

“So we try our best, and it’s not easy, and it’s not satisfying. But that was our choice this year which doesn’t mean it’s going to be the choice next year. And things can change also.”

Which of course does not enhance the image of the tournament and forces the question how did the French tennis federation get into this situation of  a TV deal that has the potential to sideline women’s tennis at such a salient showcase?

One suggestion of having two women’s matches starting at 7pm has been rejected due to what is perceived as the culture of the tennis-going Parisian public and the logistics of marshalling the evening’s spectators away from the daytime punters.

“When you fix one thing, there is another thing that is not going to work,” lamented Mauresmo.

“And that’s that’s the big thing that we have to that we have to address.^”

A review will take place when the dust has settled, Mauresmo said.

“And we will do it without hiding behind anything,” the former world number one added.

“It will be all the operational people and all the staff. And we will try to get things better but it’s not as straightforward as it might look.”

Mauresmo and the federation marketeers will have a year to iron out the plethora of creases to avoid undergoing the same inquisition in 2025. 

Players on the tour will also enjoy a similar amount of time to figure out how to prevent the same duo from brandishing the crowns anew.


Paris Olympics 2024

Nobel winner Yunus brings ‘social business’ mantra to Olympics

Paris (AFP) – Since the early days of Paris’s bid for the 2024 Olympics, the city has been receiving advice from a prestigious counsel: Nobel peace prize winner and social business guru Mohammed Yunus.

Yunus pioneered microcredit in his native Bangladesh from the 1970s, helping lift millions out of poverty by providing traders with small loans to help them start businesses.

His role in Paris as an advisor and ambassador for socially responsible business is a departure from his usual work – and is all the more surprising given the reputation of the Olympics for embracing mega-projects and corporate sponsors.

The 84-year-old admits to not even being a sports fan, but he agreed to come on board after accepting a dinner invitation from Paris’s Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo in 2016 as she and her team were bidding to host the Games.

“I said to them the simplest thing you can do, before you make any decisions about allocating funds, is ask ‘does this item have any social purpose?'” Yunus said.

“If it doesn’t, not a penny should be allocated,” he added.

He says he quickly saw an opportunity to use the power of the Olympics to spread his message about the importance of embracing new ways of doing business, focusing on solving humanity’s problems rather than making profits.

“The moment Paris does something, it becomes globally interesting,” he said. “There is public awareness about Paris, the respect they have, their history and how they are known for creativity.”

A different village

Yunus says his ideas fell on fertile ground in the mayor’s office and the organising committee, with the city’s vision for the 33rd Summer Games being an event with a lower budget and environmental impact compared with previous editions.

Only two news sports venues have been built, in addition to the athletes’ village.

Having visited the village built for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – a high-rise complex outside the city, with poor public transport links – Yunus knew the pitfalls.

“I saw all these tall buildings, one after another, and I thought ‘that’s not the right way to do it’,” he said.

By contrast, the Paris 2024 village is around 40 low-rise blocs on a brownfield site in one of the poorest parts of northern Paris, with new metro lines, schools and parks part of the redevelopment plan.

Around a third of the 2,800 apartments are set to be converted into social housing once the Olympics and Paralympics wrap up in September.

Yunus also urged organisers to consider adding “social businesses will be given priority” to their public tenders for services such as catering.

“All the big companies which are used to winning these tenders read that line and talk to each other and ask: What is a social business? Are we one? Will we get a priority?” he said.

“And the smart CEO will say, ‘Okay, since we’re not a social business, why don’t we have a partnership with one?’. So at least you are bringing them into the picture.”

  • Paris 2024 Olympics aims for green legacy with hydrogen cars
  • Paris Olympic venues won’t use polluting diesel fuel for lighting

Corporate domination

Ultimately, the catering contract to provide 40,000 meals a day was won by Sodexo, a listed French multinational with annual sales of more than 12 billion euros ($13 billion).

Elsewhere, the usual roster of global blue-chip sponsors will use the Games for promotional purposes, from Japanese carmaker Toyota and global steel maker ArcelorMittal to French luxury empire LVMH.

Most of the construction work was performed by France’s largest building companies – Bouygues Construction, Eiffage and Vinci.

But around the fringes, a desire to use the Games to nurture small, socially minded companies can be glimpsed, even if they have benefited from only a fraction of the nearly 9-billion-euro budget.

A Paris-based plastic recycling business called Le Pave won a contract to provide 11,000 seats at new Olympic venues, one of around 500 “social businesses” to win tenders.

  • Man behind recycled plastic seats in Olympic venues plots ways to stop the trash

Others included a business that converts building waste into topsoil, which was used at the athletes’ village. Laundry services there will be provided by a consortium of nine small local entrepreneurs.

On the Games building sites, contractors were also required to use long-term unemployed people for at least 10 percent of their workforce.

Yunus does not seek credit for any of these initiatives, but he is convinced that by putting his ideas and reputation at the service of the Games, he is helping to encourage change.

He has begun advising Milan-Cortina, the Italian host of the 2026 Winter Olympics.

“They whisper in my ears, ‘we want to do better than Paris’,” he said.


Diplomacy

France and US intensify efforts to prevent Middle East explosion, Macron says

France and the United States will work harder to prevent a broader escalation in the Middle East with a key priority to calm the situation between Israel and Hezbollah, President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.

“We are redoubling efforts together to avoid a regional explosion, particularly in Lebanon,” Macron said in a joint statement with Joe Biden during the U.S. President’s state visit to France.

Macron added that the sides were working on “advancing parameters” to reduce tensions and end an institutional vacuum in Lebanon.

France and the United States have in recent months worked to try to defuse tensions with Paris submitting written proposals to both sides aimed at stopping worsening exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah on the border.

The United States has also worked on the issue, but diplomats have said there have been problems in coordinating efforts.

Macron said the two countries had developed “a close coordination” in the discussions “with Israel on one side and with Lebanon and all the parties involved on the other side”.

Biden made no mention of Lebanon in the short statement and also did not mention Iran, which Macron said was adopting a strategy of escalation in the region, citing Tehran’s attack on Israel and the development of its nuclear programme.

“Our two countries are determined to exert the necessary pressures to stop this trend,” Macron said.

Despite U.S. reservations, France, Britain and Germany last week put forward a resolution against Iran that was passed over its nuclear programme at the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation Board of Governors.

While eventually backing the resolution, Washington had shown misgivings beforehand with diplomats saying the U.S. feared it could provoke Iran, something it wants to avoid before November’s presidential election.

Fresh from commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Biden’s state visit to France is marked by pomp as well as talks on trade, Israel and Ukraine.

 (Reuters) 


Diplomacy

Biden and Macron to discuss Israel and Ukraine in state visit

Fresh from commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day, French President Emmanuel Macron will host U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday for a state visit marked by pomp and a parade as well as talks on trade, Israel and Ukraine.

The two men, who share a warm relationship despite past tensions over a submarine deal with Australia, will participate in a welcoming ceremony with their wives at the iconic Arc de Triomphe and a parade down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées

before holding a meeting about policy issues and then attending dinner.

Biden hosted Macron for a state visit at the White House in 2022.

“France is our oldest and one of our deepest allies. And this will be an important moment to affirm that alliance and also look to the future and what we have to accomplish together,” U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier this week.

World issues

Sullivan said talks between the two men would touch on Russia’s war with Ukraine, Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, cooperation in the Pacific, and policy issues ranging from climate change to artificial intelligence to supply chains.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said the countries would announce a plan to work together on maritime law enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard and French navy would discuss increased cooperation.

Biden and Macron are also expected to discuss strengthening NATO, and both have pledged their countries’ support for Ukraine, though they have not agreed yet on a plan to use frozen Russian assets to help Kiev.

A U.S. Treasury official said on Tuesday the United States and its G7 partners were making progress on that.

Biden met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris on Friday, apologising for a months-long delay by the U.S. Congress in approving the latest package of aid, and Zelensky addressed France’s National Assembly.

During a speech at the American Cemetery in Normandy on Thursday, the anniversary of the allied assault against Nazi German occupiers on French beaches in World War Two, Biden called on Western powers to stay the course with Ukraine.

  • Biden pledges $225m in fresh aid for Ukraine at Paris talks with Zelensky

Macron and Biden will also confer on the situation in the Middle East.

Biden has been a staunch supporter of Israel, which is pursuing Hamas after it attacked the country in October, but tens of thousands of Palestinian deaths have soured Biden’s left-leaning political base on Israel, hurting him as he runs against Republican Donald Trump for re-election in November.

Trade talks

Beyond Ukraine and Israel, trade issues between the two sides of the Atlantic are likely to loom large.

The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law in August 2022, has incensed European officials; they see it as a protectionist move that siphons off investments from EU companies.

Macron said during his state visit to Washington in 2022 that the package of subsidies could “fragment the West” and weaken the post-COVID European recovery at a time Washington is seeking allies against China and both sides confront Russia.

He and European allies have won little concessions from Washington since, however, and French officials say their aim for this visit is still to try to “re-synchronise” the U.S. and EU economic agendas.

  (Reuters)


Sudan crisis

Sudan could soon have 10 million internally displaced people, UN agency says

The number of people internally displaced in Sudan due to conflict could soon exceed 10 million, the United Nations migration agency said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded 9.9 million people internally displaced across Sudan this week. Prior to the war, there were already 2.8 million internally displaced people, the IOM said.

In total, about 12 million people have been forced to flee their homes, with more than two million crossing into neighbouring countries, including Egypt and Chad.

“How much suffering and loss of life must the people of Sudan endure before the world takes notice? Isn’t 10 million internally displaced enough to compel urgent global action?” Mohamed Refaat, Sudan Chief of Mission for the IOM, said.

“Every one of those 10 million displaced life represents a profound human tragedy that demands urgent attention.”



Refaat added that more than half of the internally displaced people in Sudan were woman, and a quarter of them children under five.

He said aid agencies were struggling to keep up with the rising needs.

“Funding shortfalls are impeding efforts to provide adequate shelter, food and medical assistance,” Refaat said.

“Serious concerns are mounting about the long-term impact of displacement on Sudan’s social and economic fabric.”

  • Sudan on its knees after one year of brutal civil war
  • UN says 5 million at risk of starvation in Sudan

UN agencies have warned that Sudan is at “imminent risk of famine”, with around 18 million people acutely hungry, including 3.6 million children who are acutely malnourished.

Fighting broke out in the capital Khartoum in April 2023 and quickly spread across the country, reigniting ethnic bloodshed in the western Darfur region and forcing millions to flee.

 (Reuters)


India elections

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi sworn in for third term

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in on Sunday for a third term after worse-than-expected election results left him reliant on coalition partners to govern.

Modi met President Droupadi Murmu and accepted her invitation to head the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition government, which will run the world’s most populous nation for the next five years.

The  new government was sworn in on Sunday evening, making him prime minister for a historic third consecutive term.

“I want to assure the people of the country that in the 18th Lok Sabha (lower house) also…we will work with the same pace, same commitment to fulfil aspirations of the people,” he told reporters outside the president’s palace.

It is the first time in a decade in India that his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which won outright majorities in 2014 and 2019 – has needed the support of regional parties to form the government, a shift that initially spooked markets and worries analysts about policy certainty and fiscal discipline.

“It is my good fortune that all of you from NDA have chosen me to lead,” Modi said earlier on Friday after NDA lawmakers voted for him to head their coalition.

“No alliance has ever been as successful as the NDA,” he said, after lawmakers and senior leaders thumped tables and applauded, with some standing and chanting “Modi, Modi!” in the central hall of the old parliament building.

“We have won the majority, but to run the country it is unanimity that is crucial… We will strive for unanimity,” he said, in a sign of the change in style coalition government may force on a leader used to ruling with a strong hand.

The new government would, among others, focus on raising savings of the middle class and improve the quality of their lives as the “middle class is the driving force of the country”, Modi added.

NDA leaders

Key NDA leaders – whose support has wavered in the past as they hopped in and out of alliances – praised Modi and expressed confidence in his leadership.

“I am confident that whatever is left he will now complete it. We will be with him at every step,” said Nitish Kumar, chief minister of the eastern state of Bihar whose Janata Dal (United) party is the third largest in the NDA with 12 lawmakers.

Indian media said both Kumar’s party and the Telugu Desam Party, the second largest with 16 lawmakers, are eyeing the post of the speaker in the lower house, while BJP itself is expected to retain four key ministries – foreign affairs, defence, home and finance.

The Janata Dal (United) also wants the new government to review a military recruitment system introduced in 2022 under which young men and women are enlisted for a four-year tenure at non-officer ranks, with only a quarter retained for longer periods.

Previously, soldiers were recruited by the army, navy and air force separately and typically entered service for up to 17 years for the lowest ranks.

The shorter tenure caused concern among potential recruits and led to riots in some parts of the country as it was seen as hurting employment prospects.

A lack of jobs, besides rising prices and falling incomes, were key issues in the election and led voters to rein in support for Modi, according to a post-election survey.

The coalition negotiations are a throwback to an era before 2014, when Modi swept to power with an outright majority for his BJP.

 (Reuters)


Photography – Cinema

A trip down memory lane with French photographer Raymond Depardon

Raymond Depardon, one of France’s most well-known photographers and filmmakers, is being celebrated with a book and a special exhibition in Paris. His latest film Les Années Déclic – about the earliest days of his career – was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

The French photographer was just 18 years old in 1960 when he decided to buy an Italian Rumi scooter to cross Paris, never without his Rolleiflex camera around his neck.

He witnessed the boom years of French cinema and captured shots of Brigitte Bardot on the set of Vie Privée (A Very Private Affair), to Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Seberg at the premiere of the 1960 film À Bout de Souffle (Breathless).

Depardon also covered news events in France, such as a conference given by Martin Luther King when he was in Paris in 1966.

He founded the Gamma agency in 1966, before joining Magnum Photos. 

Since becoming a film director in 1974, he has since enjoyed an international career alternating between photography and cinema, both documentary and fiction.

Exhibition at Galerie Cinéma

Les Années Déclic (The Declic Years) is a book of around one hundred photographs spanning Depardon’s iconic work throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s in France, which has just been published.

The name also lends itself to his latest film which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May, as well as an exhibition of 30 prints at the Galerie Cinéma in the Marais district in Paris.

“When Depardon came up with the idea of a book called Les Années Déclic with Gérard Lefort, about the photos he took of people working in cinema when he was just starting out […] he suggested I host the exhibition in the gallery,” Anne-Dominique Toussaint, a film producer who opened the Galerie Cinema in 2013, told RFI.

“And it made real sense, all these photos are sensational and represent, for the vast majority, actresses and actors.”

At the end of the gallery is a small projection room. “I ask each artist I exhibit to provide me with a film, either one they made themselves, or one that someone else made, related to the exhibition,” says Toussaint.

The short film Un Moment Si Doux, directed by Claudine Nougaret – Depardon’s wife – is shown in the projection room throughout the exhibition.

Olympic dreams

Depardon has made 21 feature-length films and is represented in numerous photographic collections in the most prestigious museums.

Watch the trailer

He also took memorable photos during several Olympic Games such as Tokyo, Munich or Mexico.

Many of these photos will be on display at the Frac Bretagne, a contemporary art centre in Brittany from 15 June, in the exhibition called Les Jeux Olympiques 1964-1980.


Les Années Déclic is at the Galerie Cinéma in Paris until 12 June. Then it will run at the Institut Lumière in Lyon from 19 June to 1 September 2024.


D-DAY 80TH ANNIVERSARY

Remembering D-Day’s heavy toll on French civilians

For civilians in Normandy, the D-Day invasion was both a triumph and a tragedy. Thousands were killed in bombings that accompanied the Allied landings, and many more fled their homes. While for decades commemorations focused on military feats, more attention is finally being paid to ordinary people who saw the historic events from a different side.

By June 1944, Henri was used to seeing warplanes overhead, flying towards targets in occupied northern France. 

But on the night before 6 June, Henri – 19 and requisitioned by the Nazis to build reinforcements along the Normandy coast – noticed something different. 

“Planes were passing non-stop, and we started to hear bombings inland,” he recalled decades later.  

He and other forced labourers were lodged in a dormitory next to Langrune-sur-Mer beach.  

“At four in the morning we looked out the window and saw hundreds of boats on the sea. On the horizon, we saw that fighting had started and we said to ourselves, here it is – the landing.” 

No one in France had known for sure where the Allies would start their invasion. Whichever region they chose would bear the brunt of the battle to drive out the Germans. 

“We were happy in one way,” said Henri, “but afraid of what was coming for us.” 

Listen to this story on the Spotlight on France podcast:

Life under occupation 

The people of Normandy had already been living with German soldiers for around four years by then.  

That had involved considerable sacrifices, and they intensified as Nazi commanders began to suspect an invasion was coming.  

From early 1944, the region saw a massive build-up of troops. Locals like Henri were drafted for forced labour, while swathes of farmland was seized – some of them flooded to make it harder for Allied paratroopers to land.

There was a clampdown on anyone suspected of working for the Resistance. In March that year, residents even had to hand over their radio sets to prevent them listening to the BBC or any other enemy broadcasters. 

“By the time the landings were approaching, the occupation in Normandy – which had weighed very heavily since 1940 – was becoming ever more consuming and oppressive for the local population,” says Emmanuel Thiébot, historian and director of the Falaise Memorial in Normandy, a museum dedicated to the experiences of ordinary people during World War II. 

But as much as locals longed to be free of the Nazis’ grip, they knew the battle to loosen it would be costly. Thiébot refers to propaganda posters spread by France’s collaborationist government at the time, showing all the regions of the north and west coast saying of a possible invasion: “Not in my backyard!” 

There was truth to that, he says. People were afraid of what being the site of the landings would mean, and they had reason to be.  

Rain of bombs 

For the Allies, the landing beaches had to be protected at all costs. The Germans couldn’t be allowed to flood the zone with troops and push back the invasion. 

In the months preceding D-Day, British and American planes bombed the rail network in northern France. In the hours before and after the landings, they targeted Normandy’s main roads. 

The routes passed through cities, towns, villages. But Allied commanders decided to sacrifice them – in fact, to pulverise them. Their ruins would serve as roadblocks. 

The Allies dropped leaflets with warnings written in French – but unable to specify places or dates that would let the Germans in on their plans, they kept the wording so vague that many residents assumed the alerts didn’t apply to them. Others missed them altogether, the papers carried away in the wind.

Some 15 towns were pummelled by Allied bombs on 6 June and the days that followed, including ones with no military targets to speak of. By 7 June, 3,000 people were dead – as many as on the beaches the day before. 

The raids continued on and off into September, killing an estimated 20,000 civilians in all. 

Henri saw his fiancée, uncle and cousin fatally hit just metres from him. 

“Everybody was a bit angry with the Americans because at the end of the day they were the ones killing civilians,” he told RFI in 2019.  

Caen was bombed, for example – why? For nothing. There were hardly any Germans there. All these towns were massacred.”

Allied soldiers complained that they didn’t get the hero’s welcome they’d been promised, says Thiébot. 

“Sure, but if you’ve lost everything and maybe had loved ones wounded or killed, you’re not going to jump for joy and start dancing in the streets,” he points out. “You see some pretty pictures like that, but usually in towns that weren’t badly damaged.” 

Images from Caen, Lisieux, Le Havre or Saint-Lô – 95 percent of which was destroyed in the bombings – told a different story, one that didn’t make it into American or British newsreels.

Exodus

After the shock came the exodus. 

“As soon as the first bombardments were over, it was a mad dash to escape,” says Thiébot. 

“The bombardments, the fighting, the front line moving forward and civilians caught between the Allies who were advancing and the Germans who were trying to stop them, all that would cause an exodus over the three months of the Battle of Normandy – June, July and August 1944 – in which it’s estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 people fled their homes.” 

The flight was chaotic. “You took whatever you could grab,” says Thiébot, whose museum displays suitcases, baskets, a homemade wheelbarrow, even a violin case that those fleeing carried with them. 

They moved south, but so did the front line. The number of people on the road snowballed, with the first refugees joined by residents from towns that had originally hosted them.  

Soon the inland departments of Normandy were telling the coastal areas they couldn’t take any more of the displaced. Some Normans ended up trudging all the way to the south-west of France.

“Then after the Battle of Normandy you can finally stop and go back,” says Thiébot – “but go back where, when 30, 50, 70, even 90 percent of your town has been bombed?” 

Years of silence 

It would take around 20 years to rebuild Normandy after the war – and many more for survivors to talk about what they’d lived through. 

“For 50 years no one talked about it,” said Henri. “I never told my family about all that.” 

For France’s new leaders, too, acknowledging the civilian cost of liberation was uncomfortable. 

“The first D-Day commemorations were taking place in the context of the Cold War,” points out Thiébot. “The enemy of the day had become the Soviet bloc, while the ally was NATO – primarily the Americans and the British.  

“Remembrance ceremonies mainly sought to highlight the heroism of these warriors who saved Europe from the Nazis, rather than reminding people that the liberation of Europe came with civilian losses.” 

The towns that had suffered held local memorial services to their dead, he explains, but national and international commemoration of D-Day focused on shared, unequivocal triumph.

That began to change when survivors, aware it was now or never, started to speak. The 50th anniversary in 1994 kicked off a drive to collect eyewitness accounts – including from Henri, who felt compelled to tell the story for younger generations. 

And as archives were gradually declassified, historians were able to piece together a clearer picture of the chaos of summer 1944.

It was sometimes a galling one; recent research suggests that the Allies’ carpet-bombing of Normandy ultimately served little strategic purpose.

Road to remembrance

For the 70th anniversary in 2014, then French President François Hollande dedicated a D-Day speech to the people of Normandy – whose sacrifice, he said, had been long overlooked.

It was the first time civilians had been acknowledged in France’s official commemorations. They remain notably absent from D-Day discourse in former Allied countries.

“I think the French are just erased,” says US historian Mary Louise Roberts of the American perception of the invasion. 

Roberts, who has written extensively about the experiences of French civilians in a bid to correct that narrative, says for many in the United States, “the French are just the background in which American heroism became clear”.

But in Normandy, the Falaise Memorial seeks to bring them into the foreground. Opened in 2016, it’s the only museum in France, and one of very few in Europe, that focuses on what civilians went through in the war. 

“Through the example of the past that we describe here in the museum, the idea is to show what war does to civilian populations, even today,” says Thiébot.  

The bombings, displacement and upheaval encountered by Normans in 1944 will ring a bell for anyone who watches the news, he points out. 

“World War II was the first in history where, by the end, more civilians had died than soldiers… Sadly, this is the pattern we would go on to see in every conflict that followed.” 


This story appeared on the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 112

D-Day survivor Henri was interviewed by RFI’s Raphaëlle Constant in 2019.


Olympic history

Who was Alice Milliat, French pioneer of Women’s Olympic Games?

Born in 1884 in the western French city of Nantes, Alice Milliat was a keen rower and swimmer who, in 1922, established the Women’s Olympic Games in Paris. Just over 100 years later, this summer’s Games will be the first to see the same number of women athletes as men compete.

As a young woman, Milliat – born Alice Million, to working-class parents – spent time in England, where she married Joseph Milliat, who was also from Nantes.

While there, Milliat took up rowing. After her husband’s death in 1908, she travelled widely, honing language skills that allowed her to become a translator.

When World War I broke out, she returned to France.

In 1915, she took charge of Fémina Sport, a women’s sports club in Paris, where she was a keen rower.

Stéphane Gachet, Milliat’s biographer, says the war had created a unique opening for women – because “men had freed up their places in homes, in factories and on sports fields”.

But, it was still difficult for women to enter sports competitions, which went against the norms imposed by religion and even certain doctors at the beginning of the 20th century.

“A woman was not to undress or expose herself in public. She absolutely had to preserve herself. Her only goal was to have children,” Gachet told RFI.

Women in charge

While sportswomen were first admitted to the Olympics in 1900, they were confined to so-called feminine events: tennis, sailing, croquet, horse riding, but certainly not track and field.

With her enterprising spirit, Milliat believed that to change things, women’s clubs must be led by women.

In 1919, she became director of the French Federation of Women’s Sporting Societies (FSFSF), which organised competitions for athletics, basketball, football, rugby and hockey.

But when Milliat asked the International Olympic Committee to include women’s athletics events in the next Olympic Games, her request met with refusal from its then president,  French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin.

“I personally do not approve of the participation of women in public competitions,” he said in a public address at the time. “At the Olympic Games, their role should above all be to crown the winners.”

In 1921, Milliat organised an international sporting event in Monte Carlo that brought together women athletes from France, Britain, Italy, Norway and Sweden.

Shortly afterwards, she founded the International Women’s Sporting Federation (FSFI). The organisation established the first Women’s World Games in Paris in 1922, two years before Paris would host the Summer Olympics.

The success was immediate and lasted until the fourth and final edition in 1934.

“It is reported that there were more than 20,000 spectators in the stadiums,” says Gachet.

  • Paris’s role in the Olympics of the modern era

Too long forgotten

But war would again determine in the turn of events. In the 1940s, under France’s pro-Nazi Vichy regime, most of Milliat’s efforts were erased as women were once again banned from practicing sports in public competitions.

“It is as if the sport of the ’20s and ’30s had never existed,” Gachet says.

In her later years, Milliat turned to translating and secretarial work until her death in 1957.

“Her grave is surprisingly simple and modest,” Gachet says of Milliat’s resting place in Nantes. 

Until 2020, her name was not even inscribed on the tombstone.

But since then, efforts have begun to get her greater recognition.

Just near the cemetery where Milliat is buried is a nursery and elementary school under construction. “It will be the first school in France to bear the name of Alice Milliat,” says Gachet, who is also on the area’s regional council. 

Meanwhile in Paris, the organisation Feminists in the City has begun guided tours with help from the Alice Milliat Foundation.

One of the sites they visit is the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF), located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

“There are two statues that sit here in the hall of the CNOSF,” points out Sonia, one of the guides.

“On the right, we have Baron Pierre de Coubertin. And on the left, it’s Alice Milliat. It was a long battle. It took seven long years for her to sit here.”

  • Paris expo recounts global struggles throughout Olympics history

Out of the shadows

Caroline, one of the participants on a recent tour, says it’s essential to bring Milliat’s story out of the shadows.

“We need more women in the federations; we also need more money, because today funding is not at all equivalent to what men get.

“In short, we are still far from having equity in sports practice between men and women,” she says. “So the fight continues!” 

At the Paris Olympics this summer, for the first time in the history of the Games there will be exactly the same number of women as men competing – 5,250 precisely.

Tess Harmand, the managing director of the Alice Milliat Foundation, created in 2016 to promote women’s sport, warns that for all the good news, society must remain vigilant.

“We hope that this interest in Alice Milliat will not decline after the Games. We are hopeful that all the actions we are doing can continue well beyond the Olympics,” she says.

“Because sport remains a fantastic tool for changing mentalities and for creating more equality in society too.”


This story was adapted from an original report in French by RFI’s Baptiste Coulon.


Paris Olympics 2024

Eiffel Tower given the Olympic treatment as ring display unveiled

With just 50 days to go until the 2024 Paris Games, the French capital’s iconic monument has been given the Olympic treatment, with a display of the five coloured rings unveiled Friday. 

The 29- by 13-metre structure of rings, made of recycled steel, was installed overnight Friday on the south side of the Eiffel Tower, overlooking the Seine River.

Each ring measures 9 metres in diameter.

Two huge cranes were used to lift the 30-ton structure and mount it between the first and second floors of the tower. 

The Olympic rings will be illuminated every night with 100,000 LED bulbs.

Paris‘s most iconic monument – nicknamed La Dame de Fer (The Iron Lady) – will feature prominently in the Paris Games and the following Paralympics.

Beach volleyball competitions will be held at the foot of the 135-year-old landmark.

The matches will be watched by nearly 13,000 fans at the temporary Eiffel Tower Stadium on the nearby Champ de Mars, where Parisians and tourists flock to picnic on the grass or watch 14 July firework displays.

Pieces of steel taken from the Eiffel Tower have been embedded in the Olympic and Paralympic medals.

The Paris Olympics will take place from 26 July to 11 August, and the Paralympics from 28 August to 8 September.

  • Paris Olympics medals to include metal from Eiffel Tower
  • Crowds greet Olympic torch travelling through France under tight security

(with newswires)

International report

How Turkey’s support for Ukraine is a double-edged sword

Issued on:

Turkish companies are emerging as significant suppliers of weapons to Ukraine and are supporting United States efforts to resolve Kyiv’s ammunition shortages. However, this support is a challenge to Ankara’s efforts to balance its relationship with Moscow and its Western allies.

Turkey has managed to tread a fine diplomatic line by maintaining ties with both Russia and Ukraine since Moscow invaded its pro-Western neighbour in February 2022. 

At the same time, Ankara has improved its relationship with the United States and has even coordinated with them in arms production to help Ukraine.

The United States’ latest munitions factory in Texas, which goes online this month, uses the Turkish company Repkon’s state-of-the-art equipment.

The new plant is vital to meeting the Ukrainian army’s current shortages and ultimately aims to meet a third of the United States’s needs.

Turkey analyst Sinan Ciddi of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies says Ukrainians are running low because they’ve been using the Allied-supplied Howitzers that require a certain kind of ammunition.

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

“This has been the essential sort of weapon of choice that has prevented up until recently, the advancement, and recapture of Ukrainian towns by Russian troops,” he tells RFI.

“That Turkey is stepping into this is remarkable,” Ciddi continues, “simply because Turkey has a vast ability not only to procure and manufacture, but it’s a vital sort of supply line for the US, which is also actually starting to run low based on the amount of shells it has supplied the Ukrainian partner right.”

Source of tension

The United States Ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake, praised the collaboration as a sign of the growing importance of deepening bilateral ties.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s close relations with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington.

Since the outset of Russia’s invasion, Ankara has supported Kyiv but remained neutral, refusing to enforce Western sanctions against Moscow.

Meanwhile, another Turkish company, Baykar, is building a military drone factory in Ukraine.

  • Biden pledges $225m in fresh aid for Ukraine at Paris talks with Zelensky

“It’s a little bit risky to establish a factory in Ukraine under the war conditions,” warns defense analyst Tayfun Ozberk.

“It’s very critical for Turkey, of course, establishing a factory in Ukraine – it has a political message, but it will not; I believe change Turkey’s position in this war,” added Ozberk.

For Sine Ozkarasahin, an independent Turkish defense analyst, “Turkey’s definitely walking on thin ice.”

Doubling down on support for Ukraine will surely test Ankara’s policy of balancing ties with Moscow and its Western allies, she says.

Agree to disagree

Ozkarasahin maintains that this balancing act with Russia is very much Turkey’s current diplomatic policy, which she calls  “compartmentalisation, or “agree to disagree”.

It means that Turkey and Russia can have different agendas on ongoing war in Ukraine or the situation in Syria, but still collaborate in different domains, such as energy trade.

“Ankara separates these things from each other, which forms one of the main pillars of its policy towards Russia and in the end, Turkey’s a critical lifeline for Russia,” she says.

While Turkey‘s defense industry is increasing its support for Ukraine and Western allies’ efforts to supply the Ukrainian military, Ankara remains a vital trading partner with Russia.

  • Turkey agrees deal to clear Black Sea of mines that threaten Ukrainian exports

Sinan Ciddi points out that the US Treasury has sanctioned Turkish companies supplying duel-use goods to the Russian military, including microchips, parts that go directly into the manufacture of high-end Russian weaponry that is being used against the Ukrainians.

“Turkey is playing both sides of this,” he says, warning that Washington and Ukraine could pay a considerable price for Ankara’s support.

“It really does put the US in a bind, having to keep increasingly or consistently quiet about Turkey’s double dipping, and so it’s a double-edged sword,” Ciddi says.

The Sound Kitchen

Exile or prison?

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the last-minute film added to the Cannes Film Festival line-up.  There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, the latest from the Roland Garros French Open, and plenty of good music. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

The ePOP video competition is open!

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.

You do not need fancy video equipment to enter the competition. Your phone is fine.  And you do not need to be a member of the RFI Clubs to enter – everyone is welcome. And by the way – the prizes are incredibly generous!

Go to the ePOP page to read about past competitions, watch past videos, and read the regulations for your entry.  You can also write to us at thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr, and we’ll forward your mail to Planète Radio.

The competition closes on 12 September, but you know how “time flies”, so get to work now! We expect to be bombarded with entries from the English speakers!

Facebook: Be sure to send your photos for the RFI English Listeners Forum banner 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 to 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!

This week’s quiz: On 4 May, I asked you a question about the Cannes Film Festival, as a film had just been added to the line-up. You were to refer to our article “French stars Omar Sy and Eva Green part of 2024 Cannes Film Festival jury”, and send in the answer to these questions: What is the name of that last-minute film, and what is the name and nationality of the director?

The answer is, to quote our article: “There have been late additions to the festival’s line-up in recent days, including The Seed of the Sacred Fig by Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who has faced prison time for criticising the government. It is unclear if he will be able to attend the festival.”

He was able to attend the festival – as we reported a few days later, Rasoulof left Iran without official permission, after being sentenced to eight years in prison and flogging for national security crimes.

As he said at the time: “I had to choose between prison and leaving Iran. With a heavy heart, I chose exile.”

Rasoulof, 52, is already known for There is No Evil, which won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival four years ago, and for A Man of Integrity, highly praised at Cannes in 2018 – but which resulted in a string of travel restrictions, prison sentences and film-making bans in Iran. In 2023 he was unable to take up an invitation to join the Cannes competition jury because he was under detention.

The Seed of the Sacred Fig not only won the longest-standing ovation at this year’s festival – 12 minutes! – but it won the Fipresci award from the jury of the International Federation of Film Critics, a special award given at international film festivals.  

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What book made the greatest difference in your life, and how?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Sahadot Hossain from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh. Sahadot is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Sahadot!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Shivendu Paul, the president of the RFI Metali Listeners Club in Murshidibad, India; RFI Listeners Club member Sakawat Hossain from Sylhet, Bangladesh, and RFI English listeners Babo from the Friends Radio Club in Naogaon, as well as Suresh Agrawal from Odisha, India.

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: The overture to the opera Russlan and Ludmila by Mikhail Glinka, performed by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev; “Watch What Happens” by Michel Legrand, played by Ted Greene; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Evening”: lyrics by Ann Malcolm, music by Debussy arranged by Tom Harrell, performed by Ann Malcolm and her ensemble.  

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 “Tiananmen Square at 35: top Chinese dissident looks back”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 1 July to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 6 July 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: D-Day and its aftermath seen through French and American eyes

Issued on:

The United States played a key role in the Allied effort to liberate Western Europe from the Nazis, but not everyone sees it in the same light. As France marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, an American veteran reflects on the differing ways the US and France remember the war. Meanwhile, historians recall the large number of civilians killed during the Allied invasion and explain why US soldiers were not always welcomed as heroes.

As French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes world leaders, the real stars of the commemorations are the surviving veterans themselves – the men who landed on the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944 and started liberating France from Nazi occupation. The youngest of the remaining D-Day veterans are now in their late 90s. Alan Shapiro, 99, was too young to take part in the landings, but joined the European Allied forces in the autumn of 1944 and flew transport carriers in the US air corps. He’s struck by the love and recognition he’s received in France, where war was a lived experience rather than a distant newsreel. He came to France through the association Retour des veterans en Normandie (Veterans Back to Normandy), based in the village of Créances. Its founder, Valerie Gautier, talks about the lasting need to show gratitude for D-Day and WWII veterans. (Listen @4’20)

The story of D-Day and its aftermath is told differently depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on. American historian Mary Louise Roberts discusses how France has been erased from the US perspective on the landings. Meanwhile French historian Emmanuel Thiébot, who directs a museum in Normandy dedicated to civilians during WWII, explains why Allied soldiers didn’t always get a hero’s welcome in towns that had been bombed in preparation for the invasion. And local survivor Henri, whose fiancée and uncle were killed by Allied bombs, recalls the mixed feelings he had about the troops sent to liberate France. (Listen @15’55)

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’s Saturday Mothers keep up vigil for lost relatives

Issued on:

Turkey’s longest-running peaceful protest has entered its thousandth week. For decades, the “Saturday Mothers” have been holding silent vigils to demand justice for relatives who disappeared while being held by security forces.

At Galatasaray Square, in the heart of Istanbul, a mother calls out for justice for a child who’s not been seen for decades – since being apprehended by police.

The Saturday Mothers, named after a similar campaign in Argentina, gather in this square to demand answers. They want to know what happened to their missing relatives, and to hold those responsible to account.

On display are hundreds of photos of those who disappeared while being held by security forces. Among the youngest is a 13-year-old shepherd called Davut.

Denials

Ikbal Eren has been campaigning for decades to find the truth behind her brother Hayrettin’s enforced disappearance.

“Hayrettin Eren was detained at the Saraçhane crossing in Istanbul and taken to the Gayrettepe police headquarters, where he disappeared,” Eren says.

“Although we have five witnesses confirming his detention, they always deny he was held. We also saw his car in the yard of the Security Directorate.”

Even if 44 more years pass, Eren says he will not give up seeking justice for his brother and the others who are missing.

Hayrettin vanished during military rule in the 1980s, but most of the hundreds of enforced disappearances happened in the 1990s at the height of the Turkish state’s war against the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.

“Especially in the early ’90s – ’92 to ’94 mostly – an enormous number of mainly men were arrested and never seen again,” says Emma Sinclair Webb of Human Rights Watch.

  • Armenian genocide remembered as Assyrians fight for acknowledgement of their plight

Justice eluded

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised justice in 2011, when he was prime minister, after meeting with some of the Saturday Mothers.

There were criminal investigations into those accused of being behind the disappearances, and even court cases, but all ended in acquittal.

The state has cracked down on the mothers in recent years, deeming their protest to be subversive. Galatasaray Square is now permanently sealed off, and usually only a weekly token of 10 or so people are allowed in.

“Those in power cannot bear to have these women and the relatives of the disappeared meeting every Saturday and presenting them with the crimes the state committed,” said Sinclair Webb.

“For years the authorities have done everything in their power to criminalise this vigil and those who have been involved in it.”

The thousandth week anniversary of Saturday Mothers, held in May, saw an outpouring of support across social media – and even a pop music video commemorating their struggle.

Rock star Teoman recorded the song “Saturday Mothers”, recalling the fight for justice in the face of intimidation and adversity. The song’s video went viral across social media.

  • Erdogan’s local election defeat reshapes Turkey’s political landscape

Ongoing struggle

With the Saturday Mothers campaign passing the thousand-week threshold, they’re vowing to continue until they find justice for their lost relatives.

“We are trying to explain that our disappeared are not abandoned; they are not orphans. We are trying to learn about their fate,” says Birsen Karakoc, who’s been searching for her brother Ridvan since the 1990s.

“We are trying to understand why they were tortured to death. We want justice; that is why we are here every week.

“For 30 years we have been here since the first week, and we will continue to be here.”

At the end of the 1,000th-week ceremony in Galatasaray Square, Birsen’s brother Hasan places flowers on a sculpture celebrating the Turkish Republic.

He calls out to onlookers to say: “Until all our disappeared are found and those responsible are brought to justice, we will never give up.”

The Sound Kitchen

Plundered art and artefacts

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about plundered art in French museums. There’s a quick trip to Switzerland, “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, Ollia’s “Happy Moment”, and “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

ePOP News: The 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 27 April, I asked you a question about our article “’Titanic’ task of finding plundered African art in French museums”, about an ongoing and very real problem in Western museums whose collections contain art and artifacts that were most probably stolen during the colonial era.

However, discovering the actual provenance of many of the works is a long and painstaking process. It’s investigative work, like tracking a murderer or a bank robber – except this is a brand-new type of investigation, with often little to offer in terms of clues, sources, and the like.

Because so many museums are now trying to find how a work ended up in their collections, two French universities are now offering courses in this new field of “artistic detective work”. And that was your question: What are the names of the two French universities that now offer courses in Art Provenance Research?

The answer is: The University of Paris-Nanterre and the Louvre School of Art.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, “Which is stronger: money or the pen, and how?”, which was suggested by Rafiq Khondaker from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Sharifa Akter Panna from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh. Sharifa is also the winner of the week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Sharifa!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Saleem Akhtar Chadhar, the president of the RFI Seven Stars Radio Listeners Club in District Chiniot, Pakistan; Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India, and Ferhat Bezazel, the president of the RFI Ain Kechera Butterflies Club in West Skikda, Algeria.

Rounding out the list is RFI Listeners Club member Abdul Mannan Teacher from Sirajganj, Bangladesh, and last but not least, RFI English listener Shihabur Rahaman Khan from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: A traditional Swiss folksong, sung by the Swiss Laddies; “Funk No 1” by Juna Serita, performed by Tokyo Groove Jyoshi; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and “Misemo” by Balthazar Naturel, arranged and played by Monsieur MÂLÂ.

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 Paul’s article “Zverev sees off Nadal to advance to second round at French Open”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 24 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 29 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

With South Africa’s ANC losing majority, coalition government looms

Issued on:

In this episode of Spotlight on Africa, Melissa Chemam discusses the recent elections in South Africa and the possibility of the ruling ANC losing its overall majority, potentially forcing it into a coalition government.

On  29 May, South Africans participated in parliamentary and provincial elections in the most fiercely contested vote since the end of apartheid in 1994.

After 30 years in power, the African National Congress, once led by Nelson Mandela, could lose its majority.

With Tshepo Moloi, a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, Gareth Stevens, vice-chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and William Gumede, political analyst, also at the University of Witwatersrand, we examine how the past 30 years have led to this pivotal moment and how a coalition government could transform South Africa’s political landscape.

We will also hear from curator Aude Leveau Mac Elhone, who has organised the exhibition Brazil and Africa, a Shared History in Gorée, Dakar, Senegal, along with the artist Aline Motta. 

 


Episode mixed by Vincent Pora.

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 


Sponsored content

Presented by

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.


Sponsored content

Presented by

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

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *