Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Land of the French Oppression’

Macron vows to keep fighting extremism in West Africa

December 21, 2019

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — France’s President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to boost the fight against Islamic extremism in West Africa as French troops killed 33 Islamic extremists in central Mali. Saturday was Macron’s second day of his three-day trip to Ivory Coast and Niger that has been dominated by the growing threat posed by jihadist groups.

“We must remain determined and united to face that threat,” Macron said in a news conference in Abidjan. “We will continue the fight.” By Macron’s side, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan announced a “historic” reform of the French-backed currency CFA Franc, established in 1945 and used by eight states in West and Central Africa.

The currency’s name will become the “eco” next year and all French officials will withdraw from its decision-making bodies, Ouattara said. In addition, the obligation for member states to keep half of their foreign reserves in France will end.

The currency will remain pegged to the euro, which guarantees its stability, Ouattara stressed. Macron, who turned 42 on Saturday, welcomed the reform and praised the financial and economic empowerment of the region.

“I don’t belong to a generation that has known colonialism … so let’s break the ties!” he said, adding that the currency was considered by some, especially the African youth, as a post-colonial heritage.

Earlier that day, Macron announced that a French military operation killed 33 Islamic extremists in the Mopti region of central Mali on Saturday morning. He tweeted he was “proud of our soldiers who protect us.” Two Malian gendarmes also were rescued in the operation, he said.

France has about 4,500 military personnel in West and Central Africa, much of which was ruled by France during the colonial era. The French led a military operation in 2013 to dislodge Islamic extremists from power in several major towns across Mali’s north.

In the ensuing years, the militants have regrouped and pushed further into central Mali, where Saturday morning’s operation was carried out. On Friday evening, Macron met with French military personnel stationed in Ivory Coast, which shares a long border with volatile Mali and Burkina Faso. The visit included commandos who were involved in the operation in Mali last month during which 13 soldiers died in a helicopter collision.

Earlier Saturday, Macron and Ouattara highlighted a new training effort being launched. The International Academy to Fight Terrorism will be in charge of “training in Ivory Coast some specialized forces from across Africa,” Macron said. “Then we will collectively be better prepared for the fight against terrorism.”

On Sunday, Macron will pay tribute in Bouake to the victims of a 2004 bombing by the Ivorian air force during the civil war in the country, which killed nine French soldiers and an American civilian who had sought shelter at the French army base.

He also will pay a visit to Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou in Niamey before returning to France, where a summit with West African leaders will be held in mid-January to clarify the strategy of the French military operation in the Sahel region.

Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed to the story.

Next EU chief defends NATO after Macron criticism

November 08, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — The president-elect of the European Union’s executive Commission is defending NATO after French President Macron claimed that a lack of U.S. leadership is causing the military alliance’s “brain death.”

Ursula von der Leyen didn’t explicitly address Macron’s criticism in a speech Friday but said that, even though there has been “bumpiness” recently, “NATO has proven itself superbly as a protective shield of freedom.”

Macron said the European members of NATO “should reassess the reality” of what the alliance is in light of the U.S. commitment. Von der Leyen, who will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker in one of the EU’s top jobs in the coming weeks, said that “NATO was and is always what its member states make of it — it is up to 29 countries to participate and change something.”

Grrrrr! Angry herders secure bear ban from France’s Macron

January 15, 2020

PARIS (AP) — The bears have cute names — Bubble, Feather, Snowflake and the like — and look so soft and huggable when caught on video by remote cameras that study their habits. But to herders high in the Pyrenees mountains of southwest France, the animals are stone-cold killers, ravaging flocks and undermining farming livelihoods.

Pyrenean livestock farmers who raise sheep for meat and famously pungent cheeses are rejoicing after getting an assurance from President Emmanuel Macron that he won’t authorize the release into the wild of any more of the bears blamed for a surge in deadly attacks.

“He promised that the re-insertions (of bears) are finished, that he won’t release any more,” said Jean-Pierre Pommies, who raises sheep and cows. Pommies wore his broad farmer’s beret to Tuesday’s meeting with the suit-and-tied Macron in Pau, a Pyrenean town with sweeping views of the mountains.

“He was able to understand that it’s a big problem for us,” Pommies added. “We have reached the bottom, and the situation was ridiculous for Pyrenean herders.” When France’s last pocket of brown bears appeared headed for extinction in the Pyrenees in the 1990s, the country began importing animals from Slovenia, where the population is booming. A total of eight were freed into the wild in 1996, 1997 and 2006. Another release of two Slovenian female bears — Claverina and Sorita — followed in 2018, the first first full year of Macron’s presidency.

The population is now estimated at around 40 bears, doubling its size since 2010 and roaming over a long and expanding swath of the mountains that form the border between France and Spain, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

Bear attacks on livestock have grown, too. Having long been largely stable, mostly between 100 and 200 attacks per year across the Pyrenees, including Spain, France and Andorra, they surged to close to 400 in 2018, according to the most recent official annual report.

Herders who suffered included one of Pommies’ friends, whose flock was devastated in an attack last year, he said. The sheep took fright and plunged off a cliff together. “There were 256 piled up at the bottom,” he said. “They had to finish some of them off with their knives. For us shepherds, that is traumatic.”

He believes the presence of the predators is simply “incompatible” with the Pyrenean mountain economy that rests largely on herding. “I love bears. I’m passionate about them as animals. But I love that they live happily in Yellowstone, in Canada, in Romania and Slovenia,” he said. In the Pyrenees, “the people who are pro-bear say that it used to work for the old timers, that they used to deal with it. And that is completely false. History shows that men have always killed them.”

The Pyrenees are only one of the battlegrounds in Europe over efforts to preserve wild fauna and flora. In France’s other major mountain range, the Alps, wild wolves that also prey on flocks are a persistent source of tension between herders and those opposed to the deployment of large dogs to keep wolf packs at bay.

In Germany, wolves have been a source of political friction. The far-right opposition Alternative for Germany party accused the government of failing to defend farmers’ interests against the 75 wolf packs counted there in 2018. There is also debate in Belgium about the reappearance of wolves after infrared cameras spotted a pair together in woods and a pregnant wolf was killed in northern Belgium last summer.

Slovenia’s brown bear population is so plentiful that authorities are culling the animals that are becoming a headache for farmers, raiding beehives and even attacking people in the small Alpine state. Around 170 bears were shot in 2019, said Damjan Orazem, the Forest Service director.

Herders including Pommies pounced on Macron to talk about the Pyrenees’ bears when the French leader turned up at the Tour de France last year on a day when the bicycle race swung through the peaks. Pommies said he threatened to release his animals into the riders’ path unless Macron agreed to a meeting. That brief encounter elicited a pledge from Macron that he’d hold talks with them at length at a later date, an offer he made good on this week.

Emmanuelle Wargon, a deputy environment minister who attended the meeting, told broadcaster Sud Radio that Macron “reaffirmed that we don’t have any plans to reintroduce (more) bears,” adding: “It was important to tell them this.”

For bear preservationists, herders are greatly exaggerating the risk posed by the predators. Alain Reynes, director of the group Country of the Bear, said he believes the actual number of animals killed by bears is far smaller than the 1,500, mostly sheep, that Pyrenean herders claim they lost last year.

Reynes also said that Macron’s moratorium on bear releases can’t last, because France is obliged by European law to ensure that the bear population remains viable. “The president can only speak for the period of his mandate,” he said. “There have always been bears. The history in the Pyrenees is one of cohabitation, even if it hasn’t always been easy. … There have been bears in Europe for 250,000 years. This is their space.”

Associated Press writers Raf Casert in Strasbourg, France; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

Macron says 3 candidates for top EU job have been ruled out

June 21, 2019

BRUSSELS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron declared Friday that three top candidates to become head of the European Union’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission, have been ruled out of the race by the bloc’s leaders, but other leaders weren’t so sure.

Speaking after a summit with his EU counterparts in Brussels, Macron told reporters that “the point was made that it is impossible for these three candidates to be retained.” Center-right lead candidate Manfred Weber from Germany, center-left pick Dutchman Frans Timmermans and liberal choice Margrethe Vestager of Demark were considered most likely to be named to run the commission, the job currently led by Jean-Claude Juncker.

The three were backed by the European Parliament, but Macron opposes the system that made them favorites and wants someone else at the commission, which proposes EU laws and enforces them, for the next five years. Macron said talks have been launched “so that other names emerge.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, however, said the three should still be up for consideration. “I think it would be strange to assume that among 500 million Europeans who can become commission president, there would be three who cannot get that job. That is crazy,” Rutte said.

EU leaders failed overnight to narrow down candidates for the EU’s top jobs and will hold a new summit in Brussels on June 30 to finalize the nominations.

Macron in Kenya, 1st French leader there since independence

March 13, 2019

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron will be in Kenya today in the first visit by a French leader since the East African nation’s independence in 1963. This is the latest stop in Macron’s Africa tour, followed by Ethiopia and Djibouti, focusing on investment and security in a region of increasing strategic importance.

The French leader is attending a U.N. environmental meeting and One Planet Summit in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Macron’s office says that Kenya is the only African nation to reach the goal of making renewable energy 75 percent of its energy mix.

The office also notes the ongoing threat to Kenya from extremism. Al-Shabab is in neighboring Somalia. French business leaders are also traveling with Macron. Kenya is East Africa’s commercial hub.

France keeps up pressure on Italy in historic EU dispute

February 08, 2019

PARIS (AP) — France’s pro-EU government and Italy’s populist leaders sparred anew Friday, as business giants from both countries appealed for calm amid the neighbors’ biggest diplomatic spat since World War II.

France said the stunning recall of its ambassador to Italy was a temporary move — but an important signal to its historical ally not to meddle in internal French affairs. In Italy, the deputy prime minister who’s the focus of French anger stood his ground, renewing criticism of France’s foreign policy.

France and Italy are founding members of the European Union, born from the ashes of World War II, and their unusual dispute is rippling around the continent at a time of growing tensions between nationalist and pro-EU forces.

French officials said Friday that this week’s recall of French Ambassador Christian Masset was prompted by months of “unfounded attacks” from Italian government members Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, who have criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic and migration policies.

But the main trigger for the crisis appeared to be Di Maio’s meeting in a Paris suburb this week with members of the yellow vests, a French anti-government movement seeking seats in the European Parliament.

French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the visit violated “the most elementary diplomacy” because it was unannounced. Referring to Italy’s populist leaders, he criticized a “nationalist leprosy” eating away at Europe’s unity and said EU members should “behave better toward partners.”

A participant in the meeting, French activist Marc Doyer, told The Associated Press that it was initiated by Di Maio’s populist 5-Star movement and aimed at sharing advice on how to build a “citizens’ movement.”

Doyer said it provided useful technical and other guidance to potential yellow vest candidates and their supporters, and called the diplomat spat an overreaction. “It’s a political game by certain people,” he said. “Free movement exists in Europe, and the meeting didn’t cost the French taxpayer anything.”

Di Maio said he had done nothing wrong by meeting with the yellow vest protesters without informing the French government. A borderless Europe “shouldn’t just be about allowing free circulation of merchandise and people, but also the free circulation of political forces that have a European outlook,” he said in a Facebook video while visiting Abruzzo.

Di Maio again blamed France for policies in African countries that he said had impeded their growth and fueled the flight of economic migrants to Europe. He also implicitly blamed Paris for the chaos in Libya that has led to years of instability and growth of migrant smuggling networks following France’s involvement in the NATO-led operation in 2011 that ousted former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power.

Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, meanwhile, offered France’s yellow vest movement technical advice on launching a version of the 5-Star movement’s online portal, which allows registered party members to vote on policy decisions and candidates.

“If useful, we can offer them a hand and do political activities in service of the French people,” Toninelli said, according to the ANSA news agency. As the diplomatic spat simmered, a French yellow vest activist known for his extremist views held a gathering Friday in the Italian city of Sanremo.

The standoff was clearly sending jitters through Europe’s business world, given that the two countries are top trading partners and powerhouses of the EU economy. A pressing concern in Italy is the future of struggling national carrier Alitalia, amid rumored interest by Air France in some form of partnership.

Italian opposition leaders seized on a report Friday in business daily Il Sole 24 Ore that the French carrier had cooled on a deal as a result of the standoff. Di Maio, who is also Italy’s economic development minister, pushed back.

“I’ve been following the Alitalia dossier for months. Air France’s enthusiasm hasn’t cooled now,” he said. The Italian business lobby Confindustria and its French counterpart Medef wrote to their respective leaders calling for “constructive dialogue” to resolve the dispute, which they warned could threaten Europe’s global standing.

“It’s necessary that the two historic protagonists of the process of integration don’t split, but reconfirm their elements of unity,” the presidents of the two groups wrote Macron and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte. “Europe is an economic giant and we have to work to make it become a political giant as well.”

The two business leaders — Vincenzo Boccia of Confindustria and Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux of Medef — confirmed plans for a joint meeting later this month in Paris. French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told the AP that the ambassador recall “is an unprecedented gesture toward a European state that is aimed at making clear that there are things that are not done between neighboring countries, friends and partners within the European Union.”

Winfield reported from Rome.

Political ambitions reveal cracks in yellow vest movement

February 08, 2019

PARIS (AP) — Having brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets over the past three months in protest at French President Emmanuel Macron’s politics, yellow vest activists now want to build on their street cred to achieve electoral success.

But the movement, named after the fluorescent garments French motorists must carry, is divided: it has no appointed leader, gathers people from across the political spectrum and has an array of demands.

With the next elections to the European Parliament set for the end of May, no fewer than four groups from the grassroots movement could submit lists of candidates for the ballot. Some media-savvy yellow vest figures also are tempted to run under the mantle of traditional political parties trying to take advantage of their popularity.

No wonder unity seems impossible to achieve within a movement featuring multiple political currents and fighting for a multitude of demands, ranging from the reintroduction of France’s wealth tax on the country’s richest people to the implementation of popular votes allowing citizens to propose new laws.

In any case, the prospect of yellow vest lists has triggered criticism from inside their own ranks, revealing cracks in the burgeoning movement. Despite recent opinion polls suggesting that a yellow vest list could garner as much as 13 percent of the votes at the May 26 election, and inflict serious damage to both far-right and far-left parties, many protesters have warned against the idea of entering the political fray.

“A yellow vest list is a serious mistake,” Francois Boulo, a popular figure of the movement in western France, told The Associated Press this week. “The European Parliament has no power to improve people’s life while yellow vests want to get immediate and concrete improvements. Besides, yellow vest lists will weaken opposition parties in the election and automatically reinforce the ruling party.”

Among the groups of yellow vests planning to field candidates, the Citizens’ Initiative Rally is expected to be led by a 31-year-old care worker, Ingrid Levavasseur. “To me it’s obvious, we need to seize the electoral sphere,” Levavasseur said. “It’s just the first step. Next will be the local elections. It’s time for us to build something. Some yellow vests are really angry, but many others have said they want to join the list.”

According to Frederic Mestdjian, who works closely with Levavasseur, about 100 people have already expressed the desire to join their list. “We are open to dialogue and want to achieve unity,” he told the AP. “People start to realize that traditional parties don’t answer their expectations. Having a list has become an absolute necessity.”

However, another figure of the movement has criticized Levavasseur’s choice to run for candidate. Benjamin Cauchy is accusing her of lacking a clear political vision and is worried the characteristics of the cross-party movement could be lost if yellow vest lists are entered.

Cauchy, who has sympathies for the right wing, said he has been offered places on lists set up by traditional parties, including The Republicans and the far-right National Rally movement. Levavasseur said her list is apolitical, although some of her supporters have met with Italy’s deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio this week. Seeking foreign allies ahead of the elections, the Five Star leader boasted on Twitter after the meeting that “the wind of change has crossed the Alps.” Di Maio said last month his populist movement was ready to help yellow vest protesters. The French government has condemned what it sees as foreign interference in domestic politics, and on Wednesday recalled its ambassador to Italy.

The others expected to front lists, if they manage to gather enough candidates, are singer Francis Lalanne; Patrick Cribouw, a former commercial director; and Thierry Paul Valette, who founded a movement called National Equality that focuses on combating corruption and holding lawmakers to account.

Like Levavasseur, Valette has found himself on the receiving end of sharp criticism since he announced his bid. Last week, he was beaten up by yellow vest protesters who tried to make him leave a demonstration.

“They kicked me in the back but it’s not my style to cave in to intimidation,” he said during a phone interview. “Being a yellow vest does not mean rejecting institutions. Some people disagree with my list. I want to speak with them and make them understand the movement should evolve. One can’t fight for more democracy and reject politics at the same time. The adventure has only just begun, it’s not finished.”

Tag Cloud