Tag Archives: France

French President says Nationals are a Risk as Europe Heads Votes

As voting is underway in the EU elections the French President Emmanuel Macron has urged voters to vote for pro-EU parties. However in France the French national party led my Marie Le Pen is ahead in the polls.

Macron says nationals are an “existential risk”.  Macron’s globalist-progressive La République En Marche is seeking to bring fourth the next stage of the European project, and sees the popularity of right wing anti-EU parties a risk to this vision.

Across Europe Eurosceptic parties are on the rise, and are on course to do well in the European Parliamentary elections.

Read More: Breitbart

Iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral Ravaged by Fire

The 850 year old Notre Dame Cathedral has been engulfed in fire, with the iconic spire totally destroyed. It remains to be seen what will be left of the structure once the blaze has been extinguished.

The Cathedral is seen as one of the most important national symbols of France surviving since the 1200s.

Although the cause is unknown at present, speculation has been pointed towards restoration work which was being carried out at the Cathedral. Last year the Roman Catholic church launched an appeal to raise money for the restoration work in a bid to save the ancient building for future generations.

Read More: BBC

FRENCH PROTESTANT CHURCH APPROVES GAY MARRIAGE BLESSING

France’s main Protestant church on Sunday approved a measure giving its pastors the possibility of blessing the marriage of same-sex couples, two years after France’s government legalised gay marriage.

In France the legal marriage ceremony takes place at the Mayors office beforehand, but until now a church blessing has not been possible.

The United Protestant Church of France, adopted the reform during a national synod held in the Mediterranean city of Sète meant to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Ninety-four representatives of the protestant group voted in favour of the measure, with only three voting against it, a church spokesman told the press on Sunday.

“The synod has decided to go a step forward in supporting those couples by opening the possibility of holding liturgical celebrations when they are requested,” the Church leader Laurent Schlumberger said.

“It’s an option, not an obligation,” Schlumberger noted. “Every pastor and every parish is free to implement this change.”

France’s Socialist-led government legalised marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in May 2013, but the reform sparked massive protests which were led, in part, by some of the country’s most prominent Catholic institutions.

READ MORE….

MASSACRE IN PARIS -12 SHOT DEAD – WHY?

Twelve people were executed and eleven injured today after gunmen targeted staff by name at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, in the heart of Paris, France.  The editor, journalists, and four well known cartoonists and two police offices were murdered by gunman using assault rifles shouting “Allahu Akbar,” an Islamic phrase meaning “God is greater”.  The three gunmen are still at large – they escaped by car which has since been found abandoned, though someone has been arrested in Reims, north-east of Paris.

Other cities in France – Nantes, Tours and Dijon – have seen attacks on a smaller scale by lone individuals in the past 4 weeks and France has been on a state of alert over the Christmas period as a result.

The French Republic has been confrontational in dealing with violent Islamist groups in their territories worldwide, and tolerates no religious extremism from any group, recently banning the wearing of the burqa veil in public for Muslim women.

Human values and freedom of the press are at the heart of the issue for many, as hundreds gather in Paris and London, mourning and protesting at the horror of the attack. The controversial magazine has often mocked politicians and religions. The Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed in 2011 and its website was hacked, after the cover featured the prophet Muhammad. In 2012 the magazine again published crude Muhammad caricatures, drawing condemnation from around the Muslim world.

The cover of this week’s issue of the newspaper focuses on a new book by Michel Houellebecq, “Submission,” published today, which depicts France led by an Islamic party by 2022 that bans women from the workplace.

Paris, and many cities in France and the UK are on high alert, as concern that shopping centres, media and newspaper offices, and religious organisations may be soft targets for extremists.

How do we stop this happening in our cities?

READ MORE….

MARSEILLE, FRANCE, LOCALS CALL “ON BATMAN” TO FIGHT CRIME

Desperate locals in the French city of Marseille have posted a mock advert calling on Batman to come and fight crime in the city. The call came after a week of violence, which left one pensioner dead.

Marseille has seen a surge in violent crime in recent years, mostly linked to the drugs trade.

Poverty blights to French port town, with only half the residents paying income tax.

Read More: France 24

AUSTERITY IS A FOUR-LETTER FRENCH WORD

The France that I see as I look out from the bullet train today is far different from the France I see when I survey the economic data. Going from Marseilles to Paris, the countryside is magnificent. The farms are laid out as if by a landscape artist – this is not the hurly-burly no-nonsense look of the Texas landscape. The mountains and forests that we glide through are glorious. It is a weekend of special music all over France, and last night in Marseilles the stages were alive and the crowds out in force. The French people smile and graciously correct my pidgin attempts at speaking French. I have found it diplomatic not to mention that I think France is in for a very difficult future. Why spoil the party?

But for you, gentle reader, I will survey the economic landscape that I see on my computer screen. It shows a far different France from the one outside my window, one that resembles its peripheral southern neighbors far more than its neighbors to the north and east. The picture is not all bad, of course. There is always much to admire and love about France. But there are a lot of hard political choices to be made and much reform to be undertaken if this beautiful country is to remain La Belle France and not become the sick man of Europe. This week, in what I think will be a short letter, we’ll look at a few of the problems facing France.

A Great Deal If You Can Get It

Yesterday (June 20) the French called a Grand Summit of businesses, unions, and government officials to address the needed reforms to make France more competitive and its national budget more sustainable. Debt and deficits are high and rising as the country rolls into yet another recession in response to President Hollande’s hard left turn last year. One of the key issues is a very controversial plan to reform pensions.

Stratfor notes:

France spends roughly 12.5 percent of its gross domestic product on pensions, more than most almost any other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development member. (For reference, Germany spends about 11.4 percent of its GDP on pensions, and Japan spends roughly 8.7 percent.)

[Note: elsewhere we find that France has a comprehensive social security (sécurité sociale) system covering healthcare, injuries at work, family allowances, unemployment insurance, and old age (pensions), invalidity and death benefits. France spends more on ‘welfare’ than almost any other EU country: over 30 per cent of GDP as a total entitlement cost. As a reference, that would be about $5 trillion in the US.]

The fact that an increasingly larger proportion of France’s population qualifies for pensions factors into the debate. In 1975, there were 31 workers paying contributions for every 10 retirees; today, there are 14 workers paying contributions for every 10 retirees. As the baby boomers from the 1950s and 1960s begin to retire in the next decade, the pressure on France’s coffers will grow substantially. The deficit of the French pension system is projected to double between 2010 and 2020, when it will exceed 20 billion euros.

It is hard for Americans to understand just how much it costs to support the average French worker (or to be self-employed). From Paris Voice:

Total social security revenue is around €200 billion per year and the social security budget is higher than the gross national product (GNP), i.e. social security costs more than the value of what the country produces. Not surprisingly, social security benefits are among the highest in the EU. Total contributions per employee (too around 15 funds) average around 60 per cent of gross pay, some 60 per cent of what is paid by employers (an impediment to hiring staff). The self-employed must pay the full amount (an impediment to self-employment!) However, with the exception of sickness benefits, social security benefits aren’t taxed; indeed they’re deducted from your taxable income. Equally unsurprisingly, the public has been highly resistant to any change that might reduce benefits, while employers are pushing to have their contributions lowered.

And of course, almost the first thing that Monsieur Hollande did when he took office last year was to return the retirement age at which you qualify for a pension back to age 60 from the extremely controversial 62 that his predecessor, Sarkozy, had barely managed to push it to. Sarkozy’s “reforms” were greeted with massive protests, and Hollande used them to engineer a sweeping election victory for the Socialists. (I put “reforms” in quotes because nowhere else would a retirement age of 62 be seen as draconian, nor would the rest of the changes Sarkozy pushed through.)

Hollande faces a whole series of problems. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard notes:

The IMF’s Article IV Report on France published before the elections draws up the indictment charges: a state share of GDP above 55pc (or 56pc this year), higher than in Scandinavia, but without Nordic labour flexibility.

One of the rich world’s highest life expectancies but earliest retirement ages, a costly mix. Just 39.7pc of those aged 55 to 64 are working, compared with 56.7pc in the UK and 57.7pc in Germany. “French workers spend the longest time in retirement among advanced countries,” [the IMF] said. (the London Telegraph)

France has the highest tax and social security burden in the Eurozone and the second lowest annual working time. There has been a sharp rise in unit labor costs, making France even less competitive.

These developments have not gone unnoticed in Germany. A report by one of the conservative political parties there (the FDP) said, “French President Francois Hollande was trifling with reform, scarcely making a dent on the sclerotic labour market. Which is true of course. Hollande was elected in May 2012 on a campaign to preserve the status quo and protect the privileges of the French.” (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Telegraph)

Not helping is the fact that France had a very anemic “recovery” after the Great Recession (never more than 1% a year) and is now back in full recession. Which means that tax revenues will go down, not up, and that deficits will swell.

Image_1_French_GDP

And things are likely to get even worse. Charles Gave notes that French manufacturing is plummeting, and this has always led to further losses in GDP. The chart below from GaveKal shows the French Business Climate Survey advanced forward 9 months and the highly correlated GDP number, which follows. The IMF is now predicting a 2% annual recession in 2013, which means rising unemployment and very tepid 0.8% growth in 2014, not enough to really spur employment.

Image_2_French-Business_Climate

You can read a half a dozen reports and analyses of the French predicament, and they will all mention “labor rigidities” as being part of the problem. There is a high minimum wage cost, and it is hard to let employees go in difficult times, which discourages businesses from hiring young, inexperienced workers. New business start-ups, the source of real job growth, have fallen as a result of the relentless assault by the bureaucracy on entrepreneurs, not to mention the impredations of the tax-man. Corporate profit margins are thin in France, and companies are leaving for locales that afford them more-attractive cost options.

Debt servicing costs as a percentage of GDP have plunged in France from 3% in 1995 to 2% (today) even as the total amount of debt has risen four times. Low interest rates can be a thing of beauty if you want to lower costs, but when interest rates rise (and they would with a vengeance in the not too distant future if the ECB were not ready to step in, as the market clearly expects it to do) they can cripple a government already burdened with too large a deficit and unwieldy commitments. But without real reforms, how long will it be before the market sees France as another problem child, like Italy and Spain?

Austerity is a four-letter Anglo-Saxon – or even worse, Teutonic – word in socialist France, yet the market at some point is going to want to see a move toward sustainable budgets. Government bond investors are not philanthropists. They look for the least risk they can find. A realistic assessment will soon be made that France is no longer in the least-risky category.

Compounding Hollande’s problems is a growing disenchantment with the whole European project in France, the putative home of the movement for integration.

Image_2_French-Business_Climate

No European country is becoming more dispirited and disillusioned faster than France. In just the past year, the public mood has soured dramatically across the board. The French are negative about the economy, with 91% saying it is doing badly, up 10 percentage points since 2012. They are negative about their leadership: 67% think President Francois Hollande is doing a lousy jobhandling the challenges posed by the economic crisis, a criticism of the president that is 24 points worse than that of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. The French are also beginning to doubt their commitment to the European project, with 77% believing European economic integration has made things worse for France, an increase of 14 points since last year. And 58% now have a bad impression of the European Union as an institution, up 18 points from 2012. (Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge)

And Stratfor adds:

Hollande thus faces a dilemma: He could try to push for comprehensive reforms unilaterally, but that would be incredibly unpopular, at least in the short term. Otherwise, he could try to enact diluted reforms, which would be more palatable for French citizens but ultimately would be ineffective at reducing the costs of the French pension system.

Hollande’s problem is shared by many Western European leaders, who have responded to the ongoing economic crisis by implementing painful reforms in their welfare states. The problem is that countries consider the welfare state one of the defining economic, political and social features of postwar Europe and a symbol of economic prosperity. The French have a long and rich tradition of fighting for their civil and social rights, and the notion of a social contract between rulers and the constituents is a key feature of French politics. For the French – not to mention the Italians, Spanish or Germans – a generous welfare state is an acquired right, a part of the social contract in Europe.

But what one group may see as an acquired right another will see as a tax burden, excessive cost, and unwanted risk. This is not just a French problem, of course. Governments everywhere have promised far more than they can ever deliver. And when a program gets prohibitively expensive, adjustments will be made. It goes without saying that when you cut a promised benefit to people who are already retired or soon will be, they will not be happy.

In July, 2012 Hollande called the first Grand Summit to solve the very same problems that were still facing at the latest one. As there is not yet a true crisis, no imminent cliff to fall over, I doubt that anything of substance will get done. Which means there will be yet another conference in the future as the stress intensifies.

Hollande is now down to a 30% approval rating. True reforms would anger his base, and a lack of them will lead to even lower ratings by the markets. He has no standing within his own party to force a compromise; and as elections draw closer, fewer and fewer within his party will want to be seen in a photo op with him.

France is on its way to becoming the new Greece. In 20 years, the Harvard Business School will do a case study on what not to do when faced with a massive fiscal crisis. France and Hollande will be Exhibit #1.

Cyprus, Croatia, Geneva, and a Search for Art

I am in Paris this weekend, meeting with my Economics partner Olivier Garret in his home country. (He now lives in Vermont, so he still resides in a socialist state.) I fly to Cyprus on Monday morning, where I will have a series of meetings with local businessmen and officials for two days. I speak Wednesday evening at 6 pm at the Central Bank, through the auspices of the University of Cyprus and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce, on the topic of “Currency Wars and Quantitative Easing.”

Then I leave irrationally early the next morning for Split, Croatia, where I will spend a night before being gathered by the rogue Irish economist David McWilliams for a few days of relaxation and laughter. It is impossible to keep from laughing for very long around David, even when he is telling you that you are doomed. He has Irish gifts in abundance.

On Sunday I fly to Geneva, hoping my bags get there with me, to have meetings and face yet more deadlines; but I’ll also get to enjoy an encore al fresco dinner with Herwig van Hove and friends. I see that several mutual friends will be there, chief among them Louis Gave, who will be in town for a different set of meetings.

I remember (I think it was two years ago about this time) that Herwig hosted another dinner party where Louis’s father, Charles, was in attendance and in rare form. I remember there were 16 people present, all involved in the investment business in one way or another. Charles and I were at the center of the table facing each other, bantering back and forth, with me serving as the straight man for Charles.

It was a gorgeous summer evening and the table was relaxed, with the wine and food matching the magnificence of the weather. We were debating the valuation of the euro, and I asked for a poll of the group as to whether they thought the euro would be higher or lower the next year. The show of hands had 11 voting lower, 7 thinking higher, and one abstention. (Yes, that is 19 votes for 16 people, but there were a number of economists present, who evidently felt compelled to vote in both directions, presumably using different hands, at least.)

I will remember the next moment all my life. I had noticed that Charles did not vote. I asked him about that, and he answered in that authoritative tone of voice that sounds to me exactly like what the voice of God should sound like, punctuating the air with his finger for emphasis, “John, that is an absurd question. The euro will not exist in a year.” I will remind Louis and the table of that moment and ask the same question if Herwig will allow me – and I’ll report back.

FULL ARTICLE:

MAN COMMITS SUICIDE IN NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL IN PARIS, OVER GAY MARRIAGE LAWS IN FRANCE

A historian has shot himself in the head at the altar inside Notre Dame Cathedral, in central Paris. 78 year old Dominique Venner is known for his right wing publications and essays. Venner placed a letter on the altar before taking his own life. At the time he shot himself the cathedral was full of around 1500 visitors.

The historian had earlier written on his website about the French government’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage and called for “spectacular action”. He called the laws “vile” and added, “There will certainly need to be new, spectacular, symbolic gestures to shake off the sleepiness… and re-awaken the memories of our origins.

“We are reaching a time when words must be backed up with acts.”

The French government formally legalised gay marriage at the weekend, amidst protests from the Catholic church and social conservatives.

The impact of such a dramatic suicide will not be lost on the French people. Notre Dame Cathedral is a powerful symbol in France, and Interior Minister Manuel Valls said “We are fully aware of the repercussions of such an act.”

This is the second dramatic suicide in Paris within a week. A 50 year old man also committed suicide in Paris, near the Eiffel Tower. This suicide occurred inside a primary school in front of a class of traumatised children.

Read More: Sky News

FRANCE LEGALIZES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

The French parliament have voted today to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill was passed 331-225, and it is thought weddings could begin as early as June.

The vote was almost a foregone conclusion given that parliament has a Socialist majority, who along with their allies the Green party, had been pushing for the bill. President Hollande made same-sex marriage a key manifesto promise in last year’s election.

However, the nation is deeply divided over the bill,  with mass rallies in Paris over the last few weeks. The protests are expected to continue, as they seek to convince President Hollande not to sign the bill into law, or to remove the part of it, which currently will see gay couples given the right to adopt.

The leader of the right leaning party UMP has promised another large scale demonstration in Paris on May 26th, with UMP leader Jean-François Copé wanting to send a “message of very strong disapproval to the government.”

This morning, before the vote it was reported that, Claude Bartolone, president of the lower house, received a package containing gunpowder and a note saying, “Citizen Bartolone, with this letter we formally ask you to delay the vote on same-sex marriage…Our methods are more radical and direct than demonstrations. You wanted war, you’ve got it.” The message was sent by the group calling themselves Interaction of the Forces of Order.

Read More The Telegraph

PARIS TO SEE LARGE SCALE PROTESTS AGAINST SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL

Tens of thousands are expected to take to the street of Paris today to protest against the government’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage and gay adoption.

The parliament are expected to pass the bill on Tuesday. The bill was one of President Hollande’s key manifesto promises.

This latest protest is expected to see between 30,000 to 50,000 protesters converge on the streets of Paris; a similar rally in March saw around 300,000 people attend.

Protesters are angered by the way the government has pushed the bill through parliament, using a fast track procedure, which means the bill has only received 25 hours of debate.

Another protest is planned for May 26th, to demand the bill be withdrawn and a referendum called on same-sex marriage.

Read More: France 24

FRANCE: PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE DEMANDS WORLD’S TAX HAVEN’S BE ERADICATED

The world’s tax havens must be “eradicated” and French banks must declare all of their subsidiaries, declared French President Francois Hollande today.

Presenting a draft law “moralising” french public life, he also has demanded that all 37 ministers disclose their personal wealth and assets by this Monday, following the recent tax fraud scandals by leading government figures in France.

As his popularity since election last year dwindles, President Holland said French banks “will have to publish every year the full list of their subsidiaries in the world, country by country”. “They will also have to explain their business”, he said.

“In other words it won’t be possible for a bank to hide transactions carried out in a tax haven.”  In addition, “a high-level authority will be created to monitor the assets and interests of ministers, members of parliament and top elected officials“, he said.

Mr Hollande said a new national, specialist prosecutor would focus on corruption, with tougher penalties for those found guilty of fraud.

The banking system across Europe is being shaken once again, following recent banking scares in Cyprus, where Russian investors lost billions of Euros deposited in Cypriot banks. The government decided on an immediate tax on all accounts over 100,000 Euros and banks closed for a whole week while they negotiated an EU bailout deal, to prevent a run on their banks.  Some sources claimed Cyprus was a “tax haven” and a “money laundering” center, though today Cyprus announced citizenship rules are to be relaxed in Cyprus to encourage foreign investors who lost 3 million Euros under the Cyprus EU bailout deal last month.

The reaction of the french banks, and the rest of the corporate world, to Francois Hollande’s proposals will make interesting reading over the next few days.

READ MORE……

FRENCH MOTHER ARRESTED FOR SLITTING THROATS OF HER 3 CHILDREN NEAR PARIS

A French woman has been arrested after her three children were found with their throats slit at their home near Paris Friday.

Sky News reports that two of the kids—a  9-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son—died of multiple stab wounds. Their 17-year-old brother was still alive when emergency services arrived, but later died of his wounds.

Their father, a doctor, discovered the scene after returning home in the morning from work, according to judicial sources and police. He was reportedly in a state of shock.

“The children had their throats slit but we are still awaiting forensic reports,” authorities told Sky.

Police launched a hunt for the mother after the bodies were found, eventually apprehending her and holding her in Paris.  The family lived in a suburb east of Paris called Dampmart.

Investigators said the couple was having marital problems.

more at  French mother arrested for slitting throats of her 3 children | Fox News.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE PASSES FIRST PARLIAMENTARY VOTE IN FRANCE

Lawmakers in France passed the first part of the Marriage Equality Bill today. They voted on the most controversial article of the bill which redefines marriage as an agreement between two people of the same or opposite sex. The article was passed with an overwhelming majority of 249-97.

The Marriage Equality Bill also seeks to grant same-sex couples equal adoption rights as heterosexual couples.

Over the Channel in Britain, parliament is also set to debate gay marriage next week. The UK government are keen to legalise same-sex marriage, and are expected to win the vote this week. However, the bill will face stiffer opposition in the House of Lords. A final vote in the Commons is expected in May.

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FRENCH LABOR MINISTER: FRANCE “TOTALLY BANKRUPT”

The French labor minister, Michel Sapin, caused a stir on Monday when he described the country as “totally bankrupt” during a radio interview.

The comments will cause yet more embarrassment for French President Francois Hollande.

“There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,” Mr Sapin said. “That is why we had to put a deficit reduction plan in place, and nothing should make us turn away from that objective.”

The French government are seeking to reduce their massive deficit through a mixture of spending cuts and tax hikes.

The tax hikes are already causing a capital flight, as the wealthy leave the country to avoid Hollande’s proposed 75% tax rate on the wealthy.

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