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A Week of Strikes and More: Highlights from the French Press

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Economic reform project in France faces active opposition

On July 10, France’s then minister of industrial renewal announced economic reforms targeting 37 regulated professions — jobs for which you must currently hold a specific professional qualification in France. Affected professionals include but are not limited to notaries, opticians, pharmacists, and bailiffs, and they are not going down without a fight.

Monday, September 15 2014, marked the first day of a week-long strike in Paris, initiated by bailiffs unhappy with a new project of economic reform announced by Arnaud Montebourg on July 10 and on Wednesday notaries will also take to the streets of Paris, with a general strike has been announced for September 30, a « journée sans professionnels libéraux » (Libération).

Backers of the project say they hope to improve consumers’ purchasing power and facilitate economic growth in France, with the intention of restoring “the equivalent of 6 billion euros” (Le Monde) to households. Last week, Thierry Mandon, France’s Secretary of State for State Reform, described the efficiency and utility of some of these “regulated” professions as questionable and in need of improvement (L’Express). Opposing this claim, L’Union nationale des professions libérales urges that these professions provide security and opportunity for consumers

It will be interesting to see how the strikes unfold in the coming weeks, but also how Emmanuel Macron, François Hollande’s new finance minister, who has been “paradoxically enrolled in the continuity of his predecessor” (Les Echos) tackles this inherited project.

Air France strike takes off

Pilots for Air France also began a week-long strike on Monday after the announcement from the French-Dutch group Air France-KLM regarding the transfer of jobs to a low-cost subsidiary, Transavia. If the change takes effect, most crew members will be paid less and be based in other European countries. Monday sees 52% of flights cancelled, with the situation growing worse on Tuesday with 60% of flights set to be cancelled. TF1 poses the troubling question, “Will this strike be the longest-lasting in 18 years?”, referring to the series of general strikes of 1995 that paralyzed the country’s transportation infrastructure and have been compared to the incidents on Mai 68 (Libération).

The simultaneous occurrence of three major strikes in France at this time (the aforementioned strikes against a project of economic reform, Air France strikes, and strikes from 65% of driving test instructors in France) calls into question la culture de la grève, or France’s famous penchant for taking to the streets. In fact, Le Parisian implies the latter two incidents may have encouraged the former. At this time of major disruption in France, the question of the effectiveness of such strikes is more pertinent than ever.

France offers military help to Iraq against ISIS

Eleven years after France refused to follow the US-British lead into Iraq, Hollande has visited Baghdad to confirm France’s support of Iraq. “The involvement of France, for now, is threefold” (La France): supplying aircrafts; mobilizing French troops; and arming Kurdish fighters facing jihadists. “I came here to Baghdad to state France’s availability in providing even more military assistance to Iraq”, the French president said on Friday, September 12.

President Obama’s call for an international coalition against the  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is “taking shape” (Le Monde), especially after a  conference in Paris, where world leaders gathered to discuss how to terminate the jihadist group. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius led the meeting on Monday and stated afterward, “It was both a meeting of gravity and a meeting of hope.” (Les Echos)

France will host Davis Cup Final in November

France will face Switzerland on home turf in the Davis Cup (aka the world cup of tennis) final that will take place November 21-23. The Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille is the suspected venue, as it boasts a retractable roof, avoiding weather complications (Le Figaro). It also helps that “the town of Lille is well positioned” (Sport 365) to host such a momentous event.

The French Press has been quick to bring up the theory that playing on home soil offers better chances of winning. Le nouvel observateur explains, “In terms of acoustics, the football stadium will amplify the noise of support for a full house”. On the same note, Le Figaro describes the Pierre-Mauroy stadium as a “dream theater for the French team.”[.]


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