The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief

The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief


France will compensate civilians and members of the military suffering from illnesses linked to radiation from nuclear weapons tests, according to the New York Times. Connexion noted that €10 million has been earmarked for victims and no minimum exposure level will be required to receive compensation.

In the International Herald Tribune, John Vinocur described how President Nicolas Sarkozy’s leadership style may be changing as a result of the continuing economic crisis. Le Monde explored how each of the presidents of the French Fifth Republic has used French history as part of his political philosophy.

Le Figaro reported that only half of the seats were filled at a political rally for the defense of individual rights organized by the Socialist Party. Marianne described the reasons that the conference, Printemps des libertés, was not well attended, citing continuing disagreements among party members and an exaggeration of the threat to civil liberties in France. Le Monde explored the possibility that the Socialist Party might use open primaries to choose a candidate for the 2012 presidential election.

In Les Echos, Etienne Wasmer of Sciences Po evaluated the state of the debate on ethnoracial statistics in France, noting that “with every step forward, the debate seems to take two steps back.” In Le Monde, journalist Laetitia Van Eeckhout pointed out the difference between using these statistics to fight specific instances of discrimination and collecting them as part of a national census.

See also:  
The Atlantic: The “cynically brilliant” Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.
Le Point: Investing the average price of a cup of French coffee.

United States

In a piece in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined a plan to get toxic assets off of banks’ balance sheets. Deutsche-Welle reported that stock markets responded well to the announcement of the plan, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping 500 points. French Prime Minister François Fillon called the plan “reassuring” and praised it for using a mix of public and private funds to purchase troubled assets.

In an op-ed that ran in 31 newspapers worldwide, President Barack Obama argued that there is an urgent need for worldwide economic cooperation.  The article, in which the president asserted that the United States would take a leadership role at the upcoming G20 conference, was carried in Le Monde.

Challenges analyzed President Barack Obama’s performance at his second major press conference, during which he defended his administration’s economic rescue package and rejected the idea of a new global reserve currency. The Times of London described the president’s recent television appearances, saying that he is taking “every chance to dominate the agenda from the bully pulpit.” contrasted President Obama’s tone and rhetoric with that of previous presidents, noting that he is playing the “good cop” for the time being.

Reporting from the southern border of the United States, Le Monde described how wars among Mexican drug cartels are spilling over onto the U.S. side, presenting a daunting challenge ahead of President Obama’s upcoming visit to Mexico in April. Euronews reported that the United States will provide $80 million to Mexico to help in its struggle against narcotics traffickers.

See also:
Le Figaro: Obama, Sarkozy: two personalities, two styles.
– Bakchich: An American upsurge in populism.

Business and Economy

French workers at a factory for the American company 3M barricaded the head of French operations, Luc Rousselet, in his office for more than a day, freeing him after he agreed to re-negotiate with laid off workers, according to the BBC. The Wall Street Journal noted that workers at a Sony France factory used the same tactic several weeks ago and that the hostage incidents are a sign of growing social and economic unrest in France.

The Washington Post described growing anger in France over compensation for executives, touched off by news of a $4 million severance package for the ousted chief of Valeo, a large auto parts company. Société Générale provoked similar ire by offering stock option bonuses to 4,800 employees, according to Forbes. Bloomberg reported that President Sarkozy called for a ban on bonuses at companies that receive government bailouts and called for limits on executive compensation. Le Point said that the French government will soon produce a bill that would put a stop to bonuses and stock-options for companies receiving state aid.

Le Journal du Dimanche reported that Paris prosecutors are investigating the involvement of a French financial services company and BNP Paribas with American financier Bernard Madoff. Georges Ugeux’s finance blog at Le Monde explained how a lack of regulatory restrictions on foreign investors may have increased the exposure of French investors.

The Financial Times reported that China’s central bank has proposed replacing the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency with a neutral currency set up by the International Monetary Fund. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF, said that the matter merits discussion but that it is unlikely the dollar will lose its status as world reserve currency, according to Reuters.

See also:
– Project Syndicate: The Bourbons of global finance.
Prospect: Twilight of the autocrats.


President Obama sent a video message to the people of Iran on the occasion of the Nowruz holiday acknowledging the strain in U.S.-Iranian relations but committing the administration “to a future of honest and respectful diplomacy.” In Ouest-France, Dominique Moïsi noted that with Iranian elections approaching, the video was also an attempt to “directly influence Iranian voters.” Stratfor argued that the overture was received coldly and that it will take more than messages to fundamentally change relations between the two countries.

CBS News reported that Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek harshly criticized U.S. economic policy, telling the European parliament that the American stimulus package and financial bailouts are undermining global finance. The beleaguered prime minister offered his resignation this week, leading Europe1 to ask how domestic problems for the country will affect its ability to conduct the presidency of the EU.

Ahead of the G20 conference in London, France24 compared President Obama’s priorities with those of President Sarkozy. Speaking in Washington, Prime Minister François Fillon expressed optimism as he laid out France’s plan for the meeting. In the Times of London, Charles Bremner argued that the Elysée is feeling a “U.S. chill” ahead of the crisis summit.

In a statement emailed to reporters, President Obama welcomed France’s move to rejoin the integrated military command of NATO. France-Amérique reported that the U.S. president will make a trip to France in June to commemorate the landings at Normandy.

See also:
Foreign Policy: Le Pen as chairman of the European parliament.
The Weekly Standard: The limits of diplomacy.

The views expressed in the preceding press coverage are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the views of the French-American Foundation nor its directors, officers, employees or representatives.

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