The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief

The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief


A UN committee said that Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to remove French citizenship from certain foreign-born criminals was not only discriminatory but also constituted an “incitation to hate,” according to L’Express. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) noted a resurgence of “racism and xenophobia” in France and wondered if Sarkozy’s proposed nationality measures were compatible with the Constitution. The committee heard from a French delegation about measures taken in France since the last CERD hearing in 2005, and it will submit its conclusions at the end of August. Le Figaro published the results of a survey it conducted showing that the majority of French people approved of Sarkozy’s various security measures.

Prime Minister François Fillon said he was not in accordance with Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot‘s support for medically supervised drug injection centers, which aim to reduce health risks associated with intravenous drug use. According to 20minutes, Fillon said the so-called “shooting galleries” were “neither useful nor desirable,” noting that the government’s priority was “reducing drug consumption, not accompanying or even organizing it.” Others worried the centers would encourage drug use and potentially lead to increased crime. Amid division over the subject among French politicians, Bachelot reiterated her support for the project on Wednesday, August 11. Le Figaro reported that France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) had released a report supporting the method, noting that similar consumption centers have already been tested and established in more than 45 cities in eight countries, to largely positive results.

L’Express reported that in spite of efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, CO2 levels in France between 1990 and 2007 remained relatively stable, at levels ranging from 438 to 439 million tons. According to the AFP, the 10% reduction in industrial emissions during the study period was offset by an increase in emissions from service and transport sectors, as well as from households. TerraEco outlined a number of reasons for the so-called carbon “stagnation,” noting, for example, that while more efficient technologies have reduced carbon emissions for cars, this has encouraged consumers to drive more, thus offsetting any net reduction in carbon dioxide.

Nearly a thousand people gathered in the coastal town of La Faute-sur-mer (in the Vendée department), forming a human chain along the levees built to protect the town from turbulent waters. Last winter’s Atlantic storm Xynthia killed 29 people in a neighboring town when it hit France in February. Worried about the possibility of future flooding, the demonstrators were protesting the government’s slow response in rebuilding the levees, which were weakened by this winter’s storm.

See also:

– French scientists found that there is, in fact, a “right” way to pour champagne.


August 6, 2010


President Sarkozy sparked controversy when he proposed stripping French nationality from people of foreign origin if they commit certain serious crimes (in particular, for attacking police officers). “French citizenship has to be earned,” Sarkozy said, adding that when someone fires on a police officer, he or she is no longer “worthy.” Immigration Minister Eric Besson clarified Sarkozy’s mention of foreign origin, saying the law would apply to people who have been French for fewer than 10 years. In an interview with Le Figaro, immigration specialist Patrick Weil traced out the extreme circumstances that have previously led France to denaturalize citizens, including in cases of treason during World War I, and then with the denaturalization of 15,000 people under Vichy (about half of whom were Jews). Many critics have argued that Sarkozy’s proposal violates the first article of the French Constitution, which proclaims the “equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion.”

A video surfaced on the Internet documenting the police expulsion of about 150 illegal squatters from a housing project in the Paris suburb La Courneuve in late July, according to 20minutes. The video, which has received several hundred thousand hits on the Internet, caused outrage in France for its apparent portrayal of the forceful removal of several women and children. The women and children in the video, most of whom come from the Ivory Coast, were protesting the demolition of the Balzac housing project, which will leave them homeless. The police prefecture countered that the evacuation was not violent, but “mostly calm.” 

President Sarkozy’s new presidential plane, a $241 million Airbus jet dubbed “Air Sarko One,” underwent test flights in Bordeaux, according to the Montreal Gazette. Satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné reported that the plane would be fitted with a bathtub and an air filtration system permitting Sarkozy to smoke cigars, provoking criticism of the plane’s seeming extravagance in the midst of vast spending cuts. Government spokesman Luc Chatel announced on Wednesday, August 4, that there would be nothing “ostentatious” about the plane, saying that the government merely wanted something corresponding to the needs of the “fifth greatest world power.”

France’s Constitutional Council ruled on Friday, July 30, that the common practice of “garde à  vue,” which involves holding criminal suspects for up to 48 hours without bringing charges or advising them of their rights, was in violation of the French Constitution. In response to demands for increased access to lawyers during interrogation, the Justice Ministry said it would review its procedures, but warned that providing access to lawyers for all suspects would cost about $120 million a year. The council ruled that holding suspects was acceptable in certain instances, like in cases of terrorism or organized crime, but gave the government until July 2011 to reform the current practice for “ordinary suspects,” according to the Washington Post. The number of suspects held under garde à vue conditions reached 792,093 in 2009.

The French government will eliminate its practice of grading public servants at the beginning of 2012, 20minutes reported, replacing the grading system with a written evaluation based on a yearly interview. French Secretary of Public Affairs Georges Tron called the old system too “reductive” and said the new method would be “more efficient, modern, and tuned to agents’ needs.” Les Echos noted that the end of the grading system, which has been in place since 1946, is symbolic of a broader shift away from comparisons between employees, in favor of a more personalized evaluation of individual work and capabilities.

See Also:

– Dominique de Villepin, who recently created his own political party (called the République Solidaire), and who is thought to be one of Sarkozy’s greatest threats for the office of the presidency in 2012, renewed his membership in Sarkozy’s center-right UMP party.

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