Ariel Sharon vs. France

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

“Did the Israeli prime minister expect such a barrage [of criticism]? Did he even desire it?” Those were the questions posed by reporter Eric Favereau leading off coverage in the French left-of-center newspaper Libération yesterday of remarks by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday, in which he called upon French Jews to move “immediately” to Israel to escape “unfettered anti-semitism” which is allegedly spreading in that country. (The lead article is [French foreign minister Michel] Barnier Harshly Criticizes Sharon’s Invitation to the Jews of France, although the verb that article-title actually uses translates to fustigate, perhaps an interesting addition to the vocabulary of us all.) But by making such remarks (in English, and in front of a delegation of American Jewish leaders visiting Israel, as it turned out), Sharon only managed to offend not only the French state, but Jewish organizations there. From the French foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman: “We have immediately made contact with Israeli authorities to ask for an explanation on the subject of these unacceptable remarks.” And from Richard Prasquier, executive board member of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (French acronym: CRIF): “We can’t accept this type of discourse. We all know that the situation of Jews in France is difficult. . . . [The Jewish community] knows that the [French] political class is doing everything to fight against this anti-semitism. But pouring oil on the fire this way is not acceptable.” (more…)

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Moore’s Fahrenheit Catches Fire in France

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

For whatever reason, Michael Moore’s blockbuster documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 was first exposed outside the US to French-speaking audiences, opening on 7 July in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. And, as you’d probably expect, it had a Smashing Début, as stated in the title of an article in the Nouvel Observateur. It was seen by 100,000 in France on its first day of showing alone (of which 30,000 in Paris), the best opening of all time for a documentary. Still, the (unnamed) writer does give Moore’s previous work, Bowling for Columbine, greater credit for being fully researched and documented. (more…)

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The French on the New American “Sunny Boy”

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

Hey – I’ll trade you a John Edwards football card! Yes he played, during his college days at NC State. Actually, I’ll give you a free tip: if you move fast, you can print out the trading card showing the young Edwards suited up in his football uniform, but with the “John Edwards: President” logo underneath, used as promotional material during his Democratic primary campaign, which is featured on the French newspaper Libération’s best-of-the-pack article covering Edwards’ naming as the Democratic VP candidate. (more…)

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That Gallic Skepticism Over Iraq

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

“Sovereignty” was transferred to the new Iraqi provisional government last Monday, two days earlier than what had been announced, in what has been praised as a slick move to head off the crescendo of attacks insurgents surely were holding in store for what was supposed to be today’s ceremony. But that’s necessarily “sovereignty” in quotation marks, since it’s an open question what sort of “sovereignty” that new Iraqi government has really received, if for no other reason than the large number of foreign troops – mostly American – that remain in the country but outside of any sort of direct Iraqi control.

You know that you can expect views from the maximal-skepticism side to come from the French press. The early hand-over may have been a surprise, but both Libération, from the French Left, and Le Figaro, from the Right, were nonetheless quickly ready to provide the same. (more…)

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Mixed French Reviews for the New Constitution

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

Failure in December – but success in June! At their just-concluded Brussels summit the European Union’s now twenty-five members finally accepted a draft to put forward to their constituent parliaments and/or voters as the new European Constitution. Perhaps this summit’s productive result can be ascribed to the rotating EU presidency being held now by Bertie Ahern and the diplomatically-astute Irish, whereas Italy and Silvio Berlusconi were in charge last December – the Council presidency will cease to rotate this way once the new Constitution is enacted, by the way – or maybe it was all due to the new governments in place in Spain and Poland, the two “medium-sized” EU states that were the principle obstacles to progress at the last summit in December. One thing is sure, though: France and Jacques Chirac were once again in the middle of the goings-on, and so a review of French reporting and comment is appropriate. (Tony Blair was also a leading protagonist – or at least according to the French press, as we shall see – but I’ll let you read the on-line British papers about that yourself – and pay for it, in the case of The Times.) (more…)

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France Cheers Moore, Jeers Bush

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

The big news for many over the past weekend was Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911” being awarded the Golden Palm as best film at the Cannes Film Festival – the same movie, you’ll recall, that Disney does not want to distribute, despite the White House press statement issued in response to the award maintaining that it demonstrated that the US was a country of freedom of expression. (For others, with perhaps a more myopic view of the world, the big news was that President Bush fell off of his mountain bike. But we’ll be getting to that incident, too.) With his victory, Moore became the first documentary-maker since Jacques Cousteau in 1956 to win the Festival’s top prize, and at the same time he scored some big political points against the his arch-nemesis, the Bush administration.

As you would expect, the French press just lapped this all up. Surprisingly, though, the vehemence of the French fourth estate’s reaction seemed to vary inversely with the degree of the paper-in-question’s known partisan slant. (more…)

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France Warms to Gay Marriage

Friday, May 14th, 2004

War, torture, deception, decapitation: Let’s leave Iraq behind for once, and return to the matter of love. Or at least what some call love, while others prefer not to recognize it as such, calling it other things. Remember not so long ago when a flurry of homosexual marriages were being performed at the San Francisco City Hall, among other places in the US, to which President Bush countered with his proposal for an amendment to the US Constitution defining marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman? Well, once more people are planning homosexual marriages, and the administration is promising to block them while inveighing loudly against the very principle. This time, though, the opposition is preparing a law for debate in the legislature to formally enshrine that principle into law.

Ah, the “opposition”; the “legislature.” Do I mean the Democrats and Congress? No, and that’s your clue (plus this entry’s title, plus the innocent fact that this weblog is entitled “EuroSavant,” after all). If you haven’t heard of all this, you probably have a good excuse since it is happening not in the US but in France, and reports on these developments are by-and-large only available in French. (more…)

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An Offer Muscovites Cannot Refuse

Thursday, April 1st, 2004

Europe, you can say, is very “green”-minded. Sure, this attitude does vary slightly as you travel from one part of the European Union to another (at least as it’s constituted in its present form, slated to last not too much longer until next May 1). But what can stand as a symbol of this attitude is the multiple trash-separation bins (plastic; glass; the rest – or however it works in your neighborhood) to be found in most countries of the Union, together with local residents standing in front of them, meticulously sorting their trash into the separate bins in which it belongs (or so at least in theory).

Russia, on the other hand, is one country destined never to make it into the EU, for geopolitical reasons or what have you. (Who knows, though, some commentators say differently.) Nonetheless, trash separation has now found its way as far east as Moscow, as reported in a highly-amusing article in the French Libération by Lorraine Millot (Eco-Trash Gets All Moscow Enthused). When it comes to trash-separation, we know that Germans will do it, at least; but will Slavs do it? Mme. Millot explores this fascinating sociological question. (more…)

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Kerry-Amour in France

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

Me, too! Me, too! So Europe is Kerry country, not least because the Democratic presidential candidate is fluent in French and can produce phrases in other European languages, reports the Economist. (Subscription required; or you can get the same message from this Washington Post survey of a ragged potpourri of English-language newspapers from around the world – from Manila, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, southern India, and the like.) Sounds like a good bandwagon for EuroSavant to hop onto, say with a look at the French press to see whether the Fifth Republic really loves the Democratic Party’s candidate as much as is claimed. (more…)

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Après la Capture

Tuesday, December 16th, 2003

The big story is out there, the obvious one. Maybe you want the EuroSavant opinion on the capture last Saturday night of Saddam Hussein. I think . . . that that was a Good Thing.

“That won’t cut it, MAO!” perhaps you object. Ah, but allow me to remind you of what you could term the “EuroSavant essence”: It’s not necessary for me to pontificate on these pages. (Although that can also occasionally happen; actually, I feel another expatiation coming on now, but not on this Saddamned subject: stay tuned for the next entry.) Rather, my function is to lead you daily (or whenever) on a merry traipse through the motley landscape of one or more of the various European presses – a landscape in which, to extend the metaphor, the lay of the terrain as well as most of the bright and curious flowers to be found within it would remain unknown and incomprehensible to you without my (free!) services as surveyor, geologist, and naturalist.

Translation: I just need to find other writers, writing in one European language or another, to pontificate on the topic of the day, and tell you what they’re saying. Since Mr. Hussein was such a good customer of France back in his glory days, let’s see if the French press can comment on his capture in ways that transcend the obvious. (more…)

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Zut Alors! No Contracts?

Thursday, December 11th, 2003

Did you catch the latest news about the Pentagon shutting out from eligibility for those big rebuilding contracts in Iraq all those countries that didn’t support the war, like France, Germany, and Russia? (For the protection of the essential security interests of the United States, natch!) Hoo-hah! Suckaaaz! Did those jackal-states really expect that they could step back and let the American troops and their various allied homies go in and put their rears on the line to lay down some hurt, and then just show up afterwards to earn some big green cleaning up the mess?

(Of course, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to hit them with this tough new reality just before the Prez was scheduled to give them a call asking them to forgive the Iraqi debt they hold. Josh Marshall feels that there really should be some official in place to coordinate things between Washington’s various diplomatic and security agencies so that embarrassing things like this don’t happen – something perhaps like a “National Security Advisor”?)

Ah, but remember that you are now in EuroSavant territory, my friend, which means that you get to hear from the other side. Are the French gnashing their unhygienic teeth in frustration? Are the Germans crying into their beer? I’ve got time to check out the one (France); stay tuned to this site to see if I also squeeze in the other. (more…)

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Giscard Sounds the Alarm over Constitution

Sunday, December 7th, 2003

The original delegates to the Convention which spent eighteen months drawing up the draft EU Constitution, delivering it last June, got together again last Friday in Brussels. Their meeting was of course in the shadow of the climactic European summit of heads-of-government coming up fast next weekend, which is supposed to round off the EU’s Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) and coming up with a final constitutional document on which all member-states (current and future) can agree. The theme of their meeting: “What have you done to our work?!” Or, to use some French: “What’s with all the détricotage?” or “unravelling,” the way you would maliciously pick apart someone else’s carefully-done knitting. That was the formulation of their leader at the Convention, France’s Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who was there to address them and articulate where the Convention thinks that the IGC has gotten it wrong. This is covered in two articles out of the French on-line press, whose titles are eloquent in themselves: Giscard Tries to Save His Constitution, in Le Figaro, and “Better No Constitution Than a Mutilated Constitution” (that’s a quote, and not just Giscard’s), in Libération. (more…)

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Wasted (Brussels) Days and Wasted (Brussels) Nights (French View)*

Saturday, October 18th, 2003

Bad news for EU taxpayers, at least those who rather expect some concrete results from their representatives at European Union fora in return for the tax-euros they are paid. (Come on now – could anyone really be so naïve?) I know you recall that EU summit in Brussels that took place yesterday and the day before – Chirac also spoke for Germany during yesterday’s session, remember? (Covered in €S from both the French and German points-of-view.) That was nice, a great symbolic gesture and all that, but more pertinent might be the fact that little of note was actually accomplished. At least so the French on-line papers say. (more…)

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Gerhard Chirac: The French View

Friday, October 17th, 2003

Now that we’ve already covered German reporting and commentary on Jacques Chirac acting to represent German interests during the second day of the European summit in Brussels (today, in fact), let’s look at the French side. Another day’s passing has even allowed the time for more detailed, nuanced coverage to spring up in the French press, and so I concentrate on these recent articles. (more…)

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The French Appraise “Schwarzy”

Thursday, October 9th, 2003

Here we go: and the French press, as you can well imagine, has had a lot to say about Governor-elect Schwarzenegger, who by the way apparently is known best there as “Schwarzy.”

We start with Le Monde, which features no less than three commentary pieces on the California election results, in addition to several reports of a more factual nature. (more…)

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The Franco-American Summit in New York

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

George W. Bush yesterday gave his long-awaited speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations. It hardly went over like gangbusters. I assume that you’ve already consulted the accounts from the mainstream American press: the New York TimesAn Audience Unmoved; the Washington PostA Vague Pitch Leaves Mostly Puzzlement. And that unflattering coverage was from American media, which need to behave themselves vis-à-vis the Administration to ward off John Ashcroft shutting them down as subversive organizations under the Patriot Act. (OK, so it’s not like that, at least not yet. At least not among the newspapers – but I’ve read some interesting analysis about the factor that makes the American broadcast media so nice towards Administration policy, and its initials are F, C, and C.)

How bad is the coverage of the same event (and its appendages – like the Bush-Chirac meeting) likely to be in the French press? Let’s take a look.

The analysis piece in Le Monde, Paris-Washington, Two Opposing Diagnoses on the Situation in Iraq, shows a surprisingly mild tone. (more…)

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French “I Told You So”s?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2003

Today we progress towards fulfilling yesterday’s mention of current French points-of-view towards the Coalition troubles in Iraq. The on-line dailies are treating the subject hit-or-miss (see a review of a contribution from Libération at bottom). But what’s that over there on Le Monde diplomatique? That’s the sister-publication to Le Monde – of course – but it comes out monthly, and so with longer, “deeper” articles which are mostly opinion-pieces that take a broader look at current affairs. And on the front page of the latest (Sept. 2003) issue we have L’onde du chaos (“The Wave of Chaos”), an examination of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Bush Administration by writer Alain Gresh.

Le Monde diplomatique can be relied upon to lay out a “French” point-of-view carefully fashioned to be about as opposite to what the American administration would want you to believe as possible, short of setting up your own direct feed to Osama bin-Laden’s propaganda department. But stepping out of the confines of Fox News and the various other US media outlets which often are but thinly-disguised cheerleaders for administration policy, to be confronted with a foreigner’s viewpoint, is what this site is supposed to be all about, right? (Or is it instead about foreigners discovering the various innovations that make America great, such as Hooters Air? Or America discovering the innovations that make Europe great, like medically-prescribed marijuana? Just let me know.) (more…)

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French Government Feels the Heat

Monday, August 18th, 2003

The great European Heat Wave of summer 2003 has now itself died down, but the heat is still definitely on the government and public health authorities in France, where the Health Ministry estimates that up to 3,000 people might have died – and other sources estimate up to 5,000. Today Prof. Lucien Abenhaïm, the French directeur général de la santé – “director general of health,” or namely the professional physician filling the role in the Health Ministry similar to the US Surgeon General – submitted his resignation to Health Minister Jean-François Mattei. Only last Friday, interviewed in English by the BBC World Service, he had opined that he should not resign, and said he wasn’t particularly worried about holding down his job. Of course, many in France believe that it is M. Mattei himself who should resign in light of the public health crisis from the heat that seemed to take the government by surprise.

In its coverage today of Prof. Abenhaïm’s resignation, Le Monde revealed why the professor had now changed his mind about staying in his post. (more…)

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Another Uproar over Mis-Spoken Words

Sunday, July 6th, 2003

More now about the verbal misstep committed by that right-wing politician last week in Strasbourg . . .

“Oh no – Berlusconi again?” you might moan. No, no: this time I’m talking about French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. It seems that at a meeting of the Council of Europe there Raffarin let loose with the following bon mot: La France n’en est encore sur le chemin de son paradis qu’au purgatoire, puisqu’il reste des socialistes. “France is not yet on the road to paradise but rather in purgatory, since there are still Socialists around.” (The Socialists are the main party in opposition in France; the Council of Europe has nothing to do directly with the European Union – in fact, it pre-dates it – but instead acts as a general, non-executive European political forum; see its website here.)

I found out about this incident in today’s New York Times (registration required), and, sure enough, from the way the Times described what was going on, it looked once again like a case of a joke – or people’s reaction to a joke – being taken too far. For example, according to Jean-Marc Ayrault, leader of the Socialist faction in the French National Assembly, “Mr. Raffarin no longer deserves the title of prime minister of the Republic.” So I decided to apply the EuroSavant treatment to it – let’s look at what the French on-line papers have made of it. (more…)

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French Alarm over the EU Constitutional Convention

Friday, May 30th, 2003

Returning to its non-English-language roots, EuroSavant today examines reactions to the unveiling of the draft EU constitution on the Continent (or “in Europe,” as certain British newspapers are wont to call that land mass stretching out on the other side of the Channel – as if they don’t happen to be part of it, legally, administratively, and even historically). And yes, loyal and long-standing €S readers, we first consider France. Surely there everyone is firmly on the side of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the Constitutonal Convention’s president, and his draft document. (more…)

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UN Security Council Resolution 1483: Sanctions Against Iraq Lifted

Friday, May 23rd, 2003

Yesterday the UN Security Council voted 14-0 for a resolution to lift the UN sanctions on Iraq that dated to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait of August, 1990, and thereby to grant allied forces now present in Iraq considerable international authority in the occupation and rebuilding of the country. For a while it had looked as if the Security Council would fail to agree on such a lifting of sanctions in much the same manner as it had failed to agree on authorization for the attack on Iraq, and with the same core of opposition from France, Germany, and Russia. While the American-British “coalition” argued that, with Hussein’s regime consigned to history, the sanctions’ purpose and target had clearly disappeared, so that the legal framework needed to be restored for international transactions undertaken for the benefit of the Iraqi people (most especially oil sales), these latter countries recognized that such UN approval represented the last leverage they had left to insert the UN and the international community generally into some sort of position of influence over what is to become of Iraq. There was also the issue of trying to head off any sort of cancellation of debts incurred by Hussein’s regime to their countries and/or companies of their nationality, and they were unwilling to make any gesture that could be construed as an ex post facto approval of the war that the Security Council never approved before it was unleashed. So French, German, and Russian diplomats and their political bosses in the past few weeks have tried to head off the lifting of sanctions by adopting the rather cynical pose that, after all, sanctions were imposed subject to lifting only when Iraq had been cleared of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, and that had not happened yet. (The fact that extensive searching has yet to uncover significant signs of Iraqi WMD could very well be important, in the sense of making a case for a certain element of deception having been employed to make the original case for war, but it has no relevance to the lifting of Iraqi sanctions; no matter what, Iraq clearly no longer represents any WMD or otherwise military danger to its neighbors or to the international community generally.)

But now sanctions are lifted, and by a unanimous Security Council vote minus the abstention of Syria – that is, completely lifted, and not just “suspended,” as had been a mooted halfway-house solution during the recent diplomatic stand-off over the issue. True, to get here there were certain concessions made from the allied side – e.g. enhanced powers for the UN special representative – but it’s unclear just how much of a sacrifice they represented in the allied position. Were there winners and losers here, or was a solution reached that was truly satisfactory for all? You can get the “allied” viewpoint yourself from your favorite American/British press outlet(s), but it’s EuroSavant that can let you know what they’re saying on the “other side.” As is my habit, I start with France. (more…)

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Slovakia Votes “Yes” to EU Accession

Sunday, May 18th, 2003

One of EuroSavant’s reader services, as regular visitors to this site will have noticed from past entries, is tracking the series of referenda by which EU candidate countries will (presumably) approve their entry into EU membership on 1 May 2004. Earlier this month Lithuanians voted in favor. This weekend it was the turn of Slovakia, and according to most press reports the important question was not whether “Yes” votes would prevail, but whether there would be enough votes cast, whether “Yes” or “No,” to attain at least the level of 50% participation which would make the referendum valid. It seems that that did indeed come to pass: according to the president of the Slovak electoral commission, Julius Fodor, 52.15% of eligible votes were cast, of which 92.46% were in favor of EU accession. (more…)

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“France Must Pay!”: The Current Franco-American Rift

Thursday, April 24th, 2003

It came on US publicly-funded television – on PBS’ Charlie Rose show – and from the highest-level Bush administration official charged with diplomacy generally and with keeping relations civil with our allies in particular. When asked whether it was intended that France suffer consequences for its obstructionist stance in the run-up to the War in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell bluntly replied “Yes,” and then “We’ll have to look at all aspects of our relations with France in the light of that.” (more…)

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“Iraq Withdrawal Syndrome”?

Monday, April 21st, 2003

The Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz claims to see “signs of Iraq withdrawal syndrome” among the American media. How does this play on the other side of the Atlantic – say, in France? (more…)

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Looters Drop In on Tarik Aziz

Friday, April 11th, 2003

I’m continuing with my tour of the press from the “axis of weasels” (or, as Jay Leno would now have it, the “axis of envy”), i.e. those of our NATO allies who didn’t think the direct solution to “regime change” in Iraq was such a good idea. Today let’s look at France. (more…)

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