France’s President Emmanuel Macron has sparked outrage after using divisive, vulgar language to say he wanted to make life difficult for unvaccinated people.
He told Le Parisien newspaper: “I really want to piss them off, and we’ll carry on doing this – to the end.”
Three months ahead of a presidential election, opponents of President Macron said his words were unworthy of a president.
French lawmakers halted debate on a law barring the unvaccinated from much of public life.
The session in the National Assembly was brought to a standstill for a second night running on January 4 as opposition delegates complained about the president’s language, with one leading figure describing it as “unworthy, irresponsible and premeditated”.
The legislation is expected to be approved in a vote this week, but it has angered vaccine opponents.
Mandatory vaccinations are being introduced in several European countries, with Austria leading the way for over-14s from next month and Germany planning a similar move for adults. Italy’s government was on January 5 considering a compulsory vaccine pass for at least anyone over 60.
In his interview with Le Parisien on January 4, President Macron used the vulgar term emmerder to say how he wanted to stir up the unvaccinated. He would not “vaccinate by force” the remaining five million who had not had a dose, but hoped to encourage people to get the vaccines by “limiting as much as possible their access to activities in social life”.
He said: “I won’t send [unvaccinated people] to prison.
“So we need to tell them, from January 15, you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. You will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theatre. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema.”
Ahead of a presidential election campaign in which Emmanuel Macron is yet to announce his intention to run, his remarks prompted a strong reaction from opposition figures.
Right-wing Republicans candidate Valérie Pécresse said she was outraged that the president had accused unvaccinated people of not being citizens.
“You have to accept them as they are – lead them, bring them together and not insult them,” she told CNews.
Party colleague Bruno Retailleau said pointedly: “Emmanuel Macron says he has learned to love the French, but it seems he especially likes to despise them.”
Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted: “A president shouldn’t say that… Emmanuel Macron is unworthy of his office.”
Meanwhile, leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon described the remarks as an astonishing confession: “It’s clear, the vaccination pass is a collective punishment against individual freedom.”
The latest opinion gave President Macron the edge over his rivals on January 5, with 27% of votes in the first round on April 10, ahead of Valérie Pécresse and Marine Le Pen both on 16%. The poll for Le Figaro/LCI also gave him a run-off victory, with the closest margin of 55%-45% with the Republican candidate.
Emmanuel Macron’s choice of language is not unprecedented for a French leader.
The same word was used by Georges Pompidou in 1966 when he said it was time to stop annoying the French. Like him, Emmanuel Macron said his role was not to irritate the French, but the unvaccinated was a different story.
PM Jean Castex told parliament later that people everywhere were saying the same as the president. “Our citizens have a sense of exasperation seeing a whole kind of restrictions imposed while others choose to break free of them.”
France has one of the highest Covid vaccination rates in the EU, with more than 90% of the adult population double-jabbed.
For months France has asked people to show either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test to access many public venues.
However, the French government wants to remove the option to show a negative test in response to record increases in infections, driven by the highly contagious Omicron and Delta variants of Covid.
On January 5, France reported 332,252 new daily Covid cases – the highest number of daily infections recorded in the country since the start of the pandemic.
Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez, 48, and EU chief Charles Michel, 44, are both self-isolating after meeting the French president for lunch on December 14.
The Spanish prime minister’s office said he would be tested.
Emmanuel Macron’s wife Brigitte, who is 67, is also self-isolating, but has no symptoms.
President Macron is one of several world leaders who have contracted the respiratory disease since the pandemic began. Most notably, President Donald Trump tested positive in October, which led to him spending three days in hospital.
UK’s PM Boris Johnson also caught the virus and ended up in intensive care during the country’s first wave in March.
Earlier this week, France eased national lockdown restrictions imposed to tackle its second wave of the pandemic. However, infection rates still remain high and a daily 20:00-06:00 curfew was imposed. The new measures have forced restaurants, cafes, theatres and cinemas to close.
On December 16, France registered more than 17,700 new cases.
Emmanuel Macron has not tested positive for the virus before, sources have told Le Figaro.
The news website said: “His wife, the first lady Brigitte Macron, had already been a contact person [for Covid-19] a few months before but the presidential couple had until now managed to avoid contracting the virus.”
A presidential spokeswoman confirmed that all of Emmanuel Macron’s upcoming trips, including a visit to Lebanon on December 22, have been canceled.
Vladimir Putin has decided to cancel a planned visit to France amid a row over Syria.
The Russian president had been due to meet his French counterpart Francois Hollande and open a new Orthodox church on October 19.
However, after the French government said talks would be confined to Syria the visit was halted, presidential sources said.
On October 10, Francois Hollande suggested Russia could face war crimes charges over its bombardment of Syria’s city of Aleppo.
The French presidency had told the Russians President Hollande would attend only one event with Vladimir Putin during the visit planned for October 19 – a working meeting on Syria, according to the sources.
But after this Russia “let it be known that it wanted to postpone the visit”, they added.
A spokesman for Vladimir Putin confirmed the trip had been canceled, adding that the visit would take place when it becomes “comfortable for President Hollande”.
Despite this Francois Hollande has said he will meet Vladimir Putin at “any time” if it would “further peace”.
The development comes a day after President Hollande told French TV that prosecutions over Syria could take place in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“These are people who today are the victims of war crimes. Those that commit these acts will have to face up to their responsibility, including in the ICC,” the French president said.
Neither Russia nor Syria is a member of the ICC.
Moscow has repeatedly denied attacking civilians, and says it targets terrorist groups in Syria.
The besieged east of Aleppo has come under intense aerial bombardment since a cessation of hostilities brokered by the US and Moscow collapsed last month.
The area was hit again on October 11 in some of the heaviest air strikes in days, a monitoring group and activists said.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 8 civilians were killed in strikes on the Bustan al-Qasr and Fardos districts.
Diplomatic efforts to revive the ceasefire have so far come to nothing.
The UN has warned that eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people still live, could face “total destruction” in two months.
Last week Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by France calling for an end to the bombing in Aleppo.
A burkini is a full-body swimsuit that covers everything except the face, hands and feet.
The full-body swimwear is preferred by some Muslim women.
The name is a mix of the words “burka” and “bikini”. However, unlike burkas, burkinis do not cover the face.
Burkinis are marketed to Muslim women as a way for them to swim in public while adhering to strict modesty edicts.
France’s bans on burkini have referred to religious clothing and as they were loosely phrased, came to be understood to include full-length clothing and head coverings worn on the beach – not just burkini swimsuits.
In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the full-face veil in public.
A 2004 law forbids the wearing of religious emblems in schools and colleges.
The 1905 constitution aims to separate Church and state. It enshrines secularism in education but also guarantees the freedom of religion and freedom to exercise it. The original text made no reference to clothing.
France is opening up police and ministerial archives from the Vichy regime which collaborated with Nazi occupation forces in World War II.
More than 200,000 declassified documents are being made public on December 28. They date from the 1940-1944 regime of Marshal Philippe Petain.
During WWII the Vichy regime helped Nazi Germany to deport 76,000 Jews from France, including many children.
France is also opening files from its post-liberation provisional government.
The Vichy documents come from the wartime ministries of the interior, foreign affairs and justice, as well as the police.
Some of the archives relate to war crimes investigations conducted by the French liberation authorities after the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Speaking to French TF1 television news, historian Gilles Morin said the archives would probably shed new light on the arrest of Jean Moulin, a French Resistance leader who died after his capture and torture by the Nazis in 1943.
Police records and notes seized from French Resistance comrades will now add to the witness statements that researchers have relied on until now, Gilles Morin said.
“There is also a demand from the children of deportees, and of those who were executed, who want to know – and that’s a legitimate demand,” he said.
Previously only researchers and journalists could see some archives, with special permission.
Under French law, public access is provided after 75 years have elapsed – and that is now the case, for 1940-dated documents.
The current mayor of Vichy, in central France, told The New York Times that he was concerned about the enduring stigma attached to his city. It was where Philippe Petain established his collaborationist regime.
Former French Resistance fighter Lucien Guyot told the paper that the Petain government “went far beyond the Germans’ expectations, in particular with the deportation of <<foreign>> Jews, including children, to concentration camps, and they chased us down with a vengeance”.
“But it was the government’s actions that were unforgivable, not this city’s,” he added.
In 1995, then French President Jacques Chirac officially recognized the French state’s responsibility in the deportation of Jews.
France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned that his country could face chemical or biological attack from terror groups, as lawmakers debate the state of emergency extension following last week’s attacks in Paris.
Belgian police have meanwhile raided properties linked to suspected Paris attackers Bilal Hadfi and Salah Abdeslam.
Seven raids took place in and around Brussels, and one person was detained, Belgian media reported.
November 13 attacks in Paris killed 129 people.
PM Manuel Valls was addressing France’s lower house of parliament before its deputies voted to extend the state of emergency by three months.
He told lawmakers that “terrorism hit France, not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria … but for what it is”.
“What is new are the ways of operating; the ways of attacking and killing are evolving all the time,” Manuel Valls said.
“The macabre imagination of those giving the orders is unlimited. Assault rifles, beheadings, suicide bombers, knives or all of these at once.”
Manuel Valls also called for Europe to adopt measures on sharing information about airline passengers as a way of protecting collective security.
French police officers will be allowed to carry their weapons while off duty as long as they wear an armband to identify them, under a police directive issued to coincide with the state of emergency.
Paris police have extended their ban on gatherings and demonstrations until midnight on November 22, although they will be allowed at the various sites attacked on November 13.
It remains unclear whether the suspected ringleader of the attacks was killed in yesterday’s raid in Paris.
French authorities say the raid on a flat in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis foiled another attack, reportedly planned for the La Defense business quarter of western Paris.
Eight people were arrested in the raid, in which police fired over 5,000 rounds of ammunition, but those arrested did not include Abdelhamid Abaaoud – suspected of being the man who organized the Paris attacks.
At least two people were killed in the raid, one of them a woman who blew herself up with a suicide vest.
She is widely reported to be Hasna Aitboulachen, a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Further attacks by ISIS were likely elsewhere in Europe, according to the head of the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol.
US ambassador to Paris has been summoned by the French foreign ministry over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, officials say.
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks reports the NSA spied on Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006 and 2012.
President Francois Hollande called an emergency meeting and said France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security.
The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, added that the US was “not targeting and will not target the communications of Mr. Hollande”.
The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims, French officials said.
Jane Hartley is expected to visit the foreign ministry in Paris on June 24.
A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after an emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.
A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims.
WikiLeaks began publishing the files on June 23, under the heading “Espionnage Elysee” – a reference to the French presidential palace.
It said the secret files “derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications” of the three French presidents as well as French ministers and the ambassador to the US.
The WikiLeaks files have now been published by France’s Liberation newspaper and the Mediapart investigative website.
One of the files, dated 2012, is about Francois Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Nicolas Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement.
A file dated 2010 suggests that French officials were aware that the US was spying upon them and intended to complain about it.
According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Nicolas Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.
Russia has protested over the seizure of the Russian state assets in Belgium, a move triggered by a court ruling over the now-defunct Yukos oil company.
The Belgian ambassador to Moscow was told that the asset seizure was “an openly hostile act” that “crudely violates the recognized norms of international law”.
In 2014, a court told Russia to pay Yukos shareholders $50 billion in compensation, after Yukos’s break-up.
A Russian state company took over Yukos.
In July 2014, an international arbitration court in The Hague said Russian officials had manipulated the legal system to bankrupt Yukos, and jail its boss, the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
France has also seized Russian state accounts in about 40 banks, along with eight or nine buildings, AFP news agency reports.
In a statement on Facebook, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent 10 years in detention in Russia, expressed joy at the asset seizures.
“I am not a beneficiary in this process as the partners redeemed my share back in 2004. But this does not prevent me from sincerely rejoicing, as a Russian citizen, at what is happening now.
“This is a symbolic moment for our country,” Mikhail Khodorkovsky said, calling it “a signal that theft will not escape punishment, no matter how all-powerful the thief was”.
According to a Russian foreign ministry statement, Russia demanded that Belgium reverse its asset seizure. If no such action was taken, Russia warned, it would consider “appropriate reciprocal measures” against the Belgian embassy and unnamed Belgian officials.
Earlier, Russia’s Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev ruled out any compensation for Yukos shareholders. Their interests are now represented by a Gibraltar-registered holding company, GML.
Russia is appealing against the court ruling of last July, Alexei Ulyukayev said.
The asset seizures in Belgium and France also affect Russian media, including TASS news agency and state broadcaster VGTRK, Russian media report.
GML manager Tim Osborne was quoted in French media as saying similar legal action was being taken against Russian state assets in the UK and US.
Sarah was sent home in Charleville-Mezieres in the northern Champagne-Ardenne region twice in April, according to reports.
Nicolas Cadene, an official advising the prime minister on secular issues, has said that wearing a long black skirt to school does not break the rules.
A ban on Muslim headscarves and other “conspicuous” religious symbols at state schools was introduced in 2004, and widely welcomed in a country where the separation of state and religion is enshrined in law.
However, critics say some schools are increasingly imposing extreme interpretations of the ban.
Eight Muslim students were told to change by their school in Montpellier when they arrived in long skirts last month, local media say.
The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) said they had recorded nearly 130 similar incidents in the country last year.
In 2011, France became the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil – the niqab – in public places.
Most of the population – including most Muslims – agree with the government when it describes the face-covering veil as an affront to society’s values. Critics – many outside France – say it is a violation of individual liberties.
The European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban in July 2014 after it was challenged by a 24-year-old French woman, who argued that it violated her freedom of religion and expression.
France has about 5 million Muslims – the largest Muslim minority in Western Europe – but it is thought only about 2,000 women wear full veils.
France has decided to stop the delivery of the first of two Mistral navy assault ships to Russia over Ukraine crisis.
President Francois Hollande’s office blamed Moscow’s recent actions in Ukraine.
France had until now resisted pressure to halt the delivery.
It has said conditions are “not right” for delivery as it needed to respect an existing contract, to which EU sanctions could not apply retroactively, and that it would have been too costly to cancel.
The Vladivostok, the first of the two helicopter carriers, was expected to have been delivered to Russia by late October.
The second, the Sevastopol, was to have been sent next year, although no mention of it was made in Francois Hollande’s statement.
France has decided to stop the delivery of the first of two Mistral navy assault ships to Russia over Ukraine crisis (photo Wikipedia)
Francois Hollande’s office said today’s remarks by the Russian and Ukrainian presidents about a possible cease-fire were not enough to allow France to give it the go-ahead.
“The president of the republic has concluded that despite the prospect of ceasefire, which has yet to be confirmed and put in place, the conditions under which France could authorize the delivery of the first helicopter carrier are not in place,” it said in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he had agreed a “cease-fire process” with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin said he hoped a peace deal could be reached by Friday, when representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the rebels meet in Minsk for talks
The pro-Russian rebels have said they support Vladimir Putin’s proposals, but that they do not trust Petro Poroshenko to maintain a ceasefire.
It is not clear whether any truce is being observed on the ground.
Meanwhile, in Estonia, President Barack Obama sought to reassure the Baltic states that they would be protected by NATO, and said that Washington would stand by Ukraine.
French authorities have arrested four people have in the Paris region and southern France on suspicion of recruiting militants to fight in Syria.
The raids came a day after it emerged a Frenchman was being held by police investigating the murder of three people at the Brussels Jewish Museum.
Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, was arrested at a station in Marseille on Friday.
Prosecutors say he has claimed responsibility for the attack and spent more than a year in Syria.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve told Europe 1 radio on Monday: “There are people who recruit jihadists. There are as I’m speaking arrests being made.”
Mehdi Nemmouche was arrested at a station in Marseille on Friday
“We are acting everywhere. There will be no respite in the fight against terrorists.”
There is no suggestion of a link between the four arrests on Monday and the detention of Mehdi Nemmouche during a random check on a coach arriving from Amsterdam in southern France on Friday.
However, Mehdi Nemmouche is said to have had links with radical Islamists and served five years in jail in France for robbery before being released in December 2012.
When he was arrested, he had with him a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun believed to have been used in the attack, the Paris prosecutor said.
Mehdi Nemmouche was also said to have had a white sheet emblazoned with the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a jihadist group fighting in Syria, and a camera with a 40-second video showing the two guns and a voice recording, claiming responsibility for the killings.
Speaking on French radio station RTL on Monday, the head of French Jewish association CRIF, Roger Cukierman, called for more resources to be given to the foreign intelligence service, the DGSE, to track militants returning to France from Syria.
He feared “they would become 700 time bombs when they return”, referring to the estimated number of French-born jihadists in Syria.
Belgium has requested Mehdi Nemmouche’s extradition from France and police have to decide whether to extend his detention until Thursday.
Three people died when a gunman opened fire at the museum in the busy Sablon area of the Belgian capital on May 24. They were an Israeli couple in their 50s, and a French female volunteer.
A Belgian man, believed to be an employee of the museum, was critically injured.
France’s National Front has come first in the country’s elections to the European Parliament according to exit polls in what PM Manuel Valls has declared a “political earthquake”.
Eurosceptic parties also made big gains in other European countries – also coming first in Denmark.
The centre-right EPP looked set to be the biggest bloc in parliament.
Marie Le Pen’s National Front has come first in France’s elections to the European Parliament
Turnout in the election was 43.1%, according to provisional European Parliament figures – up on last time.
That would be the first time turnout had not fallen since the previous election – but would only be an improvement of 0.1%.
In France, the National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen said after seeing exit polls: “Clearly we are in the lead.”
A statement by her party accused the French government of “massive fraud” and “industrial scale” vote-rigging, saying PM Manuel Valls had tried to prevent the National Front winning “by the most odious means”.
It said in many polling stations voters were given incorrect papers or did not get ballots that included the National Front.
The election is the biggest exercise in multi-national democracy in the world.
The 751 seats are allocated in proportion to each country’s population.
The vote will affect the lives of the EU’s 500 million citizens, and the chamber has much more power than it used to.
People gathered for a Mass in Rwandan capital Kigali ahead of a week of official mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of the country’s genocide.
Meanwhile a diplomatic row has seen France pull out of the commemorative events.
The Mass at Sainte-Famille Catholic church in Kigali remembered those who died in the church itself or elsewhere in the country.
At least 800,000 people – mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – died at the hands of Hutu extremists in 1994.
Most of the victims of the genocide were attacked with machetes during 100 days of slaughter that began on April 6, 1994, shortly after Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down over the Rwandan capital.
People gathered in Kigali ahead of a week of official mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of Rwanda’s genocide
Some Christian leaders were implicated in the violence.
A genocide survivor who attended the Mass, Innocent Muhozi, said: “Today’s Mass was about resurrection and I believe that one day, the souls of the people we lost will resurrect.
“This church has a very long history because many people died in it during genocide but some also survived it because they were in this church.”
Pope Francis, in his weekly address to the faithful at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican, spoke of the anniversary.
“On this occasion I would like to express my paternal closeness to the people of Rwanda, encouraging them to continue with determination and hope, the process of reconciliation that has already manifested its fruits, and the commitment of human and spiritual reconstruction of the country,” he said.
The killings in Rwanda ended in July 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-led rebel movement that entered the country from Uganda, marched on Kigali and seized control of the country.
Yesterday, the French government announced it was pulling out of the 20th anniversary commemorations following an accusation by Rwandan President Paul Kagame – who led the RPF to victory – that France had participated in the mass killings.
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