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French Tension

  • November 23rd, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

france-strikes-rcpbmlorguk.jpgMore than a week after strike action that got to paralysis point in Paris, agreement was reached on a start to negotiations (22.11.07); as the former President replied to charges of corruption while in office, and a few moments were given to thoughts about politics — even in far-away Australia.


Railway union delegates in France voted on Thursday to enter into talks with their management and the government, over the cause of this week’s strike action – sweeping changes cutting into generous early-retirement rights of the state-employed workforce.

Union leaders declaring that a “climate for negotiation” had arrived, called a halt to the “social movement” that brought hundreds of thousands of pro-strike demonstrators out onto city streets, and saw massive traffic jams on roads, as the Metro and regional train services out of Paris were curtailed.

The rail workers’ campaign was coupled with protests by other public servants against forthcoming spending cuts, and student protests against proposals for private funding to make up for reduced spending on universities.

The rail authorities affirmed that the numbers on strike had dropped off sharply with 70% of Paris underground services restored by Friday, though the terms of negotiation and scope for compromise remained uncertain.

The Transport Minister, Xavier Bertrand, echoing the “no compromise” position of his chief, President Nicolas Sarkozy, said there would be no retreat from the main principles of jobs and retirement restructure.


Gendarmes made two arrests in the Meurthe-et-Moselle region in connection with damage done to rail infrastructure which had blocked fast train services (TGV).

Strikers said they had nothing to do with the destruction of signal cables along main lines.

Several TGV services were affected as strike action spread around the country.


The former President, Jacques Chirac, said (21.11.07) there’d been “no misuse of public funds” during his eighteen years as Mayor of Paris, up to 1995.

He had been summonsed for judicial examination on charges that he used public funds to pay for full-time workers for his political party.

The former conservative leader had initially responded to the charges of misuse of power by commenting that such practices were normal in their time.

Commenting for the first time since the formal examination stage began, he told a television interview he would be fighting for the truth and for his honour.

Mr Chirac was protected from prosecution by presidential immunity, until he left office last June.

While he is exposed to prosecution over alleged malpractice as Mayor, before he took up the presidency, legal opinion in France holds he still can’t be prosecuted over other allegations, of illegal acts committed while he was actually President.


Aside from the usual well-informed Australia-watching in British “quality” mass media, the voting this week in Australia has begun to draw attention in the European press – mostly on the theme of the Howard government backed up against the wall, with those persistently hostile opinion polls.

Much of the treatment concentrates on the John Howard’s high profile as a successful figure in conservative politics, in government for over a decade at home, and as a close ally of the Bush administration in the United States. (See EUAustralia, “Long Arm of the Voters”, 6.11.07).

A writer in Le Monde focused on the battle for Bennelong, John Howard trailing in the polls in his own seat: “The leader of the liberal camp could well lose this constituency”, the article concluded. (“Le chef de camp liberal pourrait bien perdre cette circonscription”).


Le Monde, 22.11.07: “Vers une sortie de crise …”; Marie-Morgane Le Moel, “Le premier ministre australien John Howard abord les legislatives dans position difficile“.

Picture: Demonstration in Paris this week, google–