Tuesday, 31 July 2012

French artists may suffer from benefit cuts

The state auditor of France today said that unemployment benefit payments to artists and other creatives were unsustainable.  France is in a rather unique position in that it artists and creatives have a special system since 1960 called “intermittents du spectacle” to collect unemployment benefits, that is the envy of many artists across Europe.  The system recognises that a feature within their industry is that they may have gaps in-between jobs and so cushions some of the problems that arise with this.  The system is not up for review until next year but it is currently running at a €1bn deficit.  The state auditor stated that the system "is not sustainable in the current context of public finances".  Employers were also criticised as they potentially hire workers for the minimum hours needed and then expect this benefit to make up the shortfall.

This is not the first time changes to unemployment benefits for French artists have been touted.  In 2003 strikes in Avignon, mobilised by over 135,000 freelance performing arts, film and television professionals, closed down one of France’s most recognisable theatre festival and resulted in the sacking of the then culture minister.

The French president François Hollande is yet to make a public statement on this issue, but it would seem  that cuts to unemployment benefits in this area may not go down well with Socialists who are seen as the party that will protect the public from the brunt of the recession.  The system does not have strong opposition from the general public.  Dissenting voices in France on this issue, which tend to come from the right, argue that the arts are too costly and the “intermittents du spectacle” system is unnecessary.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Hollande makes no secret of his support for Ed Miliband

UK Labour leader Ed Miliband met his socialist counterpart French president, Francois Hollande, in Paris on Tuesday.
Despite Ed not having campaigned for Hollande during his bid for the presidency, he was warmly greeted in public on the steps of the Elysée Palace; an unusual occurrence for an opposition leader.
It seems clear that Hollande has a closer bond with Miliband than David Cameron as the Labour leader is now the most senior British politician to hold talks at the president’s official residence since his election victory in May.
As part of their short 35 minute meeting, they managed to discuss a variety of topics including the economy, the emergency situation in regards to youth unemployment, Syria and the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire in the future for its Grand Depart.
The Telegraph reported:
President François Hollande of France supports the campaign to have a stage of the Tour de France bike race pass through Yorkshire in 2016.
He offered his support during a meeting in Paris with Labour leader Ed Miliband, who is MP for Doncaster North.
Mr Miliband raised Bradley Wiggins’ triumph in the Tour de France and the bid by Yorkshire to bring the bike race to the North of England with President Hollande.
Ed also agreed to join a future centre left summit, which is being hosted by Hollande later this year to further talk about the agenda of jobs and growth.

Hollande and Ed both agree that harsh austerity measures are not the way to solve the economic crisis. Socialists will no doubt hope that Ed and Hollande working as a political force together can begin to steer Europe from the path of austerity to the path of growth.
After Ed’s meeting with Hollande, he addressed the Socialist group on the national assembly through a translator and was given rapturous applause when he stated that Britain’s place is “firmly in Europe”.
This may be the clearest sign yet of the Labour party’s policy on whether the UK should stay in or out of Europe.

This article was also published on leftfootforward

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Le Pen v Madonna

French Front National leader Marine Le Pen announced her intentions to sue global pop star Madonna this week, for displaying a video image of her that has a swastika on her face.

Although this image was show during Madonna’s recent Paris concert for her song ‘nobody knows me’, she has used it before in previous concerts.
The issue is compounded by the fact that an image of Adolf Hitler follows Le Pen’s image in the video. The crowd can be heard cheering in support of Madonna at the point where Le Pen’s image is shown.
Time Magazine reports:
On July 15, officials for extreme-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN) announced the party has decided to sue Madonna for using an image of Le Pen with a swastika on her forehead during a July 14 Paris concert.
The segment also contained imagery of other world leaders the singer presumably has problems with, such as Pope Benedict, Sarah Palin, Hu Jintao and Hosni Mubarak.
National Front vice-president Florian Philippot remarked:
“Marine Le Pen will defend not only her own honour but her supporters and the millions of National Front voters.”
Le Pen has been the most successful Front National leader to date. Although she failed to become an MP, her party gained 18% share of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential election.
Le Pen has been credited for trying to move the Front National away from extremist links and has been successful in appealing to a younger electorate. Her niece Marechal-Le Pen is currently the youngest member in French parliament.

Time continues:
But if the singer gets mostly applause from international audiences who identify Le Pen as Europe’s best-known face of xenophobic right-wing politics, she may find herself with fewer allies in France as a result of associating Le Pen with Nazism.
The reason? Though Le Pen presides over a reactionary and Islamophobic party, she’s also clearly not a fascist, not a Nazi and not Hitler.
Comparisons of Le Pen and her party to her father’s rule over the FN not only leave many people in France feeling Madonna’s jab misunderstands Le Pen’s relatively moderate positioning but even victimizes her with an unfair association with the Nazi symbol.
Madonna has not indicated whether she will remove the image for her forthcoming show in Nice on August 21st.
Is there a chance the pop singer’s intention to discredit the politician will backfire, creating supportive sympathy for the Front National leader?

This article was also published on leftfootforward.http://www.leftfootforward.org/2012/07/marine-le-pen-madonna-nazi-symbol/

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Hollande says UK’s future lies within Europe

David Cameron last month said Britain would roll out the red carpet for wealthy French nationals, but yesterday rolled out the red carpet for François Hollande’s visit to the UK, in his first official trip here as French President.
David-Cameron-Francois-HollandeHollande outlined to David Cameron their two countries’ future lay in a multi-speedEurope.
At a press conference yesterday, Hollande stated he does not believe the UK intends to block what the eurozone countries are trying to achieve.
He said:
“We need to conceive a multi-speed Europe with each country running at their own pace, taking what they want from the European Union with respect for the other countries.”
Cameron said France was an essential partner to Britain as he has difficult decisions to make about if and when to hold a referendum on the UK position in Europe.
He is trying to hold off until 2015, but faces growing calls from backbench Tories as well as the general public to hold a referendum in this parliament.
The British public are unlikely to get an ‘in or out’ question, though - it seems more likely the UK’s relationship with Europe could be called into question, with the UK wanting to repatriate some powers back from Europe to gain more sovereignty. Hollande’s call for a multi-speed Europe, would then give the UK the breathing space to work to a different beat to the rest of the EU.

Hollande and Cameron also have different ideas on how to get their countries back on the path to growth, with Hollande planning to hit the bankers and the wealthy and Cameron favouring austerity and public sector cuts. It was a short 90-minute lunch meeting, with Syria and defence also on the agenda. Hollande also had an even shorter 30-minute meeting with the Queen.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Hollande calls for EU solidarity

François Hollande flexed his political muscles and urged the EU summit in Brussels, to support European countries such as Spain and Italy in their time of financial crisis, which may need swift action to mitigate the impact on their citizens.  Angela Merkel reiterated that there would be no collective pooling of debt but Merkel and Hollande did agree that a financial package of 120bn euros should be advocated to the summit, which the European leaders signed up to.  These funds will be used to support those counties on shaky financial ground.  The Eurozone is on the path to greater integration as a banking union was discussed.  One of Hollande's pledges for France, which was about tackling youth unemployment, now has a 60bn euro fund targeted towards this across Europe.

Hollande and Merkel did put their differences aside to state that they were united on austerity and ‘one Europe’ where everyone helps each other, nut are divided on how this is best achieved. Merkel also stated that she would not “give Europe her credit card without guarantees”

Spain and Italy are likely to look to Hollande, to challenge Merkel strict austerity methods of handling the EU economic crisis.  Hollande true to form, issued policy proposals for the summit which focused on a growth and jobs pact.  The EU summit in Brussels gave an opportunity for the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain to discuss common issues before a full EU summit next week.

This article was also published on the award winning blog left foot forward

Anti-piracy agreement rejected by European parliament

Civil liberty and freedom won the day as ACTA the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was rejected by a majority vote in the European parliament on Wednesday, five years after its inception.  478 MEP’s voted against the act, 39 voted for and 165 abstained and given the strength of feeling against the agreement, questions should be raised about if negotiations about its implementation were enacted in the proper way.  The proposed agreement created fierce debate over whether it was the right measure to tackle the trade of illegal, counterfeit goods and protect Intellectual Property.

The European Commission will now need to think about how they overcome this setback, in a way that will be accepted by the European parliament, as ACTA has been implemented although not ratified in 31 countries.  Supporters of ACTA including the European People's Party (the Conservative Grouping in the European Parliament) say this will put Europe at a disadvantage.  MEP’s from the left including the Greens and alliance of Social Democrats had argued that in the initial stages the full weight of the proposals were not fully out there in the public domain and there was a lack of detail in the proposals.

 David Martin, Socialists and Democrats Euro MP and author of the parliamentary report on the treaty, said after the vote: "ACTA is now dead in the EU thanks to the European Parliament”  The agreement saw mass protests earlier in the year from opponents who argued that the agreement would limit online internet freedom.