News that François Hollande had a meeting recently with Peter Hartz, architect of Germany’s labour market reforms of a decade ago, has caused a frisson in Paris where all the talk (apart from that about his love life) is about the president’s public embrace of social democratic reforms with a distinctly German flavour.
The Elysée Palace denied reports that Mr Hartz, who led former chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s landmark reform programme, was acting as an adviser to Mr Hollande.
But it acknowledged that the president had hosted the former Volkswagen executive for an hour-long informal meeting two months ago. Read more
Can Hollande get the French economy back on track?
By an unfortunate coincidence, President François Hollande’s efforts to relaunch his presidency with an announcement of bold economic reforms have coincided with the revelation that he appears to be having an affair with an actress. Meanwhile, the economy continues to struggle, and the government is engaged in an effort to block performances by the controversial comic Dieudonné. Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, Paris Bureau chief, and Ben Hall, world news editor, to discuss whether France is in crisis, or whether it’s business as usual
François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler. AP
When Bill Clinton was being impeached over the Monica Lewinsky affair, I remember wishing that the Americans could be a bit more like the French – and leave the salacious details of their president’s private life out of the public gaze. But now, as the story of President François Hollande’s affair gets ever messier, I’m beginning to wonder whether the French might have to become a bit more like the Americans. Or, to be more specific, whether this strict French insistence on respect for the president’s private life can, or should, survive.
The revelation that the president’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler, has taken the news of his affair so badly that she has been hospitalised has immediately injected a darker note into some of the press coverage. Initial reports, particularly in the English press, were characterised by plenty of sniggering. But, perhaps, this isn’t a hilarious French farce, after all. Read more
By Luisa Frey
• Back-channel conversations between the US and Iran paved way for the historic nuclear agreement and broke 34 years of hostility, writes the FT’s Geoff Dyer. Read more
France's Benzema celebrates after scoring the second goal for the team during their World Cup qualifying playoff match against Ukraine at the Stade de France Reuters
If any country is in need of a morale booster, it is surely France. President Hollande’s popularity ratings are in the low 20s. The economy is shrinking. The country’s credit-rating has just been downgraded again. The far-right is on the rise. And a crazed gunman is on the loose in Paris. But amid all this gloom, something good has happened. And the positive news has come from an unlikely source, the national football team. Last night “les Bleus” overcame the odds and notched up the 3-0 victory they needed to defeat Ukraine and get to the World Cup in Brazil. Even the high-brow “Le Monde” had the footballing triumph as its banner headline, this morning. Read more
France’s increasingly assertive extreme right has provoked new outrage with the publication on Wednesday of a magazine cover comparing Christiane Taubira, the (black) justice minister, to a monkey.
The country’s mainstream parties, otherwise at each others’ throats in the current fraught political climate, united to condemn Minute, which splashed a picture of Ms Taubira alongside the caption: “Clever as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back.”
(In French slang, banana means a smile.)
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault demanded legal action against the magazine, a call quickly followed by the opening of a preliminary inquiry by the Paris courts, while Manuel Valls, interior minister in the socialist government, said he was investigating the possibility of blocking its distribution. Jean-Francois Copé, leader of the centre right UMP party, backed the government’s stance. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
By blocking a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, France has achieved the unusual feat of annoying the American and Iranian governments simultaneously. If the French had genuinely scuppered the chance of an agreement – making war much more likely – they would deserve all the anger directed at them. But by playing “bad cop” to the Obama administration’s good cop, the French have actually made it more likely that an eventual deal will achieve its goal of preventing an Iranian bomb.
Where does President François Hollande go from here?
In this edition of World Weekly, Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, Paris bureau chief and Ben Hall, world news editor and former Paris correspondent, to focus on France, where President François Hollande’s approval ratings have dropped to a sorry 23%. The President’s plummeting popularity comes against the background of a weak economy and controversy over the deportation of a Roma schoolgirl. So where does Hollande go from here, and should we be worried by the momentum building behind the National Front ahead of the municipal and European elections next spring?
François Hollande (Getty)
François Hollande’s Socialist government is desperate to get across a message, not least to foreign investors, that France’s economy is in recovery mode and that it is now set to start reducing the heavy tax burden it has heaped on companies.
This sunny prospect received a cold shower on Tuesday in the form of a survey of American businesses in France.
Although respondents saw some improvement in economic conditions over the next two years after a worse-than-anticipated 2013, only 19 per cent expected to increase employment, while 26 per cent said they would be reducing jobs.
More worrying for Mr Hollande, the survey showed a sharp slide in the perception of France as a good place to invest.
Hollande embraces Joachim Gauck (France 2)
Two striking images of François Hollande , France’s president, were doing the rounds on Wednesday. Alas for him, the moving picture of him in a sombre embrace with German president Joachim Gauck at the scene of a terrible Nazi massacre is not the one most people may remember.
Instead, French internauts were in digital stitches over a shot published by the AFP news agency showing the amiable president pulling a silly face on a visit to a school at the start of the new academic year on Tuesday.
Making it all the more hilarious were the words neatly written in classic, schoolmistressy French handwriting on the blackboard above his head: “Today, it is the first day of school.” Read more