Thursday, 15 November 2007

More travel chaos in France as unions consider negotiations

A nationwide strike crippled transport in France for a second day on Thursday as the government and unions moved to resume negotiations over President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reforms.
French commuters struggled to get to work, with many opting to drive after unions at the SNCF state rail company and RATP Paris metro operator decided to keep up the strike.
Major roads in the Paris region were clogged with more than 300 kilometres (180 miles) of traffic jams reported early Thursday, but there were fewer disruptions in public transport than the previous day.
Commuter train services remained sporadic in the Paris region, with one or two trains per hour, while Paris metro lines were running at about 30 percent.

French police break up student protest

French police used truncheons and tear gas on Tuesday to break up a student protest at Paris X University, one of about a dozen campuses across France where classes have been disrupted.

University rector Olivier Audeoud called in police after more than 100 students blocked access to all faculty buildings at the campus in Nanterre, west of Paris.

"This blockade is totally illegal and anti-democratic," Audeoud told AFP after the clash early Tuesday between students who tried to enter the buildings and protesters.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

French trade gap widens, industrial output falls

The French economy was hit with a widening trade deficit in September, when energy sector imports rose, and a slide in industrial production, official figures showed Friday.
The trade gap with the rest of the world widened 13.5 percent to 3.083 billion euros (4.5 billion dollars) from August, the customs authority said, as imports rose -- notably of energy products -- and the value of exports fell.
But the shortfall narrowed to 9.117 billion euros in the third quarter from 9.453 billion euros in the previous three months.
The deficit in the first nine months of the year came to a seasonally corrected 26.058 billion euros, up 27.5 percent from the same period of 2006.

Separately, the national statistics institute INSEE announced that industrial production in France slowed in September, falling 1.1 percent after having been stable in August.
Manufacturing output, which excludes the food and energy sectors, declined 1.3 percent in September.

French inflation surges in October

Annual inflation in France surged to 2.0 percent in October, its highest reading since May 2006, in response to increases in the prices of food and energy, official figures showed Tuesday.
The national statistics institute INSEE said household consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in October from the previous month.

Food prices were up 0.5 percent in October while the index of energy prices gained 0.7 percent after rising 0.6 percent in September, reflecting near record crude oil rates.
Prices of oil products jumped 1.1 percent in October and 8.1 percent over the previous 12 months.

While inflation is still relatively moderate in France, "an increase in the price of food and energy, coupled with regular rent hikes, will continue to fuel perception of a loss of household purchasing power," said analyst Mathieu Kaiser of the BNP-Paribas bank.

Strikers shut down France’s national rail service

Strikers shut down much of France's national rail service after rush hour Tuesday night, and millions of Paris commuters prepared to go without subways when the city's train crews join the walkout.

Unlike recent limited transportation strikes, rail unions set no time limit for the shutdown called to protest the conservative government's move to eliminate special rules that allow train drivers and certain other public workers to retire early.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's government insists the pension rules are outdated, unfair and too costly. Several opinion surveys suggest Sarkozy has public support. He vowed Tuesday not to give in to trade unions, which have defeated previous government attempts to loosen work rules.

Sarkozy stresses "his determination to carry out this reform" and hopes to implement them quickly, presidential spokesman David Martinon said.

Rail traffic shut down across France late Tuesday, and the SNCF rail network said only 15 percent to 20 percent of trains on major lines would run during the strike. It said traffic would likely be disrupted through the weekend and urged travelers to postpone trips.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


The new French Education Minister ; Xavier Darcos, has been very active in announcing reforms of the state education system. So far the most far-reaching reform has been the abolition of Saturday morning school in the primary sector. There has been Saturday morning school in France ever since school was invented. Generations of kids have crawled to school on Saturdays, when their counterparts in other European countries have still been tucked up in bed enjoying a well-earned lie-in. However, this is now set to change.
Monsieur Darcos has announced the complete phasing out of Saturday morning school in the primary sector by September 2008. The abolition of this curious French practice will be extended to Secondary schools in September 2009.,en/


Nine French aid workers from the charity Zoe's Ark were apprehended by Chadian authorities as they tried to fly 103 children to France. Chad has accused the workers of kidnapping and the scandal has taken a diplomatic turn.
On Oct 25th Chadian authorities arrested members of Zoe's Ark, a French charity, as they tried to put 103 children on a plane to France. The group says its goals were purely humanitarian, but the Chadian government has implied that the group was engaged in a child trafficking operation.