Macron Announces €30 Billion Plan To Re-Industrialise France

France’s President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he speaks during the presentation of the “France 2030” investment plan at The Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, on October 12, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

 

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced a plan worth 30 billion euros ($35 billion) to re-industrialise France, saying the country should reclaim its crown as a global leader in innovation.

Speaking at the Elysee Palace six months before a presidential election and one month ahead of a UN climate summit, Macron said France had taken key decisions “15-20 years later than some of our European neighbours” and now needed “to become a nation of innovation and research again”.

The spending was to address “a kind of growth deficit” for France brought on by insufficient investment in the past, he told an audience of company leaders and university students.

France, he said, needed to return to “a virtuous cycle” which consisted of “innovating, producing and exporting and in that way finance our social model” as part of a new “France 2030” plan.

Over the next decade, France would aim to become a global leader in green hydrogen, which companies and governments are increasingly putting at the centre of efforts to de-carbonise economic sectors that rely most on fossil fuels for their energy needs.

Macron singled out steel production, cement and the chemical sector, as well as truck, bus, rail and air transport.

He said that following the Covid-19 pandemic, “which put us face to face with our vulnerabilities”, France had to work towards French and European productive autonomy.

France also needed to invest heavily in medical research, Macron said.

After the global Covid outbreak, French pharma giants were unable to come up with a vaccine, unlike biotech startups BioNTech and Moderna.

The aim was now for France to develop “at least 20” biotech drugs against cancers, as well as against emerging and chronic illnesses, including those associated with ageing, Macron said.

“We need to concentrate all our efforts on this objective,” he said.

– A new revolution –

A French presidential official, who asked not to be named, said Macron had laid out the plan in the wake of the Covid crisis “which showed our vulnerability and our dependence on foreign countries in some key sectors but also the importance of innovation which can change everything.”

French officials believe that France needs to act rapidly to close the gap and not surrender more ground to emerging powers, notably China.

French carmakers, which Macron said had suffered “cruelly” over the past 30 years, should redirect their efforts towards cleaner vehicles, with a target of putting two million electric or hybrid cars on the roads.

Macron said France would also invest 1 billion euros by 2030 in “disruptive innovation” to produce atomic power, notably by designing small-size nuclear reactors with improved nuclear waste management.

Disruptive innovation was also needed in agriculture, where two billion euros would be earmarked for new technologies, he said, especially in robotics.

France should start “a new revolution” in food production which should be “healthy, sustainable and traceable”.

This would also rely on investment in “three revolutions” which he said were digital, robotics and gene technology.

Agriculture would become cleaner, phase out “some pesticides”, enjoy greater productivity and develop “bio-solutions” that would be “more resilient and more solid”, the president said.

Macron’s plan also called for a boost in French deep sea exploration over the next decade.

AFP

Macron To Host Africa ‘Summit’ Without Leaders

French President Emmanuel Macron attends the One Planet Summit videoconference meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on October 4, 2021.  (Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)

 

President Emmanuel Macron will host a conference on Africa on Friday billed as a summit but with no other leaders attending, as he aims to readjust France’s relationship with the continent.

Instead of other heads of state and premiers, Macron is inviting hundreds of young businesspeople, artists, and sporting figures to the southern city of Montpellier.

The aim is “to listen to the words of African youth” and “to leave behind obsolete formulas and frameworks”, said a French presidential official who asked not to be named.

The meeting comes at a delicate moment between France and many of its former colonies in French-speaking Africa, as a row rumbles on over a decision to cut visas to citizens of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Algeria recalled its ambassador after Macron reportedly said the country was ruled by a “political-military system”, while tensions have erupted between France and Mali over plans to deploy Russian mercenaries as part of an anti-jihadist fight.

The new format hints at the frustration felt by France, which has held summits with African leaders since 1973, with the political leadership of some countries.

Roughly 3,000 participants including more than 1,000 young people are expected in Montpellier for discussions on economic, cultural, and political issues.

Macron is set to debate with a panel of young people chosen after months of dialogue led by the Cameroon intellectual Achille Mbembe, who is in charge of preparing the meeting.

“Subjects that cause anger will be on the table,” the French presidential official said, adding that “the current political context makes the discussion particularly sensitive”.

French officials are promising concrete proposals from a report that Mbembe is to submit to Macron on Tuesday.

 

‘Symbolic Gestures’

Macron vowed in a November 2017 speech in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to take a new approach to Africa, where France would no longer tell Africans what to do.

He has also made a point of reaching out to English-speaking Africa to build sway beyond France’s former colonial possessions.

On Thursday, Macron will meet in Paris with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, still a hugely influential figure on the continent.

Since the 2017 speech, cultural artefacts pillaged from Benin have been returned and the abolition of the CFA franc, a currency once used in several countries but guaranteed by France, has been abolished.

Meanwhile, a report commissioned by Macron acknowledged France’s “overwhelming responsibilities” over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, an issue that has poisoned relations between Paris and Kigali.

“Since the speech in Ouagadougou, the lines have moved symbolically, there have been important gestures,” said Amadou Sadjo Barry, a Canadian philosopher of Guinean origin.

“But in terms of foreign policy, we cannot speak of major changes,” he told AFP.

France remains more than ready to tolerate autocratic regimes, quickly accepting the handover of power from Chad’s president Idriss Deby Itno to his son in April.

While the Montpellier format may help bring some new life into France-Africa relations, Barry described the meeting as “a symbolic defeat for Africa”.

“Why is it still that the human, political and economic future of the African continent is being discussed in France? Why don’t African governments themselves listen to the concerns of their populations,” he asked.

AFP

Macron, Biden Have ‘Friendly’ Talk To Defuse Submarine Row

(FILES) In this file photo US President Joe Biden (L) and France’s President Emmanuel Macron speak after the family photo at the start of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 11, 2021. – US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron spoke for the first time on September 22, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron had a “friendly” phone call Wednesday to defuse a deep row over submarine sales to Australia, promising to meet in person to repair the transatlantic relationship.

The call, which the White House said lasted about 30 minutes, was the first between Biden and Macron since France recalled its ambassador over the surprise US announcement of a deal to build nuclear submarines for Australia — scuppering a previous French deal to sell conventional submarines.

Paris called the US-Australian plan, which was launched as part of a new Indo-Pacific security group along with Britain, a stab in the back and also pulled its ambassador from Australia.

In a joint statement after the call, the two leaders vowed to launch “in-depth consultations… for ensuring confidence” and to meet in Europe at the end of October. The statement also said Macron would order France’s ambassador back to Washington next week.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the talk “was friendly” and Biden was “hopeful this was a step in returning to normal.”

The statement said the US recognized the need for stronger European defense to complement the NATO military alliance, a key idea repeatedly floated by the French leader.

In what amounted to an acknowledgement of French anger, the English-language version of the statement issued by the White House said that the management of the dueling submarine deals “would have benefited from open consultations among allies.”

The French-language version issued by the Elysee Palace was even more explicit, saying consultations “would have avoided this situation.”

There was no word about where the October meeting will be but Biden will already be in Rome and Glasgow at that time for the G20 and COP26 climate summits.

At the annual United Nations summit, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, after giving the cold shoulder for days, spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of a meeting and the two expected to meet again Thursday, a US official said.

– ‘Good messages’ –

France’s Naval Group said it will send a detailed invoice in the coming weeks to Australia for cancelling the contract originally worth Aus$50 billion ($36.5 billion, 31 billion euros).

As well as a huge commercial setback, the loss of the deal was also a blow to France’s security strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, where it has a presence through overseas territories.

The submarine row plunged Franco-US ties into what some analysts viewed as the most acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.

 

In this image released by The White House, US President Joe Biden talks on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron on September 22, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. – Biden and Macron spoke for the first time since a row erupted over the sale of submarines to Australia, vowing to restore confidence damaged by what Paris saw as betrayal.  (Photo by Adam Schultz / The White House / AFP)

 

After four years of tumultuous relations with ex-president Donald Trump, the spat also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January aiming to rebuild frazzled ties with Europe.

Wednesday’s call sought at least to settle the mood, with the White House soon after releasing a photo of Biden smiling while speaking to Macron.

“The messages from the call are good. It was recognized that communication should have been better,” said Benjamin Haddad, director of the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank.

“The US understood that the main shock in Paris did not come so much from the commercial aspect as from the breakdown in confidence,” he said.

In another welcome step for Paris, the joint statement added that the US committed “to reinforcing its support to counter-terrorism operations” in the Sahel region of Africa, where French forces are deployed to fight jihadists.

– ‘Non-existent dialogue’ –

Observers and some of France’s European partners had begun wondering how and when Macron would call an end to the face-off, which is playing out just seven months ahead of French presidential elections.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed he was out of patience, using a French-English mix to say it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenez un grip’ (get a grip).”

There is still no indication of France making up with Australia, which says its decision to opt for far more capable nuclear-powered submarines is part of a long-term strategy to contain China’s rising presence in the Indo-Pacific.

An Elysee official, who asked not to be named, said no decision has been made on the French ambassador’s return to Canberra while no call has been scheduled with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

AFP

Macron To Discuss Legacy Of Nuclear Tests In French Polynesia

File photo: French President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference at the end of the Global Fund meeting to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria on october 10, 2019, in Lyon, central eastern France. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron was greeted with flower garlands and Tahitian dancers on the tarmac as he touched down Saturday night for his first official trip to French Polynesia.

While in the South Pacific territory, he plans to discuss its strategic role, the legacy of nuclear tests and the existential risk of rising seas posed by global warming.

Residents in the sprawling archipelago of more than 100 islands located midway between Mexico and Australia are hoping Macron confirms compensation for radiation victims following decades of nuclear testing as France pursued atomic weapons.

The tests remain a source of deep resentment, seen as evidence of racist colonial attitudes that disregarded the lives of islanders.

“During this visit, the president intends to establish a strong and transparent dialogue by encouraging several concrete steps, on the history with the opening of state archives as well as individual compensation,” said a French presidential official, who asked not to be named.

French officials denied any cover-up of radiation exposure at a meeting earlier this month with delegates from the semi-autonomous territory led by President Edouard Fritch.

The meeting came after the investigative website Disclose reported in March that the impact from the fallout was far more extensive than authorities had acknowledged, citing declassified French military documents on the nearly 200 tests.

Only 63 Polynesian civilians have been compensated for radiation exposure since the tests ended in 1996, Disclose said.

Macron, who arrived in the South Pacific after a visit to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, will also lay out his strategic vision for the strategically valuable territory, where China has made no secret of its push for military and commercial dominance.

One of three French territories in the Pacific, French Polynesia has a population of around 280,000 over a huge swath of island groups spanning an area comparable in size to Western Europe.

Tahiti is the most densely populated of the islands.

Macron “will present the Indo-Pacific strategy and the position France intends to maintain in this increasingly polarised zone”, the Elysee official said.

Macron also plans to address risks for the islands from rising sea levels as well as cyclones that some scientists warn could become more dangerous due to climate change.

But his first visit will be with hospital workers racing to combat rising Covid-19 cases with vaccines.

Many Polynesians remain wary of the jabs, with just 29 percent of adults vaccinated, compared with almost 49 percent across France nationwide.

AFP

Macron And Le Pen Face New Test In French Regional Vote

French President’s wife Brigitte Macron, next to French President Emmanuel Macron (L), casts her ballot as she votes at a polling station in Le Touquet, for the second round of the French regional elections on June 27, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

 

France was voting in the second round of regional elections on Sunday after a first round that saw a drubbing for President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party, disappointment for Marine Le Pen’s far-right and record low turnout.

For some observers, the outcome of the June 20 first round raised doubts over whether the 2022 presidential election would come down to a duel between Macron and Le Pen in a run-off long seen as the most likely scenario.

The first-round results marked a boost for the traditional right-wing The Republicans as well as the Socialist Party, who have been squeezed after the centrist Macron surged into power in 2017 with his brand-new Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

Analysts warn against too much extrapolation onto a nationwide scale from the results of the regional elections, which choose the heads of France’s 13 mainland regions from Brittany in the northwest to the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region in the southeast.

But there was cross-party concern over the turnout for last week’s polls, which were shunned by 66.72 percent of voters — a record in modern France.

“What we are seeing is the culmination of a disconnection between voters and the political class,” said Jessica Sainty, politics lecturer at Avignon University, while acknowledging the Covid-19 crisis also played a role in high abstention rate.

The woeful turnout prompted a debate over how to improve participation, with several figures including government spokesman Gabriel Attal suggesting electronic voting could help in future.

According to a poll published Thursday, just 36 percent of voters plan to cast their ballots on Sunday. “France is sulking,” the Le Parisien newspaper said.

Four hours after polls opened, turnout on Sunday stood at the same dismal 12.66 percent as during the first round.

– Far-right eyes breakthrough –

The first-round results put Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) ahead in just one region, PACA, a major disappointment after polls showed a possible breakthrough in several areas.

One of the most closely watched races on Sunday will be whether RN candidate Thierry Mariani can defeat his right-wing rival Renaud Muselier in the region.

Gaining control of a region for the first time would be a huge boost for Le Pen as she seeks to convince voters that the RN — which she has reformed and rebranded since taking over from her firebrand father Jean-Marie — is a serious party of power.

Muselier could be helped by the withdrawal of left-wing candidates in a repeat of the “Republican Front” seen in past presidential elections to block the far-right.

“The idea of a victory for Mariani — even if it is far from being probable — would show that the RN can almost triumph alone over the coalition of all the others and head the powerful executive of a modern region,” said Jerome Sainte-Marie, president of the Pollingvox Institute.

Mariani has been accused by critics of being an admirer of authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Prime Minister Jean Castex warned last week that a Mariani victory would be “very serious” for the country.

The RN also came up short in the Ile-de-France region that includes Paris, where its 25-year-old rising star Jordan Bardella failed to trouble right-wing incumbent Valerie Pecresse, who is now expected to easily win the second round.

– ‘Lacks local presence’ –

The first-round results made even more unpalatable reading for Macron and his LREM, confirming the party’s failure to put down local and regional roots despite controlling the presidency and lower house of parliament.

Despite sending several ministers to campaign and Macron himself embarking on a nationwide tour — that saw him slapped by an onlooker at one point — in some regions LREM did not muster the required 10 percent to make round two.

“2022: What if it wasn’t them?” asked the headline in the left-wing Liberation newspaper over a picture of Macron and Le Pen.

LREM has almost no chance of winning control of a single region and is currently just number five among political parties in France.

The Socialists are expected to pick up some regions, partly due to support from the far-left France Unbowed party.

“LREM lacks a local presence, but in 2017 that did not prevent them from winning the presidential and legislative elections,” said Sainty.

Voting began at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) on Sunday, with the last polling stations due to close 12 hours later.

AFP

Macron To Meet Turkey’s Erdogan After Rift

In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal's President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal’s President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday he would meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of next week’s NATO summit, after months of bitter exchanges between the two leaders.

The pair have locked horns over a series of international crises including Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Macron has also warned that Turkey would try to meddle in France’s 2022 presidential election.

He has suggested that Ankara’s unilateral moves on the international stage and purchase of air defence missile systems from Russia have contributed to a “brain death” of NATO, where Turkey is a key member.

Speaking to reporters in Paris, Macron said he planned to meet Erdogan “just before” the NATO summit which begins in Brussels on Monday.

READ ALSO: UEFA Demands Ukraine Make Changes To ‘Political’ Jersey

“When we are members of the same organisation, we cannot decide to buy equipment that does not allow interoperability, we cannot decide to carry out unilateral operations which are against the interests of the coalitions that we have built,” Macron said.

He added that the two sides had “profound disagreements” but need to “continue to talk”.

A new law against Islamist extremism which the French government introduced after a series of attacks also aroused Erdogan’s ire, with the Turkish leader accusing France of Islamophobia.

The Turkish leader last year said Macron needed “mental checks” and expressed hope that France would “get rid of” Macron as soon as possible.

But there have been tentative signs of an easing of tensions in recent months, with Erdogan keen to strengthen links with Turkey’s Western partners at a time of growing economic difficulties at home compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP

Man Who Slapped Macron Gets Jail Sentence

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to journalists at the Hospitality school in Tain l’Hermitage on June 8, 2021, during a visit in the French southeastern department of Drôme, the second stage of a nationwide tour ahead of next year’s presidential election. A bystander slapped Emmanuel Macron across the face during a trip to southeast France on June 8 on the second stop of a nationwide tour. PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

 

 

A French court on Thursday sentenced a man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron across the face this week to a prison term of 18 months, 14 of which were suspended.

Damien Tarel, a 28-year-old medieval history enthusiast, has been in custody since the assault on Tuesday which a prosecutor called “absolutely unacceptable” and “an act of deliberate violence”.

Speaking at court in the town of Valence, prosecutor Alex Perrin called for an 18-month prison term after describing the slap as “absolutely unacceptable” and “an act of deliberate violence”.

Under French law, prison sentences of less than two years can be converted into non-custodial punishment, meaning it is unlikely that Tarel would spend time behind bars even if the court followed the prosecution’s plea.

The long-haired history buff and board games enthusiast told investigators that he “acted instinctively and without thinking” after waiting for Macron outside a school in the village of Tain-l’Hermitage.

In court, he expressed sympathy for the anti-government “yellow vest” movement and said that he and two friends had considered throwing an egg or a cream pie at the head of state during his visit to the Drome region, according to the BFM news channel.

“Macron represents the decline of our country,” he told the court.

Tarel, unemployed and living on benefits with his disabled girlfriend, said he had been annoyed by Macron’s decision to come to greet him — “an electoral tactic that I didn’t appreciate”, BFM reported.

In a video of the incident, a smiling Macron can be seen striding towards a crowd of onlookers including Tarel who are being kept behind a barrier.

– Social media –
Macron has shrugged off the assault, calling it an “isolated event”, and he has vowed to continue meeting voters despite concerns for his personal security.

Asked about it again during an interview on Thursday with BFM, he called it a “stupid, violent act” and suggested it was a consequence of the poisonous atmosphere found on social media.

“You get used to the hatred on social media that becomes normalised,” he said. “And then when you’re face-to-face with someone, you think it’s the same thing. That’s unacceptable.”

Leaders across the political spectrum have united in condemning the slap, with many seeing it as a symptom of the fraught political climate and declining standards of public debate just weeks from regional elections and 10 months from presidential polls.

“The political climate is turning to vinegar. It’s dangerous what’s happening,” senior leftist MP and regional election candidate Clementine Autain told France Info.

Others saw the assault as a sign of how Macron, a reformist former investment banker, continues to inspire visceral rejection from many French people.

His presidency was rocked by the anti-government “yellow vest” protests in 2018-2019, which were driven in part by anger at his economic reforms as well as his abrasive personality.

Macron, 43, whose personal ratings have risen recently, is expected to seek a second term next year.

Polls show him holding a narrow lead over his main rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Other modern French presidents have been targeted in shootings, including post-war leader Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac.

In 2011, right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy had a security scare in southwest France when he was grabbed violently by the shoulder by a 32-year-old local government employee.

Macron Vows To Defy Security Fears After Slap

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) interacts with members of a crowd while visiting Valence on June 8, 2021 during a visit in the French southeastern department of Drôme, the second stage of a nationwide tour ahead of next year’s presidential election. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / POOL / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will continue to greet crowds during his travels despite a security scare that saw him slapped by a man in the south of France, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Macron shrugged off his assault on Tuesday in the village of Tain l’Hermitage, calling it an “isolated event” and “stupidity”, and he went to chat with and fistbump onlookers later in the day in the nearby town of Valence.

“Obviously his trips are going to continue: the president will remain in contact with the French public,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

“It would be completely incomprensible for people to be deprived of contact with the president because of an isolated individual who wanted to challenge” him, Attal added.

Macron’s assailant, a 28-year-old man identified as Damien T., remained in police custody on Wednesday and is expected to be charged with assaulting a public figure, which carries a maximum three-year prison term.

He has been described as a fan of medieval martial arts and board games, while the French media raked over his social media activity looking for clues to his political sympathies.

He is a subscriber to several far-right YouTube channels.

Popular evening talkshow Le Quotidien aired footage of one of its journalists meeting Damien T. and friends earlier in the day on Tuesday.

One of the friends, who says he identifies with the anarchist movement, explains that they have come to speak to Macron about the “decline of France”.

Police sources said that Damien T. had no criminal record and friends and acquaintances who spoke to AFP expressed surprise at his actions, describing him as a shy and placid character.

– Safety debate –

The slap has led to debate about whether it is safe for Macron to continue spontaneous meetings with members of the public.

The centrist began a nationwide tour of France last week, promising to “take the pulse” of the country a fortnight before regional elections and 10 months before a presidential vote.

He is widely expected to seek a second term in April and May next year, with polls giving him a narrow lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The 43-year-old former investment banker decided to get out of his car to greet onlookers on Tuesday who were calling his name after a visit to a school in Tain l’Hermitage.

In footage of the incident, he can be seen striding over to a barrier, with his security detail behind him, before greeting Damien T., who grabs him with his left hand and strikes with his right.

Experts highlighted on Wednesday how French security services advise French presidents on their safety, but do not have authority or powers to prevent them putting themselves in danger.

“In the United States it’s the opposite: the Secret Service decides if a trip is seen as too dangerous and no one opposes them, not the people in charge of protocol or even the president,” Jean-Pierre Diot, a former member of France’s specialist VIP police protection force, told Le Parisien.

“The Americans have a history of attacks,” he added.

Macron has been regularly booed and heckled in the street since coming to power in 2017, above all by anti-government “yellow vest” protesters, but he had never been physically assaulted before Tuesday.

The country has faced a string of Islamist attacks in recent years and Macron has been personally targeted during demonstrations in Muslim countries over his defence of French secularism and the right to blaspheme.

AFP

Buhari, Macron Pledge To Fight Insecurity Bedeviling Nigeria, Lake Chad Basin

President Muhammadu Buhari and French President Emmanuel Macron

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron have committed have pledged to work together to fight insecurity bedeviling the Lake Chad basin area and the entire stretch of the Sahel region.

Speaking at a bilateral meeting, at which he hosted President Buhari on the sidelines of the Financing Africa Summit in Paris on Tuesday, President Macron pledged his steadfast support for Nigeria and its people as they confront the security challenges facing the country.

The French Leader said his government will give Nigeria all the support it needs to combat the security threats hindering the economic growth of the nation.

President Muhammadu Buhari and President Emmanuel Macron exchange pleasantries

 

He also promised to support Nigeria in confronting the challenges faced with COVID-19 vaccines.

President Buhari, at the meeting, outlined the challenges all around facing the country as well as its neighbours and spoke about the steps he has taken to reignite response to the situation, which he said included the appointment of the new Service Chiefs.

President Macron has pledged to support Nigeria in fighting insecurity

 

The President expressed the willingness of Nigeria to work with France and all international partners to reign in the security challenges and thanked President Macron for agreeing to intensify the existing partnership with Nigeria.

 

Macron Hosts Summit On Post-Covid Africa Finance

(from L) President of Congo Democratic Republic Felix Tshisekedi, French president Emmanuel Macron, Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde, Senegal’s President Macky Sall and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, attend the opening session of the Summit on the Financing of African Economies on May 18, 2021 in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday hosted African leaders and global financial institutions for a summit seeking to provide Africa with critical financing after the Covid-19 pandemic depleted the continent’s coffers.

Africa has so far been less badly hit by the pandemic than other global regions — with a total of 130,000 dead across the continent, compared with 3.4 million worldwide.

But the economic cost is only too apparent, with the International Monetary Fund warning in late 2020 that Africa faces a shortfall in the funds needed for future development — a financial gap of $290 billion up to 2023.

While richer countries are running major economic recovery programmes, Africa “does not have the financial means today to relaunch its economy,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RFI radio.

He warned against the risk of a “great economic divergence between Africa, which would go backwards, while the United States, Europe and Asia recover strongly”.

A moratorium on the service of public debt agreed in April last year by the G20 and the Paris Club, a group of creditor countries that tries to find sustainable solutions for debtor nations, was welcomed but will not be enough.

Many want a moratorium on the service of all external debt until the end of the pandemic.

“We are collectively in the process of abandoning Africa by using solutions that date from the 1960s,” Macron said last month, warning that failure would lead to reduced economic opportunity, sudden migration flows and even the expansion of terrorism.

International financial leaders attending include IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank managing director of operations Axel van Trotsenburg.

The summit, which got under way at 1100 GMT, is to wind up with a 1600 GMT press conference with Macron and Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, whose country holds the rotating African Union presidency, as well as Senegal President Macky Sall and Georgieva.

– ‘New, cheaper, longer’ –

Serge Ekue, the president of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), told AFP that Africa needed much longer loan maturities going beyond seven years and interest rates of 3.0 percent rather than 6.0 percent.

“In West Africa, the average age is 20. You walk in (Ivory Coast’s economic capital) Abidjan and there is incredible energy,” he said, noting that Africa had seen growth rates of five to six percent in the last years.

“The issue is therefore not so much a moratorium as obtaining low rates. Because it is better to issue new, cheaper and longer debt than to obtain a suspension,” he said.

Togo President Faure Gnassingbe announced that his country had secured an additional $240 million package from the IMF.

The summit comes a day after a conference on Monday attended by several heads of state that aimed to rally support for the Sudan government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the transition after the 2019 ouster of longtime strongman Omar al-Bashir.

Macron notably announced that France would cancel almost $5 billion in debt owed by Khartoum in order to help a transition he described as an “inspiration”.

Both meetings, held in a temporary exhibition centre under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, are a chance for Macron to show himself as a statesman on Africa whose influence goes beyond the continent’s francophone regions.

More than two dozen African heads of state are attending Tuesday’s summit, one of the biggest in-person top-level meetings held during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other key figures attending include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Rwandan, Egyptian and Mozambican counterparts Paul Kagame, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Filipe Nyusi.

A French presidential official said Macron and Nyusi, whose country is battling a bloody Islamist insurrection in its north, would hold a bilateral meeting Tuesday.

The official said the summit would also be a chance for the international community to coordinate efforts to help Mozambique.

Le Maire said funding was needed to finance anti-terror campaigns, particularly important as “the epicentre of terrorism has moved from the Middle East”.

AFP

Macron’s Climate Referendum Stalls As Senate Waters Down Bill

French President Emmanuel Macron makes a statement as he arrives for a European Union Council in Brussels on July 17, 2020, as the leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan. (Photo by Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP)

 

President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to enshrine the fight against climate change in the French constitution via a referendum appeared moribund on Tuesday after the upper house watered down the ambitious wording of a government-sponsored bill.

The initiative to state in the constitution that France “guarantees environmental protection and biological diversity, and combats climate change” originated in a citizen’s body set up by Macron last year.

Seeking the upper hand in what could be a key issue in next year’s presidential election, the French leader promised a referendum on the bill if it gained approval in both houses of parliament.

The National Assembly, where Macron has a majority, overwhelmingly voted in favour of the revision in March.

But when the bill then went to the Senate, the body — majority-ruled by the right-wing Republicans — removed a key provision from the draft law before backing a new version in a vote late Monday.

Under French law a referendum can go ahead only if it is approved in identical wording by both houses of parliament.

A majority of senators took issue with the word “guarantee” in the bill, which they say implies that environmental concerns would take priority over other constitutional principles.

Instead, they approved a text stating that France “preserves the environment as well as bio-diversity and acts against climate change under the conditions laid down in the Environment Charter of 2004”, sponsored by then-president Jacques Chirac.

Keeping the “guarantee” wording would have given environmental protection priority over all other constitutional considerations, said Francois-Noel Buffet, the right-wing head of the Senate’s legal commission.

The government’s wording would have “introduced the virus of growth decline in our constitution”, added the senate leader of the right-wing LR party, Bruno Retailleau.

Macron’s office said at the weekend that, despite Senate opposition, the plan to change to constitution was “in no way buried”.

But the chances for compromise seemed remote on Tuesday after Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said he stood by the “guarantee” wording which he said reflected the “strength of the commitment” displayed by the government.

Ahead of the Senate vote, Retailleau said Macron was guilty of “hypocrisy”, saying the president “accuses us of obstruction to justify the cancellation of a referendum that he never wanted”.

The Senate vote came after tens of thousands of people marched in France on Sunday calling for more ambitious climate action.

AFP

France Won’t Give Into Islamist Terrorism, Says Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron

 

President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that France would never give in to “Islamist terrorism” after the fatal stabbing of a female police employee by a suspected extremist.

“In our fight against Islamist terrorism, we will never give in,” Macron wrote on Twitter, naming the murdered woman as Stephanie.