Current events in France (#3) To better understand a country, it is useful to read its press and watch its TV. You can see what are the main issues for the people, what are the current controversies (the French are very good at that...). In this section, I try to register, month after month, the main topics for the French.
 WARNING ! The comments below do NOT reflect MY own opinion but are a tentative synthesis of what comes out from the French press and TV in a given month ! I do express my own opinions on page Editorial !

This page concerns 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 : for previous years, click here.

 Webmaster Philippe Rochefort and wife Harriet, with a friend, discussing current world affairs in a French bistrot.
What is making the headlines this month in 2012....   What was making the headlines in 2010....
  • January-February :
    • everything revolves around the campaign for the next presidential election. President Sarkozy is clearly in the situation of a challenger and Socialist candidate François Hollande is very likely to win.
    • For once, TV News and newspapers are not filled with stories about political life or factories lay-offs : everyone in France is proud of the 5-Oscar winner movie "The Artist" and actor Jean Dujardin.
  • March-April-May :
  • June :
    • The Euro crisis illustrates the North-South split in Europe and the ambiguous situation of France
  • June-December :
    • The first six month of the new president and his Socialist government are disapointing for all his voters : half of them think he does not go enough to the Left, the other half think he goes too far
    • The absurd raise of taxes decided by the Socialist government forces more and more people to leave the country. Among them : Bernard Arnault (the richest Frenchman) and Gérard Depardieu (the most popular actor). The government is hysterical and the press is split.

What was making the headlines in 2011....

  • January :
    • The French love commerations. A typical Franco-French controversy : each year the Ministry of Culture issues a booklet giving the anniversaries of the year. 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the death of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, who was both one of the greatest French writers and an abominable anti-semit. Should we keep his name in the booklet?
  • Mai :
  • September-October
    • Crisis, Euro, Europe, Greece, etc... The only new event was the Primaries, organized by the Socialist Party to select its candidate in the next year presidential elections. The winner is François Hollande, nicknamed "la Gauche molle" (spineless Left) over Martine Aubry, "la Gauche sectaire" (sectarian Left).
  • November-December
    • 10 million viewers in less than 2 months ! The movie "les intouchables" ("the untouchables") is an incredible success in France. The story of friendship between a (very wealthy and desperate) tetraplegic and his (black, poor and charming) helper. Based on a true story (the Count Pozzo di Borgo and his Algerian helper) the film is not at all a tear-jerker : it is positive, funny and puts everyone in a good mood.
    • The presidential campaign has now started : the polls give the Socialist candidate (François Hollande) a huge majority of more than 60% against President Sarkozy but it may change in the next five months
    • Of course, the Euro crisis makes the headlines every day, particularly with theDecember 9 agreement beetween 26 of the 27 European countries. Read my column about UK stepping aside.
 
  • January :
    • A very difficult month for Sarkozy : everything seems to go wrong.... In addition to that, there is a typically French controversy about the Burqa : everybody agrees about banning it but some want to ban it with a law and others without! See my column.
  • February-March :
    • The US decision to grant to Boeing (instead of a European-US competitor) a huge military contract is considered in France (as everywhere else in Europe) a typical case of US protectionnism
  • April :
    • The loss of the regional elections weakens severely the current political majority and Sarkozy ; if the (left-wing) opposition does no make major mistakes, it is sure to win in 2012 (but one can always count on the Left to make mistakes.....)
  • May :
    • Of course, the euro crisis makes all the headlines but as all the French have the feeling that Europe progresses from crisis to crisis, the opinion dos not seems pessimistic about the future of Europe
  • June
    • Regarding the huge BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico : the French are surprised when they see that the US Army is not working on the beaches to clean them (in the past oil spills in France, the French Army was very active since it was considered the responsibility of the State to do the job)
    • Football World Cup : once the 1998 World Champion, the French football team is ridiculed in the 2010 World Championship : poor game, shameful behavior. For once the country is united : against its national team. Read my column about it.
    • Several political scandals about money and unethical behavior by members of the government : see the Bettencourt affair.
  • July-August :
    • The Bettencourt story continues, with a new scandal almost every day ;
    • In a desperate attempt to mobilize his right wing voters, President Sarkozy launched a campaign to send illegal immigrants of Gypsy origin (Roms) back to Romania. This(shameful) policy is largely criticized by the Left, the Church etc... and everywhere in the world. Read more about the Roms.
  • September :
    • The presidential campaign for 2012 has started : the Socialist consider they can win, the Right fears a defeat...
  • October :
    • Like all the other countries in Europe, France has to reform the retirement system (pensions and retirement age). It is difficult everywhere but in France up to three million people demonstrate in the streets every week or more to maintain the retirement age at 60 (Germany : 67). More about the French retirement system
  • December :
    • With 4 to 8 inches of snow for a week or two, the whole country is paralized (airports, trains, expressways, ...). Nothing else in the press....
 What was making the headlines in 2009....    
  • December :
    • Like most Europeans, the French blame the failure of the Copenhagen Conference on climate on American and Chinese selfishness. Read more about the French and Environment
  • November :
    • "What is it to be French" : the controversy on "national identity" is putting the Left wing in a difficult situation.
  • October :
    • The son of President Sarkozy (age 22, currently sophomore) declares he will be appointed chairman of the organization in charge of the business district of La Défense (the largest in France and maybe in Europe). The whole country, including the presidential majority, is scandalized and he (and his father...) has to back out.
  • July-August :
    • The US debate on health policy looks totally unreal to the French and for most of them it contributes to a very negative image of America : dogmatic, hard on the weaks, manipulated by lobbies, etc... Read of French health policy.
    • After years of parlementary fights, a new law makes it legal to open shops on Sundays in "certain areas", with very complex criteria (ensuring the unions will take the cases to court very often about it...)
    • After "boss-napping", France experiences "pay to everybody a Euro30,000 severance or we blow up the plan" with several succesful "labor negociations" on this basis. More about strikes.
  • June :
    • (integral) Islamic veil : by declaring "the burqa is not welcome to France", Sakozy outraged many Americans who should read this site before they say that religious freedom is at stake in France...
    • Quite unexpectedly, Sarkozy is the big winner of the European elections in France (and the Socialist Party, the big loser)
  • May, April : crisis, crisis, crisis....
 
  • June :
    • (integral) Islamic veil : by declaring "the burqa is not welcome to France", Sakozy outraged many Americans who should read this site before they say that religious freedom is at stake in France...
    • Quite unexpectedly, Sarkozy is the big winner of the European elections in France (and the Socialist Party, the big loser)
  • May, April : crisis, crisis, crisis....
  • March :
    • More and more "boss-napping" in France : when a firm announces lay-offs, wise executives go to work with a tooth-brush and shave-foam. The Left-wing considers it "a normal reaction" and the President declared that it is the responsibility of the people taken hostages to go to court if they are unhappy with it...
  • February :
    • After several weeks of demonstrations and riots, people of the French Carribean islands obtain what they wanted, a 200 Euros monthly raise paid by employers (1/4) and taxpayers (3/4). There is no doubt that continental French employees are watching it with interest...
  • January :
    • Obama, Obama, ...
    • Rachida Dati, Minister of Justice gives birth to her first child (father unknown) and is back to the Cabinet meeting after 5 days : the media think this is a bad example in a country with a 16-week maternity leave
    • With bad news in the headlines everyday it is refreshing to read (Le Monde Jan.11 and many others) the "the crisis did not hit culture in 2008". Read more.
 To related pages : next year : 2013 ; previous years : 2005&2006 (#1), 2007&2008 (#2), French society, major French issues, strengths and weaknesses of France, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books:

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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