Current events in France (#4) 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 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 : for previous years, click here.

 Webmaster Philippe Rochefort and wife Harriet, with a friend, discussing current world affairs in a French bistrot.
What was making the headlines in 2014....  

What was making the headlines in 2013....

  • January 2014 :
    • The whole French press is filled with comments and jokes about the pictures of the President leaving his palace at night to meet his mistress, his bodyguard bringing him croissants the next morning etc. The French criticize the ridicule of the situation when his policy is already largely criticized on both sides ; they also pity his (official) mistress in the Presidential Palace or are jubilant (because nobody likes her) but there are very few comments on moral grounds. For 77% of the French, this is a purely private story. Read about privacy and about the French and sex.
  • February/March 2014 :
    • Scandal and scandal again : every day brings a new one (on both side, Left and Right). The last one is about the former president's phones being tapped for months and the Minister of Justice lying about it.
  • April 2014 :
    • The President and the government are weakened by the landslide of the vote against the Left in the recent local elections. Most politicians of the Left are horrified by the program announced by the new Prime Minister Manuel Valls : it is considered by them a Right-wing program (reduce the expenses to balance tjhe budget). More about politics.
  • June 2014 :
    • Several strikes illustrate how difficult is is to change anything in this country : a minority (14% on day 6) of employees of the train company SNCF block the whole traffic if a project of re-organization of their company is voted by the Parliament (they went on strike too 15 years ago when the previous organization was adopted...), the intermittents du spectacle threaten to force all the Summer festivals of the country to cancellation if the government does not cancel a labor contract which has been duly signed between labor unions and employers associations afew weeks ago, etc.
  • July 2014 :
    • The indictment of former president Sarkozy, after several others (found groundless sofar), is devastating for the Right but also for the judges, accused of being instrumentalized by the Left government.
    • There is not enough space here to describe how amazing it is today to hear the same people who said three years ago " I hate the rich" say now "I love private business". The Socialist party and its constituents just can't believe it and the Right thinks it is just a new joke.
  • More to come ...
  • January :
    • The government, stupidly, had decided to increase the tax on high income (75% + another tax, which means around 90%). Two consequences : 1/ the Conseil Constitutionel (kind of a French Supreme Court) rules that it is anti-constitutional and voids it, 2/ Gerard Depardieu, one of the best French actors (who paid 85% of his income in tax in 2012) announces that he'll move out of France and Vladimir Putin makes him a Russian citizen. Every one cracks up in France. Who looks ridiculous : Depardieu or the Government ?
  • April :
    • Lies ... Among other mistakes, foot-in-the-mouth and scandals : Jerome Cahuzac, the Socialist minister of Budget (who runs the French IRS) after having explicitely denied it in front of the whole French parliament ("I do not have and I never had a foreign bank account") resigned when it was established that he has an account in Singapore with almost $ 2 million on it, resulting of his tax cheating. The government and the president are ridiculed, once more.
  • October
    • Most Americans underestimate how much the French were shocked and offended when they learned that the NSA intercepted more than 70 million phone calls, mails and texts over a period of a month in Jan. 2013, as established by the Snowden papers : privacy is a key-value for the French.
What was making the headlines in 2016....  

What was making the headlines in 2015....

  • January-February 2016
    • I have been traveling abroad (USA, Canada, Spain) and I could see, by comparison, how low the French mood is. This country is really going through a kind of nervous breakdown...
  • March 2016
    • The press coverage, the street demonstrations, the strikes, the political fights in the parliament illustrate how difficult it is to change anything in France, even when the (Socialist) government tries to pass a law to modify labor laws to make them easier for employers.
  • May 2016
    • The government submitted a law to simplifly (just a little bit) labor laws, the Parliament refused to vote it (the "majority" is split about everything), the governement used a constitutional procedure which makes it possible to create a law even without a parlementary vote. Result : strikes and demonstrations every day, extreme violence ageinst the police every day, etc.
  • June 2016
    • After the June 23 referendum, the Brexit victory generates, of course, an earthquake in Europe. In France the opinion is torn between the fear of the economic impact of Brexit and the satisfaction to see the realization of the traditional distrust of the Brits (see my new page : after Brexit)
  • July -August 2016
    • Many Summer events are canceled for security reasons. The country is learning to live to terrorism and it adjusts very reasonably and with resilience.
    • Suddenly, here and there, on French beaches, Muslim women activists demand to be dressed with the "burkini" and some mayors forbid it. Read my opinion about it.
  • Sept.-Oct. 2016
    • The whole country has entered a political campaign period till May (presidential) and June (Chamber) 2017. In spite of his 0% chance to win after his disastrous mandate, there is little doubt that President Francois Hollande will run. The primaries will take place in October (Ecologists), November (Right) and January (Left).
  • Nov. 2016
    • After the Brext and the Austrian elections, the election of Donald Trump is considered in France a new success of populism, represented in France by two extremist parties : the Front National (of Marine Le Pen) and the Extreme Left (of Jean-Luc Melechon). The Front Nationalis the only French party to be satisfied with the election of D.Trump and the other one is traditionally anti-American. Little doubt that this election will fuel anti-Americanism.
  • January 2015 :
    • The murder of most of the staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by two Islamic fundamentalists (12 dead) followed the next day by the murder of a French cop by one of their friends who, later, took 15 hostages in a Jewish delicatessen after murdering 4 of them, raises horror all over the country.Shortly after, the three murderers were killed and the hostages liberated but the country is under shock. Read about French humor : in France, your freedom of speech is protected by law even for very tasteless jokes about religion, which was the case for Charlie Hebdo. Read Harriet's column "France without Jews is not France" and about "freedom of speech and religion".
  • March 2015 :
    • The Socialist government is desperately trying to persuade on one side the European authorities that it is achieving heroic measures to liberalize economy and reduce the deficit and on the other side to convince its own party that it is valiantly fighting capitalism and maintaining a high level of social benefits and public investment. Foreigners who do n ot speak French are missing many funny episodes. More about change in France.
  • April : in France, like in all the other European countries, the problem of illegal immigrants who try to enter Europe by thousands every day is a major issue. The Extreme Right wing opposes it vigorously, often with unacceptable racist views ; the Left does not want to talk about it and the Right is embarassed. Read about immigration.
  • May : The government decided another reform of the (national) programs for Junior High school. It raises a general upheaval, both from the Right opposition and the Left of its majority. The Left refuses more autonomy for High Schools (!!!), the Rights opposes the (quasi) suppression of Latin and Greek, history programs with Slavery and Colonialism mandatory and the Enlightenment optional and the suppression of the two-foreign-languages classes (considered elitist).
  • June : Wikileaks disclosed that the telephones of the president of France and his two predecessors have been tapped by the NSA ; although well-known, this fact is humiliating and irritating and the press and the opinion are furious.
  • July : in the Greek crisis, the policy of France illustrated its constant conflict between being (in Europe) a Northern country, like Germany, and the most undisciplined one or a Southern country, like Greece, and the most serious one! More about the French splits.
  • August-September : in the press, nobody sees how the Socialist government and the president Hollande could survive the 2017 elections, even themselves, but so many things may happen . . . One thing seems sure : the next regional elections in December will probably be a nigfhtmare for the Majority.
  • November : the regional elections (Dec.6 and 13) will likely be another defeat for the Socialist majority in the intermediary elections. The main concern is how high will go the vote for the Extreme Right party (Front National) for which many angry and disappointed voters will probably vote. Read about regional structures.
  • Nov.13 : of course the medias cover round the clock the terrorist attacks which killed more than 130 people and injured hundreds, mostly young. Read my column about the Islamic "State". For the French, and mostly for the young French, the attacks are clearly seen as attacks against their values and life style. Read about life in Paris.
 To related pages : previous years : 2009 to 2012 (#3), 2007&2008 (#2), 2005&2006 (#1), 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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