'Eurodemo' Replaces 'Eurostrike'
as Latest 'Euroword'

This week's Paris Bistro

An Agitated Week for Whom It May Concern

Paris:- Saturday, 15. March 1997:- Wednesday is the traditional day new movies start in Paris. Star Wars opened and immediately set ticket-sales records - as many school children also have Wednesdays off.

In the Paris area alone, 43 cinemas sold 6,644 tickets to the first showing, and the Grand Rex cinema saw all its customers show up in Star Wars costumes for the 17:00 showing on the first day.

However, this 20-year old 'War' seemed to be kind of minor compared to recent events. The beginning of the week gave the France part of Europe perfect weather for strikes and demonstrations. Since it looks like there are going to be a lot of these, as of now, the word 'demonstration' is being shortened to its 'Euro'-term: 'Demo.' Plural: 'Demos.' Everybody d'accord?

Now, if for some reason - such as the current Renault affair - the demo involves people or workers from more than one European country, then it is an 'Eurodemo.' See below.

President of France Makes Surprise Visit

Between visits to Romania last week and to South America starting at mid-week, the President of France, Jacques Chirac managed to fit in a television appearance on Monday night, to speak to the French. He talked about employment for the young and possible ways they could achieve it.

Apparently the morose economy has little to do with the problem, as 15 to 20 percent of students leaving grade five are illiterate. High schools are not much better off - but things should be fixed up with them by the year 2,000.

Judging from Le Parisien's tone, I think they may be somewhat skeptical, because their three man-on-the-street interviews went like this:

"He has a singular lack of solutions."

"I hoped for more ideas about employment."

"Before you can change jobs, you have to have one."

This last came from a viewer of the 90-minute 'interview' with two journalists from A2-TV. With some bitterness the viewer dismissed the President's idea that if one choose the wrong profession one can always change jobs; even two or three times during a career. The viewer: "You need to get the first job first before you can do this!"

One of the President's positive ideas has seemed to have hit a roadblock. Mr. Chirac is a recent convert to the notion that 'digital is good for you' and with all the talk around about how France is a bit backward in this area - he suggested Demo: 'Sans-papiers' that the 20.6 percent value-added tax could be lowered for hardware and software, or as they are called in France under the general term of 'material informatique:' 'ordinateurs' for hardware and 'logiciels' for software.

But it won't be easy. Each state in the Union sets its own level of value-added tax, called - in France: 'TVA' - in Germany: Mehrwertsteuer - or MWSt for short - but it seems to require the permission of the EU to reduce the amount. This permission can only be accorded with the agreement of the 14 other partners. Avoiding a price-war based on low rates of TVA is, I suppose, the reason for this. The next Europe-wide re-evaluation of the TVA is to be in 1999, which will be in time for France to equip its schoolrooms with Internet access, also suggested by the President, in the year 2,000.

With the high rate of 20.6 percent applying to just about everything you can buy in France, France enjoys the highest rate in Europe. Not only this, it is disappearing, and the bean counters do not know where it is going. By 'disappearing,' I mean they are not collecting what they think they should be, and the shortfall is about a hundred billion francs a year.

Europeans Stick Fingers in France's Pie

I didn't report this last week, but when the chicken feathers hit the fan after Renault's announcement of the closing of their Vilvorde plant in Belgium, the European parliament passed a vote of censure, condemning the move.

When the President returned from whatever foreign visit he was on that week, he made it clear that the Europeans have Demo: Against Renault plan no business telling France what to do.(He is also quite at ease telling the Dutch what they must do about letting weed be sold the anybody who wants it, but according to French 'logic' this is in no way interferring in Dutch affairs.)

Now that Renault has also announced the suppression of 2,764 jobs in France, the Europeans voted 385 to 36 in favor of the Commission 'countermanding' Renault's decision to close the Vilvorde site.

According to legal experts in France, this is a worthless vote because the commission has no authority to force the company to respect any laws other than Belgium's. The state company claims it is doing this; to the letter.

The Commission says that European companies that take aid from the community should act nice. If certain companies don't respect their 'obligations,' the Commission added, payments to them will be suspended and they will be asked to return the EU handouts they have already received.

The EU keeps a very close eye on the financial operations of state-owned and run enterprises, to make sure that they do not have an unfair advantage over private firms - in the form of getting free capital from taxpayers, instead of going to the money markets like private companies.

More Boring Financial News

I wish France would privatize its customs service. If it were, I'd get some shares in it. One way or another, 20,000 customs agents collected 271 billion francs for the French state, 37 billion for local communes and ten billion for the EU.

They also captured 42 tons of dope - presumably of no 'commercial' value to honest citizens - 144 tons of cigarettes and 630,000 counterfeited items, as well as 1,471 weapons, 474 endangered animals, and 31,700 people; about 25,000 of them on dope offenses. It sounds to me as if Europe's 'open borders' policies may be a windfall for the customs service.

'Eurodemo' Makes Tuesday Entry Into Language

Le Parisien started it off with a preview in Tuesday's edition, outlining what was expected for the day. Renault workers from around Europe, but especially from Belgium and Spain, intended to hold a demo in front of the society's headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt - and had asked for permission to march on the périphérique, which was refused.

Wednesday's editions carried the story with a headline that began, 'Euromanif...' - which is French for 'Eurodemo.' Ten thousand had showed up Tuesday at Renault's worldwide headquarters - by taking a shortcut on the périphérique - including solidarity delegations of Volkswagen, Opel, Caterpillar, DHL and Volvo workers, who helped bombard the building with eggs.

Union leaders were meeting with Renault executives at the time, but the meeting ended with no positive results for any side.

Front National Connected to Violence in Two Incidents

Also on Tuesday, the Front National held a self-congratulation party in Marseille at the Salle Vallier. The affair was attended by Jean-Marie Le Pen and his second, Bruno Mégret, who did not bring his wife, who recently won the mayoralty of Vitrolles.

In the late afternoon, 6,000 anti-Le Pen demonstrators assembled at the 'Mobile' and marched to the hall where the FN meeting was being held. Their advance was stopped by three companies of the anti-mutiny police, the CRS, and a prolonged battle ensued - with the CRS launching tear-gar bombs at the militants and receiving rocks, iron bars, nuts, bolts and bottles in return.

The CRS counter-attacked at 20:00 and sporadic battles continued for hours. Five participants were hurt, including a journalist from the Gamma agency.

A certain of number of those attending the political meeting complained of difficulty of access to it and suggested such behaviour be forbidden.

Stand of FN Publication Trashed at Salon du Livre

Around 16:00 on Thursday, about 20 young tough guys tore apart a stand at the Salon du Livre. The stand was identified only by a standard sign, with the name 'SANH' - which apparently is an abbreviation for 'Société Anonyme de National-Hebdo,' one of the Front National's publications.

I just caught a glimpse of this on TV-news, and it was pretty wild. I saw four or five on the stand trying to defend themselves from a small mob that was tearing the thing apart, and when the defenders tried to use some of the wrecked metal poles from the stand, these were immediately grabbed by the attackers and used against the defenders.

This was about 20 seconds of video I saw; and it was violent. The newspaper does not say how they happened to get a photo of it, nor how it came to be covered by TV-news, although I noticed there were a lot of cameramen and film crews working at the Salon on Wednesday.

Paris Is Getting Ready for Pollution

We were warned that pollution warning level three might be reached on Thursday, but the weather must have changed because I didn't hear of it actually being announced.

All the same, the administration is floating ideas to see who shoots at them. One of these ideas - one used in both Athens and Rome I believe - is to limit the use of cars in the capitol to even numbered license plates on even numbered days, and odd on odd. Apparently the decision to do this during the next 'level three' alert has been taken by the prime minister, Alain Juppé.

As all French license plates end with departmental numbers, these are not numbers to be considered odd or even. All the same, Le Parisien had to point out to its readers which of the other numbers might be the odd or even.

Apparently the authorities never gave the question a thought, and some readers thought it might be the first number or the sum of the numbers. Le Parisien says the number which counts, is the last one in the first group, the one before the letters in the middle. Got it?

The mayor of Paris, Jean Tiberi, has another idea. He wants to put 'valves' on the roads that feed into the périphérique, so that the volume of vehicles can be reduced, like turning off a tap. Mayors of communities surrounding Paris are against this, and I imagine all rapid-freight or delivery outfits do not think a great deal of the idea either.

Residents of Paris can get a municipal parking ticket that allows them to park where they live, for 15 francs a day. With these, they don't have to feed parking metres 10 to 15 francs per hour. In an effort to induce residents of the city to leave their cars at home, the daily fee will be waived. Another measure taken by the city, is to limit the speed on the périphérique to 60 kph, 20 kph less than the normal limit - and a lot less than what is normal when traffic is light.

Tah-tah! And Now... The Sports News!

Le Parisien got all weepy in today's edition telling its readers that the national rugby squad would be playing its last championship match in Paris' Parc des Princes stadium, this afternoon.

'Last match' for two reasons: the next annual France scores another goal Five Nations rugby tournament will play its French games in the new super-stadium being built for the World Cup soccer matches, and because today's match is the final encounter of this year's series of friendly brawls between five squads of the toughest guys in Europe.

Co-incidently, the first match ever played at the Parc des Princes was the final game in the same tournament. France beat Scotland in 1973 to win the modestly-sized silver trophy.

Sometime this afternoon, France again beat Scotland, to win its fifth Grand Slam. Now they can lock up the place and toss the keys in the Seine.

I was perfectly aware that this game was on this afternoon, but I forgot all about it just the same. I forgot about the TV-news at 20:00 too, and by the time I got the set turned on, the anchorman was talking to two At victory, up goes the silver pot players dressed in tuxedos, in what appeared to be either an elegant billiard parlor, or some other sort of gaming room.

No game clips were shown, no score was mentioned, no winner was announced. I had to deduce that France had won because the players looked in good humor. Dressed in tuxedos means nothing; both teams have a gala dinner together after every match - very 'gala' for the French tonight. (Now I cheat and go to Sunday:)

Sunday TV-news starts at 11:45 according to the TV Guide, but there is nothing but game shows. At 13:00, all they show is big guys in tuxedos, smoking big fat cigars and drinking champagne, and one guy with no jacket, staring a very tall red candles. The big Sunday sports show is on at 17:45 and by now I'm am not going to miss it - and - hooray! - there are clips from the game, after talking heads run the history past for twenty minutes.

France wins. At one point 24 points were mentioned, but they either didn't say, or I didn't hear, what the final score was. I don't think anybody cares.

Up until Saturday, France's best score was 45 to 10 over Ireland, gained on 7. January 1996; and the worst defeat was to England, by seven to 26, on 3. February 1990. France's previous Grand Slams were in 1968, 1977, 1981 and 1987 - so it is a good while since they tasted one. The French word for slam is 'chelem.' No kidding. And bravo!


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