'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 p&eaute;riphérique - including solidarity delegations of Volkswagen, Opel, Caterpillar, DHL and Volvo workers, who helped bombard the building with eggs.


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