Bonjour 'Euro!'

resto les colonnes - issy
Restaurant with one of the 'best pots' of 1997.

We Are All 10 Percent Guilty

Paris:- Saturday, 2. May 1998:- Winding up tonight, it looks like the new baby has arrived and its near-dozen parents have decided to call it 'Euroland.'

I really wish they had asked me first. 'E' comes after 'D' for Disneyland, which sort of puts 'Euroland' a notch lower in the spiffy-name game. We should have gone up-market with something like 'Luxoland,' sort of to let wannabes like the USA, Russia and China know old Europe is on a roll.

According to Libération, Europe's new configuration is bigger than Texas. Europe exports 25 percent more than the US and twice as much as Japan. Europe's population is 30 million more than the USA's; and if the GNP is about the same, it is because Europeans are a little more laid-back.

Pegging the value of the new currency, the 'Euro,' at slightly more than the US dollar is a good psycho move too. All over Paris, the Leclerc chainkurds on bd voltaire of low-decor supermarkets are advertising common staple items in 'Euros,' and it makes things look somewhat inexpensive compared to their prices in francs.

Looking down the parade direction, down the boulevard Voltaire.

The media is France is nagging the public to get worried about all the conversions it is going to have to do, to figure out the price of a baguette, but this is just looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

The French press is even importing horror stories from the UK; from the time they switched from pounds, shilling, half-crowns, two-penny bits, quids, and pence - to 100 pence in the pound.

Just like today when there are 100 centimes in a franc and 100 francs in a 100-franc note, there will be some sort of 100-somethings in a 'Euro.' The really big hangup will come when we need the 'Euro'-sign in our computer character sets.

So it's all set. The big hoohah over the weekend in Brussels was about who was to become boss of the new European Central Bank. Because there are big guys and little guys in on the 'Euro' deal, it's hard to achieve a feeling of equality.

The French insisted on their guy and the little guys insisted on having somebody with a viewpoint closer to theirs, so they flipped a 'Euro' and came up with this:

Holland's Wim Duisenberg gets the top spot, but only for half of the standard eight-year term. He steps down after four years, and the French candidate, the present gouvernor of the Banque de France, Jean-Claude Trichet, takes over - for a full eight-year term.

Then we've got from 1. January 1999 until 31. December 2002 to get used to the 'Euro.' The notes and coins are already being manufactured, but Europe needs so many that the actual pieces have to be brought in slowly. At least that's what they say.

F2-TV: FN at operaIn reality, a lot of Europeans travel and are quite used to the currencies of neighboring countries. If the new 'Euro' is treated just like another one of these, the change-over could probably be made in a year. All except for the French, who still calculate sums in 'old' francs - and believe me, there are a lot who do this.

The FN gathering at Opéra on Friday.

Jean-Marie Le Pen is a case apart. Yesterday he called for his troops to "Faire le grève de l'euro." Closing the FN's party at the Opéra, he blathered on for an hour against "Cette monnaie d'occupation."

At Least Ten Percent Guilty - Like Everyone

For various reasons, going back in time to the monarchy, influence peddling and corruption in France have been common practices. How these are seen depends on which end of the telescope you are peering through.

Laws about what you can and can't do can be made by decree. What may be legal today is illegal tomorrow and vice-versa; and there is no question of morality involved. If the government wants more money, it tells its tax inspectors to tighten the legal screws - and what was 'tolerated' yesterday is a crime today.

For ordinary citizens, this capricious application of laws is usually a minor annoyance - it is an 'usual' practice so it is not some sort of surprise. If you live here and you trust nothing and nobody, you can guard your money by buying gold coins and burying them in the back yard. Just remember to keep some paper which says how you got the money to buy the coins in the first place.

You may need this paper, because in the eyes of the tax inspector, everybody cheats. Even with 100 percent perfect paper, you will still be considered to have fudged ten percent. That's as close to honesty as you are allowed to be. If you live in France and are as clean as Snow White, you are still a ten percent cheater.

As in many other countries, France has an oil business and a 'defense' industry. For these to function, import and export are going to be involved; and these items require dealing with foreigners and financial institutions outside of France's borders. As far as a French tax inspector is concerned, everything financial that happens outside of France is fraudulent because it is beyond the jurisdiction of French tax codes.

So it was that for a long time it was illegal for French residents to have foreign bank accounts. People who did not trust the safety of holes in their back yards, used to hire 'passeurs' to carry their gold coins and bars to countries that have banks which will not talk to French tax inspectors. There used to be special cops who did nothing except try to catch the 'passeurs.'

These cops would even attempt to bribe employees of foreign banks in order to get information about the accounts of French residents. But with the coming of the 'Euro,' all of this is becoming history - because France is required to be as 'open' as its partners, and French residents are now allowed to have foreign accounts - so long as they tell their tax inspectors.

But back to the oil and armaments businesses. Both of these involve vast sums of money, plus foreigners, and the two together provide a combination where there is plenty of scope for hanky-panky.

A couple of governments ago, Roland Dumas was the Foreign Minister of France. At the time, France 'sold' some armaments toanti-FN poster Taiwan; against all sorts of terrific competition, and the opposition of China as well as Dumas. The state-owned oil company, Elf, was also doing its usual foreign trade; against all sorts of terrific competition.

For quite some time now, state prosecutors have been investigating Elf's affairs, and a fair number of 'big hats' have landed in jail on account of a whole variety of alleged financial irregularities.

Anti-FN leaflet says, 'The FN has only one program- suppress the colors.'
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