Jacques Gets a Summons

photo: le petit zinc

The Petit Zinc's 'new look' is unchanged from its old one.

Globalization's Black Thursday

Paris:- Monday, 2. April 2001:- Last week Judge Halphen, who is investigating public housing affairs in Paris - and had been doing so for ten years - sent President Jacques Chirac a summons to appear as a witness, to provide testimony for the investigation.

This action was a 'first' for the 5th République. The news of the summons was put on the AFP wire and constituted the front page of Wednesday's Le Parisien, before the President received his copy of it.

The President's crew quickly informed the media that, according to the French Constitution, the President could not be summoned to appear as a witness - citing the separation of powers.

The media translated this to mean the President wasn't 'going to see' Judge Halphen. Meanwhile, the President's RPR party spokesmen were on the various radios, denouncing the judge's act.

One legal expert thought the Constitution might permit the President to testify as a witness. But the expert added, that if the President did so once, he'd end up spending all his time testifying about one thing or another.

The expert added that if there were chargesphoto: left bank speedway, flooded against the President, it was up to the members of the Assembly National to ask the High Court of Justice to act. But as the Constitution is, there is nothing in it to compel the President to simply testify as a witness.

Sunday's flooded Seine speedways made them inaccessible for closing to traffic.

Another Constitutional expert said there was nothing to hinder the President from testifying, because he wasn't summoned because of his function as chief of state.

Constitution aside, there is a monarchial idea in France, which gives the idea that summoning the President is 'not done.' However, polls taken after the issuing of the summons indicated that a majority of the French see no reason why the President can't be summoned.

At the bottom of the summons, the text says that the witness can be made to appear before the investigating judge by 'public force.' Failure to do so can result in a fine of 25,000 francs.

At the Assembly National some deputies were outraged by the imagined 'lèse majesté,' but most of the big names of all parties had little to say. Some think the Constitution needs clarification - on occasions like this - but when things are calm, Constitutional changes are not a big priority.

Hoof and Mouth - Ban Lifted

In France there have been no further confirmed cases of hoof and mouth disease, so restrictions on the movements of animal products has been lifted and France is allowed to export meat and dairy products again.

The three departments concerned, where two cases of the disease were detected, remain under embargo until Thursday, 12. April. It is believed the infections had one source.

Rail Strike(s) - Part II

The SNCF is still being plagued by partial strikes, which have also affected the Eurostar trains and international lines. For the coming week, strike actions may affect all lines, all over France.

On most lines trains are running on reduced schedules, such as one out of two trains or two out of three. RER trains in the Paris area are also affected.

Black Thursday - Shut-Downs of the Week

On the day after the announcement of unemployment falling below the nine percent level, two companies decided to announce partial or complete shut-downs.

Multi-food giant Danone dropped the hammer on two of its biscuit factories, to perhaps throwphoto: right bank traffic, bouchon more than 1700 jobs into peril at five locations in total. This came after the food group's announcement of record profits of four billion francs in 2000.

Even when the speedways aren't flooded, the Quai des Tuileries looks like this every Sunday.

Stunned workers immediately went on strike at both locations to be completely shut down. For some unknown reason layoffs in France are called the nonsense term of 'plan social' when 'anti-social' would be more precise.

The second hammer came when British merchandizing giant Marks & Spencer kept its iron blinds rolled down at all of its 18 stores in France on Thursday, as a signal to its 1700 employees that they are soon to be thrown out of work.

Although this has been called by the company a 'restructuralization' - a word which is not listed in my dictionary - its French operations are to be eliminated entirely. Throughout the rest of Europe, another 20 stores will be closed as well.

Marks & Spencer has lost money in France in the last couple of years as it has failed to keep up with textile newcomers such as Gap and H&M, but the group as a whole has already announced the distribution of a two billion pound dividend for investors in 2002.

TV-news showed emotional scenes at both the biscuit factories and at Marks & Spencer's headquarters store on the Boulevard Haussmann - where the announcement of the shut-down had been made via email.

While boycotts of Danone products took place at sales outlets on Saturday around France, long-time Marks & Spencer's customers jammed its stores, in solidarity with their workers.

Marks & Spencer's CEO Luc Vandevelde admitted that its French employees had made 'superhuman' efforts on the part of the company, but he defended its decision to 'rationalize' its 'globalization strategy' by abandoning France and Europe and concentrating its resources on the tiny offshore island of Britain.

International Expo 2004

While Paris has just finished its elaborate multi-day presentation to convince the Olympic selection committee to choose Paris for the summer games in 2008, the neighboring department of Seine-Saint-Denis has practically wrapped up its nomination to stage the next International Expo in 2004.

This came after Manila withdrew its nomination, leaving France and Seine-Saint-Denis as the only candidate for the major show. The last time Paris staged such an exhibition was in 1937. Mark your calendars now for 7. May to 7. August 2004 and start looking at your maps to find the site at Vents à Dugny.

This is not to be a jumbo 'Universal Exhibition,' with the site being limited to 25 hectares. Some 60 to 70 countries are expected to take part in the Expo.

Your Paris Web URLs

Metropole reader and Café Metropole Club member Ron Smith is back home, but remembered to send the highly interesting - if you like rocks a lot - Web URL for 'See Rock City,' which enjoys the catchy motto of "Rock City Will Amaze You!" I'm amazed Ron remembered to send us this. ThankYou!

French Toast

Harriet Rochefort might not be a regular reader and I know she is not a member of the club, but she has lived in Paris for aphoto: lineup, ice cream, tuleries long time and has put some of her insights into her new book 'French Fried' - a 'food memoir' - which is a follow-up to her ealier 'French Toast.'

In the Tuileries, Sunday's line for ice cream.

On politesse she has written, "As the years passed, I made an amazing discovery that enabled me to understand why the French have such a worldwide reputation for rudeness. In France, you are not expected to like everybody or even act as if you do."

When we can synchronize our timing, I'm hoping to sit down for a chat with Harriet to discuss exactly why we are not supposed to like everybody, whether we know them or not. Coming soon.

Savoir-Flair

This has reminded me that Polly Platt wrote in January - wrote to 'Ed,' what can you expect? - to tell me about her new book, the follow-up to her 'French or Foe.'

The subtitle of "Savoir-Flair' is '211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French.' I'm sure the French would be highly pleased to learn they are worth so much attention - if they weren't too busy being French, which is a full-time job.

If we can synchronize our timing - which I doubt - I'm hoping to sit down for a chat with Polly to discuss exactly why we are supposed to 'enjoy' the French, whether we know them or not. Coming soon, maybe.

Village Development

Paul Swider wrote about Bulgaria and ecology for Metropole in late 1996 when he was stationed in the Peace Corps there. Since then he has been engaged in similar activities.

He is now with Greenstar which delivers packages of solar power, health, education and environmental programs to small villages in the developing world - and gives them the means to be wired into the global community.

So far, Greenstar has three pilot installations in place in the Middle East, Jamaica and India, and another 60 sites are planned around the world.

Greenstar expects to recycle revenues gained from exporting original music, artwork, photography and video to pay for continuing community-driven processes of literacy, local business, education and training, public health, and environmental programs.

This may not seen too sexy to you, but some people have long thought that the Internet has purposes other than Dot-Coms and the Web for portable phones. Of all infrastructures, the 'Net is the easiest to bring to all parts of the world that lack everything else.

Weekends In the Country

'Gîtes' are usually self-contained living quarters located in homes, farms and châteaux in ruralphoto: checker taxi, les deux magots areas throughout France. They can be simple or fancy, but their main characteristic is that they are not hotels, and you can do your own cooking. For being somewhat do-it-yourself, they are also relatively inexpensive.

To cap the day, the 'Checker Taxi of the Week,' opposite the Deux Magots.

In Paris you can check these out at their office, at the Maison des Gîtes de France et du Tourisme Vert, 59. Rue Saint-Lazare, Paris 9. Métro: Saint-Lazare. InfoTel.: 01 49 70 75 75.

If you have any favorite Paris Web sites you think other readers should know about, please send them in. If they haven't been featured before and they don't crash my browser, you'll get a modest 'thankyou' here.

The 'Official' Weather - 37.8% 'Spring'

Last week saw Paris getting a tiny but real taste of spring, which is not expected to last beyond yesterday. Winter-like weather for Easter is as sure as taxes and the skies must get prepared for this.

Before you get alarmed, although the above is true, by putting it here for all to see I hope to cause the perverse reverse-effect-syndrome to act in our favor, by doing the opposite of the prediction. Cross your fingers or whatever it is you do.

Temperatures are predicted to be at least average 'for this time of year,' which means highs of about 15 C. For real forecasts, give the Météo France site a hit. Predictions are usually fairly shortrange because Météo France doesn't like going out on shaky meteorological limbs.

This said, Météo France is hoping to have ultra-shortrange predictions available online by this coming summer. These should be handy for checking the weather at breakfast, to be sure it will be sunny enough for a stroll around the Quartier Latin at noon.

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