Corsica Is a Problem?

photo: cafe village daguerre, 0300, 22 june

A café on Daguerre, open at 03:00 on Sunday.

José Bové Goes to Jail Suddenly

Paris:- Monday, 23. June 2003:- On Sunday, 6. July, voters in Corsica will go to the polls to take part in a referendum that will ask them if they want Corsica's two Départments united into one.

Specifically, voters will be asked to approve the 'proposed orientations for modifying the institutional organization of Corscia.' It will be the fourth time within the last 25 years that such a referendum has been held.

The idea seems to be to unite the two départments and have them function as a regional authority, which has more autonomy than a départment. The two existing départments and their administrations, united, would be governed - for some reason - by two territorial councils.

To convince Corsicans of the benefits of this radical administrative change, the Prime Ministerphoto: comedie italien, bush etc Jean-Pierre Raffarin and the Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy visited the island on Saturday.

At Bastia's airport the two government ministers stood on chairs, trying to speak, while facing the usual general brawl that greets all big nobs from Paris - between the referendum's supporters, opponents, and the police.

The Italian comedy theatre that was attacked for satirizing George W Bush.

Later on, they were confronted by an organized public meeting where only 150 out of 650 chairs were filled. Outside the tent near the airport, a handful of protestors were the cause of the meeting moving inside the airport, away from TV coverage.

But in the evening, at Ajaccio, 400 supporters turned up to hear the Prime Minister at a meeting started off by one of Johnny Hallyday's golden oldies.

Apparently, the mixed receptions have already caused some doubt at the top in Paris about the wisdom of the referendum. Beside the questions of continuing to be a départment of France, or independent, there are other questions concerning the fate of the double set of civil servants, and their relationship to the much disputed 'reform' of the national retirement pension.

According to Le Parisien, Corsican nationalists are for a 'yes' vote on the government's referendum. They will get better electoral scores out of it. Anti-nationalists, therefore, are against it.

But public employees on the island, who account for 52 percent of the working population, are not wildly in favor of the government's various national 'reforms,' and their continued employment by a reduced island administration might be in doubt.

The Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, has invested eight visits to the island this year to promote 'yes' ballots. As the government's most 'popular' minister, a 'non' vote will not enhance his prestige - on the mainland.

To be fair, the present initiative is one inherited from the previous Socialist government and carried forward by the present majority of the right. The nth attempt in a quarter-centuury.

Nationally, both left and right are for a 'yes' vote in Corsica. On the island, as ever, the situation of considerably more confused, with some lefts and rights reversed, with some saying, in effect, that a 'yes' vote amounts to one 'for' the nationalists. Anti-republican, if you will.

Even after the mixed receptions on Saturday, the Prime Minister continues to believe that a visit to Corsica before the balloting, by Jacques Chirac, will be valuable.

No Spectacles, Please

The government, in order avoid creating any outrageous spectacles, sent a helicopter, squads of gendarmes, two dogs, an all-terrain pursuit motorcycle, a photographer and a videoman - to smash in José Bové's glass door at six in the morning on Sunday, handcuff him, and fly him off to jail at Villeneuve-lès-Maguelonne.

The commando action carried out on the orders of justice authorities did not prevent sympathizers from besieging the Préfecture at Rodez during the afternoon.

The blitz-like raid, launched a lively reaction from leftist political personalities, union leaders, civil rights activists, including the Syndicate de la Magistrature.

Authorities were so nervous that a prison visit by Monsieur Bové's lawyer was refused. Thephoto: bus stop Communist Party's national deputy from Sète, Francois Liberti, did manage to enter the prison to see Bové.

The anti-bad food peasant leader refused to do a deal with the state that would have allowed him liberty with an electronic bracelet, or work off the ten-month sentence with public-service work, or enjoy some other undefined form of semi-liberty.

Speaking on TV-news, the 'Garde des Sceaux' - the Minister of Justice - Dominique Perben said that José Bové had been charged with five offenses in all - found innocent of some and convicted of others. The prisoner has already served 44 days in prison for the deconstruction of a McDonald's unit at Millau.

The outraged remained outraged. The lawyer for the Peasant's Confederation was quoted as saying that there was 'no arrest warrant.' Adding that the commando operation was 'illegal,' he said a charge would be laid against the authorities responsible, for 'violation de domicile.'

The present incarceration is for the affair of the destruction of genetically-modified colza plants. Yesterday evening, 400 supporters were gathered outside the prison at Villeneuve-lès-Maguelonne, facing a large number of anxious gendarmes.

According to the Minister of Justice, it is possible that José Bové will benefit from the Bastille Day grace, traditionally accorded to some short-time prisoners by France's président.

Right Wing On a Roll

After over a month of 'Mardi Noirs' and some 'Jeudi Noirs' involving many one-day strikes and many street demonstrations by millions of French residents against government plans to 'reform' the retirement scheme, and plans to 'decentralize' France's civil servants - and four long weekends - the country has returned to what passes for normality.

But 'normal' times are full of surprises too, so it was with some wonder that TV-news showed a street demonstration a week ago Sunday involving supporters of the right-wing, gathered in the Place de la Concorde to protest against all the other strikes and demonstrations.

The majority right-wing party, the UMP, claims it had nothing to do with this - on the grounds that it had no wish to 'divide the country.' Put another way, no desire to show the left any 'red capes.'

Five unknown associations were the co-organizers of the 40,000 who filled a small part of the Placephoto: video rental de la Concorde. The police put the number at 18,000, and the organizers put forward the number as 150,000.

The official season for mass strikes and demonstrations is over until the fall. The big issue at the 'rentrée' will be the 'reform' of the state health system.

Nothing on TV? Easier to rent a video than buy a pizza.

One right-wing protester characterized the left in France as the most anarchic 'in the world.' There is also a familiar phrase for the right-wing, and it is 'the world's dumbest.'

So far, according to Le Parisien, the majority UMPs are managing to restrain their arrogance, and except for some minor internal disagreements are managing to remain united.

This probably has to do with the types of relatively minor problems that can be handled with administrative decrees - such as intolerance with speeding on the autoroutes, or deporting people who have no valid residence papers.

But 'reform' by decree won't work. As long as the government has a majority to push it through, it will be resisted by the out-of-parliament opposition.

This can be overcome for a time, but if the majority swings back to the left, it can undo what the right has wrought - just as easily as the right is undoing 100 years' worth of social legislation now.

Late Score for the Fête de la Musique

Paris has a few Sunday papers, plus dozens of radio and TV stations, but for some reason an all-day all-night party involving thousands of performers, 20 arrondissements - plus all of France - with perhaps millions of spectators, received next-to-no coverage, and no estimated attendance score.

My own rough estimate of the capacity of the Champ de Mars, was that it was nearly full. Without an overhead view, it is impossible to guess how many were there because after sundown, it was kind of dark.

Other witnesses said that hordes of pedestrians took over the streets of the Quartier Latin, and there were very few cars trying to move about. There was, they said, a lot of dancing in the streets.

The police on duty in Paris, announced in advance as numbering a thousand, made 81 arrests in the city. Most of these, as reported, were the 'usual suspects.' Of those arrested, 54 were retained in custody.

Update - found, by chance, on Le Parisien's third last page, the report of the TV coverage from the Champ de Mars.

The report says the Préfecture de Police estimated the crowd at 200,000. Following the manifestation 'rule-of-thumb,' this means there were probably 350,000 present. If it had been a union event, the guesstimated figure would have been 550,000.

France-2 TV estimated its audience at a mere three million, lowered most likely by the affair being an active people's event in the streets rather than a passive TV-only event.

TV focused on a 34 square-metre stage for four hours. The invited guest-stars numbered 38, some of whom played other public venues such as the Place de la République.

TV's sound quality was criticized, and one announced performer never was located. In person, near the Ecole Militaire end of the Champ de Mars, no sound at all was audible as music.

The 'Concert of His Life'

Only a week earlier, Le Parisien devoted two whole pages to one 60 year-old French rock star, who gave an 'unforgettable' performance for a mere 55,000 life-time fans of all ages, from all parts of France, at the Parc des Princes stadium.

The newspaper even had good things to say about TF1's TV coverage - which was restricted to an average-sized stadium rather than a whole city - except to remark on a 'trés regrettable' commercial break at 22:45.

And for the short of memory, this 60th birthday concert by Johnny Hallyday was compared to the one he gave for his 50th birthday, in the same stadium. No doubt true fans are already planning for Johnny's next concert, and perhaps his first retirement announcement, in 2013.

Airbus Gets Gravy

The Salon du Bourget came to an end this weekend after getting a fair amount of TV coverage during its two-week run. One of its low points was one of the few remaining Concordes coming in for a final landing, before becoming an exhibit at the airport's Air and Space Museum.

On a higher- flying note, Airbus triumphantly announced that it had picked up 64 firm orders forphoto: poster soirs d'ete its passenger jets. Of these, 26 were for its new super-big A380 model, which is not expected to be in the air before 2005

Korean Air ordered eight A380s and nine Boeings, the only ones Boeing sold during the Salon. Other big customers for Airbus were Emirates and Qatar Airways, both based in the Persian Gulf at Dubai.

Despite the 2000 passenger jets currently parked and inactive, Airbus is optimistic about the future. The European consortium foresees the world's fleet of 11,000 aircraft increasing to 20,000 in 2020, which will require 15,000 new machines - because most of today's 'parked' fleet will never fly again.

Rumor has it that Boeing will even abandon the civil aviation business, and rely on Uncle Sam's military needs for its future orders.

Online Weather Warnings

We are in the bright grip of summer now and it seems to be going about it about more sunnily than in past years. In contrast, France-Météo's online alert service is very short-term. Its level '3' and '4' warnings are changed to colors for TV presentation, with orange indicating 'beware.'

Mainly these warnings will about areas beyond the area of the Ile-de-France. But summer is summer and even Paris is not completely immune to passing storms.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's summer weather, give the MétéoFrance Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts.

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