France urges EU to be united on Syria
The overhaul would gradually extend the mandatory pay-in period from 41.5 years to 43 by 2035 and requires workers, retirees and employers to fill in an annual deficit set otherwise to reach 20 billion euros ($26 billion) in 2020. Analysts say the planned reform, the most closely watched of President Francois Hollande’s 15 months in office, does not go far enough because it only slightly accelerates a lengthening in the pay-in period that is already in place. The European Commission, which recommended tougher measures such as trimming inflation-linked annual pension rises, sounded a note of disappointment when the draft reform was unveiled last week and said it needed to evaluate it in detail. But crucially, Touraine says, a steering committee would revise the pension system annually and make recommendations to the government if a shortfall in contributions caused by slow growth or a rise in unemployment needed addressing. “This is not a stopgap reform. It puts in place measures that are destined to last,” Touraine said in an interview. “I’m not going to say it’s the last reform. Who can say what will be necessary in 2035 or 2040? I am just saying that we are doing what’s needed to get through the coming years.” SLOWLY BUT SURELY Hollande has used modest, step-by-step reforms to try to bolster France’s flagging competitiveness. While his pace of action has disappointed critics, government advisers say that going gently has so far ensured minimal opposition in parliament and on the street. In contrast, Sarkozy’s hike in the retirement age sparked weeks of large-scale street protests and fuel strikes. “An acceptable reform is one that is not brutal,” Touraine said. “We are not doing this to satisfy the demands of Brussels, we’re doing it to reassure the French people, because not reforming would threaten the future of our pensions.” The European Commission has given France an extra two years to bring its public deficit below an EU ceiling of 3 percent of economic output, but said in return it wanted to see meaningful change in a country where spending on pensions and welfare is among the highest in the bloc.
Its not even comparable, Durand said. If we were going to fire 200 of them into Syria, it would be like half the arsenal we have. We do not use them like you do. We use them to take out strategic targets. French military experts estimate that their country has roughly 400 to 500 cruise missiles in their arsenal. The French Defense Ministry declined to comment on how many it had in stock. Internal divides A Wednesday parliamentary debate revealed deep divides over how France should proceed, with opposition leaders saying they wanted a vote ahead of any French military action, but with many opposition members also saying they would not oppose limited strikes. French presidents have near-absolute powers on matters of war and peace, and any vote would be a dramatic break from precedent. It would have been more comfortable for there to have been a hit already, said Hubert Vedrine, who was a Socialist foreign minister from 1997 to 2002. Now there are all these political discussions coming up. Many political analysts say that much of the parliamentary concern over Syrian action is for domestic political consumption, and that the center-right former president Nicolas Sarkozy, whom the Socialist Hollande defeated in May 2012, would likely have pursued similar policies on Syria. Sarkozy has been silent on Syria, but a Friday article in the center-right Le Figaro newspaper cited unnamed Sarkozy allies saying that he supports military action. The joint isolation on Syria has had at least one upside for the Franco-American relationship, said Heisbourg, the defense expert. Its much nicer than being called cheese-eating surrender monkeys, he said.
Hollande told reporters at a Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday: Yes, we will wait for the inspectors report, as we will wait for the Congress vote. It was the first time Hollande said he would wait for the U.N. report. A French diplomatic official noted that his announcement came after discussions at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders, suggesting that those discussions persuaded Hollande to wait. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to presidential policy. Hollandes announcement appeared to catch French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius off guard. Earlier Friday, he told EU foreign ministers meeting in Lithuania that there was no need to await the U.N. report because it would simply confirm what was already known that the chemical weapons attack had occurred but would not say who was responsible. ___ AP correspondent Raf Casert contributed from Vilnius, Lithuania. Copyright 2013 Associated Press.
France needs a win, and a favor from Finland
Barzegar, Special for USA TODAY 6:05 p.m. EDT September 6, 2013 After decades of staying on sidelines, France has been more accepting of projecting force. French legionnaires patrol at Timbuktu airport on Jan. 30 as they prepare to board a plane to return to their base in Abidjan. (Photo: Eric Feferberg, AFP/Getty Images) Story Highlights In 2011, France took part in attacks in Ivory Coast, Libya In those conflicts, France acted with U.N. approval Some experts wonder whether French leader is dodging problems at home SHARE 263 CONNECT 52 TWEET 78 COMMENTEMAILMORE PARIS As divisions over striking Syria dominated the G-20 meeting of world leaders in Russia, French Socialist President Francois Hollande emerged as one of the most hawkish proponents of military action. He met with President Obama on Friday, the final day of the G-20, to push for unity for action in the international community even as opposition in France to military strikes appears to grow louder. Hollande said after his meeting that he would await the conclusions of a United Nations investigation into who exactly may be responsible for a chemical weapons attack that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people, many of whom were children. He said a U.N. mandate for military action was preferred but that he would not oppose intervention if an agreement cannot be reached by the U.N.
For France, U.S. delay on Syria fuels doubts
Agricultural cooperatives in northern France last month reported better-than-expected wheat quality and yields, easing concerns that a cold and wet spring would weigh on production and export prospects. Grain-filling conditions in the north were good, Francois Luguenot, head of market analysis at InVivo, the biggest exporter of French wheat, said by phone from Paris. In the south of the country, the first cuts revealed things were mediocre, the northern half didnt have the same problem. Frances soft wheat was fully harvested at the start of last week, according to FranceAgriMer data. Average soft-wheat yields in France are estimated at 7.36 tons per hectare (2.47 acres), up from 7.33 tons per hectare in 2012 and compared with an initial outlook for yields of 7.19 tons per hectare, todays FranceAgriMer report showed. The crop is estimated to be the biggest since a 2008 harvest of 37.1 million tons. Yields are the highest since 2009, when production per hectare was an average 7.71 tons on a reduced planted area. Wheat is a plant with formidable resilience, Luguenot said. In Europe , in our weather context of an oceanic climate, its rare that we have a disaster. Output The Picardie region in northern France overtook the Centre region south of Paris as the countrys largest production area, with output climbing to 4.97 million from 4.5 million tons in 2012, the FranceAgriMer data show. Centres output fell to 4.6 million tons from 4.99 million tons, according to the report. Average yields in Picardie were the highest in France at 9.11 tons per hectare, up from 8.27 tons last year and compared with FranceAgriMers July outlook of 8.37 tons per hectare. France exported 17.1 million tons of soft wheat in 2012-13, up 6.5 percent from the previous season, according to trade data published last month, as well as 1.59 million tons of the harder durum variety used to make pasta and couscous.
France Soft-Wheat Crop Seen Biggest in Five Years as Yields Rise
But Spain also has an important match in Finland, one of those teams will drop points,” France defender Bacary Sagna said. “We have to take full advantage of any slip-up to reclaim first place, and we have to win both of our matches.” After the match in Tbilisi, France travels to play Belarus on Tuesday. The Spanish are the favorites to win the group with the match at Finland followed by home games against Belarus and Georgia. But Finland has already shown it can play with Spain, holding the world champions to a 1-1 draw in March. Georgia, which has only one win in qualifying, held out until the 86th minute before losing to Spain 1-0 and caused the French team problems on the counterattack despite a 3-1 loss at Stade de France in March. “They have technical players who are very lively. They run at you and try to create openings,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “Georgia didn’t give up until the end against Spain and almost equalized in the final minute.” France’s problem is converting possession into goals, and winger Franck Ribery said it was because of a fear of failure. “When a player tries something and it doesn’t come off he loses confidence,” the Bayern Munich midfielder said. “He doesn’t feel good, is scared of being criticized.” Deschamps has kept faith with misfiring Karim Benzema – who has not scored in his past 14 matches for France – but time is running out for the Real Madrid forward to find his form with the national team. Even though the 25-year-old Benzema is an established international with 59 appearances, and plays for one of the world’s biggest clubs, he appears drastically low on confidence and the France squad constantly has to support him. “People are pointing the finger at Karim because he’s the center forward, but it’s unfair,” Sagna said.