Could France See The Return Of Nicolas Sarkozy?

France protests Amazon UK ban on foie gras

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann By John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry PARIS | Thu Oct 3, 2013 8:21am EDT PARIS (Reuters) – France’s military will cut about 7,500 jobs next year, a defense ministry source said on Thursday, detailing government belt-tightening plans that the far-right hopes will deliver it votes at municipal elections in 2014. The cuts come as tensions rise within Socialist President Francois Hollande’s 17-month-old coalition, whose poll ratings have fallen to 23 percent due to dissatisfaction about the economy and jobs. The defense ministry said in April that 34,000 jobs would likely be cut over the coming six years, but its overall budget would remain largely static, steering clear of drastic spending cuts after military officials and lawmakers said that would reduce France’s ability to counter global security threats. “Given the six year objectives, (the cut) should be around 7,000 to 7,500 military and civilian personnel in 2014,” the source said on condition of anonymity, ahead of a news conference by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. A handful of bases will be closed or restructured, including an 800-man regiment in the town of Orange in the Vaucluse department, where support for the anti-immigrant, anti-European Union National Front is strong, the source said. Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a National Front member of parliament for Vaucluse, said the cuts would hurt France’s defenses and local economies in areas like hers. “I can only worry about the immediate economic impact in a region that has already been heavily hit by unemployment and economic difficulties,” she said, reacting to media reports about the cuts. “The governments of the right and the left have preferred to sell off our military know-how and lose our diplomatic independence by making small short-term savings. That will cost France’s sovereignty dearly in the coming years,” she said. France’s military employs some 228,000 personnel today. A further 165,000 individuals are employed by the defence industry, not including sub-contractors. The government plans 15 billion euros ($20 billion) in savings next year and 3 billion extra revenues from higher taxes and fighting tax evasion to reduce the budget deficit. (Editing by Tom Heneghan and Robin Pomeroy)

While questions may still remain about Sarkozy’s conduct, the end of the inquiry allows him more access to the public stage, from which he has remained firmly removed since his election loss to Francois Hollande . Sarkozy is still incredibly popular within his party: 62 percent of conservative UMP voters want him to run for the presidency in 2017, according to a September Ifop poll. However, he still faces questioning regarding the “Karachi Affair,” yet another corruption case, this one linked to arms sales and a bombing in Pakistan in 2002. Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said Sarkozy had to overcome the “Karachi Affair” hurdle before he could contemplate a return to politics. “If he navigates his way past this particular obstacle then it might be possible, but he would have to go back on his pledge never to return,” Hewson told CNBC. “Any return would probably need to appeal to his ego and he would need to be asked,” he added. (Read More: Moscovici to France’s businesses: stop French-bashing ) Furthermore, Sarkozy’s path to a political return could be scuppered by divisions within his own party. A bitter UMP leadership election last November was left unresolved after Francois Fillon and Jean-Francois Cope both claimed victory. While Cope was eventually declared the winner, both sides alleged fraud and new elections were slated for this year. They are yet to materialize. With Fillon and Cope still battling it out, would a Sarkozy return cause more divisions or could he be a unifier? Fillon, who was prime minister under Sarkozy and once a staunch ally, told the JDD weekly paper this week, “I cannot take on all the consequences of a presidential candidacy and not be in conflict with Nicolas Sarkozy, given his state of mind. De facto, we are in competition.” Philippe Waechter, chief economist at Natixis Asset Management, said Sarkozy would do best to bide his time before making a comeback. “He will be impatient to be the leader of the UMP, but if he does that too rapidly there is a risk that French citizens reject him.

France on Monday criticised a decision by Amazon to ban the sale of foie gras on its British website, following an animal rights campaign accusing producers of the delicacy of “very un-British” cruelty. Caption PARIS: France on Monday criticised a decision by Amazon to ban the sale of foie gras on its British website, following an animal rights campaign accusing producers of the delicacy of “very un-British” cruelty. Activists have for years campaigned against the sale of foie gras, saying the practice of force-feeding ducks or geese in order to make the French gourmet item is cruel and amounts to torture. “I regret Amazon’s decision,” Guillaume Garot, France’s minister for agribusiness, told AFP. “I once again want to point out the efforts made by French producers over the years to maintain real product quality while respecting the animal’s well-being,” he said. The site Amazon.co.uk, which on Monday added “foie gras” to a list of prohibited animal products including “whale, dolphin and shark parts”, would not comment on the reasons behind the ban. But animal rights campaign group Viva! said the move followed pressure by the organisation, which earlier this year presented the US online retailer with “evidence of the abject suffering” caused by foie gras production. A petition against the sale of the delicacy was also signed by more than 10,000 Amazon customers and Viva! supporters. Foie gras – which literally means fatty liver – is hugely popular in France, where it is eaten at Christmas and on other special occasions, but ongoing controversy over production of the delicacy has given it a bad name in other parts of the world. The sale of foie gras has been outlawed in California, while Britain’s House of Lords has taken it off the menu. Garot said he was nevertheless “very confident” about the future of the foie gras industry, which employs nearly 100,000 people directly and indirectly in France. “I defend this sector because of jobs but also because of a certain idea of gastronomic heritage,” Garot added.

France’s Sarkozy cleared in campaign finance case

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