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by Euro Reporter
2009-09-13 08:38:22
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Interior minister faces calls to quit over alleged racist remark

"There always has to be one. When there's one, it's OK. It's when there are a lot of them that there are problems." These words spoken by France's interior minister, Brice Hortefeux, were caught on camera last week during the ruling UMP party’s summer gathering in Seignosse in south-west France. The comments appear to be in reference to a young UMP member of Algerian origin, and they have spurred a growing controversy.

After the footage was published on the website of French newspaper Le Monde, the minister quickly countered that he had made "no reference to any ethnic origin, be it North African, Arab, African or other.” Confronted by reporters on Thursday evening, Brice Hortefeux said he was in fact replying to people who wanted to take pictures of him. “I was in a hurry to leave," the minister said, adding that there had been some jokes about his own origins from the Auvergne region in central France.

The young activist involved, 22-year-old Amine Benalia-Brouch, said he believed the minister. "If the remarks were racist I would have responded because they would have amounted to a personal attack,” said Amine, who was born in France from an Algerian father and a Portuguese mother. On Friday morning, the young man posted his own video on the Web, exonerating Hortefeux.

But Amine’s pardon has done little to calm outcries from the opposition. "The question is not even whether he should resign, but how he could possibly remain part of the government," said Socialist Party spokesman Benoît Hamon. Socialist leader Martine Aubry said she was "shocked and dismayed". These sentiments were echoed by several anti-racism associations, for whom the minister’s words were clear examples of prejudice.
Faced with a growing controversy, the government has rallied behind the interior minister. Appearing on TF1 television channel on Thursday, Prime Minister François Fillon denounced "a very scandalous campaign of denigration”. Xavier Bertrand, the UMP’s secretary general, said that the incident only served to prove that the political left was “capable of anything” in order to harm his party.


Common ground on financial regulation

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his Spanish counterpart José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero expressed their shared views on financial regulation and climate change at a meeting at the Elysée presidential palace in Paris.
The meeting was designed to allow the two nations to compare notes ahead of a G20 summit to take place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US on September 24 and 25.
At a joint press conference, Sarkozy declared, “France and Spain are preparing for the summit in Pittsburgh with the same intention to create a new world, and we are particularly concerned with the question of financial regulation and bonuses.”
He added that the two nations would also “work together to make the Copenhagen conference on climate a success,” referring to the international conference on climate change in December.


Wave of suicides

France Telecom workers staged protests Thursday over a wave of suicides that union leaders blame on the company's failure to help staff deal with the stress from restructuring. About 100 employees rallied in Paris and 50 others gathered in the city of Troyes where a 49-year-old technician on Wednesday stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife after learning that he had been demoted.
The technician was recovering in hospital but the incident came after a worker took his own life in August, becoming the 22nd France Telecom employee to commit suicide in 18 months.
"There is a deep feeling of revolt," said union official Regis Pigre. The technician in Troyes "started from the bottom and worked himself up. Overnight, he was told that he would be doing a less interesting job." The CGT union said that France Telecom promised Thursday at a company health and safety committee meeting to suspend all restructuring measures until the end of October and to hire 100 extra human resources workers.
The CFDT union charged last month that there was a link between the suicides and management style at France Telecom, which is undergoing massive restructuring to become more competitive.


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Emanuel Paparella2009-09-13 10:10:50
On the first item, no great surprises there. The French in particular seem to have great difficulty in grasping the enormous difference that exists between assimilation and integration of a guest culture; nevertheless, they continue claiming the mantle of leadership of the European Union based on some sort of effete cultural superiority. To integrate means that guest cultures are respected and protected and the host majority culture remains willing to learn from the best of the guest culture. That approach is widely known as multi-culturalism. To assimilate, on the other hand, means to insist on obliterating guest cultures and level them to the common denominator of French citizenship hypocritically espousing ideals such as fraternitè, egalitè, libertè; which in effect means not to respect those cultures. It is the same enormous mistake of Napoleon who went around proclaiming a united Europe with those same ideals when in reality his hidden agenda was the greater France imposed with raw Machiavellian power. He did not convince Beethoven however. He understood that assimilating the rest of Europe was in effect to betray the ideals of the French Revolution. If the EU means anything it is that all the cultures of all the nations that comprise it are on an equal level and are respected while espousing some common cultural values that go beyond common soccer games and common banks and even a common army.

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