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French report French report
by Euro Reporter
2010-12-27 09:31:44
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Juppé in Kabul on Christmas visit

French Defence Minister Alain Juppe arrived in Kabul Saturday for a Christmas visit to troops deployed in Afghanistan, according to an AFP journalist. France has around 3,850 troops deployed in the country.

French Defence Minister Alain Juppe arrived in Kabul Saturday for a Christmas visit to troops deployed in Afghanistan, according to an AFP journalist. Juppe, on his first journey to the country since he assumed his post in November, is due to visit several French and other units deployed in the capital and elsewhere during his 48-hour trip.

Soon after arriving he stopped at the French military field hospital at Kabul airport, where he met medical personnel and patients, including Afghan civilians. The hospital "is a symbol of what we are doing here", he said. "Of course there are military actions but there are also actions for development to benefit the Afghans."  Juppe is scheduled to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday. He is expected to raise the plight of French hostages Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, who were kidnapped along with their Afghan colleagues last December.


Adopted Haitian children fly into Paris

A second French government-chartered plane bringing 84 Haitian children to their adoptive French parents arrived in Paris on Friday morning where icy weather had grounded many Christmas flights. The Boeing 747 from Port-au-Prince was also carrying parents and medical personnel, after a first flight carrying 114 children arrived on Wednesday. Having arrived from the Caribbean, the children were carried across a few metres (yards) of Paris airport tarmac under a light snowfall, many wrapped in blankets. "I heard while I was over there that I could come back with him," said Ludovic Dehas, two-and-a-half-year-old Maxime snuggled in his arms.

He said he had only obtained all the necessary documentation for the adoption in Haiti on Wednesday, and now he will take Maxime to his home in southeastern France to join his two adopted sisters, Julia and Marie-Canise. A total of 318 adopted Haitian children are included in a special programme to bring them to France after disruptions caused by the devastating earthquake that ravaged the impoverished country nearly a year ago. The children were all in the process of being adopted when a massive quake struck on January 12, killing over 250,000 people and causing adoptions to be delayed with some records lost in the rubble.

They were met in Paris by a medical team including paediatricians who will give them a clean bill of health following their arrival from Haiti, where a cholera epidemic has killed over 2,500 people. Six Haitian children due to fly in on the second plane were unable to travel because of missing documentation, French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said.


No jail for French lawmakers who lie about income

French MPs will not face prison if they lie about their personal wealth or income, the country’s lower house of parliament decided late Monday night. They will, however, face a fine of 30,000 euros and be declared ineligible to stand for office in a move that amounted to a defeat for Christian Jacob, head of the ruling UMP party in France’s National Assembly.
The penalties, included in a bill to be voted on next month, are nevertheless harsh new measures for lawmakers who misrepresent their wealth and income to the Commission for Financial Transparency in Politics (CTFVP). Jacob, to the consternation opposition socialists, had called for a two-year prison term, the fine and the ineligibility clause to be removed from the text of the bill.


French cities prefer fines to social housing

Municipal authorities across France prefer to pay fines rather than invest in deeply unpopular social housing projects because paying the fines is cheaper and helps win votes. Several cities are obligated by law to increase public housing. It is a regular feature of Christmas in France and the posters are everywhere. Each year, one French charity, the Abbé Pierre Foundation (Fondation Abbé Pierre), posts grim pictures of extreme poverty and sub-standard housing. While the campaign seeks to spur action among individuals, French cities are also falling short in their efforts to provide adequate housing to the disadvantaged. Many municipalities are compelled by law to boost their public housing stocks over a 20-year period or face fines -- but many are choosing to ignore this obligation.

A combination of cynicism and "nimby"-ism (for "not in my backyard") means that many social housing projects never even make it to the drawing board. Local authorities are actually better off financially if they ignore the rules and just agree to pay the fine, which is far cheaper than providing housing and establishing support services for disadvantaged families.
Moreover, elected officials believe that social housing costs them votes. Residents often lobby local governments to put the brakes on housing projects and cases sometimes make it to court. According to the Abbé Pierre Foundation, France now has a shortfall of up to 900,000 of the public homes it has planned.

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