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French report French report
by Euro Reporter
2011-01-21 09:28:20
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French minister plays defence after controversial remarks on Tunisia

When French Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said last week that France could help Tunisia control the protests against President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, she was slammed for appearing to side with a repressive government against the people. Now she is going back on that statement. “People sometimes misspeak”, Alliot-Marie said Tuesday in a hearing before the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee. “It is inconceivable to believe that France could lend its security forces to another country”.

Alliot-Marie, a fixture in Sarkozy’s centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, set off a mini-controversy on January 11 when she told the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, that France could “offer the know-how of [its] security forces to help control this type of situation”. The statement was slammed by the French left, with certain figures calling for her resignation, and in the press, where Alliot-Marie’s words were depicted as emblematic of France’s hands-off approach to the Tunisian crisis.

Tuesday was Alliot-Marie’s chance to rectify her position in front of lawmakers. “France did not see these events coming, any more than anyone else did”, she said of the riots that forced Ben Ali to flee the country on Friday after 23 years in office. “Ben Ali’s Tunisia was recognised by the international community. It was standard procedure not to interfere”. Though Ben Ali’s human rights record has been a source of international concern, France has been mostly complimentary of his presidency in the former French protectorate; he has been particularly praised for bolstering Tunisia’s economy and taking a firm stance against terrorism. But when Ben Ali left Tunisia on Friday, French officials said they would not grant him exile in France, which is home to a large population of residents of Tunisian descent.

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Daughter succeeds Le Pen as head of France's far-right National Front


Marine Le Pen inherited the leadership of the French far-right on Sunday when she was elected head of her father Jean-Marie's anti-immigration National Front. While sharing many of her father's hard-line views, the 42-year-old blonde brings with her a softer; more telegenic image which the party hopes will give them a break-through in next year's presidential election. Polls suggest 17 percent of the French would vote for Marine, not enough to put her in the Elysee Palace, but enough of a threat to incumbent right-winger President Nicolas Sarkozy to force her ideas into the debate. As expected, the Euro-MP and deputy leader comfortably beat party rival Bruno Gollnisch to become head of one of Western Europe's most enduringly influential anti-immigrant movements.

Her 82-year-old father, a one-eyed former parachute trooper, founded the party in 1972 and led it until his retirement on Saturday, when he stepped down at the start of its congress in the northern town of Tours. Under Jean-Marie the party never broke into government, and he was accused of racism and shunned by other movements, but he shifted the terms of the national debate and forced the mainstream right to address his views. In 2002 he sent an electroshock through the political establishment by coming second in the first round of presidential voting, knocking Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin off the ballot.

Despite sharing her father's anti-immigration and anti-Islam positions, Marine is seen as offering a softer, potentially more-electable image. She won more than 67 percent of the party vote. Her father read out the results before hundreds of cheering supporters, and Gollnisch acknowledged his defeat and wished her well. Marine, Le Pen's third and youngest daughter, was born in 1968 in the plush Paris suburb of Neuilly, but has built a political base as a local councillor in the working-class industrial towns of the northern Calais region. Like her father, she has not avoided provoking ire with outspoken comments. Last month she compared Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation.

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Sarkozy’s New Year’s resolution: to catch 10,000 illegal downloaders a day


For French Web users, the New Year has ushered in the second phase of the government’s controversial crackdown on illegal downloading. Some 10,000 out of the estimated 70,000 daily illegal downloaders will be targeted under the so-called “Hadopi” law – up from the current 2,000. The controversial legislation, which was nurtured by President Nicholas Sarkozy and heartily supported by his wife, singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, has been described as the world’s most determined attack on Internet piracy.
 
It works by a three-strike rule. Record or film companies and Internet providers detect the IP addresses of Internet users who use peer-to-peer file sharing to exchange copyrighted material. They then pass on those details to Hadopi, which sends a preliminary warning email and three subsequent postal letters to alleged offenders. If offenders continue to download illegally, they are then summoned to court, where they can receive a fine of up to €1,500 and have their Internet connection cut off for up to a year. The scheme’s target offenders, however, find the system ridiculous, outdated and, most tellingly, “inapplicable”. Jérémie Zimmermann, consultant and engineer for advocacy group La Quadrature, which promotes Web users’ rights, told FRANCE 24. “Hadopi is simply a fear machine. It was created purely to scare people into going to the supermarket to buy their music and films commercially. No case will ever be tried.”
 
Even French lawyers are perplexed. A Paris-based lawyer specialised in online commerce and new technologies told FRANCE 24 on condition of anonymity: “It’s very difficult to say in advance if anyone could be tried using the Hadopi law. It’s way too complex, and that is something we are going to find out over the next year or so. But even then, the UMP [Sarkozy’s ruling party] won’t scrap it because they can’t admit they’re in the wrong.”


        
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