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The French-American Foundation Weekly Brief
October 1, 2010
On Sunday, September 26, French authorities announced that they were ready to talk to the kidnappers of seven employees of the French nuclear company Areva (of whom five are French citizens), while they eschewed a military intervention for the moment. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, which took place on September 16 in Niger. On Thursday, September 30, Libération reported that French authorities had verified the authenticity of an audio recording taken of the hostages and posted on an Islamic site. According to the Nouvel Observateur, officials in France viewed the recording as an "encouraging" sign that the hostages were still alive.
As Prime Minister François Fillon prepared for an expected reshuffling of the French government, he gave a rare television interview to France 2. In the interview, Fillon distanced himself from President Sarkozy, saying that the two had formed an alliance, and that Sarkozy had never been his mentor, the Nouvel Observateur reported. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, and Budget Minister François Baroin were among the 25 percent of cabinet officials Le Figaropredicted would be spared in the reshuffling.
On Tuesday, September 28, France's national statistics office (the INSEE), released a report showing that the median income in France in 2008 was 19,000 euros, representing an increase of 1.7 percent over 2007. According to the report, people with incomes in the bottom 10 percent made less than 11,000 euros, while the top 10 percent made more than 35,000 euros. La Croixreported that the overall increase in the standard of living was most concentrated in the bottom 40 percent of the income bracket. Meanwhile, 13 percent of households were living under the poverty level, defined as 60 percent of the median, or 949 euros per month. Rue89 spoke to a number of people with incomes near the median level, including a manager of a supermarket, a Vélib technician, and a nurse.
On Wednesday, September 30, the Budget Ministry unveiled its 2011 budget, which includes plans to reduce the deficit by 1.7 percent (from 7.7 percent to 6 percent of GDP), which would be the biggest budget consolidation in 50 years, according to Le Point. The Financial Times reported that Paris would cut the deficit in 2011 by increasing taxes by 11 billion euros, freezing central government spending and cutting 97,000 civil service jobs. L'Express reported that politicians on the left were skeptical about the plan, calling it a "fiscal injustice." Speaking to Europe 1 about the budget plan, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde also mentioned her goal to get unemployment in France, which is currently at 9.3 percent, below 9 percent by the end of Sarkozy's term in 2012.
In an ongoing clash with the EU over the eviction of France's Roma population, the EU decided to pursue a legal case against France for not including an EU directive on freedom of movement into its legislation, but backed away from more serious charges of discrimination. According to Le Figaro, France has until October 15 to adopt the legislation, or the country will face an infringement procedure.
- The New York Times predicted a difficult road ahead for Sarkozy in his campaign for reelection in 2012.
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