2015 10 – News From France

Froggy

French foreign policy

France is trying to cut a figure on the international scene. The day before the opening of the United Nations General Assembly on the occasion of the UN’s 70th anniversary, France announced it had bombed IS positions inside Syria. France made strikes on the territory of an independent state itself engaged in the struggle against IS, and without a UN mandate.  France was just following the example of the US, who have been doing the same thing. France is however on this occasion not under American command, as it is when it is bombing Iraq. The Syrian sky is however divided into corridors between the different countries, allied or adversaries, which are involved, and therefore France is cooperating with others while over Syria. In Iraq France made 220 strikes, 5% of the total number, since September 2014.

France is however firmly in the American camp; this handicaps her in her desire to be independent, and in her relations with Russia and with countries in the Southern hemisphere.

As for the refugees created by American and European policy: France does not want them. 80% of the French said they wanted ‘border control’, a euphemism for ‘no refugees’.

Hollande was not in the Assembly when Vladimir Putin made his speech; otherwise he would have heard these salutary words:

‘The export of revolutions, this time of so-called “democratic’ ones, continues.  […]But how did it actually turn out?  Rather than bringing about reforms, aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a flagrant destruction of national institutions and ways of life. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and a social disaster. And nobody cares about human rights, including the right to life.

I cannot help asking those who have caused this situation: do you realise now what you have done?’

After his bomb strikes, Hollande stood up at the General Assembly and called for regime change in Syria. As Putin said, he is one of those who have learnt nothing of past mistakes.

7 planes were used for this bombing operation, which ‘might be repeated in the next few weeks if necessary,’ compared with the 400 planes the Americans deploy in the region. So far, France had only bombed IS in Iraq, refusing to follow the Americans into Syria. The justification for this change of policy is ‘defence of French territory’, in virtue of article 51 of the UN Charter. It is an interpretation of article 51, which was meant for armed aggression by a foreign army, something observable, whereas here the risk exists, but can’t be pinpointed. The precedent is set for any country to bomb the territory of another, claiming a risk to the security of their territory.

 

Cooperatives

In July Froggy mentioned former Employees of Sealink Channel ferries who formed a Cooperative Company (SCOP) MyFerryLink to run three ships of the former company. Action by the British Competition Commission led to its ceasing to operate.

This might give the impression that Cooperative Companies are created in difficult circumstances and doomed to fail. In fact there are 2700 SCOP enterprises, most of them the result of a transfer of a healthy enterprise to its employees, for example after a retirement. They account for 50 000 employees.

A Regional SCOP Union provides training and help in the initial stages, up to a year, to turn employees into co-owners with a global vision of their firm able to take strategic decisions. All co-owners vote on strategic decisions, including wages and wage differentials. They do not receive more subsidies than ordinary firms and only succeed if they are economically viable. Banks will lend to them once the viability of the firm is established, the Regional Union sometimes acting as guarantor.

Employees are co-owners rather than shareholders; profits are shared but at least 40% goes into reserves. Some SCOPs do have investors, to whom they pay dividends. Generally they are local firms keen on preserving local employment and local suppliers. They are one of 15 types of cooperatives, which overall represent about 10% of French employees, and between 7 and 10% of PIB. Some are well known firms, everyone who has been to a French restaurant or café will have seen the sign ‘Chèque Déjeuner’, which is a coupon exchangeable for a meal given by employers to employees, as an alternative to a canteen. Some are much talked about in the media, for example the Fralib, ex-Unilever employees who kept open a factory making Lipton tea bags and Elephant herb teas.  Unilever had decided to transfer the factory to Poland.  After four years of dispute Unilever handed over 19,26 million euros, plus the machines, (which the workers had maintained the while) and the workers invested their redundancy payments into financing the take-over of the firm. They now have contracts with the large supermarket chain Auchan for their products.

In line with their ‘keep things local’ philosophy, they are trying, among other things, to revive the French production of lime blossom, which used to be 400 tons a year and is now 10, since cheaper tilleul was imported from South America, taken to Hamburg and then to Poland for conditioning.

 

Gay marriage

A lesbian couple sued a Town Hall official in Marseille, insisting that she deserved prison, for not conducting their wedding and getting someone else to do it in her place. The official was sentenced to 5 months in prison, suspended, plus 1200 Euros to be paid to each partner, and a sum to an anti homophobia charity.

The problem was that the person asked by the official to conduct the wedding instead of her was not authorized to conduct weddings and the wedding had to be done again. Sabrina Hout had also signed the papers, as if she had conducted the ceremony. The mayor of one of the Marseille districts, Samia Ghali, celebrated the second marriage, and invited the couple to a cocktail reception afterwards, to make up for the unpleasantness. The couple still insisted on taking the deputy mayor, Sabrina Hout, to court, saying that ‘elected representatives must leave their religious convictions behind when they enter the Town Hall.’ The judge obviously agreed. The Taubira gay marriage law is no laughing matter.

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