French magazine reveals Hollande ‘affair’ with actress

 – Hollande routinely drives through Paris on his scooter to spend the night with his 41-year-old mistress

10  Jan  2014
Paris (AFP)

French magazine Closer on Friday said President Francois Hollande was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet, promising to back its claim with photographs after months of swirling rumours.

The weekly tabloid’s website said its Friday print edition would feature seven pages of revelations and pictures on the 59-year-old president’s alleged relationship with Gayet.

Closer, echoing reports published on various websites in recent days, said Hollande routinely drives through Paris on his scooter to spend the night with his 41-year-old mistress. Continue reading “French magazine reveals Hollande ‘affair’ with actress”

French court approves 75 percent company tax on high salaries / one million euros ($1.35 million)

France’s top court on Sunday approved a proposal for companies to pay 75 percent tax on annual salaries exceeding one million euros in line with President Francois Hollande’s drive to limit executive pay at a time of economic hardship.

The Constitutional Council had earlier in the year thrown out one of Hollande’s key campaign pledges to impose a 75 percent tax on individuals earning more than one million euros ($1.35 million).

The rejection of that proposal exempted those who had a significant inheritance but low incomes from coming under the 75 percent tax bracket. Continue reading “French court approves 75 percent company tax on high salaries / one million euros ($1.35 million)”

Hollande booed at war dead commemorations in Paris “Red Bonnet Revolt”

11 Nov 2013
Paris (AFP)

A solemn event presided over by French President Francois Hollande to remember those who died in World War I turned into a shouting match Monday after protesters booed the unpopular leader.

To the anger of others who had come to commemorate the millions killed in the 1914-18 war, protesters shouted “Hollande resign” and “Socialist dictatorship” as the president was driven up the French capital’s famous Champs-Elysees avenue.

“You have no right to exploit November 11. You’re a disgrace for France!”, one onlooker yelled at the protesters during the Remembrance Day ceremony.

Scuffles broke out between protesters and security forces, and police said 73 people had been detained, some of whom were linked to far-right movements, including a grouping called the “French Spring” that opposes France’s gay marriage law.

Some of those shouting slogans against Hollande were wearing red bonnets, headwear that has come to symbolise a growing feeling of despondency over rising taxes and record unemployment in France.

The so-called “red bonnet” movement emerged last month in the hard-hit agricultural region of Brittany, where people took to the streets wearing the hats in reference to a famous 17th-century “Red Bonnet Revolt” against tax rises.

But Christian Troadec, a spokesman for the Breton movement, condemned the Paris protesters, saying they had “nothing to do with our movement”.

Undeterred, Hollande continued his procession along the avenue and laid a wreath of flowers in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in memory of all the servicemen who died during the war.

The protest comes as the French leader’s popularity ratings hit record lows, with a poll by research firm Ipsos published Monday showing only 21 percent of the French approve of his policies, down from 24 percent in October.

French president Francois Hollande attends on November 11, 2013 in Oyonnax, central France, a ceremony commemorating the WW1 armistice

Later in the day, protesters once again heckled Hollande as he visited the town of Oyonnax in the east, this time to mark a brave rally staged by members of the French resistance on November 11, 1943 during World War II.

“It’s not the day (to do this), true, but the current policies are really disappointing, there are many promises that have not been kept, life is expensive and we end up in the red at the end of the month,” one protester told AFP.

Ceremonies commemorating Remembrance Day were also disrupted in the southeastern town of Chateaurenard, where the mayor and two other people were assaulted and stabbed, police said.

The injuries of the three victims are not life-threatening. According to an initial probe, the attacker may have had mental health problems.

French Far-Right Candidate Scores Election Win

PARIS October 13, 2013 (AP)

A candidate of France’s far-right National Front won a run-off vote in a local election Sunday that drew widespread attention amid signs that the once-shunned anti-immigrant party is gaining strength.

Laurent Lopez defeated center-right UMP candidate Catherine Delzers in the by-election to win one of 43 seats on the Var department council. France is made up of more than 100 departments; five or so departments make up a region.

A smiling Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s leader, appeared on French television and declared the results showed “a real desire for change by the French.” Le Pen, who scored 17.9 percent in the first round of last year’s presidential vote, said her party could win “hundreds, maybe a thousand” seats in local elections next March.

The National Front currently holds dozens of local seats across France and two seats in the national parliament.

A call by the ruling Socialist party of President Francois Hollande and other left-wing parties to vote for the UMP candidate in Sunday’s election fell flat, with the Lopez taking 53.9 percent of the more than 9,000 votes cast. More than half of the eligible voters stayed home.

French carbon tax to yield 4 bln euros in 2016 – PM

Source: Reuters – Sat, 21 Sep 2013 03:53 PM

* French PM says carbon tax to be ramped up after 2014 start

* Ayrault says zero impact on households from fuel in 2014

* PM also flags nuclear power levy to help energy transition

PARIS, Sept 21 (Reuters) – A carbon tax to be introduced in France next year will generate 4 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in receipts by 2016 to help fund sweeping energy-effiency goals, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Saturday.

The measure, to be levied on all fossils fuels in proportion to the emissions they generate, would yield 2.5 billion euros in 2015, Ayrault said, outlining the impact of the tax announced by President Francois Hollande on Friday.

He did not give a figure for 2014, but said there would be no impact on households next year from road and heating fuel, in keeping with a pledge not to raise further the tax burden.

The Socialist government is attempting a delicate balancing act in satisfying demands for tougher environmental targets from its Green Party allies and resentment among households and businesses over rising taxes.

In addition to the carbon tax, the government will impose a levy on profits from France’s large nuclear power network, Ayrault said, without detailing its value.

“Fossil and nuclear energy will thus be mobilised to allow us to meet our energy transition objectives,” Ayrault told a conference in Paris.

The carbon tax would let France invest an extra 1 billion euros in its so-called energy transition from 2016, on top of nearly 4 billion euros already spent annually on renewable energies and 1 billion on household renovation, he said.

On Friday, President Hollande said France should aim for a 30 percent cut in fossil fuel use by 2030, setting out plans for the carbon tax from 2014 and a tax break on home insulation.

The incentives for households to carry out thermal renovation, supported by a reduced 5 percent rate of value-added tax  for such work, would be worth 1.5 billion euros next year, Ayrault said in a speech closing the two-day conference on environment and energy policy.

The impact on households from the carbon tax as levied on road and heating fuel would be nil next year, Ayrault said.

For businesses, transport companies would still be exempted while industrial firms covered by carbon quotas would remain so, Ayrault said.

The carbon tax has already been earmarked to finance 3 billion euros for a tax credit already planned to improve the competitiveness of French companies, government officials added.

Elected last year pledging ambitious energy reforms, Hollande said on Friday the cut in fossil fuel use was needed to meet the country’s goal of halving overall energy use by 2050.


François Hollande calls for ‘European political union’ within two years; Calls for a more federal Europe

John Lichfield

Thursday, 16 May 2013

A beleagured President François Hollande went on the offensive today calling for an “economic government” for the Eurozone and “political union” in Europe within two years.

Stung by accusations that he has been too passive in his first year in office, Mr Hollande rolled the dice  on the future of the European Union – to the potential embarrassment of both David Cameron and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

In a two hour press conference at the Elysee Palace, Mr Hollande announced a string of new initiatives including a four point plan for rapid progress towards a more federal Europe.

“It is my duty to extricate Europe from its slump and reduce the disaffection of its peoples which threatens the very future of the European Union,” Mr Hollande said.

He said that he would demand the creation of an “economic government” for the Eurozone which would meet every month to discuss ways of promoting growth. He would push for a “political union” – a step towards a federal state – in the wider EU within two years. The French president also called for the harmonisation of EU taxes and a “European energy policy”.

Mr Cameron might take a relaxed view of a Eurozone government but all the other proposals run directly contrary to his vision of a looser, less centrally controlled EU to put before a British in-out referendum after the next election. Mr Hollande’s “four points” are also a direct challenge to the German chancellor, who often speaks of the need for more European “integration” but blocks moves in that direction.

President Hollande was speaking the day after official statistics showed that France had fallen back into recession in the first quarter of this year for the third time since 2008. He is under increasing fire from both the Right and his own Centre-left for his allegedly muddled approach to the economic crisis in his first year in office.

In an attempt to give a shape, or narrative to his policy, he told the press conference that he had spent the first year on the “defensive”. He now planned to go on the “offensive”.

His first twelve months had concentrated on reforms to “defend” France’s economy, sovereignty and social model, he said. His “year two” offensive would be spearheaded by European initiatives because there was no hope of “rekindling growth” in France without job-creation, and growth-promotion activities at EU-level.

François Hollande rocked as minister confesses to lying over tax evasion

Former Budget Minister admits he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account


Tuesday 02 April 2013

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Jerome Cahuzac, former French finance minister: ‘I was caught up in a spiral of lies’
Getty Images

In a bombshell confession, the former French Budget Minister, Jerome Cahuzac, has admitted that he had lied repeatedly to the President, parliament and public and had cheated on his taxes for 20 years.

Mr Cahuzac’s admission he had €600,000 in an illegal offshore bank account dealt a devastating blow to a Socialist president and government already facing public rage over tax rises, cuts and high unemployment.

President François Hollande said tonight that Mr Cahuzac had committed an “unpardonable moral fault” by lying for four months to the Elysée Palace and the National Assembly. However, in a further, deep embarrassment for the President, the investigative newspaper, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that Mr Hollande saw evidence pointing to Mr Cahuzac’s possible guilt as long ago as December.

Mr Cahuzac, 60, previously a highly paid plastic surgeon, was fired by the Elysée last month from his high-profile job as Budget Minister – in effect the minister responsible for spending cuts and tax enforcement. This followed a declaration by the state prosecution service that the voice in a recorded telephone conversation from 2000, admitting ownership of an illegal, Swiss account, appeared to be the minister.

At the time, Mr Cahuzac continued to proclaim his innocence. After months of denials, he made a double confession: publicly in his blog and privately, to two magistrates.

“I was caught up in spiral of lies,” he wrote. “I fought a torturous internal battle to try to resolve the conflict between my duty to tell the truth and my anxiety to fulfil the mission with which I had been entrusted.”

The admission bears some resemblance to the confession, after years of denials, by the former British environment minister, Chris Huhne, that he had conspired with his wife Vicky Pryce to avoid speeding penalty points. Several French newspapers have suggested that media allegations about Mr Cahuzac’s off-shore account, may be linked to a contested divorce with his wife, Patricia Cahuzac.

Mr Cahuzac, admitted that he had held illegal accounts abroad – first in Switzerland and then in Singapore – for 20 years. He said that he had ordered that €600,000 remaining on his Singapore account to be transferred to France.

The French investigative website, Mediapart, which has also led the way in allegations of wrongdoing against ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, first revealed the existence of Mr Cahuzac’s Swiss account last December.

Mediapart placed online a recorded telephone conversation from the year 2000 in which a politician discussed his embarrassment at having an account with UBS in Switzerland. Mr Cahuzac denied to President Hollande and to the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, that the voice was his. However, Le Canard Enchainé will report today that President Hollande was told by the interior ministry in December that the voice on the tape was “close to” that of Mr Cahuzac.

The former minister also faces investigation over the source of the funds paid into the Swiss and Singapore accounts. His lawyers said that the money came from his lucrative and successful practice as one of Europe’s leading specialists in hair transplants.

Magistrates are, however, investigating allegations that some or all of the money came from under-the-counter payments by pharmaceutical companies to promote their products.

The shockwaves from Mr Cahuzac’s initial dismissal last month were rapidly overwhelmed by news that ex-President Sarkozy had been formally accused of abusing the mental weakness of a billionaires to fund his 2007 campaign.

Politicians on the moderate left said that Mr Cahuzac’s repeated lies had compounded a “crisis for democracy in France”.

French president finds loophole to impose 75% tax on rich

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The 75% super-tax on the mega-rich, which was rejected by France’s constitutional court might be imposed anyway. French President Francois Hollande suggests laying the burden on businesses rather than on individuals.

In the interview with France 2 television President Hollande said he has revised his original plan to lay the massive tax on individuals earning above €1 million, which has been ruled “unfair” and rejected by the Constitutional Court and later the State Councils, leaving the President embarrassed.

France’s top administrative court ruled that any tax rate above 66% was likely to be rejected again by the Constitutional Council, the Finance Ministry said last week.

With this in mind, Hollande will now propose to tax employers paying their workers more than €1 million. The president said in the interview that the measure, if approved, will last for two years.

President Hollande expects the measure will push employers to review executive pay, AFP reports. He also hopes that this will help fill the gap in the state budget.

The new 75% tax will be a major disappointment for business leaders. Experts believe this along with other tax innovations introduced by the Socialist president’s government may cause a tax exodus and stall investment.

Despite the obvious need to reduce budget deficit, no other new taxes will be introduced in 2013 and no tax rises are planned for the next year, Reuters reports.

“Today, prolonging austerity risks failure to reduce deficits and the certainty of having unpopular governments, and so the populists would at some point break through,” Hollande said.

The French private business sector isn’t in its best shape. March PMI data, a key growth indicator shows the sharpest decline since 2009, indicating the EU’s second-largest economy is heading towards a triple dip recession recession. France’s Flash Composite Output Index hit the lowest level in four years at 42.1.

France has often said it will not meet the EU-set target of 3% of GDP budget deficit this year. Despite this President Hollande repeatedly refused to impose the deep spending cuts introduced in other crisis-driven European economies, like Greece and Spain.

All this together with unemployment rising above 10%, the economy has few chances to recover and enter a growth phase soon

French budget minister Had a secret Swiss bank account, from which funds were transferred to Singapore

French budget minister resigns amid investigation

© 3.0

French President Francois Hollande has granted a request by the French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac to terminate his responsibilities and accept his resignation.

 According to French media reports Bernard Cazeneuve has been appointed as his replacement.

 In early 2013 the Paris prosecutor’s office began a preliminary investigation into the affairs of Cahuzac who is suspected of tax evasion.

 The case was initiated after an internet resource called Mediapart reported that the minister had a secret Swiss bank account, from which funds were transferred to Singapore.

 Bernard Cazeneuve previously served as Minister for European Affairs and before that was the official representative of the Hollande campaign.

 Voice of Russia, RIA

French first lady accused of ’embezzlement’ for funding lavish lifestyle with taxpayers’ money… despite not actually being married to president

  • Valerie  Trierweiler is accused of being just Francois Hollande’s  ‘mistress’
  • Accusations  made in criminal court complaint by millionaire Xavier  Kemlin
  • He claims  she makes France the ‘laughing stock of  all heads of state’
  • Says tax shouldn’t ‘house, feed, fund woman with ‘no legal  link’ to taxpayer

By  Peter Allen

PUBLISHED: 11:42 EST, 15  March 2013 |  UPDATED: 12:53 EST, 15 March 2013

The mistress: French first lady Valerie Trierweiler was accused of 'embezzlement' because she is using taxpayers' money while not actually married
The mistress: French first lady Valerie Trierweiler was accused of ’embezzlement’ because she is using taxpayers’ money while not actually married

The French first lady was today accused of  ‘embezzlement’ because she is using taxpayers’ money while not actually married.

In a criminal case which places a question  mark against President Francois Hollande’s decision to have a live-in-lover,  Miss Trierweiler is described as nothing more than a ‘mistress’.

Xavier Kemlin, a multi-millionaire Frenchman,  insists that the 48-year-old magazine journalist ‘should not take advantage’ of  public funds.

He has filed the complaint at a criminal  court in Saint-Etienne, in the Loire department of eastern France.

It states that the presidential couple ‘are  neither married, nor civil  partners,’ and that ‘our taxes’ should not have to  ‘house, feed, pay the staff and travel of a woman with whom taxpayers have ‘no  link in law’.

Despite being an avowed Socialist, Mr  Trierweiler has become noted for her luxury lifestyle since moving into  the  Elysee Palace last year.

She not only has access to official homes,  cars and planes, but also retains her own office and staff.

Mr Kemlin, a French taxpayer who lives in  Switzerland, is furious at the  huge increases in charges being introduced by  her husband’s government.  They include a proposed 75 per cent top rate of  income tax.

Mr Kemlin mocked Ms Trierweiler’s continued  support for gay marriage,  while being nothing more than the girlfriend of a  politician who has  never wed.

He said the situation made France ‘the  laughing stock of all head of state’ during visits around the world.

Controversy: In a criminal case which places a question mark against the decision of President Francois Hollande (left) to have a live-in-lover, Miss Trierweiler (right) is described as nothing more than a 'mistress'
Controversy: In a criminal case which places a question  mark against the decision of President Francois Hollande (left) to have a  live-in-lover, Miss Trierweiler (right) is described as nothing more than a  ‘mistress’

Although Ms Trierweiler could  technically go  to prison for the offence of embezzlement, Mr Kemlin said his criminal was meant  to highlight ‘the ambiguous relationship’ she  had with the president.

Last year it emerged that Ms Trierweiler was  once the shared mistress of Mr  Hollande and married conservative minister,  Patrick Devedjian – all  while she was still married to her second  husband.

Mr Hollande was at the time living with  Segolene Royal, the mother of his four children and a senior Socialist  politician in her own right.

Miss Trierweiler, a former political affairs  reporter who now writes arts pieces for Paris Match, is nicknamed ‘Valerie  Rottweiler’ and ‘First Concubine’ by the French media because of her  unpopularity.

Last June, she sent a Twitter message  encouraging voters to support a rival to Miss Royal in parliamentary elections.

Miss Royal went on to lose the election and  since then neither she, nor her four children with Mr Hollande, have spoken to  Miss Trierweiler, accusing her of a ‘stab in the back’.

The mutual loathing between Miss Royal and  Miss Trierweiler is regularly highlighted.

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EU Budget deal struck with £16billion sweeteners

The full extent of £16billion in “sweeteners” paid to European Union member states to secure their support for last month’s decision to make a historic cut in the union’s budget can be revealed for the first time.

EU Budget deal struck with £16billion sweeteners

David Cameron won allies at last month’s Brussels summit to win an overall package of £30 billion cuts Photo: AFP
Patrick Hennessy

By , Political Editor

7:45PM GMT 02 Mar 2013

David Cameron said Britain could be “proud” after late-night talks set total payments to the EU for 2014-20 at £770 billion, down from £800 billion for the previous seven-year round.

It was the first time the EU’s multi-year budget had fallen – and the deal also protected Britain’s annual £3.6 billion rebate, first negotiated by Baroness Thatcher in the 1980s.

However, included in the deal were a series of “additional payments” to individual countries which helped persuade them to sign up to the overall package.

Many involved payments to wealthier nations under the controversial Common Agricultural Policy – as well as using the EU’s much-criticised structural funds regime, which sees money used on projects designed to cut the gap between rich and poor.

A European Parliament document seen by The Sunday Telegraph spells out for the first time which countries got what. Twenty five out of the 27 EU member states were listed as receiving “additional payments” – the exceptions being Britain, which only got its existing rebate, and Poland.

Critics last night said the document laid bare a “ridiculous” system of “horse trading and special pleading” which resulted in an “economically irrational and ineffective EU budget.” The result could be to hamper growth across Europe rather than boosting it, the critics added.

The document showed that according to the “special payments”:

* France was awarded 200 million euros (£173 million) for Mayotte, an island off the east coast of Africa which recently became an overseas French department. Mayotte has a population of 204,000 – meaning it is effectively getting 980 euros (£850) directly from EU taxpayers.

France is also getting an extra one billion euros (£870 million) for “rural development.”

* Portugal has been awarded an extra 1 billion euros (£870 million) from structural funds of which 150 million euros (£130 million) is earmarked for Madeira – an island which has a notorious record in abusing EU cash on “white elephant” projects in the past , including 3.5 million euros (£3 million) on marina, built in 2005 but now abandoned, identified in a Sunday telegraph investigation last year.

* Spain has got an extra 2.3 billion euros (£2 billion) – much of it to be spent on infrastructure despite the bursting of the construction bubble being identified as one of the main problems facing Spain’s crisis-hit economy.

* Belgium received an extra 133 million euros (£1.15 billion) from structural funds to boost the regions of Limburg and Wallonia – which have gross domestic products (GDP) of 96.1 per cent and 84.7 per cent of the EU average respectively.

* Luxembourg has been awarded 20 million euros (£17.34 million) for rural development despite the fact that it is the wealthiest EU member state and agriculture only accounts for 0.3 per cent of its economy – the lowest proportion in the entire union.

*Italy has received an extra 3 billion euros (£2.6 billion) – half from structural funds and half for rural development.

Pawel Swidlicki, research analyst at the Open Europe think tank, said: “David Cameron deserves credit for mustering an alliance in favour of an EU budget cut.

“However, these examples illustrate the ridiculous extent of horse-trading and special pleading on the part of many member states which results in an economically irrational and ineffective EU budget.

“In particular, using the structural funds as a form of deal-sweetener results in widespread misallocations of scarce public funds coupled with massive opportunity costs. Arguably, the net effect is to hamper growth rather than to boost it.”

The Prime Minister won allies at last month’s Brussels summit to win an overall package of £30 billion cuts – including a £1.7 billion administrative costs reduction which will reduce the pay and perks of the EU’s 55,000-strong civil service.

Britain will pay around £500 million a year less under the deal than it would have done under a a draft agreement proposed last year.

Mr Cameron worked closely with the leaders of the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden as well as Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. It was the first major EU summit since his pledge of an “in/out” referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

He faced down Francois Hollande, the French president, who called for cuts in the British rebate as well as originally backing a proposal for the overall budget to be £830 billion – to preserve farm subsidies paid through the Commons Agricultural Policy.

‘France is totally bankrupt’: French employment minister Michel Sapin embarrasses President Francois Hollande with shocking statement on state of the country’s economy

Unexpected news came during a radio interview yesterday and calls into further question Hollande’s controversial ‘tax and spend’ policies

John Hall

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

France’s employment minister Michel Sapin has admitted the country is “totally bankrupt”.

The unexpected news came during a radio interview yesterday and is thought to have sent the country’s business leaders into a state of shock.

“There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,” Mr Sapin said. “That is why we had to put a deficit reduction plan in place, and nothing should make us turn away from that objective.”

Mr Sapin’s “totally bankrupt” statement is likely to cause huge embarrassment for President Francois Hollande, who will be left to undo the potential damage to his socialist government’s reputation.

It also calls into further question Hollande’s controversial “tax and spend” policies that have seen numerous entrepreneurs and high profile celebrities leave the country.

The comments came as President Hollande attempts to improve the image of the French economy after pledging to reduce the country’s deficit by cutting spending by €60bn (£51.5bn) over the next five years and increasing taxes by €20bn (£17bn).

Among those who moved their wealth out of France are Hollywood star Gerard Depardieu and the country’s richest man Bernard Arnault.

There are even reports that Nicolas Sarkozy, the previous President of France, is preparing to move to London with his wife Carla Bruni for economic reasons.

Prime Minister David Cameron has previously said that Britain will “roll out the red carpet” to attract wealthy French people.

Pierre Moscovici, France’s finance minister, immediately tried to play down Mr Sapin’s comments, saying they were ‘inappropriate’.

Mr Moscovici said: “France is a really solvent country. France is a really credible country, France is a country that is starting to recover.”

France launches air strike in Mali

Fri, 11 Jan 2013 18:47 GMT


France’s President Francois Hollande leaves after delivering a statement on the situation in Mali at the Elysee Palace in Paris. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

* French armed forces launch Mali operation

* French carry out air strike

* France’s Hollande ‘cannot accept’ rebellion

* Mali launches counter-attack on rebel-held town

By Alexandria Sage and Tiemoko Diallo

PARIS/BAMAKO, Jan 11 (Reuters) – The French air force carried out an air strike in Mali on Friday in support of government forces trying to push back Islamist rebels, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

The raid came as France launched a military intervention in the west African state to help the government resist a push south by rebel forces.

Western powers fear the alliance of al Qaeda-linked militants that seized the northern two-thirds of Mali in April will seek to use the vast desert zone as a launchpad for international attacks.

“French forces brought their support this afternoon to Malian army units to fight against terrorist elements,” French President Francois Hollande told reporters. “This operation will last as long as is necessary.”

Hollande said United Nations Security Council resolutions meant France was acting in accordance with international laws.

Earlier, Hollande had made it clear that France would intervene to stop any further drive southward by Islamist rebels as Malian soldiers launched a counter-offensive to wrest back a town captured by militants this week.

Mali’s government appealed for urgent military aid from France on Thursday after Islamist fighters encroached further south, seizing the town of Konna in the centre of the country. The rebel advance caused panic among residents in the nearby towns of Mopti and Sevare, home to a military base and airport.

“We are faced with blatant aggression that is threatening Mali’s very existence. France cannot accept this,” Hollande said in a New Year speech to diplomats and journalists. “We will be ready to stop the terrorists’ offensive if it continues.”

The U.N. Security Council in December authorised the deployment of an African-led force supported by European states.

“The French believe that France, and Europe, face a real security threat from what is happening in the Sahel,” said Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

More than two decades worth of peaceful elections had earned the Mali a reputation as a bulwark of democracy in a part of Africa better known for turmoil – an image that unraveled in a matter of weeks after a coup last March that paved the way for the Islamist rebellion.

Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer and a major cotton grower, and home to the fabled northern desert city of Timbuktu – an ancient trading hub and UNESCO World Heritage site that hosted annual music festivals before the rebellion.


Residents had seen Western soldiers arriving late on Thursday at an airport at Sevare, 60 km (40 miles) south of Konna.

Sevare residents also reported the arrival of military helicopters and army reinforcements, which took part in the counter-attack to retake Konna overnight on Thursday in a bid to roll back the militant’s southward drive.

“Helicopters have bombarded rebel positions. The operation will continue,” a senior military source in Bamako said.

A source at Sevare airport also said around a dozen war planes had arrived on Friday. A spokesman for the Nigerian air force said planes had been deployed to Mali for a reconnaissance mission, not for combat.

A spokesman one of the main groups in the Islamist rebel alliance said they remained in control of Konna.

Asked whether the rebels intended to press ahead to capture Sevare and Mopti, the Ansar Dine spokesman, Sanda Ould Boumama, said: “We will make that clear in the coming days.” He said any intervention by France would be evidence of an anti-Islam bias.

The French foreign ministry stepped up its security alert on Mali and parts of neighbouring Mauritania and Niger on Friday, extending its red alert – the highest level – to include Bamako. France has 8 nationals in Islamist hands in the Sahara after a string of kidnappings.

“Due to the serious deterioration in the security situation in Mali, the threat of attack or abduction is growing,” the ministry said in its travel alert. “It is strongly recommended that people avoid unnecessarily exposing themselves to risks.”

France’s High Court: 75% Tax is Unconstitutional

Sunday, 30 December 2012

France’s Constitutional Council on Saturday rejected a 75 percent upper income tax rate to be introduced in 2013 in a setback to Socialist President Francois Hollande’s push to make the rich contribute more to cutting the public deficit.

The Council ruled that the planned 75 percent tax on annual income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million) – a flagship measure of Hollande’s election campaign – was unfair in the way it would be applied to different households.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government would redraft the upper tax rate proposal to answer the Council’s concerns and resubmit it in a new budget law, meaning Saturday’s decision could only amount to a temporary political blow.

While the tax plan was largely symbolic and would only have affected a few thousand people, it has infuriated high earners in France, prompting some such as actor Gerard Depardieu to flee abroad. The message it sent also shocked entrepreneurs and foreign investors, who accuse Hollande of being anti-business.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said the rejection of the 75 percent tax and other minor measures could cut up to 500 million euros in forecast tax revenues but would not hurt efforts to slash the public deficit to below a European Union ceiling of 3 percent of economic output next year.

“The rejected measures represent 300 to 500 million euros. Our deficit-cutting path will not be affected,” Moscovici told BFM television. He too said the government would resubmit a proposal to raise taxes on high incomes in 2013 and 2014.

The Council, made up of nine judges and three former presidents, is concerned the tax would hit a married couple where one partner earned above a million euros but it would not affect a couple where each earned just under a million euros.

UMP member Gilles Carrez, chairman of the National Assembly’s finance commission, told BFM television, however, that the Council’s so-called wise men also felt the 75 percent tax was excessive and too much based on ideology.


Tax This! Depardieu gives up French Citizenship

Monday, 17 December 2012
The actor Gérard Depardieu will be French no more, so exasperated is he with French taxes and the French government, he  declared in an angry open letter to France’s prime minister on Sunday,  The New York Times reports.


Mr. Depardieu, who has been accused by France’s  Socialist government of abandoning the country to avoid paying taxes,  will be giving up his French citizenship and taking up residence over  the border in Belgium, he wrote. Mr. Depardieu insisted that his move  was not solely for tax reasons, but also because he felt the government  believed that “success, creation, talent — difference, in fact — must be punished.”

Mr. Depardieu’s decision to leave France, where the  Socialist government has created a 75 percent marginal tax rate for  incomes above $1.3 million amid stagnating growth, rising unemployment  and a contracting budget, has drawn reprobation from politicians of all  ideological stripes, as well as the news media and a good number of  ordinary citizens. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has called the  actor’s departure unpatriotic and “pathetic,” while the labor minister,  Michel Sapin, deemed it the sign of a “form of personal degeneration.”

In his letter, published in the newspaper Le Journal  du Dimanche, Mr. Depardieu said he had paid an 85 percent tax rate on  his 2012 revenue and a total of 145 million euros, or $190 million, in  taxes over his working life.

“I am neither to be pitied nor to be praised, but I refuse the word ‘pathetic,’ ” Mr. Depardieu wrote.

Mr. Depardieu, 63, who has been in almost 200 films  and has won numerous awards, has drawn attention in recent years for his love of drinking and several related episodes that caused him  embarrassment.

“Who are you to judge me so, I ask you, Mr. Ayrault?”  he wrote in his letter. “Despite my excesses, my appetite and my love  of life, I am a free being, sir, and I will remain polite.”

On Friday, President François Hollande took up the  subject, calling for “ethical behavior” by French taxpayers and  suggesting that France may renegotiate its fiscal conventions with  Belgium. He also joked that French residents of Néchin, the Belgian  border village where Mr. Depardieu has bought a home, should not get too comfortable. Mr. Hollande noted that the mayor there is also a  Socialist.

While several wealthy French citizens have reportedly departed for other fiscal shores since Mr. Hollande’s election in May,  Sunday brought the unanticipated return to France of the writer Michel  Houellebecq, who had been living in Ireland, where tax rates are  relatively low.

“The major reason is that I want to speak my  language, once again, in everyday life,” Mr. Houellebecq wrote in an  e-mail to Agence France-Presse, insisting that taxes and politics had  little to do with his repatriation.

Mr. Depardieu, too, will be able to speak his native  tongue in his new home. Though many Belgians speak Flemish, Mr.  Depardieu’s neighbors in Néchin speak French.

David Cameron has been told he cannot “repatriate” powers from Brussels to Britain because membership of the European Union is “for life”.

Europe is ‘for life’, Francois Hollande tells David Cameron in EU power spat

David Cameron has been rebuked by France over his plans to repatriate powers from the EU

By , and Bruno Waterfield in Brussels

2:27PM GMT 14 Dec 2012

The French President, Francois Hollande, declared that Europe is not “a la carte” like a menu from which member states can pick and choose their powers.

He issued his rebuke to the Prime Minister as Mr Cameron insisted he would fight for a “better deal for Britain” and seek to take back certain powers from Europe.

The Coalition is conducting a comprehensive review of all the powers that the EU has over life in Britain, ranging from business and employment rules to the criminal justice system.

The review will determine which powers Mr Cameron seeks to claw back from Brussels when the next EU treaty is written, setting out closer political and economic links between the 17 countries in the euro.

However, Mr Hollande indicated that he would attempt to block Mr Cameron’s demands to “repatriate” powers in any proposed new deal for Britain.

Speaking to reporters at the European Council summit in Brussels, the French Socialist leader said: “To repatriate? Usually when a country commits it is for life.

“I believe that treaties are meant to be complied with. This discussion could take place but Europe is not a Europe in which you can take back competences. It is not Europe a la carte.”

Downing Street was not impressed by the French President’s intervention. A Number 10 source said: “It’s wrong to say you can’t repatriate powers. There’s no clause written down anywhere that says this can’t be done.

“Indeed, this Government has already returned the bailout power from the EU and the last EU Treaty provided for the UK to return powers on home affairs and justice if we choose.

“The point is that there needs to be flexibility to ensure that the interests of all EU members are respected. And clearly as the eurozone seek changes to allow for the closer integration they need, so others can seek changes to advance their interests too.”

Mr Cameron is under pressure at home to offer voters a referendum on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. A substantial proportion of his Conservative colleagues want a popular vote on whether the UK should quit Europe altogether.

Bill Cash MP, the chairman of the Commons European scruntiny committee, today warned that Mr Cameron was walking into a political storm by failing to take Tories with him on Europe.

“He’s got Ukip and all the opposition in the party. He is on a collision course and he is not dealing with it,” he said.

The Prime Minister has said that he favours remaining in the EU while stripping Brussels of control over large swathes of British life.

Germany has indicated that it is prepared to discuss British desires to repatriate powers to prevent Mr Cameron calling a straight “in-out” referendum.

On Friday, as the summit in Brussels concluded, the Prime Minister said he would continue to press for a better deal for Britain as the 17 countries in the eurozone agree to move towards full economic union with shared rules on tax.

Mr Cameron told reporters this would see the eurozone countries lose some of their individual sovereignty, a key reason why he would never allow Britain to join the single currency.

“One shouldn’t underestimate the very real difficulties and discussions that there are,” he said.

“These debates about sovereignty are one of the reasons why Britain has never joined and I believe Britain won’t ever join the single currency, certainly not while I am prime minister.

“But these debates about sovereignty and control are debates they are going to have to have. My point in my remarks is, as this plays out, this is changing the European Union.

“As it changes the European Union and the eurozone make changes that they need, so I believe there are opportunities for others, including Britain, to make changes ourselves.”

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is among a number of eurosceptic Conservatives who believe it is “morally wrong” for the eurozone countries to surrender their sovereignty over tax and spending to a centralised power.

Mr Cameron believes that it is inevitable that a single currency will require closer political and economic links between the eurozone states.

Hollande accused of interfering with partner’s defamation case

French President’s letter defending Valerie Trierweiler in ‘love triangle’ law suit sparks fury

Anne Penketh

Monday, 10 December 2012

Valérie Trierweiler, the journalist partner of the French President, François Hollande, was back in the headlines today when a libel suit she launched against two unofficial biographers backfired with the revelation that her husband and his Interior Minister had written letters to the court supporting her case.

The leaked letters raised questions about the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers in the Republic. Mr Hollande had pledged before his election last May that, as President, he would “allow justice to function in an independent way”.

It also played into the hands of the right-wing opposition party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). Its leader, Jean-François Copé, asked how Mr Hollande could have given “so many moral lessons to [former President Nicolas] Sarkozy while not applying them to himself.”

Ms Trierweiler, 47, has launched her libel action against two journalists who in September published a biography entitled La Frondeuse (The Troublemaker). She accuses them of invading her privacy and is seeking €80,000 (£64,000) damages.

The book notably alleged that she was in a love triangle nine years ago with a prominent right-wing politician, the former economic recovery minister Patrick Devedjian, and with Mr Hollande, the Socialist party leader, when all three were married or in long-term relationships. Mr Devedjian is also suing the book’s authors.

Mr Hollande’s letter was handwritten and on plain notepaper. In it, the President dismissed as “inventions” an allegation that he wrote to the UMP grandee Edouard Balladur in 1995, suggesting a rapprochement with the Socialists. The letter from the Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, was on paper with a ministry letterhead. Sources close to the President denied that Mr Hollande’s intervention was a form of “pressure” on the court, which is to rule on the case on 28 January. They told the AFP news agency that it was a “personal testimony” as a private citizen in the case concerning his partner.

Ms Trierweiler has been constantly in the media since Mr Hollande became President last year, and has jealously protected her privacy. She has remained on the staff of Paris-Match, although no longer as a political journalist. Colleagues suggest that there is unease at her issuing of privacy lawsuits since becoming First Lady, particularly given her former role on the the weekly magazine, where she is credited with being the first to develop celebrity coverage in France. Her role as First Lady, or as “nothing more than the President’s mistress”, remains unclear. Recent media coverage has highlighted her charity work.

At the weekend she got into more hot water while at a cultural event in her home town of Angers, where she received a letter for Mr Hollande from three activists opposed to the building of an airport in Nantes.

Ms Trierweiler was accused of undermining the authority of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault by meeting protesters opposed to plans for the new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, a pet project of the former mayor of Nantes.

Mr Hollande has become used to fielding questions from journalists about his partner since June, when he was embarrassed by a tweet she sent in support of a rival of Mr Hollande’s former partner, Ségolène Royal.

Ms Royal, a Socialist party heavyweight, is also the mother of Mr Hollande’s four children.


Nicolas Sarkozy ‘could be placed under investigation’ : Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security, did not deny the Elysee Palace hacking allegations

Nicolas Sarkozy faces the humiliating prospect of being placed under formal criminal investigation when he appears before a judge on Thursday to answer corruption charges.

Nicolas Sarkozy 'could be placed under investigation'

Nicolas Sarkozy is facing a number of investigations Photo: AP

By Peter Allen, Paris

3:01PM GMT 21 Nov 2012

The possibility was raised by judicial sources before the former French president’s visit to the Palais de Justice in Bordeaux.

There he will be questioned at length by Judge Jean-Michel Gentil over his links with Liliane Bettencourt, the l’Oreal heiress and France’s richest woman.

The principal allegation in the so-called ‘Bettencourt Affair’ is that Mr Sarkozy accepted thousands of pounds in illegal cash to fund his election campaign in 2007.

In return, it is claimed, Mrs Bettencourt was offered massive tax breaks on her multi-million pounds fortune after Sarkozy came to power.

While some believe Mr Sarkozy will be quizzed “as a witness”, judicial sources told AFP, France’s national news agency, that “he may be indicted”.

This would mean him facing the kind of criminal trial which his former mentor and predecessor as conservative president, Jacques Chirac, went through.

Mr Chirac ended up receiving a suspended prison sentence for fraud last December, becoming the first head of state in the history of the Fifth Republic to be treated as a common criminal.

Judge Gentil is examining evidence that Mr Sarkozy “abused the weakness” of Mrs Bettencourt, 90.

Investigators are examining the withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of euros from Swiss bank accounts, and the claim that cash was delivered in brown envelopes.

Mr Sarkozy, who lost May’s presidential election to Socialist Francois Hollande, has denied a series of allegations of illegal campaign financing.

Police raided the Paris mansion Mr Sarkozy shares with his third wife, Carla Bruni, in July – just weeks after he lost his presidential immunity from prosecution.

Mr Sarkozy’s legal troubles mounted on Tuesday when it emerged that judges are investigating millions he spent on opinion polls when he was president.

The allegation is that he enriched friends who produced the polls, many of which were used for personal reasons including gauging how popular Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was as First Lady.

Mr Sarkozy is also being investigated over the Karachi Affair – a fraud inquiry centred on submarine sales to Pakistan – and allegations that he received millions from former Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi.

Despite all this, Mr Sarkozy, who is attempt to carve himself a new career as an international speaker in the Tony Blair mould, has not ruled out running for president again in 2017.

Mr Sarkozy’s aides said he was delivering a speech in London today.

Separately reports emerged that the US ‘spied’ on Mr Sarkozy”s presidency by hacking into ministerial computers during his last weeks in office, it was claimed yesterday.

France’s cyber-warfare agency believes that a computer virus found in the Elysee was similar to Flame, which was allegedly created by a US-Israeli team to target Iranian computers.

It is thought to have been used on computers of Sarkozy aides including Xavier Musca, his chief of staff during the presidential election.

Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security, did not deny the Elysee Palace hacking allegations, but said: “We have no greater partner than France, we have no greater ally than France.”

Actor Gerard Depardieu joins French tax exiles in Belgium

Gerard Depardieu

    President Hollande blamed for driving out a ‘national  treasure’ with planned 75 per cent top tax rate


LAST UPDATED AT 16:06 ON Fri 9 Nov  2012
FRENCH President Francois Hollande is under fire after reports that his policy  of increasing taxes for the rich has prompted actor Gerard Depardieu to flee the  country and move to Belgium.

Depardieu is reported to have bought a  property just over the border from Lille, and according to The Times the news has prompted “a bout of hand-wringing in  Paris over the loss of a figure widely considered to be a national  treasure”.

Belgian newspaper Le Soir said on Thursday that Depardieu had agreed to  purchase a property in the village of Nechin and, after agreeing the deal, was  seen dining in a “chic and gastronomic” restaurant where he posed for pictures  with fans.

French news magazine Le Point described the village as a “tax haven” for rich  families from northern France. “Nechin may be less glamorous than London,  Geneva, Brussels and its climate is less pleasant than Monaco, but 27 per cent  of the population is French,” it noted.

Among Depardieu’s  neighbours will be members of the Mulliez family, who own the Auchan supermarket  chain.

It is widely believed that the actor, who plays Obelix in  the French Asterix movies but found fame outside his homeland with Hollywood  films like Green Card, is moving to escape Hollande’s new tax  system.

“The subject of the country’s wealthy moving abroad to  avoid the tax man has long been a fiery issue in France, and has only been  heightened by the proposed 75 per cent tax rate for top earners, due to be  introduced in 2013,” reported France 24.

“Although Depardieu’s fortune has  never been disclosed, it includes a production company, vineyards in Anjou,  Bordeaux, Italy and Morocco and a restaurant in Paris,” added the Times.

He is not the first famous actor to leave France since Hollande’s  election in May – his Asterix co-star Christian Clavier has moved to London.

And there was a political row earlier this year when France’s richest  man, Bernard Arnault, revealed he had applied for Belgian citizenship, although  he maintained the move had nothing to do with avoiding tax. ·

Read more:


IMF warns over-taxed France risks slipping behind Italy and Spain

The International Monetary Fund has told France to take urgent measures to head off national economic decline, warning that the country risks being left behind as southern Europe embraces reform.

France's President Francois Hollande delivers a speech for the opening of the International trade fair for livestock Space 2012 in Rennes

Francois Hollande is facing a nationwide revolt by business leaders Photo: Reuters

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7:26PM GMT 05 Nov 2012


Throwing the guantlet at the feet of the Socialist president Francois Hollande, the IMF said rising tax rates are undermining France as a place “to work and invest” and leading to a “significant loss of competitiveness”.

“There is a risk it will get worse if France does not adapt at the same pace as its trading partners in Europe, notably Italy and Spain,” it said.

The IMF challenge had an added piquancy coming from a body headed by France’s Christine Lagarde, widely touted as the next Gaulliste leader and a future rival for the French presidency.

The warning came as French industrialist Louis Gallois delivered a long-awaited report to Mr Hollande calling for “shock therapy” to stop the national rot, with drastic cuts in business payroll taxes to claw back loss ground against Germany and other EMU states.

Mr Gallois, ex-head of the EADS aerospace group and a revered figure in France, said all parties need to unite in a patriotic push to save the nation.

His report listed 22 measures. These include a €30bn cut in payroll levies, worth 1.5pc of GDP, to be offset by a higher VAT and other consumption taxes. The aim is to reduce the “tax wedge”, or tax share of labour costs. This has risen to 50pc, among the world’s highest.

Mr Gallois called for a state bank to channel cheap credit to exporters, a subsidy likely to raise the eyebrows of the EU’s competition police.

Much of the report is a slap in the face for Mr Hollande who cut VAT in June to protect buying power and has just raised company taxes yet further in the 2013 budget. He is facing a nationwide revolt by business leaders.

Arnaud Montebourg, the production revival minister, vowed to study the report with “respect”, acknowledging that France faces a national emergency.

French industry has been losing 60,000 jobs a year for a decade, cutting manufacturing to 12pc of GDP – the same as Britain. This has become a neuraligic issue over recent months with a string of high-profile plant closures and a state rescue for Renault, which saw car sales crash 26pc in October.

“The socialist government is not ready to confront the unions or reform the French economy funadamentally,” said professor Eric Dor from IESEG School of Management in Lille.

“We are wasting years. Unlike Germany, we don’t compete well in hi-tech areas and we face competition from Italy and Spain as they cut unit labour costs. The government is in denial about this,” he said.

France’s share of world exports has fallen to 3pc from 6.3pc in 1990, losing ground against Spain, Beglium, and Holland, as well as Germany. The trade balance has switched from surplus of 2.5pc of GDP to a deficit of 2.4pc over the last twelve years.

While Germany squeezed wages in the early EMU years to gain an edge, France let unit labour costs ratchet upwards to €35.30 an hour. This is now 10pc above German levels. The IMF said much of French industry is in “low to medium-tech products” that face rivals in Asia.

Gaulliste deputy Jacques Myard said it is too late for France to claw back the lost ground within EMU. “Only a devaluation of 30pc against Germany can restore the competitiveness of French firms and provide the necessary shock. We have to confront the real issue, which is that the euro is strangling the French economy. We have to leave. All else is just waffle,” he said.

Free market critics say France’s root problem is a Leviathan state – now 56pc of GDP, higher than Denmark – combined with cossetted welfare and early retirement. Just 40pc of those aged 55 to 64 are in work, compared with 57.7pc in Germany.

Mr Gallois was careful not to criticise the sacred modèle français. He also dropped his call for shale gas development after the Greens said it would “absolutely violate” the party’s post-election deal with Mr Hollande.

Dominique Barbet from BNP Paribas said faiure to exploit France abundant shale reserves may prove as costly mistake as nuclear power plants age and French electricity prices climb towards EU levels. “The loss of this comparative advantage threatens the existence of entire energy-intensive manufacturing sectors, such as aluminium, glass, and steel,” he said.

Mr Hollande promised “tough decisions” when he unveils his own reform package on Tuesday.

Mr Dor said the president had better deliver. “If he refuses to act, the markets will act for him. Perhaps that is the sort of shock that it will take.”

France makes billion euro tax claim against Google: report

PARIS (AFP)French tax authorities have made a billion-euro ($1.3 billion) claim against Google to pressure it in a dispute over compensation to media websites, a French newspaper reported, a claim denied by the US Internet giant’s local arm.

The weekly Canard Enchaine said in its edition to hit news-stands on Wednesday that the tax claim concerns the transfer prices set between Google’s Irish holding company and the French unit for four tax years, without disclosing its sources.

French tax authorities told AFP they do not comment on specific cases due to taxpayer privacy. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Google France spokesman told AFP that the company had received no such notification.

“We continue to cooperate with the French authorities as we have done till now,” the spokesman said in an email, stressing that “Google conforms with the fiscal laws of all the countries in which we operate, and with European rules.”

The weekly said the tax claim was brought up during Monday’s meeting between President Francois Hollande and Google chief Eric Schmidt, and that it was a bargaining chip in the dispute with French media.

Hollande said the French government would adopt a law if necessary to settle a dispute with French media websites, which want the search engine to hand over a percentage of the advertising revenue it earns from directing users to their content.

“If the negotiations between Google and the media publishers don’t result in a deal by the end of the year, Google already knows what awaits it from a tax point of view: one billion,” said the weekly.

“Otherwise, there will no doubt be room to negotiate.”

In March, a source told AFP that French authorities had made a tax claim against Google.

The weekly L’Express reported the tax authorities were looking into whether Google had correctly paid company and sales tax between 2008 and 2010.

Google uses a number of measures to reduce the amount of tax it pays in France by funnelling most revenue through a Bermuda-registered holding and then reporting it in Ireland.

According to estimates Google generated between 1.25 billion and 1.4 billion euros in revenue in France last year, primarily due to Internet advertising. It paid only a little more than 5 million euros in tax, primarily due to the corporate tax.

French business erupts in fury against “disastrous” François Hollande

France is sliding into a grave economic crisis and risks a full-blown “hurricane” as investors flee rocketing tax rates, the country’s business federation has warned.

'Mediocre' Francois Hollande gets back to work

Francois Hollande is tightening fiscal policy by 2pc of GDP next year to meet EU deficit targets. Photo: EPA

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9:52PM BST 15 Oct 2012

“The situation is very serious. Some business leaders are in a state of quasi-panic,” said Laurence Parisot, head of employers’ group MEDEF.

“The pace of bankruptcies has accelerated over the summer. We are seeing a general loss of confidence by investors. Large foreign investors are shunning France altogether. It’s becoming really dramatic.”

MEDEF, France’s equivalent of the CBI, said the threat has risen from “a storm warning to a hurricane warning”, adding that the Socialist government of François Hollande has yet to understand the “extreme gravity” of the crisis.

The immediate bone of contention is Article 6 of the new tax law, which raises the top rate of capital gains tax from 34.5pc to 62.2pc. This compares with 21pc in Spain, 26.4pc in Germany and 28pc in Britain.

“Let’s be clear, Article 6 is not acceptable, even if modified. We will not be complicit in a disastrous economic mistake,” Mrs Parisot told Le Figaro.

An alliance of private organisations in France has issued a protest entitled “State of Emergency for Business”, warning that confiscatory tax rates threaten lasting damage to the French economy.

Mrs Parisot said the policies border on economic illiteracy: “The idea of aligning taxes on capital with those on wages is a profound economic error. It is scandalous that the French have been left in such economic ignorance for years.”

French business has called for “competiveness shock” of business tax cuts to claw back lost ground against Germany. Instead, it faces an extra €10bn (£8.1bn) of business costs from the budget unveiled in September.

Mr Hollande is tightening fiscal policy by 2pc of GDP next year to meet EU deficit targets, with two-thirds coming from higher taxes. The budget does little to shrink the French state. Spending has risen to 55pc of GDP, similar to Sweden but without Nordic labour flexibility.

French economic growth has been near zero for the past five quarters. It may have tipped into recession over the summer as the malaise spread from Italy and Spain, according to Banque de France.

New car registrations were down 7.7pc in the third quarter from a year earlier. Unemployment has been creeeping up, reaching a post-euro high of 10.6pc.

The fear is that a fiscal shock in 2013 will tip the economy into a sharp downward slide. “France needs more fiscal austerity right now like a hole in the head,” said sovereign debt strategist Nicholas Spiro.

“They don’t have any chance of meeting their growth target of 0.8pc next year, but that does not in itself put French debt at risk.

“The real danger is contagion if things turn ugly in Spain.”

Finance minister Pierre Moscovici has hinted at a shift in policy, saying there may have to be a “reorientation” of the eurozone’s fiscal strategy. “The people are not going to like Europe if it can’t offer growth,” he said.

Mr Hollande has promised reforms to the labour market next year but MEDEF remains sceptical.

Mrs Parisot said business feels deeply unloved and is “in revolt across the country”.

Francois Hollande ‘shared’ his mistress Valerie Trierweiler with Sarkozy minister

Francois Hollande “shared” his mistress Valerie Trierweiler with a minister from Nicolas Sarkozy’s government in a Jules et Jim-style relationship, a new biography on France’s first lady claims.

Francois Hollande 'shared' his mistress Valerie Trierweiler with Sarkozy minister

Supposedly Mr Devedjian hesitated so much that Trierweiler let herself to be courted by Hollande Photo: REX FEATURES
Henry Samuel

By , Paris

6:19PM BST 10 Oct 2012

La Frondeuse (The Troublemaker), claims that Miss Trierweiler, 47, had an affair with Patrick Devedjian, 68, a former economic recovery minister, in the early 2000s, but that the Socialist Mr Hollande, 58, muscled in when the Right-winger failed to commit himself further to the relationship.

There followed a period “a bit like Jules et Jim,” said the co-author Christophe Jakubyszyn, a close friend of the first lady, referring to the 1962 François Truffaut film in which Jeanne Moreau is in a love triangle with two men and all three live in the same house.

“Patrick Devedjian hesitated so much that Valérie Trierweiler allowed herself to be courted by a second man of another political persuasion: François Hollande,” he said.

“Little by little, the relationship with Hollande took precedence over the other, notably after an ultimatum in 2003 which Devedjian failed to respect. But he suffered a lot from the break-up. It was a bit like Jules et Jim. Both men still have a lot of respect for each other,” he said.

All three had other partners at the time.

In another extract of La Frondeuse, out today, Miss Trierweiler is cited as claiming she was “chatted up” by Mr Sarkozy “while he was holding his ex-wife’s Cecila’s hand” at an Elysée garden party in the same period.

“You are so beautiful,” he is said to have whispered to Miss Trierweiler, then a political journalist. She responded with a “withering look”.

Clearly annoyed at the rebuff, he is said to have told other journalists: “Who does she think she is? Am I not good enough for her?”

The book says they fell out irrevocably in March over claims that Mr Sarkozy’s entourage leaked information to the press that one of her sons had been stopped by police in the street with a banger. Miss Trierweiler alleged that he did so as a damage limitation exercise after his youngest son, Louis, was caught throwing tomatoes at policemen from the Elysée Palace. The revelations about Mr Hollande’s romantic life came a day after a French former minister mocked the president, who is about to legalise homosexual unions in France, for wanting “marriage for everyone, except himself”.

“It’s a little contradiction, I have to smile about it,” said Gérard Longuet, a former defence minister. The French government plans to legalise same-sex marriage by the middle of next year.

It was unlikely to help Mr Hollande’s popularity, which has sunk to its lowest level since his May election, partly down to annoyance at his inability to keep his complex love life in check.

Mr Hollande has four children from a previous relationship with his Socialist colleague Ségolène Royal, with whom he also lived without marrying.

Miss Royal clashed with Miss Trierweiler over an infamous tweet in June’s legislative elections where the French first lady backed Miss Royal’s rival. She has recently kept a low profile after one poll found 67 per cent of voters had a negative opinion of her.

Another recent biography squarely blamed Mr Hollande for the war between his current and former girlfriends, claiming he had stoked tensions by considering returning to Miss Royal after her defeat in the 2007 presidential election. Alix Bouilhaguet, the book’s other author, said Miss Trierweiler was seeking a rapprochement with Miss Royal to “calm things down”. She has not been on speaking terms with Mr Hollande’s children since the tweet episode.

Mr Devedjian was indirectly involved in a sex and politics scandal recently when his former head of staff wrote a thinly disguised political fable set in Mr Sarkozy’s former fiefdom in the rich western suburbs of Paris.

Le Monarque, Son Fils, Son Fief (The monarch, his son, his fiefdom) by Marie-Célie Guillaume describes a power-mad leader known as “Rocky” who does pelvic floor exercises with his personal trainer on the Élysée lawn and shadow boxes in front of a mirror.

More controversially, the summer best-seller recounts how minutes before a public appearance, “Rocky” demands a sexual favour from a provincial mayor in return for subsidising a medieval history museum.

Mr Sarkozy was said to be livid, calling for Miss Guillaume’s dismissal.

Selling ‘panic’ on France’s luxury property market as millionaires rush to flee looming tax hikes

More than 400 €1million homes put on the market in Paris since socialist  Francois Hollande elected to power

  • France’s super-rich are  looking to relocate to ‘wealth-friendly’ countries like Britain
  • Recruitment agency for  high-paid banking jobs in London sees increase in French  candidates

By Ian Sparks

PUBLISHED:10:51 EST, 8  October 2012| UPDATED:10:53 EST, 8 October 2012

France’s luxury property market has hit a  selling ‘panic’ as millionaires rush to flee the socialist government’s looming  tax hikes, a leading estate agent has revealed.

More than 400 Paris homes worth more than €1million have been put on the market since President Francois Hollande came to  power in May – more than double the same period last year.

Many of France’s super-rich want to escape to  ‘wealth-friendly’ countries like Britain, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Exodus: The super-wealthy appear to be abandoning Paris (pictured) for wealth-friendly countries. A total of 400 homes worth more than ¿1million in the French capital have been put on the market since May
Exodus: The super-wealthy appear to be abandoning Paris  (pictured) for wealth-friendly countries. A total of 400 homes worth more than  ¿1million in the French capital have been put on the market since May

The exodus has been triggered by a new higher  tax of 75 per cent on all earnings over €1million – £780,000 – which will come  into force later this year.

They also fear more tough new taxes on moving  money overseas and sales of company shares.

Paris estate agent Daniel Feau said: ‘It’s  nearly a general panic. Some 400 to 500 residences worth more than €1million  have come onto the Paris market since May.

‘And the profile of those who are leaving has  changed, from the idle rich to managers of major international corporations and  entrepreneurs who are scared of a marginal tax rate of 62.21 percent on sales of  stock.’

Thibault de Saint Vincent, president of  Barnes France estate agents, added: ‘With the Internet it is now possible to  work in any corner of the world.

‘Those who are going abroad fear a future  taxes on income and capital movements.’

Looming tax rise: France's super-wealthy have been looking to relocate since Francois Hollande (pictured) came to powerLooming tax rise: France’s super-wealthy have been  looking to relocate since Francois Hollande (pictured) came to power

In London, recruitment agency Astbury Martin – which specialises in highly-paid banking jobs – said it had seen a 51 per cent  in applications from French jobseekers.

Managing director Jonathan Nicholson said:  ‘There is a definite spike in French-speaking candidates.

‘We have not seen similar increases in  candidates from other countries, so it may well be connected to May’s change in  government in France.’

A separate survey by website  revealed 42 percent of French workers were willing to move to the UK, compared  to only 32 percent of the global workforce which would be happy to work in  France.

And British estate agent Sotherby’s said its  French offices sold more than 100 properties over €1.7 million between April and  June this year – a marked increase on the same period in 2011.

Sotheby’s French boss Alexander Kraft said:  ‘The result of the presidential election has had a real impact on our  sales.

‘Now a large number of wealthy French  families are leaving the country as a direct result of the proposals of the new  government.

‘These properties are then bought up by  foreign investors looking for a stable real estate market like France to invest  in.

‘It shows the high-end property market is  holding up very well, even in these difficult times.’

And a report earlier this year by British  estate agent Knight Frank said the tax plans had sent French interest in luxury  London homes rocketing.

Inquiries from wealthy French for London  homes worth more than five million pounds soared by 30 per cent in the first  three months of this year, the statistics showed.

And interest in homes worth between one and  five million rose by 11 per cent, it was found.

Heading for the UK? London recruitment agencies that specialise in highly-paid banking jobs had seen a 51 per cent rise in applications from French jobseekersHeading for the UK? London recruitment agencies that  specialise in highly-paid banking jobs had seen a 51 per cent rise in  applications from French jobseekers

Liam Bailey, Knight Frank’s global head of  residential research, said: ‘Evidence from web search activity backs up a  noticeable spike in anecdotal comments from our office network, where French  applicants have become much more noticeable in recent months.’

Prime minister David Cameron angered the  French in June when he said he would ‘roll out the red carpet to wealthy French  citizens and firms who wanted move out and pay their taxes in  Britain.

He told the B20 business summit in Mexico:  ‘If the French go ahead with a 75 per cent top rate of tax we will roll out the  red carpet and welcome more French businesses to Britain and they can pay tax in  Britain and pay for our health service and schools and everything  else.’

The comments left one French politician so  offended he suggested Mr Cameron must have been ‘drunk’ when he made  them.

Gallic MP Claude Bartolone, a staunch ally of  President Hollande, said: ‘I hope that it was an after-dinner remark and that he  didn’t have all his wits about him when he said these things.’

France’s European Affairs Minister Bernard  Cazeneuve insisted there was no ‘exodus’, adding: ‘What I can answer to this  statement from the British prime minister is that French bosses are  patriots.

‘There is a range of measures we will take in  favour of business, measures that will support investment and encourage business  to stay in France.

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Thousands take to the streets of Paris in move described by government minister as ‘fundamental error’ against austerity

French protesters march in ‘resistance’ to austerity

  • Kim Willsher in Pars The Guardian,   Sunday 30 September 2012 11.48 EDT
Protesters carry a banner reading 'no to austerity'

Protesters carry a banner reading ‘no to austerity’ at a march in Paris. Photograph: Michel Euler/AP

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to protest against the spread of economic “austerity” in France and Europe.

Chanting “resistance, resistance”, the crowds had been rallied by around 60 organisations, including the leftwing Front de Gauche and the French Communist party, which oppose the European budget treaty.

“Today is the day the French people launch a movement against the politics of austerity,” said the Front de Gauche president, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

A few hours before the protest started Jérome Cahuzac, a junior budget minister, described the demonstration as a “fundamental” error. “I think they are committing a fundamental error in thinking that the policies we are following are weakening France, when in fact these policies are strengthening it,” he told Europe 1.

The French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, defended the European budget treaty and accused the protesters of taking a risk with history. “To take the risk of aggravating the crisis, which is not only an economic crisis but also a euro crisis … The ambiguity of saying ‘non’ is also something that could lead to the end of the euro.”

He added that he and the president, François Hollande, “would never be responsible … for the disappearance of the euro. The support of the majority in these circumstances is essential. We can’t swerve away, the future of the euro as well as growth and prosperity are in doubt,” Ayrault added.

For Annick Coupé of the Solidaires union, the demonstration on Sunday was aimed at creating a “show of force for the weeks to come” in which the government will consider pension, social security and employment reforms.

“Just because we helped defeat Nicolas Sarkozy [the former right of centre president] doesn’t mean we’re now going to shut up,” she said

France’s richest man applies to become Belgian to escape 75 per cent tax rate

By Peter Allen

PUBLISHED:05:13 EST, 9 September 2012| UPDATED:09:50 EST, 9 September 2012

Bernard Arnault has applied for Belgian nationality Bernard Arnault has applied for Belgian nationality

France’s richest man has applied for Belgian nationality – as the Socialist government in his home country raises the tax rate to 75 per cent.

The announcement by Bernard Arnault, who is worth a conservative 30 billion pounds, comes after President Francois Hollande admitted that he ‘dislikes the rich’.

But Mr Arnault’s move has led to a crisis for the tax-and-spend Socialist, with former minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement saying: ‘The vast majority of French elites do not believe in France anymore.’

Mr Arnault, chief executive of the luxury goods group Louis-Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy, has already been fiercely critical of Mr Hollande’s new tax initiatives.

Today he admitted that he had ‘requested Franco-Belgian duel-nationality’, and that he is expected to spend a lot more time in his mansion in Belgian.

Francois Fillon, the conservative who stepped down as Prime Minister of France in May, said ‘stupid decisions’ by the Socialists who replaced his own government had prompted Mr Arnault to become a Belgian.

Mr Fillon said: ‘When you take stupid decisions, you get these terrible results.

‘The chief of one of the best companies in the world, who symbolises French know-how and success, known throughout the world, has been prompted to change his nationality because of the fiscal policy which is being applied in our country.’

Guillaume Peltier, another member of Mr Fillon’s UMP coalition, said Mr Arnault’s decision was the ‘direct consequence of the government’s project.’

Politicians from every side of the  political spectrum have expressed concern at the development, with  Socialist Party MEP saying: ‘When you leave France, you don’t leave in  difficult times.’

Earlier  this year, Prime Minister David Cameron infuriated Mr Hollande by saying that Britain would ‘roll out the red carpet’ to French people who  wanted to escape high taxes in France.

Former Prime Minister of France Francois Fillon (left) said ‘stupid decisions’ by the socialist government led by President Francois Hollande (right) had prompted Mr Arnault to become a Belgian

As the furore caused by Mr Arnault’s announcement built up, the multi-billionaire tried to play his decision.

Following reports in the Belgian media that he was solely interested in escaping Mr Hollande’s so-called ‘super tax’, a spokesman for Mr Arnaud said: ‘Contrary to the information published today, Mr Bernard Arnault says he is and remains a French tax resident.

‘Winning Franco-Belgian dual nationality will not alter this situation, nor his determination to pursue the development of LVMH and job creation.’

Mr Arnault submitted his application for Belgian nationality last week, said Georges Dallemagne, President of the Committee on Naturalisation of the House of Representatives, one of the two chambers of the Belgian Parliament.

‘The case will be treated like any other of the 47,000 applications in our inbox,’ said Mr. Dallemagne, saying that applicant must ‘demonstrate three years of residence in Belgium’ or ‘true links with the kingdom’.

Mr Arnault has a vast home in central Paris, but also one in Brussels, and insisted that he has many links with Belgian, ‘both personally and professionally’.

Mr Arnault is a firm supporter of conservative politicians across Europe, including France’s last president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

He also counts former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, himself now a multi-millionaire, among his firm friends.

Mr Hollande said on Friday that he would not back down on his super tax plans, saying : ‘I made commitments and they will be carried through’.

Greece may sell off islands amid privatization scheme: report

By Stephen C. Webster Thursday, August 23, 2012 12:32 EDT


A view from a Greek island. Photo:, all rights reserved.

The Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said this week that the country is willing to sell off its uninhabited islands as part of a plan to accelerate privatization across the country, telling French newspaper Le Monde that it is the only way to save Greece.

The prime minister was quoted that Greece would still retain national sovereignty over any islands sold to private investors, “on condition that it doesn’t pose a national security problem.”

“It would not be a case of getting rid of the isles, but of transforming unused terrain into capital that can generate revenue, for a fair price,” Samaras reportedly said.

The country possesses about 6,000 tiny islands in the Mediterranean Sea, but only about 227 are actually inhabited. Samaras reportedly said that the Greece is finally willing to let some of the uninhabited islands be used for commercial purposes, which Greek lawmakers have long resisted.

The German government first suggested in 2010 that Greece sell off some islands, drawing outrage. In Thursday’s edition of Le Monde, Samaras painted a dark picture of a potential Greek exit from Europe’s common currency and insisted the government continue selling off assets and public lands