Irish beef appears to be onto a winner in France, according to Le Figaro, the biggest selling newspaper in France. A headline in last week’s paper roughly translated to ‘Irish beef seduces the best French tables’. Eric de La Chesnais, the author of the piece, explained to his readers that Ireland played the quality and traceability card to build a reputation in the home of the biggest beef producer in Europe. He explains that this was done, not by tackling the big French brands head-on but by building a reputation with consumers for excellence through meeting the levels of excellence demanded at the tables of the great Michelin starred chefs. Head Chef of the Le Diane Michelin starred restaurant, Christophe Schmitt, told the paper that like others, he “was conquered by the quality, tenderness and the exceptional marbelling of this meat”.
Hours after brothers Khalid and Ibrahim El-Bakraoui and two other men (one of whom may or may not have been bombmaker Najim Laachraoui) detonated explosives-laden vests and luggage at the Brussels airport and metro murdering nearly two dozen people and wounding scores more, we were alarmed but not entirely surprised to see Belgium evacuate the Tihange nuclear power plant.
We say we weren’t entirely surprised because way back on November 30, a raid on an Auvelais home rented by Mohamed Bakkali - who was arrested four days earlier and may have used the residence to shelter the Paris attackers including the supposed leader of the Brussels cell Abdelhamid Abaaoud - turned up an hours-long (some reports had suggested it was a mere 10 minutes long, an apparently incorrect assessment) surveillance tape that appeared to show a top Belgian nuclear official (see here).
“A small video camera stashed in a row of bushes silently recorded the comings and goings of the family of a Brussels-area man with an important scientific pedigree last year, producing a detailed chronology of the family’s movements,” Foreign Policy wrote, late last month. “At one point, two men came under cover of darkness to retrieve the camera, before driving away with their headlamps off, a separate surveillance camera in the area revealed later.”
If, as some suspect, those two men were the Bakraoui brothers, it would suggest that the Brussels cell which is now well on its way to going down in jihadist lore as the most “successful” sleeper cell in the history of radical Islam, was in the advanced stages of trying to procure the materials needed to build a dirty bomb.
The devastating suicide bombings in Brussels on Tuesday morning have raised new questions about jihadist networks based in Belgium, which were also believed to be behind the attacks in Paris in November. The attacks at the main Belgian airport and in the Brussels subway came just a few days after Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the earlier Paris attacks, was arrested in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels; and Belgian authorities have suggested that there may be other connections to the Paris attacks as well.
Why has Belgium become such a focus of European jihad? And why has it been so difficult for Belgian authorities to contain the problem? Joost Hiltermann spoke to Didier Leroy, a leading terrorism researcher at the Royal Military Academy of Belgium and an adjunct at the Free University of Brussels.
All three suspects identified in connection with the Brussels bombings, which killed 31 and injured hundreds, have links to the Paris attackers, underscoring the challenge Europe faces in tracking terror suspects across borders.
BERLIN (AFP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's party risks a drubbing at key state elections Sunday as voters punish the German leader for her liberal refugee policy, while the right-wing populist AfD eyes major gains as it scoops up the protest vote.
More than 12 million voters are due to elect three new regional parliaments for the southwestern states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as eastern Saxony-Anhalt in the so-called Super Sunday polls.
The elections are the biggest since a record influx of refugees to Germany, and disgruntled voters are expected to seize on the opportunity to hit the ruling coalition where it hurts.
"These elections are very important... as they will serve as a litmus test for the government's disputed policy" on refugees, Duesseldorf University political scientist Jens Walther told AFP.
European Union leaders on Monday delayed until next week a decision on a deal with Turkey to cope with the migrant crisis, after Ankara suddenly ratcheted up its demands in return for its cooperation at a summit in Brussels.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stunned his counterparts by demanding an extra three billion euros ($3.3 billion) in aid in exchange for his country’s help to counter the continent’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.
He also proposed a refugee swap under which the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes back from the overstretched Greek islands, a move that rights groups say would be illegal.
'BIG QUESTIONS ABOUT THOSE €30 BILLION'
Davutoglu further demanded that the 28-nation bloc would also bring forward visa-free travel for Turks to June, and speed up the country’s long-stalled EU membership bid.
After extending the meeting into the early hours of Tuesday to ponder the cost of Turkey’s help, the EU leaders said they backed the proposal in principle but would need until the next scheduled European summit next week to deal with the controversial proposals.
IN THE eyes of many foreigners, two numbers encapsulate French economic policy over the past decade or so: 75 and 35. The first refers to the top income-tax rate of 75%, promised by François Hollande to seduce the left when he was the Socialist presidential candidate in 2012. The second is the 35-hour maximum working week, devised by a Socialist government in 2000 and later retained by the centre-right. Each has been a totem of French social preferences. Yet, to the consternation of some of his voters, Mr Hollande applied the 75% tax rate for only two years, and then binned it. Now he has drawn up plans that could, in effect, demolish the 35-hour week, too.
Mr Hollande’s government is reviewing a draft labour law that would remove a series of constraints French firms face, both when trying to adapt working time to shifting business cycles and when deciding whether to hire staff. In particular, it devolves to firms the right to negotiate longer hours and overtime rates with their own trade unions, rather than having to follow rules dictated by national industry-wide deals. The 35-hour cap would remain in force, but it would become more of a trigger for overtime pay than a rigid constraint on hours worked. These could reach 46 hours a week, for a maximum of 16 weeks. Firms would also have greater freedom to shorten working hours and reduce pay, which can currently be done only in times of “serious economic difficulty”. Emmanuel Macron, the economy minister, has called such measures the “de facto” end of the 35-hour week.
Ride-hailing apps have created jobs for Paris’s poorer youth, but a regulatory clampdown looms
Joseph Francois employs 140 drivers and heads a trade body representing those working for ride-hailing apps Baba, or “Sanka” as he is known to his friends in Bobigny, a suburb in northern Paris, likes to say that Uber got him out of jail — and kept him out. A high-school dropout, Baba started to slip into petty crime in his teenage years, much like many youngsters in the unemployment-stricken immigrant enclaves that encircle France’s capital. At 17, he was sentenced to four months in prison for a robbery. The conviction was erased from his record because he was under 18 but in 2012 he was in jail again. By then, Uber had rolled out its ride-hailing app in France. A friend who had started a minicab company using Uber’s technology offered Baba a job as a driver and a judge let him out early under judicial review. Since then, Baba has been working 10 to 12 hours nightly, six days a week. In 2014, he gained a licence to operate his own chauffeur service. “Without this job, maybe I would be in prison,” Baba says, laughing as he drove his Peugeot 508 to a garage through rundown rows of small houses. Now, the 24-year-old wants to set up a transport company with his older sister and take on people to work for him. He is a role model for his friend Amara Koita, also an Uber driver, who says he avoided prison only because his mother sent him to Senegal to study religion for three years after he skipped school.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her government is unable to help Greece with the migrant crisis, remarking that times have moved on since she was able to help Hungary out with a similar problem in 2015.
Last year when many migrants were stuck in Hungary German Chancellor Angela Merkel did everything possible to allow them to move on to Germany, fearing that there may be tensions and violence if they remained bottle-necked in the central European country. Now with a similar situation happening in Greece after the closure of the Macedonian border, the Germans are telling the Greeks they won’t help move more migrants to Germany directly, reports Zeit.
Merkel has demanded that migrants arriving in Greece via Turkey must use the registration centres there rather than attempt to travel through the Balkans and register in Germany, the opposite of the German policy in September where migrants were waved through in the hundreds of thousands to be registered in places like Munich or Berlin.
“There just isn’t the right for a refugee to say I want to go to that particular country and seek EU asylum,” Merkel told press after a meeting with Croatia’s Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković
Since Jan. 1, France’s tax rebate schemes for international and domestic productions have been hiked from 20% to 30%, with a new ceiling of €30 million ($33 million). In early February, Fleur Pellerin, then-French Minister of Culture, traveled to Los Angeles, where she met with the heads of Warner Bros., Disney, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures and Lionsgate, to publicize the new 30% rate and entice more U.S. shoots to France.
Frederique Bredin, president of national film agency the CNC, says Pellerin’s visit provoked renewed interest from U.S. majors, including ongoing discussions with Disney to film a Marvel Studios pic in Gaul.
Bredin says the new 30% rates “contribute to making France one of the most attractive shooting locations in the world, thanks to competitive tax incentives and the quality of French infrastructures and crews.”
She adds that key reasons for introducing the rates were to curb domestic runaway productions and counter frustration that “foreign movies whose story was related to France were not shot in France.”
French TV series, including skeins shot in English, also now benefit from a 25% rebate, which will be used by series such as season two of “Versailles.”
Bredin predicts that the new rates will generate $220 million more activity and an additional 10,000 jobs in the sector in 2016.
There is no American equivalent of Bernard-Henri Lévy. Known as “BHL,” he is among the last of a quintessentially French breed, the 20th century intellectuel engagé. As a “nouveau philosophe” disenchanted with Marxism, communism and the excesses of 1968, when civil unrest roiled France, Levy has enjoyed a long and theatrical career since the 1970s, embracing journalism, philosophy, film and an outspoken advocacy for human rights.
His latest book, however, returns to a subject that has animated him throughout his life: Judaism.
[A month after kosher market attack, French Jews plan an exodus]
At its core, "L’Esprit du Judaïsme" is a reflection on the role of Judaism in the evolution of France, a passionate argument that places the former at the heart of the latter. The book, which will be published in English by Random House this September, ultimately appears amid a considerable anxiety. France is currently home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, but in an era of jihadism and an increasing anti-Semitism, many in that community have begun to question whether the country can truly sustain a robust and viable Jewish future. In 2015, for instance, a record number of French Jews — approximately 8,000 — emigrated to Israel, the latest installment in a recent trend. Anti-Semitic violence, such as an attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in January 2015 and a machete assault on a Jewish teacher in Marseille last month — is on the rise.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Lévy defended the crucial role of Jews in France — past, present and future.
Winemakers are up in arms about Chile's Bicicleta being sponsor of the race, claiming it is "unacceptable"
As an official sponsor of France's Tour de France, there might seem worse choices than a wine named Bicicleta. But its discreet "Made in Chile" label has struck a sour note with French winemakers, who are threatening to block the three-week bicycle race unless it is replaced with a home-grown beverage. The wine from Chile's Cono Sur company will only be advertised at promotional events held when the race briefly enters Switzerland, Andorra and Spain, as under French law no alcohol brands can be promoted during sports events in the country. But that alone is enough to infuriate French winemakers in the southwestern Languedoc-Roussillon region, who say they will block one of the race stages between Carcassonne and Montpellier if the partnership with the New World winemaker goes ahead.
It is up to the Syrian people to decide the fate of their President Bashar Assad, French lawmaker Thierry Mariani told RIA Novosti news agency.
On Friday, Mariani led a group of five opposition center-right Republican Party MPs on a visit to Syria where they plan to meet with local political and religious leaders. “The situation in Syria is developing well and even though I am an opposition politician I welcome the recent change in our government’s position, which made no difference between Daesh and Assad. Now they draw a clear line between the two: first we get rid of Daesh and then we’ll see what to do with the Syrian government. I think it is the right way to go, but I still believe that we should ask Syrians what they themselves think about this,” Mariani said ahead of the visit.
THE number of illegal immigrants and Islamic State (ISIS) jihadis entering Britain is set to soar after French authorities banned British border guards from X-raying lorries in case they harm migrants.
British Border Force officers have been told they cannot use X-rays to detect migrants - or ISIS British border police routinely scan lorries about to cross the Channel to search for anything illegal.
But today it emerged the French have banned guards from using the devices - which take around an hour to scan each vehicle - to scan for illegal immigrants, but they still can for illegal goods.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Thursday said police had foiled a terror plot that was in its “advanced stages” after an arrest and search in the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil.
Cazeneuve, speaking at a press conference late on Thursday, said there were no links "at this stage" between the foiled plot and recent terrorist attacks in Paris or Brussels.
The interior minister said bomb squads were on site in the building located around 15 kilometres north of the French capital.
“This arrest is the result of a careful investigation that began several weeks ago, and which mobilised important human and technical surveillance resources, as well as close and ongoing co-operation with European intelligence agencies," Cazeneuve said.
He noted that the person arrested was a French national, implicated at a "high level" in the plot, but offered no other details.
First it was Coke and McDonald's, then it was Starbucks and doggy bags. Now, Parisians have begun to embrace yet another mainstay of American cuisine: delivery food.
A slew of food delivery apps and startups have sprung up across the French capital in recent months, and they're impossible to miss. Bus stops and metro stations are now plastered with ads for one app or another, each promising meals from trendy restaurants within minutes. Bike couriers have become a regular sight as well, darting in and out of traffic as they ferry meals around in boxy, insulated backpacks.
For the French, and their deeply entrenched culinary traditions, this marks something of a sea change. While food delivery has long been a staple of life in cities like New York and London, Paris has been slower to embrace it — in part because the very premise of a quick-and-easy meal conflicts with what the French consider to be authentic dining. Delivery isn't an entirely new phenomenon in France — the website Allo Resto has been offering online ordering since 1998 — but it has long been relegated to lower-fare cuisine like pizza, sushi, and Chinese, and in my experience, wait times often exceeded an hour.
That's changed in recent months, as services like Take Eat Easy, Foodora, and Deliveroo have flooded the market with offerings from traditional bistros and upstarts alike. Even Uber has jumped into the fray, with its Uber Eats lunchtime service. The companies behind these services say they've seen tremendous growth in Paris, describing it as an untapped market that's eager for change.
"There's a real war for Paris going on," says Boris Mittermüller, CEO and founder of Foodora in France, a delivery app and website that has launched in 11 countries across the world. "Everyone is fighting for market share." Berlin-based Foodora came to Paris in June 2015, and Mittermüller says its orders have grown by between 20 and 40 percent every week since. The company has also launched in Lyon, and plans to expand to other French cities over the coming year.
For the guardians of French gastronomy, the prospect of being served something as unsophisticated as a slab of mincemeat with a bap and slice of cheese would long have been considered sacrilegious. Today, however, the tables have turned. In a culinary revolution, three quarters of French restaurants now sell hamburgers and 80 per cent of these say it has become their top-selling dish, according to a new study. "Le burger" – as the French dub the quintessentially American invention to the despair of linguistic purists of the Académie Française – has become a feature of even the most illustrious eateries. Indeed, such is its success that sales are set to overtake those of the classic "jambon beurre" (ham and butter baguette), the nation's staple lunchtime sandwich. Last year, the French chomped their way through 1.19 billion burgers, an 11 per cent rise on the previous year, while "le jambon beurre" fell to 1.23 billion.
European Union leaders will on Monday back closing down the Balkans route used by most migrants to reach Europe, diplomats said, after at least 25 more people drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea en route to Greece.
The declaration drafted by EU ambassadors Sunday will be announced at a summit in Brussels on Monday, set to also be attended by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The bloc's 28 leaders will ask Davutoglu's government to accept "large-scale" deportations of economic migrants from Greece, the main entry point to Europe, and do more to implement a November deal to slow the flow of people into the bloc.
A ring believed to have belonged to Joan of Arc is being returned to France for the first time in 600 years after being sold at auction for almost £300,000. The ring was bought by the Puy du Fou foundation, which runs a historical theme park in France, at auction in London for around 30 times its estimate. The Puy foundation said the ring's return to France was highly symbolic. The news was greeted by those on the Far Right in France, for whom this has become something of a cause célèbre. Front National leader Marine le Penn sent a thank you message on Twitter to Philippe de Villiers, the founder of Puy du Fou, for bringing the ring back to France.
The French heroine is thought to have handed the ring to England's Cardinal Henry Beaufort on the eve of her execution in 1431. It remained in England ever since, and there is documentation to establish its provenance. On Friday it was flown back to France when Puy du Fou president Nicolas de Villiers told French TV it was a "glorious return" for a "French treasure".
Two top diplomats in Norway’s foreign ministry have warned that the pressure on Europe’s borders will only increase, and that border blockades in the Balkans will lead to another influx of asylum seekers over Russia’s border to Norway. They also warn of the “perfect political storm” in Europe, in an internal ministry memorandum obtained by newspaper VG that was supposed to be kept confidential.
VG made the memorandum public on Tuesday, just as thousands of desperate people fleeing war and terrorism were left stranded at the border between Macedonia and Greece. Macedonia closed its border and even resorted to fending off the asylum seekers with tear gas this week, putting beleaguered Greece under ever more pressure. Greece is unable to care for the thousands of migrants still arriving on its shores every day and now stuck with onward routes blocked. That’s in turn leading to more social unrest in an EU country that’s been under severe economic pressure for years.
The EU/Schengen cooperation that has kept European borders open for years will lead to a widespread crisis within the next six months, that may unleash considerable political and institutional setbacks for the entire EU and its partners.
Several “negative developments” within the EU can result in “the perfect political storm,” unleashed by political polarization, an increase in extremism in Europe, splits between northern and southern Europe, more nationalistic and anti-EU policies, increasingly “complicated” relations with Turkey and Russia and a “probability” of new terrorist attacks
Radical leftists are taking direct action to create a border-less world and a multicultural Europe by handing out bolt-cutters to the tens of thousands of migrants presently stuck in Greece.
A leaked confidential government document from Austria’s crisis unit has revealed the behaviour of so-called, self declared “anarchists” in Greece, who are actively working to undermine the rule of law and trigger the collapse of European border control. Recounting the confessions of a group of over 100 illegals who somehow managed to penetrate the border into Macedonia the paper reports the migrants claimed to have been given a number of bolt cutters by either “an NGO [non governmental organisation] or activist group”.
Seen by Austria’s Krone newspaper, the document outlines how the number of migrants travelling north had been dramatically reduced, a “maximum of 500 persons per 24 hours to the Croatian border”, and down to 450 a day by the end of last month. Preventing build-up in their own borders, each of the countries on the Balkan route were “repeatedly” sending migrants back to their southern neighbours.
An increasing number of Iraqi migrants are leaving Germany and returning to their home country after becoming disillusioned with their new lives Europe.
Having been sold the idea of a flourishing jobs-market, good housing and an opportunity to have their families join them, they are finding the reality of life in Germany disappointing.
The huge influx of migrants has taken its toll on Germany's resources, and new arrivals complain of overcrowded refugee centres, 'terrible food' and Germans 'looking at us like bums'.
In 2015, Germany took in more than 1.1million refugees and migrants, and as a result, the asylum application process has become increasingly ardous.
Struggling volunteers buckle under the pressure of the sheer numbers, refugee centres have become overcrowded and integration into German society is taking longer.
A tightening of rules last autumn also made it more difficult to send for family members after being given asylum, something which many had counted on when making the journey across the Mediterranean.
In addition, there has been growing anti-immigrant sentiments in Germany and across Europe, with Muslims the main targets of far-right hatred.
Now, a growing number of asylum seekers are returning home, having found themselves bitterly disappointed with Europe.
'What I've seen in Europe is not what I dreamed about. It's not what [the smugglers] told me it would be,' Gazwan Abdulhasen Abdulla, a 37-year-old who had worked as a truck driver in Iraq, told the LA Times.
After paying a substantial sum to smugglers to travel to Europe, he is now returning to his wife and four children in Basra, along with 150 others on a one-way ticket to Iraq.
'The food was terrible, so disgusting that not even animals should be fed it. They made us sleep in these cold, empty buildings and when someone said they were sick, they just ignored us.
'You could feel it everywhere that Germans looked down at us like we were bums. I miss my family and can't wait to get home.'
Similar trends have been seen in Scandinavia, with an increasing number of refugees and migrants withdrawing their applications and returning home.
In Sweden, the number of withdrawn asylum applications has risen in recent months, from an average of 300 per month to nearly 630 in November last year. In the first ten days of December, 239 withdrew their applications.
Angela Merkel’s policy defended after thinly-veiled criticism by French prime minister...
Berlin’s Konzerthaus has witnessed many historic highs and lows: from wartime ruin to Leonard Bernstein’s electric “Ode to Freedom” concert in December 1989, celebrating the end of Cold War divisions. Now, in a monument to a new European division and disgrace, some 1,700 orange life jackets have been strapped to the concert hall’s six neo-classical pillars, commemorating the thousands of people who sought a better life in Europe last year but instead drowned. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s striking installation, using lifejackets and boats washed up on beaches in Lesbos, is well-timed – as Europe’s migration crisis threatens to claim is latest and most prominent drowning victim: German chancellor Angela Merkel. Ahead of Thursday’s EU summit, the German leader was braced for her eastern neighbours to step up their opposition in Prague to EU refugee quotas. But Berlin is reeling at a perceived stab in the back from Paris. French prime minister Manuel Valls has said his government will honour its pledge to take 30,000 of the 160,000 refugees to relocate around Europe. “But we won’t take anymore,” he said. “We are not in favour of a permanent relocation mechanism. The time now is to implement what has been discussed and negotiated: … hot spot (registration centres) and external border controls.” Valls made a swipe at Merkel’s unilateral decision last year to set aside EU migration regulations and allow in Syrian asylum seekers trapped in Hungary”. He said: “France never said ‘come to France’.” Germany accepted 1.1 million asylum applicants in 2015, leaving Merkel struggling now to square a tricky political circle: reduce radically Germany’s asylum numbers this year without closing German borders, a move she fears would undermine the Schengen free movement area
That Sweden is a "humanitarian superpower" is a myth that needs exposing once and for all. The recent migration wave to Sweden has made some people poor and others very, very rich. It is all about money, and it is about winners and losers.
If liberal journalists outside Sweden believe that rape is humanitarian, then Sweden has a humanitarian migration policy.
Meanwhile, thousands of "unaccompanied refugee children" are disappearing. and no one knows where they are.
There is nothing "noble" in Sweden's migration policy -- far from being a good example of how a migration policy should function, it is a disaster, and its final result is chaos, conflict, and corruption.
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