Anger spreads in France over Macron's retirement bill push
Protesters disrupted traffic in Paris on Friday as angry critics, political opponents and labor unions around France blasted President Emmanuel Macron's decision to force a bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote. Opposition parties were expected to start procedures later Friday for a no-confidence vote on the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. The vote would likely take place early next week. Macron ordered Borne on Thursday to wield a special constitutional power to push the highly unpopular pension bill through without a vote in the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament. Also Read: France’s Macron risks his government to raise retirement age His calculated risk infuriated opposition lawmakers, many citizens and unions. Thousands gathered in protest Thursday at the Place de la Concorde, which faces the National Assembly building. As night fell, police officers charged the demonstrators in waves to clear the Place. Small groups then moved through nearby streets in the chic Champs-Elysees. neighborhood setting street fires. Similar scenes repeated themselves in numerous other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed, according to French media. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL on Friday that 310 people were arrested overnight. Most of the arrests, 258, were made in Paris, according to Darmanin. The trade unions that had organized strikes and marches against a higher retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the days ahead. “This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers,” they declared. Macron has made the proposed pension changes the key priority of his second term, arguing that reform is needed to keep the pension system from diving into deficit as France, like many richer nations, faces lower birth rates and longer life expectancy. Macron decided to invoke the special power during a Cabinet meeting a few minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation had no guarantee of securing majority support. The Senate adopted the bill earlier Thursday. Opposition lawmakers demanded the government to step down. If the expected no-confidence motion passes, which requires approval from more than half of the Assembly, it would be a first since 1962 and force the government to resign. Macron could reappoint Borne if he chooses, and a new Cabinet would be named. If the motion does not succeed, the pension bill would be considered adopted.
France’s Macron risks his government to raise retirement age
French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister to wield a special constitutional power Thursday that skirts parliament to force through a highly unpopular bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote. His calculated risk set off a clamor among lawmakers, who began singing the national anthem even before Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne arrived in the lower chamber. She spoke forcefully over their shouts, acknowledging that Macron's unilateral move will trigger quick motions of no-confidence in his government. The fury of opposition lawmakers echoed the anger of citizens and workers' unions. Thousands gathered at the Place de la Concorde facing the National Assembly, lighting a bonfire. As night fell, police charged the demonstrators in waves to clear the elegant Place. Small groups of those chased away moved through nearby streets in the chic neighborhood setting street fires. At least 120 were detained, police said. Similar scenes repeated themselves in numerous other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in the east to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed, according to French media. Radical leftist groups were blamed for at least some of the destruction. Also Read: France’s development agency signs deal with Bangladesh to support energy efficiency scheme The unions that have organized strikes and marches since January, leaving Paris reeking in piles of garbage, announced new rallies and protest marches in the days ahead. “This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers,” they declared. Macron has made the proposed pension changes the key priority of his second term, arguing that reform is needed to keep the pension system from diving into deficit as France, like many richer nations, faces lower birth rates and longer life expectancy. Macron decided to invoke the special power during a Cabinet meeting at the Elysee presidential palace, just a few minutes before the scheduled vote in France’s lower house of parliament, because he had no guarantee of a majority. “Today, uncertainty looms" about whether a majority would have voted for the bill, Borne acknowledged, but she said “We cannot gamble on the future of our pensions. That reform is necessary.” Borne prompted boos from the opposition when she said her government is accountable to the parliament. Lawmakers can try to revoke the changes through no-confidence motions, she said. “There will actually be a proper vote and therefore the parliamentary democracy will have the last say,” Borne said. She said in an interview Thursday night on the TV station TF1 that she was not angry when addressing disrespectful lawmakers but “very shocked.” “Certain (opposition lawmakers) want chaos, at the Assembly and in the streets,” she said. Opposition lawmakers demanded the government step down. One Communist lawmaker called the presidential power a political “guillotine.” Others called it a “denial of democracy” that signals Macron’s lack of legitimacy. Marine Le Pen said her far-right National Rally party would file a no-confidence motion, and Communist lawmaker Fabien Roussel said such a motion is “ready” on the left. “The mobilization will continue,” Roussel said. “This reform must be suspended.” The leader of The Republicans, Eric Ciotti, said his party won’t “add chaos to chaos” by supporting a no-confidence motion, but some of his fellow conservatives at odds with the party’s leadership could vote individually. A no-confidence motion, expected early next week, needs approval by more than half the Assembly. If it passes — which would be a first since 1962 — the government would have to resign. Macron could reappoint Borne if he chooses, and a new Cabinet would be named. If no-confidence motions don't succeed, the pension bill would be considered adopted. The Senate adopted the bill earlier Thursday in a 193-114 vote, a tally largely expected since the conservative majority of the upper house favored the changes. Raising the retirement age will make workers put more money into the system, which the government says is on course to run a deficit. Macron has promoted the pension changes as central to his vision for making the French economy more competitive. The reform also would require 43 years of work to earn a full pension. Leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told the crowd at the Concorde that Macron has gone “over the heads of the will of the people.” Members of Melenchon’s France Unbowed party were foremost among the lawmakers singing the Marseillese in an attempt to thwart the prime minister. Economic challenges have prompted widespread unrest across Western Europe, where many countries, like France, have had low birthrates, leaving fewer young workers to sustain pensions for retirees. Spain’s leftist government joined with labor unions Wednesday to announce a “historic” deal to save its pension system. Spain's Social Security Minister José Luis Escrivá said the French have a very different, unsustainable model and “has not addressed its pension system for decades." Spain's workers already must stay on the job until at least 65 and won’t be asked to work longer — instead, their new deal increases employer contributions for higher-wage earners.
France to make condoms free for anyone under 25, Macron says
France will make condoms free in pharmacies for anyone up to age 25 in the new year, President Emmanuel Macron announced Friday. The move comes as the government says sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among young people, and as this year’s exceptional inflation is cutting especially deeply into the budgets of France’s poorest. Girls and women 25 and under already can get free birth control in France as part of government efforts to ensure that young people of all incomes can prevent unwanted pregnancy. Existing measures don’t apply to men, however, or specifically address access for transgender or nonbinary people. Macron had said Thursday that condoms would be free in pharmacies for anyone 18-25 starting Jan. 1. But after a French TV presenter and others challenged him on social networks Friday over why the condom measure did not include minors, the president agreed to expand the program. Read more: Biden, Macron vow unity against Russia, discuss trade row “Let's do it,” Macron said in a selfie video that he shot from the sidelines of a summit in Spain. He later tweeted: “A lot of minors also have sex ... they need to protect themselves too.” Macron, who was France's youngest-ever president when he was first elected in 2017 at age 39, also promised stepped-up efforts to prevent and test for HIV and other sexually transmitted viruses. France’s state health care system covers some birth control costs but not all, and doctor appointments for low-income patients often require long waits. Abortions in France are available free for everyone. Several other European countries offer free or subsidized contraception.
Biden, Macron vow unity against Russia, discuss trade row
Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron vowed to maintain a united front against Russia on Thursday amid growing worries about waning support for Ukraine’s war effort in the U.S. and Europe. Biden also signaled he might be willing to tweak aspects of his signature climate legislation that have raised concerns with France and other European allies. Biden honored Macron with a grand state dinner Thursday evening — the first of the U.S. president’s COVID-19 shadowed presidency for a foreign leader. But following up on Biden’s upbeat comments might not go as smoothly as that fancy affair. Republicans who are about to take control of the House have shown less willingness than Biden to spend billions on Ukraine, and Democratic lawmakers said Thursday they were not about to jump back into the climate legislation. In fact, for all the positive statements, Macron’s visit to Washington has been tempered by his criticism of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and the challenges both leaders face amid the mounting costs of keeping military and economic aid flowing to Kyiv with no end in sight for the Russian invasion. Despite the differences, Biden and Macron sought to underscore that the U.S.-France alliance remains solid and that the West must hold steadfast against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Read more: Biden, Macron ready to talk Ukraine, trade in state visit “Today, we reaffirm that, as I said, we’re going to stand together against this brutality,” Biden said. “Putin thinks that he can crush the will of all those who oppose his imperial ambitions by attacking civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, choking off energy to Europe to drive up prices, exacerbating the food crisis. That’s hurting very vulnerable people not just in Ukraine but around the world and he’s not going to succeed.” Both leaders at an outdoor welcoming ceremony paid tribute to their countries’ long alliance. But they acknowledged difficult moments lay ahead as Western unity shows some wear nine months into the war in Ukraine. In Washington, Republicans are set to take control of the House, where GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has said his party’s lawmakers will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine. Across the Atlantic, Macron’s efforts to keep Europe united will be tested by the mounting costs of supporting Ukraine in the war and as Europe battles rising energy prices that threaten to derail the post-pandemic economic recovery. Macron stressed that the issue has ramifications far beyond Ukraine’s borders. “What is at stake in Ukraine is not just very far from here, in a small country somewhere in Europe,” he declared. “But it’s about our values. And about our principles.” “Our two nations are sisters in the fight for freedom,” he said. Biden indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if the Russian leader demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the invasion. But the U.S. president, as always, conditioned such talks on support by NATO allies. “I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding that he’s looking for a way to end the war,” Biden said. “He hasn’t done that yet.” In addition to their talk of Ukraine — what White House officials said was at the top of the agenda — the two leaders discussed Macron’s and other leaders’ concerns about the recently enacted clean energy law. Macron has made clear that he and other European leaders are opposed to incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act that favor American-made climate technology, including electric vehicles. Biden acknowledged “glitches” in the legislation but said “there’s tweaks we can make” to satisfy allies. “The United States makes no apology. And I make no apologies since I wrote it for the legislation we’re talking about,” Biden added. However, Macron said that while the Biden administration’s efforts to curb climate change should be applauded, the subsidies would be an enormous setback for European companies. “We want to succeed together, not one against the other,” Macron added. He said the U.S. and France would “resynchronize” their clean energy efforts to ensure there’s no “domino effect” that undermines clean energy projects in Europe. On Capitol Hill, despite Biden’s talk of possible changes in the law, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, one of the bill’s main architects, said, “Congress passed a law to rev up the American electric automobile industry, create good-paying American jobs and tackle climate change at the same time. I have no intention of reopening it.” Read more: Biden strengthening US policy to stem sexual violence in war zones, including in Ukraine The European Union has also expressed concern that tax credits in the law would discriminate against European producers and break World Trade Organization rules. The leaders, with aides, met for about three hours after taking part in a formal ceremony with hundreds of people gathered on the South Lawn on a sunny, chilly morning. There was a 21-gun salute and review of troops, and ushers distributed small French and American flags to the guests. Both Biden and Macron in their public comments sought to keep the focus on the situation in Ukraine. The state visit should provide a boost to Macron diplomatically that he can leverage back in Europe. His outspoken comments help him demonstrate that he’s defending French workers, even as he maintains a close relationship with Biden. The moment also helps Macron burnish his image as the European Union’s most visible and vocal leader, at a time when Europe is increasingly concerned that its economy will be indelibly weakened by the Ukraine war and resulting energy and inflation crises. To that end, Biden praised Macron as “not just the leader of France” and for being “very outspoken and very, very commanding in Europe.” In his public comments, Macron repeatedly referred to the U.S. president as “dear Joe.” Still, at moments, Macron’s rhetoric has rankled U.S. and Ukrainian officials, with calls for Ukraine and Russia to meet at the negotiating table. White House officials have publicly maintained that it is solely up to Ukraine’s leadership to decide when it’s appropriate to engage the Russians and have stressed the war could end immediately if Putin ended his invasion. Macron also raised eyebrows earlier this month in a speech at a summit in Bangkok when he referred to the U.S. and China as “two big elephants” that are on the cusp of creating “a big problem for the rest of the jungle.” His visit to Washington came as both the U.S. and France are keeping their eyes on China after protests have broken out in several mainland cities and Hong Kong over Beijing’s “zero COVID” strategy. The state visit marked a return of a White House tradition of honoring close foreign allies that dates back to Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency. Macron and his wife, Brigitte, came to the U.S. bearing gifts carefully tailored to their American hosts, including a vinyl record and CD of the original soundtrack from the 1966 film “Un Homme et une Femme,” which the Bidens went to see on their first date, according to the palace. Among the gifts Biden and first lady Jill Biden presented the Macrons was a mirror framed by fallen wood from the White House grounds and made by an American furniture maker. Vice President Kamala Harris hosted Macron for a lunch at the State Department before the evening state dinner in an enormous tented pavilion constructed on the White House South Lawn. The dinner for hundreds attracted big names from fashion, entertainment, business and politics.
PM greets French President Macron on re-election
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday greeted Emmanuel Macron on his re-election as the President of France. “It is indeed an immense pleasure to convey my warmest congratulations on your victory in the recently held Presidential Elections,” she said in her congratulatory message. Also read: To Europe’s relief, France’s Macron wins but far-right gains She mentioned that the re-election manifests the trust and confidence of the great French people ... reposed in him and his initiatives and commitments to ensure their welfare and prosperity. “The election, as you said, was a referendum for the European Union, secularism, and fraternity," she said. She firmly believed that the French people have given Macron the mandate to carry on with his values and vision. “I trust, under your able stewardship, France will continue to serve as an essential player on the global stage beyond its role within the European Union.” She recalled the celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and expressed commitments to deepen and strengthen cooperation in diverse areas of shared interest. “We count on France being on our side in our efforts to enbance trade, connectivity, and security cooperation with the European Union.” She looked forward to working closely with Macron in advancing shared priorities of combating climate change, preventing violent extremism, promoting regular migration, and ensuring gender equality. She again fondly recalled her visit to France in November last year and expressed deep gratitude for extending the gracious hospitality to her and her delegation. Also read: In France, it's Macron vs. Le Pen, again, for presidency She renewed her invitation to Macron to visit Bangladesh at his early convenience. “I take this opportunity to recall your promise to visit Bangladesh if re-elected.” She mentioned that Bangladesh’s President and she look forward to receiving him and his lady wife in Dhaka at his earliest convenience.
Modi congratulates Prez Macron on his re-election
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday congratulated "friend" Emmanuel Macron on his re-election as the French President for another five-year term. Calling Macron his "friend", the Indian PM took to Twitter to say that he looks forward to working with the French leader to bolster the strategic ties between Delhi and Paris. Also read:To Europe’s relief, France’s Macron wins but far-right gains "Congratulations to my friend @EmmanuelMacron on being re-elected as the President of France! I look forward to continue working together to deepen the India-France Strategic Partnership," Modi wrote. Modi is likely to embark on a five-day tour of Europe next week. During his proposed visit from May 2 to 6, he is likely to hold bilateral meetings with the French President and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Also read:In France, it's Macron vs. Le Pen, again, for presidency Defeating his far-right rival Marine Le Pen by 58.55% to 41.45%, 44-year-old Macron on Sunday became the first sitting president in France to get re-elected in 20 years.
To Europe’s relief, France’s Macron wins but far-right gains
French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term Sunday, triggering relief among allies that the nuclear-armed power won’t abruptly shift course in the midst of the war in Ukraine from European Union and NATO efforts to punish and contain Russia’s military expansionism. The second five-year term for the 44-year-old centrist spared France and Europe from the seismic upheaval of having firebrand populist Marine Le Pen at the helm, Macron’s presidential runoff challenger who quickly conceded defeat but still scored her best-ever electoral showing. Acknowledging that “numerous” voters cast ballots for him simply to keep out the fiercely nationalist far-right Le Pen, Macron pledged to reunite the country that is “filled with so many doubts, so many divisions” and work to assuage the anger of French voters that fed Le Pen’s campaign. “No one will be left by the side of the road,” Macron said in a victory speech against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower and a projection of the blue-white-and-red tricolor French flag. He was cheered by several hundred supporters who happily waved French and EU flags. “We have a lot to do and the war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through tragic times where France must make its voice heard,” Macron said. During her campaign, Le Pen pledged to dilute French ties with the 27-nation EU, NATO and Germany, moves that would have shaken Europe’s security architecture as the continent deals with its worst conflict since World War II. Le Pen also spoke against EU sanctions on Russian energy supplies and faced scrutiny during the campaign over her previous friendliness with the Kremlin. A chorus of European leaders hailed Macron’s victory, since France has played a leading role in international efforts to punish Russia with sanctions and is supplying weapons to Ukraine. “Democracy wins, Europe wins,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. “Together we will make France and Europe advance,” tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Also Read: In France, it's Macron vs. Le Pen, again, for presidency Italian Premier Mario Draghi called Macron’s victory “splendid news for all of Europe” and a boost to the EU “being a protagonist in the greatest challenges of our times, starting with the war in Ukraine.” Macron won with 58.5% of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.5% — significantly closer than when they first faced off in 2017. Macron is the first French president in 20 years to win reelection, since incumbent Jacques Chirac trounced Le Pen’s father in 2002. Le Pen called her result “a shining victory,” saying that “in this defeat, I can’t help but feel a form of hope.” Breaking through the threshold of 40% of the vote is unprecedented for the French far-right. Le Pen was beaten 66% to 34% by Macron in 2017 and her father got less than 20% against Chirac. She and hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, one of 10 candidates eliminated in the first round on April 10, both quickly pitched forward Sunday night to France’s legislative election in June, urging voters to give them a parliamentary majority to hamstring Macron. Le Pen’s score this time rewarded her years-long efforts to make her far-right politics more palatable to voters. Campaigning hard on cost-of-living issues, she made deep inroads among blue-collar voters in disaffected rural communities and in former industrial centers. Le Pen voter Jean-Marie Cornic, 78, said he cast his ballot for her because he wanted a president who would prioritize “our daily lives — salaries, taxes, pensions.” The drop in support for Macron compared to five years ago points to a tough battle ahead for the president to rally people behind him in his second term. Many French voters found the 2022 presidential rematch less compelling than in 2017, when Macron was an unknown factor. Also Read: Macron keeps an open line to Putin as war in Ukraine rages Leftist voters — unable to identify with either the centrist president or Le Pen — agonized with Sunday’s choice. Some trooped reluctantly to polling stations solely to stop Le Pen, casting joyless votes for Macron. “It was the least worst choice,” said Stephanie David, a transport logistics worker who backed a communist candidate in round one. It was an impossible choice for retiree Jean-Pierre Roux. Having also voted communist in round one, he dropped an empty envelope into the ballot box on Sunday, repelled both by Le Pen’s politics and what he saw as Macron’s arrogance. “I am not against his ideas but I cannot stand the person,” Roux said. In contrast, Marian Arbre, voting in Paris, cast his ballot for Macron “to avoid a government that finds itself with fascists, racists.” “There’s a real risk,” the 29-year-old fretted. Macron went into the vote as the firm favorite but faced a fractured, anxious and tired electorate. The war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic battered Macron’s first term, as did months of violent protests against his economic policies. In celebrating victory, Macron acknowledged a debt to voters who helped get him over the line, “not to support the ideas I hold, but to block those of the extreme right.” “I want to thank them and tell them that I am aware that their vote obliges me for the years to come,” he said. “I am the custodian of their sense of duty, of their attachment to the Republic.”
In France, it's Macron vs. Le Pen, again, for presidency
Incumbent Emmanuel Macron will face far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in a winner-takes-all runoff for the French presidency, after they both advanced Sunday in the first round of voting in the country’s election to set up another head-to-head clash of their sharply opposing visions for France. But while Macron won t heir last contest in 2017 by a landslide to become France's youngest-ever president, the same outcome this time is far from guaranteed. Macron, now 44, emerged ahead from Sunday's first round, but the runoff is essentially a new election and the next two weeks of campaigning to the April 24 second-round vote promise to be bruising and confrontational against his 53-year-old political nemesis. Savvier and more polished as she makes her third attempt to become France's first woman president, Le Pen was handsomely rewarded Sunday at the ballot box for her years-long effort to rebrand herself as more pragmatic and less extreme. Macron has accused Le Pen of pushing an extremist manifesto of racist, ruinous policies. Le Pen wants to roll back some rights for Muslims, banning them from wearing headscarves in public, and to drastically reduce immigration from outside Europe. Also read: France pushing for energy sanctions against Russia On Sunday, she racked up her best-ever first-round tally of votes. With most votes counted, Macron had just over 27% and Le Pen had just under 24%. Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon was third, missing out on the two-candidate runoff, with close to 22%. Macron also improved on his first-round showing in 2017, despite his presidency being rocked by an almost unrelenting series of both domestic and international crises. They include Russia's war in Ukraine that overshadowed the election and diverted his focus from the campaign. With polling suggesting that the runoff against Le Pen could be close, Macron immediately started throwing his energies into the battle. Addressing supporters Sunday night who chanted “five more years,” Macron warned that “nothing is done” and said the runoff campaign will be “decisive for our country and for Europe.” Claiming that Le Pen would align France with “populists and xenophobes,” he said: “That's not us.” “I want to reach out to all those who want to work for France," he said. He vowed to “implement the project of progress, of French and European openness and independence we have advocated for.” The election outcome will have wide international influence as Europe struggles to contain the havoc wreaked by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Macron has strongly backed European Union sanctions on Russia while Le Pen has worried about their impact on French living standards. Macron also is a firm supporter of NATO and of close collaboration among the European Union’s 27 members. Macron for months had looked like a shoo-in to become France’s first president in 20 years to win a second term. But National Rally leader Le Pen, in a late surge, tapped into the foremost issue on many French voters’ minds: soaring costs for food, gas and heating due to rising inflation and the repercussions of Western sanctions on Russia. To win in round two, both Macron and Le Pen now need to reach out to voters who backed the 10 presidential candidates defeated Sunday. For some of the losers' disappointed supporters, the runoff vote promises to be agonizing. Melenchon voter Jennings Tangly, a 21-year-old student of English at Paris' Sorbonne University, said the second-round match-up was an awful prospect for her, a choice “between the plague and cholera.” She described Macron's presidency as “abject,” but said she would vote for him in round two simply to keep Le Pen from the presidential Elysee Palace. “It would be a survival vote rather than a vote with my heart,” she said. Le Pen's supporters celebrated with champagne and chanted “We’re going to win!” She sought to reach out to left-wing supporters for round two by promising fixes for “a France torn apart.” She said the second round presents voters with “a fundamental choice between two opposing visions of the future: Either the division, injustice and disorder imposed by Emmanuel Macron to the benefit of the few, or the uniting of French people around social justice and protection.” Also read: Macron keeps an open line to Putin as war in Ukraine rages Some of her defeated rivals were so alarmed by the possibility of Le Pen beating Macron that they urged their supporters Sunday to shift their second-round votes to the incumbent. Melenchon, addressing supporters who sometimes shed tears, repeatedly said: “We must not give one vote to Mrs. Le Pen.” Describing herself as “profoundly worried,” defeated conservative candidate Valerie Pecresse warned of “the chaos that would ensue” if Le Pen was elected, saying the far-right leader has never been so close to power. Pecresse said she would vote for Macron in the runoff. To beat Le Pen, Macron will aim to pick apart her attempted rebranding as a less dangerous political force, a makeover that has even highlighted her love of cats. Her softer image has won over some voters but made others even more suspicious. Yves Maillot, a retired engineer, said he voted for Macron only to counterbalance Le Pen. He said he fears that her long-standing hostility to the EU could see her try to take France out of the bloc, even though she has dropped that from her manifesto. “I don't think she's changed at all,” he said. “It's the same thing, but with cats."
Hasina embarks on 2-week visit to UK, France Sunday
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will leave Dhaka on Sunday for the United Kingdom and France on a two-week visit. During the visit, she will attend the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), Bangladesh Investment Summit and hand over ‘Unesco-Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman International Prize for the Creative Economy’. The Prime Minister will also hold bilateral meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron apart from other heads of state and government during her visit. The Prime Minister will also hold a meeting with the UK's Prince Charles. A VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, carrying the Prime Minister and her entourage, will depart Hazrat Shajalal International Airport at 9pm. It will land at Glasgow International Airport in Scotland at 2:45pm (local time) where Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem will welcome her. Hasina will address the key segment of the COP26 on November 1 apart from joining the opening ceremony. The same day, the Prime Minister will attend a joint meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF)- Commonwealth High Level Panel Discussion on Climate Prosperity Partnership. Hasina will also attend a meeting titled “Action and Solidarity-the critical decade” at the invitation of her British counterpart Boris Johnson on November 1. She will have a meeting with Commonwealth secretary general Particia Scotland, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Bill Gates, the founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She will attend a civic reception virtually arranged by the Bangladeshi Community living in Scotland. Read: South Asian nations should work together: Hasina On November 2, the Prime Minister will attend meetings titled “Women and Climate Change” and “Forging a CVF COP 26 Climate Emergency Pact”. She will hold a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. She will have meetings with UK’s Prince Charles, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaker of Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone. Later, she will address “A Bangladesh Vision for Global Climate Prosperity”. On November 3, she will leave Scotland for London by a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight. It will take off at 12pm (local time) from Glasgow International Airport and land at Heathrow International Airport at 1:30pm. Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem will welcome her at the airport. On the same day, she will go to Westminster where Rushanara Ali MP and Lord Gadhia will welcome her. She will have a courtesy call with British Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. On November 4, the Prime Minister will inaugurate the “Bangladesh Investment Summit 2021: Building Sustainable Growth Partnerships”. She will also unveil the cover of two publications titled ‘Secret Documents’ (Vol i-ix) and ‘Mujib & Introduction’ and inaugurate an art exhibition titled “Bangabandhu and Britain: A Centenary Collection”. On November 7, she will inaugurate the newly-expanded portion of Bangladesh High Commission and Bangabandhu Lounge there. She will also attend a civic reception to be accorded to her by Bangladeshi expatriates living in the UK. On November 9, she will leave London for Paris at 8am (local time) by a VVIP flight of Biman. It will land at De Gaulle International Airport at 11:15am (local time). Read: Identify new market trends to diversify export: Hasina Bangladesh Ambassador Khandaker Mohammad Talha will welcome her at the airport. She will have a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at Elysee Palace and witness the signing of three MoUs/TCA/TA, and attend a joint press conference before joining lunch to be hosted by the French President. She will be given guard of honour there. The Prime Minister will also have a bilateral meeting with French Prime Minister Jean Castex. On November 10, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury and Dassault Aviation president Eric Trappier, Thales president Patrice Caine will meet her at her place. She will have a meeting with a delegation of French business organisation MEDEF. French Minister Florence Parly will also meet her. Later in the afternoon, she will visit the French Senate where she will receive official reception during the ongoing Senate Session. On November 11, Sheikh Hasina will attend the Paris Peace Forum. Later, she will go to attend the “Unesco-Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman International Prize for the Creative Economy” awarding ceremony at the Unesco Headquarters. From there she will go to Elysee Palace to attend the dinner to be hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in honour of her. On November 12, Sheikh Hasina will go to the Paris Peace Forum and attend a high-level panel discussion on South-South and Triangular Cooperation. Later, she will go to the Unesco Headquarters to attend the inaugural session of the 75th Founding anniversary of Unesco where she will deliver her speech. She will participate in the dinner to be hosted by Unesco Director General Audrey Azoulay in honour of heads of government and state. On November 13, Sheikh Hasina will attend a civic reception to be accorded to her by the expatriate Bangladeshis living there. In the afternoon, she will depart De Gaulle International Airport by a VVIP flight of Biman and land at Hazrat Shahjalal Airport at 10 am (local time) on November 14.
France says head of Islamic State in Sahara has been killed
France’s president announced the death of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara’s leader late Wednesday, calling Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi’s killing “a major success” for the French military after more than eight years fighting extremists in the Sahel. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that al-Sahrawi “was neutralized by French forces” but gave no further details. It was not announced where al-Sahrawi was killed, though the Islamic State group is active along the border between Mali and Niger. “The nation is thinking tonight of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel in the Serval and Barkhane operations, of the bereaved families, of all of its wounded,” Macron tweeted. “Their sacrifice is not in vain.” Rumors of the militant leader’s death had circulated for weeks in Mali, though authorities in the region had not confirmed it. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim or to know how the remains had been identified. Read:US airstrike targets Islamic State member in Afghanistan “This is a decisive blow against this terrorist group,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted. “Our fight continues.” Al-Sahrawi had claimed responsibility for a 2017 attack in Niger that killed four U.S. military personnel and four people with Niger’s military. His group also has abducted foreigners in the Sahel and is believed to still be holding American Jeffrey Woodke, who was abducted from his home in Niger in 2016. The extremist leader was born in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and later joined the Polisario Front. After spending time in Algeria, he made his way to northern Mali where he became an important figure in the group known as MUJAO that controlled the major northern town of Gao in 2012. A French-led military operation the following year ousted Islamic extremists from power in Gao and other northern cities, though those elements later regrouped and again carried out attacks. Read: Islamic State degraded in Afghanistan but still poses threat The Malian group MUJAO was loyal to the regional al-Qaida affiliate. But in 2015, al-Sahrawi released an audio message pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The French military has been fighting Islamic extremists in the Sahel region where France was once the colonial power since the 2013 intervention in northern Mali. It recently announced, though, that it would be reducing its military presence in the region, with plans to withdraw 2,000 troops by early next year. News of al-Sahrawi’s death comes as France’s global fight against the Islamic State organization is making headlines in Paris. The key defendant in the 2015 Paris attacks trial said Wednesday that those coordinated killings were in retaliation for French airstrikes on the Islamic State group, calling the deaths of 130 innocent people “nothing personal” as he acknowledged his role for the first time.