France. At the beginning of the year, France sent 3,000 soldiers to Mali in West Africa, where Islamist rebels controlled the northern part of the country for a period. French troops helped, among other things. government forces to take back the cities of Gao and Timbuktu.
According to Countryaah, Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac resigned in March after it was discovered that he had large bank assets in Switzerland and thus avoided paying taxes in France. Cahuzac initially denied the information but then had to admit that he was lying. It was very embarrassing for the Socialist government, which made a number of obstacles to tax evasion. As a result, President François Hollande ordered all ministers to account for their assets.
A heated debate raged and large demonstrations were held in conjunction with a change in the law that allowed same-sex marriage to be allowed and gays got the right to adopt. Gay marriage was an important election promise for Hollande, who, according to opinion polls, had the support of a majority of the French on the issue. But the right-wing party UMP (Union for a People’s Movement) and the Catholic Church blew into battle and large demonstrations were held around the country. A man shot himself to death in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in protest, and the following day, the feminist group Femen conducted a bareback protest in Paris Cathedral in support of the law. The first wedding between two gay men in France was held at the end of May.
On the one-year anniversary of President Hollande’s entry in May, leftist groups demonstrated in protest that he had failed to gain momentum on the economy and create new jobs, and to have reversed his retirement age. The support for Hollande in opinion polls was the lowest recorded for any president since World War II.
The expulsion of a 15-year-old Roman girl triggered a political crisis in October when it focused on contradictions within the government on migration policy. The girl was picked up by police during a school escape to be deported with her family to Kosovo, prompting schoolchildren to protest. President Hollande said after a week that the girl would be allowed to return to France, though without the family. Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who defended the deportation, had previously been criticized when he said that the Roma can never adapt to the French way of life.
Disclosures that the US security service NSA spied on French politicians, business representatives and others provoked great anger. According to newspaper information, the French UN delegation in New York and the embassy in Washington were intercepted, as well as millions of phone calls in France. Hollande expressed great dissatisfaction and the US ambassador was called in October to the Foreign Ministry to receive a formal protest.
In an opinion poll in October ahead of the EU elections, the National Front became the country’s largest party for the first time. 24% of voters said they supported the right-wing party, against 22% for the UMP and 19% for the Socialist Party.
In December, the United Nations Security Council gave France the go-ahead to send more soldiers to protect civilians in the Central African Republic, where violent clashes between Christians and Muslims were taking place.
The head of the company PIP, which sold unauthorized breast implants to 300,000 women in 65 countries, was sentenced in December to four years in prison for fraud. The Marseille court also sentenced Jean-Claude Mas to pay EUR 75,000 in fines. The implants contained industrial jelly and cracked easily, causing major health problems for many women.
Speech with a deviating accent is protected
The National Assembly adopts a law that makes it forbidden to discriminate against a person because of the way he or she sounds when he or she speaks French. Accent is now added to race, gender and disability on the list of phenomena that must not lead to discrimination. The bill had been tabled by MEP Chistophe Euzet on the grounds that some groups who speak French with a different accent have a hard time making themselves heard in society.
Police image laws provoke protests
The National Assembly adopts a controversial bill that makes it a crime to publish pictures of police officers on duty “for the purpose of harming their physical or mental integrity”. The bill applies to images where the police can be identified. It will be considered by the Senate in early 2021 before it enters into force. Those who created the law believe that it is needed to protect police officers from threats, but representatives of the media believe that the law prevents them from documenting abuse by the police. Opposition to the law grows when it is announced two days later that a group of police officers in Paris are being fired after beating a black music producer who was not wearing a mouth guard on his way into his studio. Pictures of the beatings published on the internet trigger demonstrations across the country, which in part degenerate into violence.
The government gets a lesson on climate goals
The country’s highest administrative court The Prime Minister gives the government three months to explain how the set climate goals are to be achieved. The court finds that the government has failed to meet its own goals and postponed some of them to the future. The government had been brought before the court by the coastal town of Grande-Synthe in northern France. The city is located low, on the old seabed, and is thus particularly exposed to climate change and rising sea levels. Grande-Synthes’ complaint is supported by big cities such as Paris and Lyon as well as by Oxfam, Greenpeace and other voluntary organizations.
New quarrel with Turkey
The conflict with Turkey is provided with another element when France dissolves the Turkish ultra-nationalist organization Gray Wolves. The government makes the decision after a memorial site for the genocide of Armenians during World War II was vandalized in the name of the Gray Wolves. The Gray Wolves are part of the Turkish National Action Party MHP, which is allied with President Erdoğan AKP. The French decision provokes negative reactions in Turkey, which promises to return with a “strong response” to the incident.