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The French Senate has overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to solidify women’s right to abortion, following a similar endorsement by the National Assembly. The vote, with 267 in favor and 50 against, reflects growing pressure to strengthen abortion rights amidst concerns over erosion in allied nations like the US and Poland.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a special joint session of both houses of parliament, away from Paris, in Versailles, to vote on the amendment. If passed with a three-fifths majority, a referendum won’t be necessary. An Ifop poll from November 2022 indicated strong public support, with 86% favoring the amendment.

While all major political parties in France support abortion rights, there was a revision in the language of the amendment, changing from endorsing the “right” to abortion to advocating for the “freedom” to have one. This adjustment, calling for “guaranteed freedom,” was approved by the Senate.

President Macron has pledged to make women’s freedom to choose abortion “irreversible” by enshrining it in the constitution. Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti hailed the move as historic, positioning France as the first country to constitutionally protect women’s freedom in deciding about their bodies.

Conservative senators expressed feeling pressured to approve the amendment, with one anonymously stating concerns about familial repercussions if she voted against it.

The backdrop to this decision includes ongoing debates in the US, where abortion rights have been challenged, leading to restrictions in many states, and in Poland, where a near-total ban on abortion was imposed by the Constitutional Court in 2020.

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France’s Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne is resigning after less than two years in office, with President Emmanuel Macron gearing up for a significant reshuffling of his top team ahead of European elections later this year. Borne, the second female prime minister in France and the longest-serving in her role, will continue until a successor is named, according to a statement from the Élysée Palace.

President Macron acknowledged Borne’s contributions, stating she displayed “courage, commitment, and determination” during her time in office. Macron’s government has been under pressure due to protests over controversial policies and legislative setbacks, including a significant defeat on immigration legislation in December. The reshuffling is seen as an effort to revive political momentum and address challenges faced by the administration.

Several key figures are speculated to replace Borne, with the 34-year-old Education Minister Gabriel Attal considered the frontrunner. If selected, Attal would become France’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister. Other potential candidates include 37-year-old Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu and former Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie.

The announcement of a new prime minister is expected on Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the Élysée Palace. The chosen candidate will face the daunting task of managing the day-to-day affairs of the government and leading the Council of Ministers. Macron’s party lost its parliamentary majority in 2022, making it challenging for the incoming prime minister to navigate the political landscape and turn the president’s policies into law. The upcoming appointment will mark the fourth prime minister since Macron’s initial election in 2017.

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron is under scrutiny for not endorsing the alcohol-free “Dry January” initiative, with accusations that he succumbed to pressure from the wine lobby. A group of 50 addiction specialists expressed their disappointment in an open letter, claiming that the government’s indifference compromises its commitment to a coherent policy against alcoholism. Despite Dry January gaining popularity since its introduction from the UK in 2020, government officials, including Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau, have distanced themselves, citing a decline in overall alcohol consumption and expressing a preference for moderation over complete abstinence.

Critics argue that the government’s reluctance to support Dry January is indicative of prioritizing the interests of the powerful wine lobby over public health. Macron, known for his public endorsement of alcohol, faced allegations that he personally discouraged backing for the initiative. His previous statements, such as being elected Personality of the Year by a wine magazine and publicly consuming alcohol, have contributed to perceptions that he may be influencing the government’s stance against initiatives promoting alcohol abstinence.

Despite France being Europe’s fourth-largest alcohol consumer, government officials argue that the decline in overall alcohol consumption and individual choice make campaigns like Dry January irrelevant and intrusive. Former Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau, before his resignation, expressed suspicion about the government dictating lifestyle choices to the public. Critics maintain that these reactions reflect the government’s alignment with President Macron, who they believe prioritizes not upsetting the wine lobby over championing public health.

Proponents of Dry January highlight France’s status as the fourth-largest consumer of alcohol in Europe and emphasize that alcohol is responsible for over 40,000 deaths annually in the country. They argue that a government-backed campaign would have a more significant impact, reaching beyond the 16,000 participants in 2023. The accusation that Macron personally discouraged support for Dry January is underscored by his past public endorsements of alcohol, including statements about drinking wine daily and engaging in public acts of alcohol consumption. Despite the economic importance of the wine industry, critics contend that Macron’s public drinking is not only rational for supporting French winemakers but also serves as a populist gesture to counter perceptions of being “out-of-touch.”

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The French parliament has recently passed a more stringent immigration law, culminating months of political negotiations. Both President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) supported the amended bill, creating a significant majority in the lower house. Despite accusations from the left that Macron made concessions to the far-right, the ruling party’s overwhelming majority rendered support from Le Pen unnecessary. Macron had underscored his reluctance to owe victory to the RN, expressing a preference for a new reading of the bill instead of relying on their backing.

Some key provisions in the new legislation include making it more challenging for migrants to bring family members to France and delaying their access to welfare benefits. These measures aim to address concerns related to immigration and welfare systems. An earlier draft of the bill failed when MPs from the far-left and far-right opposed it for different reasons, showcasing the contentious nature of immigration policy in France.

Human rights groups have strongly criticized the amended law, denouncing it as the most regressive immigration legislation in France in decades. Critics argue that the measures undermine fundamental values, raising concerns about the impact on vulnerable migrant populations. Despite the opposition, the bill received support from conservatives who applauded its firmness and courage in addressing immigration challenges.

While Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally welcomed the amended bill, left-wing voices expressed disappointment, accusing Macron of enabling the far-right and signaling a shift in the country’s history and fundamental values. French Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel argued that the legislation, directly inspired by RN’s anti-immigration stance, represented a concerning departure for the republic.

Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party lost its majority in parliament in June 2022, leading to challenges in passing legislation. Since then, the government has frequently found itself unable to secure necessary votes in parliament, highlighting the complex political landscape surrounding immigration policy in France.

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In this news article, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his stance on the conflict in Gaza. He condemned the bombing of civilians in Gaza, stating that there is “no justification” for it, and called for a ceasefire, emphasizing the need to protect civilians. Macron also condemned the actions of Hamas, recognizing it as a terrorist organization, while urging other leaders, including those in the US and the UK, to join his calls for a ceasefire.

On the topic of Ukraine, Macron characterized Russia’s invasion as imperialism and colonialism, emphasizing the duty of his country and others to support Ukraine in its defense. He warned of the potential threat posed by a victorious Russia to other former Soviet states and the entire continent.

Macron also discussed online extremism, singling out Facebook’s parent company Meta and Google for not fulfilling their promises to moderate hate speech on their platforms. He expressed concern about insufficient moderators for French language content on many online platforms.

Regarding climate change, Macron mentioned its role in contributing to terrorism, citing the example of Lake Chad in West Africa, where the effects of global warming led to political instability.

In summary, Macron called for a ceasefire in Gaza, condemned the actions of both Israel and Hamas, expressed support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, criticized online platforms for inadequate moderation, and highlighted the link between climate change and terrorism in certain regions.

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A teacher has been killed and two people have been seriously injured in a knife attack at a school in France, officials say. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the attack happened at the Gambetta high school in the northern city of Arras.

Local officials say the attacker has been arrested. The attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is greatest”, during the attack, police told the AFP news agency. The attacker is believed to be in his 20s. French channel BFMTV has reported that the brother of the attacker has also been apprehended by police.

The channel said the person killed was a French language teacher, while a sports teacher was also stabbed and injured. Local media have reported that the attacker was a former pupil at the school. Police say the situation is now under control. French President Emmanuel Macron will visit the school later on Friday.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the withdrawal of France’s ambassador from Niger and the termination of all military cooperation with the country in response to a recent coup. Macron stated, “France has decided to withdraw its ambassador. In the next hours, our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” and he declared that military cooperation is “over,” with French troops set to leave in the coming months. The military junta, which took control of Niger in July, welcomed this decision as a step toward the country’s sovereignty.

Approximately 1,500 French soldiers are stationed in the landlocked West African nation. The move comes after months of tension and protests against France’s presence in Niger, marked by regular demonstrations in the capital, Niamey. This decision has significant implications for France’s operations against Islamist militants in the broader Sahel region and its influence in the area. However, Macron emphasized that France would not allow itself to be held hostage by the coup leaders.

Macron reiterated his support for ousted Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, currently held captive by the coup leaders, viewing him as the country’s “sole legitimate authority.” He described Bazoum as a “hostage” and suggested that the coup was motivated by his courageous reforms and political rivalries.

Niger is one of several former French colonies in West Africa where the military has recently seized power, following similar events in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Chad. Anti-French sentiment has been on the rise in the region, with accusations of neocolonialist policies against Paris.

Furthermore, concerns have emerged in the West regarding the growing influence of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in the Sahel region. Wagner is accused of human rights abuses and has supported some of the new military regimes.

The regional Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), with France’s support, has threatened military intervention in Niger to restore President Bazoum to power, but no action has been taken thus far.

Niger’s military leaders had previously demanded the departure of French Ambassador Sylvain Itte, but the French government refused to comply and did not recognize the military regime as legitimate. This announcement from Macron comes shortly after Niger’s coup leaders banned “French aircraft” from flying over the country, restricting access to Niger’s airspace for French flights.

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The situation where problems appear to worsen when they should be improving can be understood in the context of French-African relations, particularly under President Emmanuel Macron. While there was a historical period during the Cold War when France used covert actions and military force in its African policies, it officially declared an end to such practices over the past 25 years. The new approach emphasizes values like “democratization,” “empowerment,” “cooperation,” and engaging with younger generations.

However, some argue that despite the official shift, there may still be covert influences and incentives exchanged between France and its former colonies. Nevertheless, it’s an exaggeration to claim that French influence remains as strong as it once was. For example, Gabon, often seen as emblematic of corrupt post-colonialism, took steps to distance itself from France, even joining the Commonwealth.

Furthermore, the Bongo family’s wealth, hidden in Paris, came to light due to French anti-corruption judges, demonstrating that French politicians no longer shielded them. Similarly, if France still had significant influence over Cameroon, why did its leader, Paul Biya, attend the Russia-Africa summit alongside Vladimir Putin?

In reality, France’s influence in Africa has diminished as African nations globalize and diversify their international partnerships, engaging with countries like Turkey, Russia, Israel, Germany, and the United States. France’s rivals have gained contracts while France was previously involved in controversial activities.

So why is there a strong backlash against French influence now, even though it has waned? There are two explanations. First, it’s a psychological phenomenon where people become more aware of the severity of a problem as they experience some improvement, leading to increased outrage. France’s colonial history in Africa was deeply entrenched, evoking anger among today’s more confident generations who seek full emancipation.

Secondly, external forces play a role. President Macron believes there’s a “baroque alliance” between self-proclaimed pan-Africans and neo-imperialists (Russia and China) influencing recent coups in French-speaking Africa. He argues that France’s presence in the Sahel is to combat terrorism, as requested by sovereign states. However, many people prefer conspiracy theories, attributing worsening situations to hidden agendas, which complicates the situation further.

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A fire erupted at a vacation residence in La Forge, France, where individuals with learning disabilities were staying, resulting in the disappearance of eleven people. The blaze was reported to emergency services at 06:30 local time on Wednesday and was met with a response from nearly 80 firefighters.

Regrettably, the 11 missing individuals are now presumed to have lost their lives, as stated by a local official to AFP news agency. The property was utilized by a charity dedicated to assisting individuals with disabilities. While 17 occupants were evacuated and one person was hospitalized, the cause of the fire remains unclear.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin affirmed an ongoing rescue operation, acknowledging the likelihood of multiple casualties in the town near Wintzenheim, close to the German border. The group of 11 missing people originated from Nancy, in eastern France, according to the Haut-Rhin region’s local government. Despite the fire’s intensity, it was successfully controlled by 76 firefighters and four fire engines.

The Bas-Rhin prefecture’s leader, Christophe Marot, revealed that those inside the building during the fire’s outbreak have not yet been located. The incident led French President Emmanuel Macron to express his condolences and appreciation for the emergency services. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and families minister Aurore Bergé are en route to the scene.

Visuals from local media depict the holiday home, a converted barn, engulfed in flames. Firefighters managed to subdue the fire after approximately two-thirds of the building was consumed by the blaze.

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Fiona Scott Morton, a highly qualified American economist, has decided not to take up the position of Chief Competition Economist in the European Commission following widespread criticism of her appointment. The strongest objections came from France, with President Emmanuel Macron expressing doubts and questioning whether there were no qualified European candidates for the role. Scott Morton, a Yale University economics professor, has an impressive background, including working in the US justice department’s antitrust department during the Obama presidency. However, she has also worked as a consultant for major tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, which raised concerns given that her job would involve regulating these digital giants.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager defended the appointment, highlighting Scott Morton’s corporate experience as an asset. Nevertheless, Scott Morton made the decision not to take up the post due to the political controversy surrounding her appointment and the importance of having the full support of the EU’s competition directorate. Opposition to her appointment came from various quarters, including President Macron and several Commission colleagues, as well as the four largest political blocs in the European Parliament. However, after discussions with Scott Morton, some concerns were addressed, and Philippe Lamberts of the Greens expressed support for her.

Critics argued that the criticism of Scott Morton’s appointment was unjustified since her role would primarily involve overseeing economic evidence in competition enforcement rather than favoring specific competitors. Nobel Prize-winning economist Jean Tirole praised her qualifications and stated that the European Commission was fortunate to have attracted someone of her caliber. Margrethe Vestager emphasized that the suggestion of bias based on nationality was questionable and clarified that Scott Morton would only need to recuse herself from a few cases.

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