Evening Update Tuesday 23rd May 2023

A people-smuggler has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for transporting migrants in his van across the border from Italy into France. Border police in Montgenèvre, in the Hautes-Alpes, carried out a roadside check on a van in the middle of night on 28 April. They found 32 migrants piled into the back of the Mercedes Sprinter van. They had come from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan and told investigators that they had paid between €400 and €600 for the crossing.

A vast floating private beach described by campaigners as an ecological aberration has come off the production line and will soon reach its destination, off the coast of Mandelieu. Called Canua Island, it's a 1,700-square-metre platform that will be anchored 600 metres from the shore. It was built in Italy and was transported by ship to Toulon this week. The private floating beach will be able to accommodate up to 350 people, who will be ferried out to the resort by shuttle boat. It features a restaurant, bar-lounge and freshwater swimming pool. Supported by Mandelieu town hall, the project has met with strong opposition from environmental campaigners and local residents, who amassed more than 7,000 signatures in a petition.

Meanwhile, a plan to build a moto-cross track in a sleepy village in the Roya valley has been struck down by France's Council of State. An environmental association and several local residents had gone to France's highest administrative court to have the project scrapped. The mayor of La Brigue had initially given planning permission for the moto-cross track. Those against the project argued that it would bring noise and traffic to the usually peaceful area, as well as requiring deforestation work.

Recent torrential rainfall and flooding in Italy - which left more than a dozen people dead and thousands without a home - have also had a knock-on effect on parts of the French Riviera. The Roya river has been running at exceptionally high levels in recent days. Some of the temporary crossings built after Storm Alex in 2020 have been badly damaged. The Alpes-Maritimes department says it remains on track to complete all the major rebuilding works after Storm Alex by the end of this year, at a total cost of more than €300 million.

After several difficult years due to coronavirus restrictions, cafes and restaurants in Cannes are rubbing their hands and have reported exceptional levels of business in recent weeks. The general consensus among the hotel and catering industry appears to be that business is booming. One restaurant just off the Croisette, New York New York, says it's serving 800 meals per day and employing 85 staff to cope with demand. Meanwhile staff at the Marriott hotel are working around the clock providing room service to guests. It's a crucial fortnight for tourism in Cannes, whose population grows from 75,000 to more than 200,000 people during the film festival. 

Meanwhile, several streets around the Palais des Festivals in Cannes - including the venue itself - had their gas supply cut off this lunchtime, during the busiest period for local restaurants. The cut-off applied to part of the Croisette and the Place du Général de Gaulle. At the start of the film festival, the CGT trade union had threatened to carry out action to disrupt proceedings, as part of ongoing protests against French pension reforms, but the union has denied any involvement.

Almost half a million households in the Paca region will be receiving their 2023 energy cheque in the post in the coming days. The energy cheque is automatically sent out to one in five households with the lowest incomes - typically those earning less than €11,000 on their 2021 tax return. Across France, more than five million households are affected. The amount varies between €48 and €277 depending on your income and household composition. Here in the Paca region, the cheques are being sent out this week and should arrive by the end of the month. They can be used as part-payment towards any household energy bills, any time until the end of March next year.

And Monaco is making the final preparations for a year-long commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Prince Rainier III, Prince Albert II's father, who reigned in the principality from 1949 to 2005. The year-round celebration begins on 31st May with a day of entertainment on the Rocher exclusively reserved for Monaco residents, with performances by 350 artists including musicians, magicians, dancers and traditional Monegasque folklore. A special two-euro coin marking the centenary has been minted and will be offered to Monaco residents and 30,000 Monaco flags have been produced for the occasion. Treasure hunts and bouncy castles are planned to entertain the children, not to mention food, a huge birthday cake, pétanque and free visits of part of the princely palace. The principality is expecting upwards of 20,000 visitors on 31st May and the event will be made possible with the help of almost 300 volunteers.


Brazil has declared a six-month animal health emergency after several cases of avian flu were found in wild birds. Seven cases have been reported in Espirito Santo state, with another discovered in Rio de Janeiro state. The emergency declaration makes it easier for the government to now bring in measures to stop the highly infectious H5N1 virus from spreading. Brazil is the world's largest exporter of chicken meat, with annual sales of nearly $10bn. Authorities say the cases were found far away from Brazil's main areas of production in the south of the country.

The UK government borrowed more than expected last month, with inflation pushing up interest payments on debt partly to blame. Borrowing, the difference between spending and tax income, reached £25.6bn in April, £11.9bn more than for the same month last year. The costs of energy support schemes and increases in benefit payments were also behind the increase. It was second-highest borrowing figure for April since records began in 1993.

WhatsApp says it will allow users to edit messages, in a move that will see it match a feature offered by competitors like Telegram and Signal. The firm says messages can be edited for up to 15 minutes after being sent. The instant-messaging service is part of US technology giant Meta, which also owns Facebook and Instagram. The feature will be made available to WhatsApp's 2 billion users in the coming weeks. Edited messages will be tagged as "edited", so recipients are aware that the content has been changed.


Tennis - Former world number one Simona Halep has accused tennis' doping authority of "publicly stating one thing while privately doing another" by requesting a further delay to her hearing. Halep was charged with a second doping offence last week over "irregularities" in her biological passport. The Romanian, 31, has been suspended since October after testing positive for a banned substance at the US Open. The second charge is separate to the one for which she is already suspended. In a statement on Twitter, 2019 Wimbledon champion Halep said the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) had requested a third delay. Halep, who denies the charges, said she was "extremely shocked and disappointed by the ITIA's attitude".

Formula 1 - Fernando Alonso has been tipped by former team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella to win a third world championship before he retires from Formula 1. Alonso, 41, has catapulted back to competing at the front of the field after Aston Martin's surprisingly impressive start to the 2023 season. He has picked up podiums in four of his opening five races for the team and sits third in the drivers' championship. This weekend's Monaco GP may represent the first time Alonso can contest for a race victory this year, with the Monte Carlo street circuit's unique characteristics potentially diminishing the strengths of the dominant Red Bull RB19 while at the same time masking the weaknesses of Aston Martin's AMR23 car. Fisichella, who was team-mate to Alonso when the Spaniard won his two world championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006, believes another title is possible now Alonso is back in a competitive car.

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