French and Riviera News Friday 20th January 2023

News

More than a million people take to the streets in protest against pension reform - More than a million people have taken to the streets in France on Thursday to demand the withdrawal of the government’s plan to reform pension payments. The widespread strike crippled public transport, closed schools and slowed the energy sector. In the French capital, the CGT union said some 400,000 demonstrators marched through the streets. Government figures released on Thursday night said there were more than one million protesters throughout the country. In Paris, clashes broke out between police and demonstrators around the Place de la Bastille. Missiles were hurled at police who fired tear gas in response. Violence was also reported in Lyon and Rennes.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of several Riviera towns and cities as part of a nationwide day of protest against France's proposed pension reforms. Marches were held in Toulon, Draguignan, Cannes - and the biggest was in Nice, on Place Masséna, where unions claimed as many as 20,000 people were present. The CGT trade union had counted on an exceptional turnout. Police and CRS riot officers were deployed in large numbers to keep an eye on the demonstrations.

Thursday was regarded as a test by unions who have announced another day of action for Tuesday January 31st. Meanwhile, the CGT petrol union has indicated it wants to stage a 72-hour strike on February 6th.

Asylum seekers figures - Figures released this week by the French refugee office Ofpra, have shown a 27% increase since 2021 in the number of people seeking asylum, with nearly 131,000 asking for asylum in France in 2022, close to the record high from before the covid pandemic. Some 17,000 Afghans filed for asylum in France in 2022, a 37 percent increase from the year before. Next are people from Bangladesh (8,500 requests), Turkey (8,500), Georgia (8,100 and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5,900). The statistics do not take into account the influx of Ukrainians displaced by war with Russia since February 2022.

Major search operation in Toulon - About 50 police officers in Toulon carried out a major search operation on the city's small local bars and cafes on Tuesday evening. They swooped on dozens of independent cafes simultaneously to check transactions were being properly recorded and that staff had the right to work in France. Twelve offences were recorded, including failing to display a licence to sell alcohol in the window, or failing to keep necessary administrative documents and staff records.

Police keep Monaco safe - It was a who’s who of powerful people Thursday morning at the Oceanographic Museum where the Monaco Police Department held its traditional New Year’s ceremony. This annual event serves as an opportunity to report on police and crime statistics in the Principality. After two years of cancellation due to the Covid pandemic, Police Commissioner Richard Marangoni gave his address in the presence of H.S.H. Prince Albert and Minister of State Pierre Dartoux, as well other key figures in the Monegasque government. Marangoni joined the Monaco force as a police officer in 1984, was named Director in 2016 and appointed as Police Commissioner last year.

According to standout statistics from Commissioner Marangoni, between 2019 and 2022 overall crime in Monaco fell by 9 %, from 889 to 810 incidents and street crime dropped 34%, from 90 to 59 incidents. However, the commissioner pointed out that in both cases numbers were up slightly from 2021, a year marked by the pandemic.

Other standout statistics between 2021 and 2022, reported break ins rose from 8 to 15, and drunk driving spiked from 132 to 282 cases in Monaco. But offences involving narcotics dropped slightly from 85 to 83 and pickpocketing dropped from 2 to none.

Highlights from 2022 included the inauguration of Villa Marcelle, the new home of the Monegasque version of RAID, the Protection, Surveillance and Intervention Group. Also, the success of digitalizing administration services, which processed 15,232 secure residence cards, and the Police Department’s 120th anniversary last July.

Looking to the future, while there are currently 1,057 video surveillance cameras across the principality, 2023 will see the opening of what Commissioner Marangoni described as “an exceptional space” to better manage major events.

And in a speech at the end of the New Year’s ceremony, Prince Albert thanked the energy and determination of public security and emphasized the importance of the country’s police presence.

Engie apologises - Power supplier Engie has apologised for accidentally cutting off the gas supply to 160 homes in a block of flats in Golfe-Juan, in the height of winter. Residents on Avenue Clément Massié found they had no gas on Tuesday evening and complained to the syndic management agency. It had no idea why the disconnection had occurred, as the bills had always been paid on time. Gas distributor GRDF managed to restore the supply the following afternoon, after a cold night without heating or hot water. Engie blamed the mishap on a computer problem. When the building switched from a fixed to a variable gas contract in the new year, details of the new contract weren't properly registered in its database.

45th International Circus Festival - Princess Stéphanie of Monaco has attended the opening night of the 45th International Circus Festival. Stéphanie enjoyed the celebrations on Thursday evening here in the Principality and happily posed for photos while an impeccably trained parrot perched on her shoulder. Ahead of the show's opening, cast members, including acrobats, magicians and bullfighters, gathered on the stage. The festival is an annual event in the principality and has been running since 1974. 

Business

Japan's inflation rate has jumped to a fresh 41-year high as businesses pass on higher costs to their customers. Core consumer prices for last month rose by 4% from a year earlier, double the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) target level. It puts further pressure on the central bank to put up its interest rates to help ease the rising cost of living. This week the Bank of Japan surprised investors by announcing that it would keep rates near zero, despite the increasing cost of everything from food to fuel.

Bankrupt crypto exchange FTX's new chief executive, John Ray, is looking into the possibility of reviving the platform. He told the Wall Street Journal that he has set up a taskforce to explore restarting FTX.com to "recover more value" for people who lost money. A year ago FTX was valued at $32bn (£26bn), but it filed for bankruptcy protection in November. It has been estimated that $8bn worth of funds was missing.

Following a “period of careful consideration" Argos has announced on Thursday that it is to shut all of its stores in the Republic of Ireland in June this year. The move is expected to result in 580 employees losing their jobs and the closure of 34 sites across the country.

Meanwhile, at the height of the NHS crisis Lloyds Pharmacy is to pull out of 237 in-store Sainsbury's branches, potentially putting more than 2,000 jobs at risk and exposing the financial pressure on UK pharmacies.

Co-chief executive of Netflix Reed Hastings is stepping down from his role from the firm he helped found more than 25 years ago. His announcement came as Netflix announced a big rise in subscriber numbers at the end of last year. With money tight, people were expected to cut back on streaming services. But Netflix bucked that trend, adding more than seven million new subscribers, far more than analysts expected.

Sport

Football - Manchester City overpowered Tottenham with a stunning comeback to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal to five points after beating them 4-2 last night.

In the Premier League action this weekend, tomorrow Liverpool are at home to Chelsea. Kick off is at 1.30pm French time. Afternoon matches with a 4pm kick off French time will see Bournemouth play Nottingham Forest, Leicester are at home to Brighton, Southampton play Aston Villa, West Ham face Everton and the last match of the day will see Crystal Palace play Newcastle. Kick off is at 6.30pm French time.

On Sunday Leeds are at home to Brentford and Manchester City face Wolverhampton. Kick off for both matches is at 3pm French time and with a 5.30pm kick off French time, leaders Arsenal are at home to Manchester United.

Rugby Union - Rugby chiefs are to introduce a reduction in tackle height from 1 July 2023 in the community game. Players will only be allowed to tackle from waist height down, says the Rugby Football Union council. It has been introduced to improve player safety.

Cycling – British rider James Knox has criticised cycling's concussion protocols, after being disqualified from the Tour Down Under in Australia. Knox, 27, crashed 55km from the end of stage one, but was later disqualified. He believes there is a conflict between Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rules and rider safety.

Weather

Sunny intervals with a moderate breeze. Highs of 11 degrees in Monaco, Nice, Saint-Tropez and Antibes. This evening going down to 1 degree with clear skies.

The outlook for the weekend - Sunny with a gentle breeze. Highs of 11-12 degrees.

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