French and Riviera News Friday 4th November 2022

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French parliament suspended - The French parliament has been suspended after a black MP was told to 'Go back to Africa!' by a far-Right opponent. Carlos Martens Bilongo, a 31-year-old from a Congolese background, was asking a question about climate change when he was verbally attacked on Thursday afternoon in the National Assembly. The speaker, immediately asked: 'Who is the MP who said that phrase? It's not possible.'

The culprit was identified as Grégoire de Fournas, the 31-year-old National Rally MP for the Gironde department in southwest France. He immediately tried to explain himself by saying he had been referring to 'an African boat' which had difficulty 'getting back into port'. Mr Bilongo accused the National Rally of targeting him because of the colour of his skin. Parliamentary authorities meanwhile said there would be a full investigation into Mr De Fournas’s words. The National Rally celebrated its 50th birthday earlier this month, with Marine Le Pen saying it was 'ready to govern'. Her party won 89 seats in the National Assembly – its largest number ever, since Jean Marie Le Pen founded the party in 1972.

Former French justice minister to appear in court - A former French justice minister Michel Mercier is due to appear in a Paris court accused of embezzling public funds by allegedly creating fake jobs, including one for a phantom part-time parliamentary assistant. Mercier is also said to have employed his wife as his assistant in the senate for four years, and then one of his daughters who was reportedly living in London at the time. The allegations came to light in August 2017, six months after the then prime minister, François Fillon, was knocked out of the presidential race after he paid his wife for non-existent work. The Fillons were found guilty of embezzling public funds in 2020, a conviction upheld on appeal in May this year.

Hospital staff demonstrate - Hospital staff in Avignon have demonstrated during a visit on Thursday from France’s Health Minister. Caregivers gathered arguing that the aid of 400 million euros announced by the French government on Wednesday was "insufficient". The aid, which supplements the 500 million euros granted in October, will be used to pay for the doubling of salaries for those working night shifts until March 31st, in order to "recognize the commitment and the hardship of night work,” said the minister. But the additional aid is considered as "not enough" by trade unionists who expect a “global health policy”. Unions are expected to gather again on Thursday November 10th as part of a national day of action.

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