French and Riviera News Tuesday 31st October 2023

News

Russian oligarch placed in police custody - A Russian oligarch considered to have close ties with Vladimir Putin has been placed in police custody in France. The home of Alexeï Kuzmitchev, located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, as well as a second home in Saint-Tropez in the Var, were searched on Monday by investigators from the Central Office for the Fight against Financial and Tax Offenses (OCLCIFF). During the searches, wads of cash were found. Kuzmichev is suspected of tax crimes and violation of sanctions, suspected of laundering several tens of millions of euros.

So who is Alexei Kuzmitchev? 61-year-old Kuzmitchev, is one of the founders of the “Alfa group” consortium. His fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at more than 6 billion euros, making him one of the 400 richest men in the world. The European Union considers him "one of the most influential people in Russia", who has established links with the president.  In 2022, two of his yachts were immobilized by customs on the Côte d'Azur, before the Russian businessman obtained the annulment from the courts.

France to reduce the use of pesticides - By 2030 France wants to reduce the use of pesticides by half. The French Prime Minister is expected to present the new strategy to achieve this which would be in addition to the 250 million euros already provided in the 2024 finance bill. The “Nodu” indicator, or number of unit doses which takes into account the quantities of pesticides sold and the surfaces treated, went from 82 in 2009 to 120.3 in 2018 in France, before dropping to 85.7 in 2021. According to the government's new objective, it should drop to around 50 by 2030. 

The International French Language City a "crazy dream", come true - On Monday the French President Emmanuel Macron visited the Cité Internationale de la langue française, during its inauguration at the Château de Villers-Cotterets, in northeastern France. Macron said he was pleading for “unity and universality” adding that it is “a language of freedom and universalism”.  It was in the Renaissance castle, 80 km from Paris, that Francis I signed the decree in 1539 imposing French in legal texts, the beginnings of its use as an official language. The Head of State declared that “La Cité, the first place in the world dedicated to the French language, is a “crazy dream” which has been “realized”. With an investment of 210 million euros, it is Macron's second largest cultural project, after Notre-Dame de Paris.

Meanwhile, it was during his visit that Macron condemned the practice of so-called "inclusive writing", which aims to make the feminine more prominent in the French language. He said that people "should not give in to the current trend". His wife Brigitte Macron has previously denounced the use of the non-gender pronoun "iel" instead of the masculine and feminine il and elle.

Emergency alert system - It's been announced that a test of the emergency alert system in the event of a tsunami will be made this coming Friday, 3 November. A test of the FR-Alert alert and information system will be carried out simultaneously, between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Friday, in nine coastal departments bordering the Mediterranean - the Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Hérault, Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales, Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud. People located on the coast of the nine departments will receive a notification accompanied by a specific sound signal, even if the mobile phone is in silent mode. The government has said that no particular action is expected from the population and no forces such as firefighters and police will be deployed. The objective is to raise public awareness of the FR-Alert system and to remind people of the reflexes to adopt when faced with a tsunami risk.

Halloween - The prefect of the Var has made three decrees introducing temporary bans during Halloween evening for the use of fireworks, the consumption of alcohol on public roads and fuel retailing. The prefect said that the decrees are being made in the context of the Vigipirate plan, which has been raised to the “Emergency attack” level since October 13, and the need to guarantee order, security, and public health. They are in effect from today at 5pm until Wednesday at 8am. The bans cover the take-out sale of alcoholic beverages as well as the consumption of alcoholic beverages on public roads; the sale, use and transportation of fireworks and the retail sale of fuel, acid, chemical or explosive products.

Haute-Corse weather warning - The department of the Haute-Corse has been placed on an orange weather alert with violent winds expected today Tuesday 31st October. According to Meteo France the Bastia region could see gusts reaching up to 180 km/h, with 150 km/h on the Cap Corse and 120 km/h near Calvi. The warning is in place from 10am to 4pm. Meanwhile six departments on the Atlantic coast of France are also placed on a yellow weather alert as storm Ciaran is expected to hit the region from Wednesday evening.

Locally, a yellow weather warning has been put in place in the Alpes-Maritimes due to high winds and waves along the coastline.

Train traffic disrupted - Train traffic was severely disrupted on Monday evening due to rockfall on the tracks between Les Arcs-Draguignan and Nice. The incident was caused by a car which crashed into a bridge over the railway tracks, causing rock to fall onto the track below. Train traffic was interrupted in both directions with traffic resuming in the area at around 9pm.

Road cut off - Meanwhile, the RD19 has been cut off to traffic in Fayence following a landslide. A diversion has been set up between Fayence and Seillans.

Tourism and the Rugby World Cup – Finally, recent figures have shown that tourism grew 12.3% in France in the first quarter of 2023. The biggest increase came from luxury hotels, with occupancy rising by 31.4% compared with lower-cost accommodation rising by just 2.7%.

And - a recent boost saw the Rugby World Cup bring an official estimated profit of 2 billion euros to France. Despite the host nation crashing out in the quarter finals of the tournament an estimated 600,000 foreign fans travelled to France for the competition. The nine host cities all recorded a boost in spending on tourist accommodation as well as in bars and restaurants, while Irish and Scottish fans set a new record for beer sales.

Business

The American internet giant Meta has announced that it will offer paid subscriptions to Europeans from November to use Instagram and Facebook without adverts. Users “will have the choice to continue to use the two platforms for free” with personalized adverts” or to subscribe to an ad free service”. The new system above all allows Meta to comply with European laws on personal data and targeted advertising. Users who do not consent to the group collecting their personal data for advertising targeting purposes will retain access to the platforms, for the cost of the subscription.

Meta and Google have built their empires on revenue generated by finely targeted advertising using the personal data they collect from their billions of users. A strategy which clashes with the fight that the European Union has been waging for years against the tracking of Internet users without their consent. In 2016, there was first the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), then, more recently, the Digital Markets Regulation (DMA), which came into force this summer. The digital platforms concerned have until March 6th, 2024 to comply.

Elon Musk is expected to attend a global summit on artificial intelligence in the UK this week. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would do a live interview with the tech billionaire after Thursday's event. The summit, at Bletchley Park, hopes to bring together AI experts and global leaders to discuss the potential risks of artificial intelligence.

Rising interest rates have sent profits at HSBC soaring as the banking giant set out plans to hand billions more dollars to its shareholders. HSBC said profits more than doubled to $7.7bn (£6.35bn) in the three months to September from the same period a year ago, although that was below forecasts. It said it had benefited from higher interest rates which allow it to charge more to lend to people and businesses. The Bank of England will announce its latest decision on rates on Thursday.

Sport

Football - Lionel Messi has won the Men's Ballon d'Or for an eighth time. The 36-year-old Argentina and Inter Miami forward was recognised at the ceremony in Paris after helping his country win the World Cup in Qatar last year.

Rugby Union - Eddie Jones has stepped down from his position as head coach of Australia. Jones, who began a second spell in charge of the team in January, will officially step down on 25 November. The Wallabies exited the recent Rugby World Cup in the pool stage - the first time in the tournament's history they failed to reach the knockout stage.

Tennis - Andy Murray says he is "not enjoying" his tennis after suffering an agonising opening-round defeat by Australian Alex de Minaur at the Paris Masters.

Weather

Mainly fine with strong winds. Highs of 22 degrees in Nice, Monaco and Antibes. 19 degrees in Vence and 20 degrees in Saint-Tropez. This evening going down to 13 degrees along the coast and 7 degrees inland with clear skies. Corsica has been placed on an orange alert due to strong winds today.

The outlook for Wednesday and Thursday. Scattered showers. Highs of 20 degrees. Strong winds in the Var.

Sunrise       07.04am

Sunset        05.22pm

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