French and Riviera News Wednesday 22nd March 2023

News

French President to give a televised interview this lunchtime - French President Emmanuel Macron will give a televised interview this lunchtime following his controversial pensions reform being signed into law. On Monday the French government fended off two no-confidence votes in parliament which has since prompted angry protests in Paris and other cities. 

Emmanuel Macron will be live to answer questions by journalists from broadcasters TF1 and France 2 at 1pm French time. Until now the French Head of State has remained largely silent on the pension changes. Macron's government used a constitutional measure to adopt the reform, which pushes back the retirement age to 64 from 62, without a vote in the lower-house National Assembly, sparking claims of a "denial of democracy" by angry demonstrators.

Trade unions to intensify strike action – Meanwhile, trade unions on the Riviera have warned that they plan to intensify their strike action. CGT union activists in the railway sector are planning to occupy the platforms at Nice-Ville railway station this Wednesday morning from 10.00am, with very few trains expected to run as a result. Unions say other forms of action in the coming days could include blockades of public services, spontaneous demonstrations, and targeted power cuts.

The next major day of industrial action is tomorrow Thursday 23rd March. A march is planned from the Centre Administratif towards Nice airport, with the goal of assembling 30,000 people.

Petrol in jerry cans banned - The Var and Alpes-Maritimes préfectures have both issued a decree banning the sale of petrol in jerry cans. The measure is in place until at least Friday in the Var, and until next Monday in the Alpes-Maritimes. It comes amid panic-buying by motorists, which led to at least 60 petrol stations in the Var running out of one or several types of fuel. In the Var, about a quarter of petrol stations are partially or completely out of stock. In the Alpes-Maritimes, 17 petrol stations are affected - four of which have no fuel at all.

At the Fos-sur-Mer oil refinery in the Bouches-du-Rhône, police were brought in to requisition striking workers and ensure that fuel tankers start to leave the depot again. France's energy ministry issued the requisitioning order due to what it called "worsening supply tensions" at petrol stations around the Paca region. Trade union activists from the energy sector planned a go-slow convoy on the A57 motorway near Toulon during Tuesday morning's rush hour.

Racist crimes on the rise in the Alpes-Maritimes - According to a report from France’s Minister of the Interior the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur is one of the regions in France where there are the most racist crimes and offenses. In total in France in 2022, 12,600 offenses were recorded. While it is in Paris that there are the most racist crimes and offenses recorded per inhabitant, figures are on the rise in the Alpes-Maritimes and have stagnated in the Var.

Bus driver attacked by pensioner - A bus driver has been attacked by a pensioner for playing his music too loud. The incident occurred on Monday at around 3.30pm at the Sainte Dévote bridge in Monaco, when the driver, on line 11 of the Zest bus network, linking the Principality to the village of La Turbie, was attacked with a walking stick by the pensioner. Suffering head injuries, the victim was taken to the Princess Grace Hospital and has since filed a complaint with police.

Cityscoot to leave the Riviera - The electric moped-sharing service, Cityscoot, has announced it's leaving the Riviera after five years in operation. The company chose the Nice area for its expansion outside of Paris and attracted 30,000 users. Its blue and white mopeds have been used locally to make more than two million journeys. Cityscoot's contract was coming up for renewal and the firm has announced that it hasn't been renewed. The scheme will stop operating on 31 March. It will be replaced by a new operator, Yego, which is promising 700 new vehicles on the city's streets, compared with Cityscoot's 500. However it is not clear at this stage whether Yego will be ready to start as soon as Cityscoot's contract ends, on 1 April.

Rat extermination in Toulon – Toulon in the Var, is reinforcing its rat extermination programme, after noticing a worrying increase in the number of rodents on the city's streets. Discarded food, bins put out at the wrong time and people leaving food out for cats and pigeons are contributing to the problem. The city is launching an awareness campaign to ask everyone to do their bit - and it hopes it won't have to move towards a more repressive campaign, involving fines.

Monaco breaks milestone - Monaco has broken the symbolic milestone of more than 60,000 private sector employees for the first time. According to the latest stats from the Monegasque Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, private-sector employment in the principality grew by more than 5% last year. An extra 3,000 jobs were created throughout Monaco's more than 6,000 private companies, with growth particularly in accommodation and catering, administrative and support services. The number of hours worked in the private sector in Monaco is nearing the 100 million per year mark, up 8 million on 2021, fuelled in part by a post-coronavirus rebound in the hospitality industry.

Tesla of the skies - The world’s first electric air taxi network is preparing for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. Dubbed the “Tesla of the skies” the operator Groupe ADP of Paris airports said on Tuesday that “they are going to make it happen”. Using the existing helicopter route network, the vehicles, known as VoloCity air taxis, will fly with one passenger and one pilot along two short routes over the French capital during the event.

Monte-Carlo Fashion Week - The Monte-Carlo Fashion Week will this year celebrate its 10th anniversary. The event takes place from May 17th to the 21st and celebrates its first decade of existence having been launched back in 2013 by the Monegasque Chamber of Fashion. The event which is placed under the high patronage of Princess Charlene will once again highlight the world of fashion in the Principality by attracting a large number of participants and professionals, with particular attention to sustainable fashion. Innovative designers from the international scene are expected and the event will be supporting the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation for the seventh consecutive year. The main objective of the Princess’s Foundation is to save lives against drowning by raising public awareness to the dangers of water, teaching children preventive measures and teaching them to swim.

French lottery win - The Française des Jeux has presented three checks for 2 million euros to three winners who by chance found the winning combination of the French lottery on Wednesday March 1st by using the dates of two great wars: 14, 18, 21, 39, 45, and the lucky number 8. The winners were from Paris, a family in Pas-de-Calais and the last was in the Vendée.

Sunniest place in France - Finally, a new report claims to have identified the sunniest place in France - and it's probably no surprise that it's here on the Riviera. Grasse came top in the league table of sunshine hours, drawn up by a holiday rental platform, with 285 hours of sunshine per month on average. The top 5 is made up entirely of towns in the Alpes-Maritimes. After Grasse come Antibes and Cagnes-sur-Mer with 284 hours, then Cannes on 283 and Nice with 281. Fréjus in the Var comes sixth, followed by Martigues, Marseille and La Ciotat in the Bouches-du-Rhône. The ranking is based on French towns with more than 20,000 inhabitants and publicly available sunshine statistics from 2009 to 2021.

Business

In what would be the organisation's first loan to a country at war, the International Monetary Fund, says it has reached a staff-level agreement with Ukraine on funding worth $15.6bn (£12.8bn). The funding is expected to be approved in the coming weeks. It would also be one of the largest financing packages Ukraine has received since Russia's invasion. The IMF recently changed a rule to allow loans to countries facing "exceptionally high uncertainty".

Stock markets around the world have bounced back after the US and UK governments again reassured markets about banks' stability. Investors have recently been unnerved by a string of bank failures. But US stock markets were higher after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen signalled the US government would protect people's deposits if another bank collapsed. In the UK, the FTSE closed 1.79% higher after gains in top bank shares. NatWest, Prudential and Barclays shares gained about 5%, while Standard Chartered and Lloyds also traded higher.

Bill Gates says that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) is the most important technological advance in decades. In a blog post on Tuesday, the Microsoft co-founder called it as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone adding that "it will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other”.

And - Google has started rolling out its AI chatbot Bard, but it is only available to certain users and they have to be over the age of 18. Unlike its viral rival ChatGPT, it can access up-to-date information from the internet and has a "Google it" button which accesses search.

Sport

Football – France’s head coach Didier Deschamps has appointed the Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappé as the new captain of the national team. The 24-year-old takes over from Hugo Lloris who announced his retirement in January after the World Cup. Speaking to French media on Tuesday Deschamps said that "Kylian ticks all the boxes to have this extra responsibility.” Mbappe’s first game as skipper will come on Friday in the Euro 2024 qualifier against the Netherlands at the Stade de France. It will be his 67th appearance for his country.

Tennis - Former tennis great Martina Navratilova says she is "cancer-free" after fearing she "would not see next Christmas". The 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, who previously had breast cancer in 2010, was diagnosed with throat and breast cancer late last year. In January, she said both cancers had been caught at an early stage.

Weather

Sunny with moderate breeze. Highs of 16 degrees in Antibes, Grasse, and Saint-Tropez. 17 degrees in Saint-Raphael and Nice. 18 degrees in Cannes. This evening going down to 9 degrees with clear skies.

The outlook for tomorrow and Friday. Remaining fine with highs of 16-17 degrees. Light rain is forecast across the region for Sunday.

Sunrise       06.30am

Sunset        06.44pm

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