French and Riviera News Wednesday 29th March 2023

News

French President rejects a “pause” in the pension reform plans - French President Emmanuel Macron has clearly rejected any revision of the pensions law as the government denied demands from unions  on Tuesday for a “pause” in the reform plans, in order to allow for a meditation period. Nonetheless Macron did say that the government needed to “continue to hold out a hand to the unions”. French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has scheduled talks over the next three weeks with members of parliament, political parties and local authorities, while still hoping to meet union leaders.

The nationwide protests and strikes on Tuesday called by unions was the tenth since mid-January. Unions estimated some 450,000 people demonstrated in Paris. The police put the number at 93,000. Authorities arrested 27 people in Paris. Violence and vandalism was reported in Nantes and Rennes, although demonstrations were generally calmer than last time. In the Loire-Atlantique, a bank and a car were set on fire and the administrative court was also targeted. At least one protester was injured in Nantes where the prefecture said it had made 49 arrests. In Rennes, substantial damage was reported in the city centre where an insurance agency was ransacked. Police used a water cannon and six people were arrested. In Toulouse, the demonstration was also marked by incidents. Elsewhere, in Lyon, shops were vandalised and at least one arrest was made.

Unions said in a joint press conference on Tuesday evening that they "regretted" the fact that people were wounded during clashes between demonstrators and police at Place de la Nation in Paris, but announced an 11th day of strikes for Thursday, 6th April.

Train network - Meanwhile, the SNCF has said there will be an improvement on train traffic today Wednesday 29th March, as it plans to maintain 80% of its TGV Inoui and Ouigo, two-thirds of its Intercités and three-quarters of its TER trains.

Bin collectors to suspend strike action - Strike action from bin collectors has been suspended in Paris and Marseille. Rubbish has been piling up since the strike began on March 6th. 7,000 tonnes of uncollected waste lies on the streets of Paris which is less than on Friday when it stood at more them 10,000.

Tourism - Some tourism professionals on the Riviera have voiced concern that the ongoing strikes will put holidaymakers off from visiting France as the summer season approaches. The Bouches-du-Rhône branch of the Union of Hospitality Industries, which represents restaurants and hotels, says some hotel owners are seeing growing numbers of cancellations. It says uncertainty about the future situation in France is harming the hospitality industry, as it desperately needs a good summer to bounce back from the effects of the coronavirus shutdowns.

Petrol - The Alpes-Maritimes has extended its ban on the sale of petrol in jerrycans. The measure now runs until at least next Monday. The limit of 30 litres per person also remains. Nationwide, about 15% of petrol stations have run out of at least one type of fuel.

Banks raided in French capital – In other news, five banks have been raided by the French authorities in Paris, suspected of tax fraud as part of a widening European investigation of a scheme that allowed investors to avoid paying billions of euros in tax. Some 150 investigators from the financial prosecution office conducted searches of Société Générale, BNP Paribas and its Exane unit, HSBC and the investment bank arm of the BPCE banking group, in central Paris and the La Défense financial district. Banks allegedly played a facilitation role in the schemes, while earning commissions on the illegal transactions. The same investigation is looking into suspicions of money laundering.

Transport minister to regulate use of electric scooters - France’s transport minister has announced plans to regulate the use of electric scooters on public roads in France, with the minimum age for driving one being raised from 12 to 14 years of age and an increase in fines from 35 to 135 euros. The announcement comes as the town hall of Paris votes on Sunday as to whether to maintain or ban self-service scooters in the French capital. It has not yet been decided if wearing a helmet is to be made compulsory.

Covid - The Covid-19 call centre, screening and home monitoring unit at the Rainier III Auditorium in Monaco is to close its doors this Friday, March 31st.  After more than three years the setup is to close as part of the government’s changes to covid rules. From April 1st, people wishing to get tested can either go to a laboratory or a pharmacy. For vaccination against covid the public are invited to go, by appointment from April 10th to the Monegasque Screening Centre at the Princess Grace Hospital.  The principality has recorded a total of 16,167 positive cases of coronavirus, for a population of around 38,000 people, since the first tests which were carried out more than 3 years ago. 16,080 of them were cured.

Kate Powers Foundation – Finally, congratulations and well done to all those involved in the official launch of the Kate Powers Foundation which took place in Monaco on Tuesday evening. The inauguration was held at the Twiga Monte-Carlo in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Foundation’s honorary president. The Foundation was created in 2022 to honour and continue the legacy of Kate Powers. Kate’s life-long desire and passion was to build and strengthen a sustainable community that works together for the benefit of everyone.

Business

Shares of Chinese technology giant Alibaba have jumped after it announced a plan to break up the company. The firm says five of the six units created by the move will explore raising fresh funding and initial public offering (IPO) options. Alibaba shares gained more than 14% in New York on Tuesday and were more than 13% higher in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Its US-listed shares have fallen by almost 70% since 2020 on concerns over Beijing's crackdown on the tech sector.

The Bank of England governor has said that it is on "heightened" alert for further turmoil in the banking sector.  However, Andrew Bailey told MPs the recent problems facing lenders had not caused stress in the UK banking system. Officials have tried to calm investors since Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failed, sparking concerns about the stability of other lenders. In Europe, worries over the strength of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse led to a rushed takeover by rival UBS.

And - Adidas has asked the US Trademark Office to reject an application for a Black Lives Matter (BLM) trademark featuring three parallel stripes. The sportswear giant said that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation design would create confusion with its own famous three-stripe mark.  Adidas added that it has been using its logo for more than 70 years. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is the most prominent entity in the decentralised BLM movement.

Sport

Football - Sensational Scotland stunned fans in their bid to reach a consecutive European Championships by beating Spain 2-0 last night. Wales beat Latvia 1-0

Tennis - Spain's world number one Carlos Alcaraz defeated American Tommy Paul in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. The 19-year-old US Open champion won 6-4 6-4 to extend his winning streak to nine matches. Alcaraz must defend his title in Miami in order to stay atop the ATP rankings. He will play another American, Taylor Fritz, in the last eight after the ninth seed beat Denmark's Holger Rune 6-3 6-4.

Weather

Sunny with a gentle breeze. Highs of 15 degrees in Monaco, Nice, and Saint-Tropez. 16 degrees in Marseille and Toulon. This evening going down to 7 degrees with clear skies.

The outlook for tomorrow and Friday. Fine and sunny highs of between 16-17 degrees.

Sunrise       07.19am

Sunset        07.51pm

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