Category Archives: France

(BBG) Macron Says the Euro Is Not Yet an Alternative to U.S. Dollar

(BBG) French President Emmanuel Macron said that the euro is not “a clear alternative” to the dollar thanks to the U.S. currency’s international “strengths.”

“Until now, we fail to make the euro as strong as the dollar,” Macron, speaking English, said in an interview with CNN broadcast on Sunday. “We made a great job during the past years but it’s not yet sufficient.”

For the French president, European corporations and entities are too dependent upon the U.S. currency. “This is an issue of sovereignty for me. So that’s why I want us to work very closely with our financial institutions, at the European levels and with all the partners, in order to build a capacity to be less dependent from the dollar,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean to be opponents — but I think for the stability of the global order, you’ll need a strong currency like (the) dollar, but you need some alternatives. Euro has to be one of these alternatives, which means we have to better enhance our financial structures and the financing of our players at the euro-zone level,” Macron said.

Macron said the Chinese currency was a de facto alternative to the greenback, “not at the global level but for a certain region.”

(EurActiv) Macron calls for ‘true European army’ to defend against Russia, US, China

(EurActiv

French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Defense Minister Florence Parly and French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux,. Paris, France, 13 July 2018. [CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Tuesday (6 November) for a “real European army” to allow the bloc to defend itself against Russia and even the United States, a hugely sensitive idea amongst EU nations which jealously guard their defence.

Macron, who has pushed for a joint European Union military force since his arrival in power, said Europe needed to be less dependent on American might, not least after US President Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States,” Macron told Europe 1 in his first radio interview since becoming president in May 2017.

“We will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.”

With Brexit looming, Germany and Britain ramp up defence cooperation

Britain signed a military cooperation agreement with Germany on Friday (5 October), emphasising London’s commitment to helping shield Europe from future security threats at a time when negotiations over its own exit from the EU are reaching a crunch time.

Macron has spearheaded the creation of a nine-country European force, independent from NATO, that could rapidly mount a joint military operation, evacuate civilians from a war zone, or provide aid after a natural disaster.

The nine countries’ defence ministers are set to meet for the first time on Wednesday in Paris to start thrashing out details of how the force will operate.

Finland is set to become the tenth country involved in the project, according to a source close to the talks.

Touchy subject

The wider EU is due to vastly expand its defence budget starting in 2021, allocating some €13 billion over seven years to research and develop new equipment.

Under an initiative known as PESCO, 25 EU countries have also pledged to better coordinate their defence spending and potentially their operations.

But talk of an “EU army”, an idea floated by European federalists for years, remains a deeply touchy subject amongst member states anxious to defend their sovereignty.

A French source said Macron was speaking about more closely coordinated defence rather than a truly supranational military spanning the continent.

The president “used the strong image of a ‘European army’ as a reminder” of the need for closer defence ties, the source said.

Europe aims for greater ‘strategic autonomy’ from US on defence

EU leaders pledged in Brussels on Thursday to intensify efforts to strengthen military cooperation within the bloc and reduce its reliance on the United States, amid growing doubts over the continued US involvement in transatlantic security.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the EU backed “a more meaningful and assertive defence identity” but that this cooperation should start with joint research and procurement.

“I don’t think this defence identity will start with an EU army,” he said.

“We have to start with the rest and we’ll see that at some point in time.”

Bruno Alomar, a professor at the French War School which trains top military officers, said Macron’s vision of a tight-knit European defence force was a long way off.

“The idea of creating a common strategic culture is not a bad one,” he told AFP.

“But there’s a massive gap between the European defence that Emmanuel Macron dreams about and the reality of very powerful disagreements between European partners.”

Russian meddling fears

Macron, who is set to host dozens of world leaders on Sunday for commemorations marking 100 years since the end of World War I, said the 70 years of peace enjoyed in Europe could not be taken for granted.

“For millennia, it has never lasted so long,” he said in the interview, recorded Monday night in Verdun, northeast France, as part of a weeklong tour of former battlefields.

Faced with “a Russia which is at our borders and has shown that it can be a threat”, Macron argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States.”

Battle rages over EU defence pact

A diplomatic tussle has broken over the European Union’s flagship defence cooperation pact, amid warnings that the bloc could cut itself off from major allies like the US and post-Brexit Britain.

In another apparent reference to Russia, he insisted that “intrusion attempts in cyberspace and multiple interventions in our democracies” required a united response.

The centrist French leader has been waging a vocal war on nationalism in recent days as he prepares to host leaders including Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ahead of European Parliament elections next May – billed by many observers as a battle between Macron-style pro-Europeans and rightwing populists – he said politicians must respond to voters’ fear and anger.

Europe “has probably become too ultra-liberal”, he said, “which doesn’t allow the middle classes to live well”.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen – one of the targets of Macron’s anti-nationalist tirades – meanwhile accused him of seeking to turn Europe into an empire.

“And it was empires that were at the origin of World War I, not nations,” she told Radio Classique.

(EuroActiv) Macron loses out in polls as Le Pen surges forward

(EuroActiv)

French far-right political party National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen speaks with the journalists in front the statue of Joan of Arc during the party’s traditional May Day in Cannes, southern France, 01 May 2018. [EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER]

France’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party has overtaken President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM in the latest poll of voting intentions ahead of the 2019 European Elections.

The poll, taken out by the Institut français d’opinion publique (IFOP), was published on Sunday (4 November), and showed that Macron’s centrist party Republic on the Move (LREM) had fallen to 19%, while Marine Le Pen’s RN — formerly the National Front — rose to 21%.

Sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan had scored 7%, while the two ‘Frexit’ parties, each who campaign for a withdrawal from the European Union and led by Le Pen associates Florian Philippot and Francois Asselineau, won 1% each.

Macron warns Europe of a return to 1930s

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned Europe of a return to the 1930s because of the spread of a nationalist “leprosy” across the continent, in an interview published Thursday (1 November).

There were approximately 1,000 participants in the poll, and they were asked about their voting intentions if the European Parliament elections were to be held imminently.

In an earlier poll released in September, the results had Macron and Le Pen tied for popularity at around 21% each, with the conservative Les Republicains in third with 14%, and Melenchon’s France Insoumise fourth with 12.5%.

This time, however, the far-left France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Melenchon fell to 11%, after he was widely condemned for his behaviour towards police officers during a raid of his party offices.

Sunday’s poll shows results incongruous with the previous IFOP poll conducted in May, in which LREM was on top with 27% of this vote, while the far-right parties walked away with just 17%.

Many expect the European elections next year to be a fierce contest between pro-EU factions, such as Macron’s LREM and far-right parties that take a hard stance against immigration while also pursuing a nationally-focussed political agenda.

Italy and France far-right leaders slam Brussels ‘bunker’

Italy and France’s far-right leaders launched their European Parliament election campaign on Monday (8 October) with an attack on the “Brussels bunker” they hope to enter en masse after the May vote.

The elections will determine who has a seat at the table across the EU’s institutions, with the leader of the largest party in the European Parliament being given the golden role of the president of the European commission, under the Spitzenkandidat process.

Macron has ambitions to make a statement as part of the elections next year, but so far the signs aren’t in his favour. In a YouGov poll published last week, his popularity fell to its lowest level since French presidential election of 2017.

He has also faced setbacks after the brusque departure of two high-profile ministers, while stubbornly high unemployment, high taxes and rising fuel prices add to a general feeling of discontent amongst the French people.

(BBG) ‘Dead’ Ukrainian Found Living in Castle Arrested in French Probe

(BBG) French police arrested an unnamed “high-profile” Ukrainian who allegedly used forged death certificates to evade the authorities and now faces possible extradition to his home country.

The fugitive, identified only as the “King of the Castle” by the European Union’s law-enforcement agency Europol, was detained on Oct. 5 near Dijon, according to a Tuesday statement. Officers recovered 4.6 million euros ($5.3 million) of property, including a 12th-century feudal castle, a vintage Rolls Royce Phantom, jewelry and three works of art by Salvador Dali. In parallel, the spokeswoman of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said the country will seek to extradite Dmytro Malynovskyi from France.

“The suspect is thought to be behind a complex case of international fraud and money laundering,” Europol said. French police began investigations in January over alleged suspicious transactions relating to the purchase of the castle for 3 million euros by a company in Luxembourg “whose ultimate beneficial owner was a Ukrainian citizen suspected of corruption at a large scale in his country,” according to the statement.

The man was detained with three accomplices, according to the Hague-based agency, which said it had coordinated with French, Ukrainian and Luxembourg authorities to establish that the suspect who’d used false death certificates “was not only alive, but was enjoying a lavish lifestyle in France.

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Europol

@Europol

French @Gendarmerie arrest Ukrainian ‘King of the Castle’ and seized over EUR 4 million, with Europol’s support. The suspect is thought to be behind a complex case of international and .
Read more: https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/french-gendarmerie-arrest-ukrainian-%E2%80%98king-of-castle%E2%80%99-and-seized-over-eur-4-million 

The arrests highlight how graft remains a key political issue for Ukraine even after a 2014 revolution toppled then-President Viktor Yanukovych and exposed massive government corruption and bribery. The International Monetary Fund made the creation of an anti-corruption court a condition of unlocking its $17.5 billion bailout. Non-residents based in Ukraine were among customers implicated in about 200 billion euros that flowed through the Estonian unit of Danske Bank A/S between 2007 and 2015, much of which the lender regarded as suspicious.

The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general has prepared documents to seek the extradition of Malynovskyi, spokeswoman Larysa Sargan said Tuesday in a post on Facebook.

“The ‘resurrected’ citizen forged his death certificate and is now using a forged passport of a foreign country,” she said. Prosecutors found out that Malynovskyi stole 12 million euros from a private company in March to May 2015 and channeled the money to offshore accounts, she added.

Separately, France’s gendarmerie, a law-enforcement body that took part in the arrests, provided the name of the castle — the Château de La Rochepot, a quarter of an hour away by car from world-renowned vineyard village Chassagne-Montrachet.

A Dijon investigative magistrate leading the case charged two men of dual Ukrainian and Moldavian nationality and subsequently placed them in pretrial detention, the gendarmerie said in its separate statement. Two women, also dual nationals from the same countries, were charged and then released.

In France, investigative magistrates can decide to press charges in a procedure known as “mise en examen” when there is “serious and consistent” evidence showing likely involvement in the matter under investigation.

Separately, Swiss authorities froze $2 million in accounts belonging to a Yanukovych ally, Sergey Kurchenko, at the request of Ukrainian law enforcement, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office in Kiev on Tuesday.

Ukraine ranked 130th with Sierra Leone and Myanmar in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, lower than any European country except Russia.

(ZH) French PM Resignation Imminent As Macron Approval Hits All Time Low

(ZH) For all the discussion about Donald Trump’s (dis)approval rating, the western media has been surprisingly quiet over the collapse in popularity of Europe’s golden boy, French president Emmanuel Macron who last year triumphantly defeated nationalist Marine Le Pen with 66.1% of the vote as the youngest French president, and was repeatedly cited as Europe’s “liberal ideal” heir to Angela Merkel.

Fast forward one year, when things haven’t quite panned out as expected for the former Rothschild banker.

At the end of September, Macron has been hit with his lowest ever approval rating as his popularity continues to tumble with only 29% of French citizens saying they were satisfied with Mr Macron, according to a new Ifop poll – the lowest figure recorded by the firm during his presidency. The leader’s rating has fallen from 34% in August and 39% in July.

Macron’s fall from grace follows a series of high-profile departures from his government and a summer scandal over the firing of his bodyguard; the president was also heavily criticized in September week for telling an unemployed man he could easily get a job simply by “crossing the street”.

While the former investment banker pledged to modernize the French economy, many voters have complained that Macron is arrogant, out of touch, that his labor reforms have benefited only the country’s largest businesses and have grown impatient with the sluggish pace of economic growth and job creation.

And now, amid a plunge in approval, Macron will be force to undergo his first major restructuring of his cabinet just days after the resignation of his interior minister, as allies press for a broad rejig to draw a line under a tumultuous few months.

According to the French media, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will submit his government’s resignation to Macron as early as today. Macron would then ask Philippe to form a new government, on which parliament, dominated by Macron’s ruling party, would hold a vote of confidence according to Reuters.

Macron and Philippe were due to have lunch together on Monday, a weekly event, after being in “close contact” over the weekend, according to a source in the prime minister’s office. Officials neither confirmed nor denied that a wide reshuffle was on the cards. A presidency source said nothing was finalized and the reshuffle was still being worked on.

“We need to remain true to our initial project, but we need a breath of fresh air,” said Richard Ferrand, speaker of the National Assembly and close ally of Macron told the Journal du Dimanche, realizing that absent major changes to the cabinet, Macron’s popularity may soon rival that of his predecessor, socialist Francois Hollande.

As previously noted, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the departure of Gerard Collomb against Macron’s wishes; it exposed chinks in the armor of a president who has sought to lead with a tight grip on decision-making but who lacks political experience, having never previously held elected office.  Particularly damaging to Macron were Collomb’s criticisms that the president displayed a “lack of humility” and that there were few around him who would speak their mind frankly.

Collomb was the third minister to resign in five weeks, raising questions over the durability of the government, after the resignations of the popular ecology minister Nicolas Hulot and sports minister Laura Flessel.

Hulot, a popular former activist and TV presenter, complained about his disappointment in the government’s lack of ambition on climate issues. Meanwhile, sports minister Laura Flessel said she decided to leave for reasons linked to her “fiscal situation” as she had allegedly underreported her earnings.

And, as Reuters notes, a reshuffle presents Macron with a delicate balancing act. While a big rejig covering key posts such as the finance and foreign ministries might deliver a message of renewal, it could also be seized on by opponents as an admission of failure.

Political analysts have also said centrist Macron was likely to want to reshuffle his cabinet – that comprises ministers from the left and right – after next May’s European elections in response to the results of a vote that will come two years into his five-year mandate.

“We need to show more audacity with a big reshuffle, which we should have done as soon as Hulot left,” a lawmaker from the ruling Republic on the Move party told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

And while optically it represents a fresh start, it is unclear what a cabinet overhaul would achieve when it remains burdened by Macron’s flawed policies, and whether as public resentment against his rule grows and support for non-establishment politicians builds, if his opponent in 2022 will be a far more formidable populist candidate than Le Pen. Because if Europe loses France to the anger of the crowd – something Angela Merkel almost experienced herself – then the European experiment is as good as done.

(EUobserver) Iranian ‘plots’ in France and Denmark threaten EU solidarity

(EUobserver) France has accused Iran of plotting a bomb attack against an anti-Iranian group in Paris, the NCRI. Danish police, last Friday, also sealed bridges and ferries on suspicion Iranian intelligence was planning a strike against another anti-Iranian group, the ASMLA, in Denmark, which Iran blames for a recent terrorist attack in Tehran. The news threatens EU-Iranian solidarity against a US plan to scrap the Iran nuclear arms treaty.

(Algemeiner) Legendary French Singer Charles Aznavour, Whose Family Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, Dies at 94

(Algemeiner)

French singer Charles Aznavour performs during the Quebec Summer Festival, July 6, 2008. Photo: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/File Photo

Legendary French singer Charles Aznavour, whose family helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust, died on Sunday at the age of 94.

Aznavour, commonly referred to as the “Frank Sinatra of France” was active as a musician and actor for nearly 70 years, releasing his first album in 1953. He wrote over a thousand songs and performed to sold out audiences all over the world well into his 90s.

Born in France to Armenian parents who fled the Turkish genocide in the early 20th century, Aznavour grew up in an immigrant neighborhood which included many Jewish families. It was only late in his life, however, that Israeli professor Yair Oron revealed that the Aznavours had rescued many of their Jewish neighbors during the Nazi occupation of France, hiding them from the German authorities who sought to deport them to the death camps.

“We grew up together” Aznavour said of his Jewish neighbors in an interview with Haaretz. “My father’s stall in the market was next to the stalls of Jewish merchants. Armenian merchants, among them my father, protected the Jewish stalls after they were arrested in the great deportation of Parisian Jews in June 1942.”

JNS.org – Since its founding in 2005, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has targeted Israeli universities, businesses, and…

“Because of this,” he added, “the acceptance and concealment of Jews in our house during the war was the simple and natural thing from our point of view: They were our neighbors and friends, we had a shared life. We were for them and they were for us.”

Aznavour played in Israel numerous times, with his last appearance in the country taking place just last year. He had a lifelong affinity and affection for the Jewish state.

In an interview with Hebrew news site Walla before his last concert in Israel, Aznavour said, “I have many good memories of Israel. I love the country. In the last 70 years, you’ve succeeded in building a dynamic and passionate country. If only you could enjoy peace with your neighbors.”

Asked about his choice to play in Israel given the political situation, he replied, “To sing in Israel is not a political act. I am a free man — and I will sing wherever I want.”

Aznavour also had a little-known but strong familial connection to the Jewish people: His grandson was born to a Jewish father and eventually embraced his Jewish identity and became observant. In 2014, Aznavour took the opportunity of one of his appearances in Israel to attend his grandson’s belated Bar Mitzvah.

“I’m returning with my grandson,” he told Yediot Aharonot at the time. “His father was Jewish, but until recently he did not take part in the life of the community. In the last few years, he started to observe the Jewish holidays, so we thought we would celebrate his Bar Mitzvah — even if it’s belated. I know this will be complicated but I promised myself to at least try to make it happen.”

“I am a secular person,” Aznavour said, “but this is not a contradiction. Religion and faith are important. … My grandson wants to be a Jew. He wants to know more about his roots, and this is marvelous to me.”

(EUobserver) Macron party neck-and neck with far-right: poll

(EUobserver) French leader Emmanuel Macron’s party LREM is polling to win 21.5 percent of votes in next year’s EU election, compared to 21 percent by the far-right, the Rassemblement National (formerly called the National Front), according to a new survey by Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting. Macron said on Thursday he would plough €8bn into poverty reduction. A previous poll in May put his party on 27 percent versus the far-right’s 17 percent.

(Algemeiner) Antisemitism in France Has Moved ‘From Streets Into Homes,’ Says Head of French Jewish Community

(Algemeiner)

CRIF President Francis Kalifat (center), Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen (second left) and philosopher and human rights advocate Bernard-Henri Lévy (far right) were among those leading the March 2018 rally in Paris for murdered Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll. Photo: Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes.

Antisemitism in France has moved “from the streets directly into the homes of Jewish people,” the head of the country’s 465,000-strong Jewish community told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

“The Jews in France feel threatened in their own homes,” Francis Kalifat — president of CRIF, the French Jewish communal body — said during a discussion of the antisemitism that has resulted in several deaths and injuries among French Jews over the past decade.

Kalifat underlined that “what used to be attacks on buildings, or insults thrown in the street, has evolved into the most violent acts.”

In the last eighteen months, two elderly Jewish widows in Paris — Sarah Halimi in April 2017 and Mireille Knoll in March 2018 — have been murdered in brutal antisemitic assaults, while several incidents of violent raids on Jewish homes involving gangs of mainly Muslim youths have also been reported.

Sadly, as Kalifat acknowledged, the problem is not new — though the pattern of Jewish response is changing.

Following what Kalifat called “the paroxysm” of antisemitic violence in 2012-13 — a year that witnessed the murders of a rabbi and three young children during a terrorist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse — French aliyah to Israel climbed precipitously, with 8,000 Jews emigrating to Israel in 2015 alone. That trend has now slowed, Kalifat said, overshadowed by what some call an “internal aliyah.”

“We’re seeing a new phenomenon whereby Jews are leaving the neighborhoods where they were born and raised,” Kalifat said. “It’s happening in Paris, in Marseille, in Lyon, in Toulouse and in other cities. They are moving into neighborhoods that are more Jewish.”

This movement of population was the consequence of “day-to-day antisemitism,” Kalifat explained. “It’s not necessarily related to violence, often it’s more low level — for example mezuzot being ripped from the doorposts, hostile looks in the street, graffiti on the walls.”

The wider political environment in France isn’t necessarily more comforting. Kalifat pointed out that France has both a powerful extreme right, led by Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN), and a powerful extreme left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the head of a bloc of left-wing parties known as La France Insoumise.

“We reject both, because we believe that both of them are participating in the rise of antisemitism in France,” Kalifat remarked. “On the extreme right, we are talking about old-fashioned antisemitism, very often masked by positive comments about the State of Israel. On the extreme left, the antisemitism is masked by a very violent anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel, and there is strong support for the BDS movement.”

Kalifat continued: “We refuse to have relationships with these groups, because they are fueling antisemitism in our country.”

On the other hand, current President Emmanuel Macron — the victor in the bitterly-fought presidential election of April 2017 — does inspire confidence among Jews. “This president is very conscious of what Jews have brought to France and French culture,” Kalifat said.

“Macron, like former Presidents [Francois] Hollande and [Nicolas] Sarkozy, is very serious about fighting antisemitism and is willing to use the available means to do so,” Kalifat stated. All three administrations were distinguished by their support for their Jewish community in the face of indifference to antisemitism among the wider population, he added.

For now, French Jews are anxiously awaiting the next development in the investigation into the murder of Sarah Halimi. Having believed that Halimi’s killer, Kobili Traore, would be standing trial despite the efforts of his lawyers to have the case dismissed on the grounds of alleged mental illness, the community received a shock in July. A new assessment of Traore’s mental health commissioned by the investigating judge concluded that he lacked the mental awareness required for a charge of intentional homicide aggravated by antisemitic prejudice.

The panel’s finding flatly contradicted the conclusion of a previous expert, Dr. Daniel Zagury, who examined Traore in September 2017. As The Algemeiner reported at the time, Zagury deemed that Traore’s brutal assault on Halimi — which culminated in her being thrown to her death from a third-floor window — was both “antisemitic” and a “delirious act” influenced by the assailant’s heavy consumption of marijuana. However, Zagury was clear that Traore was not sufficiently intoxicated at the time of the attack to be absolved of criminal responsibility — a key demand of Traore’s lawyers.

“I can’t explain why the judge ordered a second expert assessment, and their conclusion is totally incomprehensible to us,” Kalifat said. “We have many reasons to believe that this was an antisemitic attack. He [Traore] chanted verses from the Quran as he was torturing Halimi, he shouted ‘Allahu Akhbar!’ when he threw her from the window.”

Kalifat said that a third assessment into Traore’s mental state had now been ordered, with a report expected later this year.

“We hope that at the end of the day, the killer will be held responsible,” Kalifat said.

He expressed the same hope with the more recent murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, whose assailants were reported by police to have talked about”rich Jews” prior to their frenzied assault.

Criminal trials in both the Halimi and Knoll cases would serve a dual purpose, Kalifat argued.

“On trial would be the killers themselves, alongside the system that enables antisemitism to kill in this country,” he said.

(Express) EU’S SCHENGEN CRISIS: Germany ‘considering proposal to impose border controls’ with FRANCE

(Express)

Germany

Germany has sent shockwaves to the rest of the Europe by threatening its fellow EU powerhouse France (Image: GETTY)

GERMAN interior ministers are considering imposing border controls with France it has been claimed, in what would be an unprecedented move in the era of the EU between the two powers.

Germany will send shockwaves to the rest of the Europe by proposing fellow EU powerhouse France with border controls, according to reports.

An interior minister official in Germany has told national media that they are considering reintroducing border controls on their shared frontiers with both Switzerland and France.

The official blamed the unprecedented measure on Spain’s recent rise in migration and warned that Germany would not repeat what they did in 2015.

At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has succesfully struck deals with Greece and Spain to return people to those countries if they applied for aslyum there.

Mrs Merkel has confirmed Germany is also in “very advanced” negotiations on a similar deal with the Italian Government.

The German Chancellor is under pressure to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, when the country welcomed over a million people.

According to Al Jazeera, the German government is mulling over replicating the police controls they have already imposed on the Austrian border with France as well.

Helmut Teichmann, junior minister for migration at the Interior Ministry, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the German cabinet is alarmed by developments in Spain.

He said: “We fear that many migrants could make their way to France, the Benelux countries and Germany.”

Following her deals with Greece and Spain, Mrs Merkel is now focused on striking an agreement with Italy.

A pact with Italy would represent the biggest breakthrough yet and relieve the pressure on the under-fire German leader.

However, Italy has so far been combative in talks with its European allies.

Last week, Italy warned Britain it would not offer safe harbour to 141 people rescued by the humanitarian ship Aquarius off the coast of Libya, demanding that Britain take them in.

(EurActiv) France, Spain, Portugal up energy links

(EurActiv) French President Emmanuel Macron (L) accompanied by the Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa (C) and the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez (R) walking in Lisbon at the end of the Summit on Energy Interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and France this afternoon at European Maritime Safety Agency in Lisbon, Portugal, 27 July 2018. [Miguel A. Lopes/EPA/EFE]

France, Spain and Portugal agreed on 27 July to build an undersea power line in the Bay of Biscay as they up electricity links aimed at helping the Iberian peninsula out of its energy isolation.

Speaking after a meeting in Lisbon, the three country leaders welcomed a deal signed on the sidelines of the gathering on financing construction of the 370-kilometre (230-mile) long power line linking France to Spain.

It’s “a very important step,” said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Nos infrastructures doivent pouvoir être interconnectées entre elles et nous devons avoir une stratégie commune de transition énergétique.

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Ce sommet aujourd’hui à Lisbonne entre nos trois pays marque une étape importante pour une énergie decarbonée et compétitive, qui profite à tous les citoyens européens. pic.twitter.com/GX8NbeBPxH

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The European Commission will finance 30% of the project by bringing €578 million to the table, an unprecedented amount in the European Union for an energy project.

The power line should start operating in 2025, almost doubling the capacity for electricity exchange between France and Spain.

Spain and Portugal have long called for an end to their isolation from European networks of electricity and gas distribution.

Portugal will organise early next year a summit dedicated solely to energy interconnectors, as lawmakers work to end the Iberian peninsula’s energy market isolation.

Portugal has a surplus of electricity production that it could export further afield than Spain if there were more links with the rest of Europe.

Portugal produced more power from clean energy sources in March than it actually needed, marking the first time in the 21st century that renewables have topped 100% of its production. But a dearth of energy connections with the rest of Europe remains problematic.

Madrid and Lisbon would also like to be better connected to the European gas market by building a pipeline in Catalonia in Spain’s northeast.

That would complement another pipeline that has already been built west of the Pyrenees mountain range, linking Spain to France.

Both countries import gas from Algeria via a pipeline that became operational in 2011.

They also have seven ports that can handle liquified natural gas (LNG), which they import from Qatar and increasingly from the United States as it develops shale gas.

They say better connections would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

But a study commissioned by the European Commission found that the pipeline in Catalonia, which would cost more than €440 million, would not be viable given other European countries already have many LNG ports that aren’t operating at full capacity.

President Donald Trump’s plan for “vast amounts” of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be sold to the European Union after trade talks with its top representative faces a reality test.

As such, France has been reticent.

But French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he was open to moving forward on gas, although he cautioned “we will only build more pipelines if gas consumption in Europe remains significant.”

He said the pipeline in Catalonia would be built if it were shown to be cost effective in a scenario where demand for gas would increase as coal power plants are progressively shut down.

(Economist) France’s victorious footballers do Emmanuel Macron a favour

(Economist) “Democratic heroes”, he believes, bring out the best in the French

WHEN Emmanuel Macron was a child, growing up in the northern French town of Amiens, he was a fervent supporter of a southern club, Olympique de Marseille. In 1993, the year they won the European Champions League, the club’s captain was a certain Didier Deschamps. On July 15th, under torrential rain after France’s victory at the World Cup final, it was as president that Mr Macron clasped in a tight embrace the same Mr Deschamps, captain of the French team that won the World Cup back in 1998, and now manager of the French champions.

Today France welcomes home Les Bleus, their national team, after a 4-2 defeat of Croatia in Moscow. A million people descended last night on Paris as the sun began to set, chanting, rocking Metro carriages, clambering onto bus shelters and up lamp posts, and setting off flares and firecrackers. The capital’s arteries emptied of cars and turned into a flag-waving, chanting human flow.

The team will this afternoon parade down the Champs-Elysées (past a station that the Paris Metro briefly renamed “Deschamps-Elysées”) in an open-top bus, to a reception hosted by Mr Macron at the presidential palace. They have warmed hearts and made history. Mr Deschamps has become only the third person to win the World Cup as both player and manager. Kylian Mbappé, a striker who grew up in the Paris banlieue of Bondy, is only the second teenager, after Pelé, to score a goal in the World Cup final.

Football for Mr Macron, who did not conceal his joy in the presidential box during the match, is more than just a sport. A left-back when he played as a student, he enjoys the game, and took his presidential campaign to Sarcelles, a Paris banlieue, where he kicked a ball about with youngsters. Yet football matters to him for other reasons too, and not least because, although he will doubtless be accused of exploiting victory for political ends, he may well get a poll bounce as the country’s mood lifts. In 1998 the sitting president, Jacques Chirac, saw his popularity leap from 45% in June to 59% in August after France’s victory. It remained above 50%, amid a broad economic recovery, for the next 18 months.

One reason this victory suits Mr Macron is that, at a time when the president is accused by his detractors of contempt for those less fortunate than him, and of a drift to the political right, football in France represents the sort of social mobility that he approves of. Sport, he said on a trip to Marseille during the election campaign last year, “kills house arrest” for those living in the country’s banlieues. Greater Paris, ringed by brutalist housing estates where many families of immigrant origin live, has a thriving network of after-school amateur football clubs that has become a giant talent pool for the national team. Training and talent are central to Mr Macron’s vision of how to combat poverty, and football offers a potent symbol of this.

A second reason is that the team itself has become a classy advertisement for France. In 1998 the country was still so unsure about its multicultural identity that the team was tagged “black, blanc, beur” in reference to its multiracial make-up. At the tournament in South Africa eight years ago, the French side, made up of supersized egos, went on strike during a training session, and later departed in disgrace after crashing out of the tournament. This year Mr Deschamps has forged a side of likeable team players, who were as boisterous in the dressing-room after the match as they were disciplined, focused and ruthless during the tournament. Mr Mbappé has spoken of wanting “to give everything to France”. Antoine Griezmann, another goalscorer, tweeted simply, “CHAMPIONS DU MONDE. Vive la France!”.

Mr Macron, who will have enjoyed the symbolism of victory in Russia, which he suspected of trying to hack his election campaign, has a final reason for embracing this team. This is to do with what he calls “democratic heroes”. From the president’s speech at Johnny Hallyday’s funeral, to that during the entry of Simone Veil to the Panthéon, Mr Macron regards the celebration of the lives of popular, or historic, figures as a chance to try to bring out the best in the French. Liberal democracies, he has argued, faced with the dark menace of nationalism, need heroes if they are to rouse a positive national spirit and defeat the “sad passions” fanned by populists. In the 23 players and their manager who brought home the World Cup, the luckiest man in French politics has found his heroes.

(ynet) Panthéon burial honors French rights icon, Holocaust survivor Simone Veil

(ynet) Thousands of people gather in Paris to pay their final respects to Simone Veil a year and a day after she died at the age of 89; ‘She’s not going into the Panthéon as a Holocaust victim but as someone who overcame this horror and that’s why she’s in people’s hearts,’ one French citizen says.

Thousands of people gathered in Paris on Sunday to pay their final respects to Holocaust survivor and women’s rights icon Simone Veil as she was given the rare honor of burial at the Panthéon a year and a day after she died.

Veil’s death at the age of 89 prompted an outpouring of emotion as she had long been considered one of France’s most popular and trusted public figures.

The Panthéon in the heart of Paris houses the remains of many great French figures, including Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. But Veil is only the fifth woman to be buried there, being laid to rest alongside her husband Antoine, a high-ranking civil servant who died in 2013.

French Republican Guards arrive to carry the coffins of Simone Veil and her husband Antoine Veil to the Panthéon on Sunday (Photo: EPA)

French Republican Guards arrive to carry the coffins of Simone Veil and her husband Antoine Veil to the Panthéon on Sunday (Photo: EPA)

 

Their two coffins were escorted by Republican Guards through Paris from the Holocaust Memorial where they had stood for 48 hours to allow the public to pay their last respects. The coffins were then placed on funeral biers before carried by pall-bearers on a blue carpet leading to the Pantheon.

Among the crowds were many women wearing T-shirts with the slogan: “Thank you Simone.”

Simone Veil had long been considered one of France's most popular and trusted public figures (Photo: AFP)

Simone Veil had long been considered one of France’s most popular and trusted public figures (Photo: AFP)

 

“She broke every glass ceiling, in terms of women in society, but also that of (France’s role in) the extermination of the Jews: it was taboo,” said Bernard Greensfeld, one of those standing outside the Holocaust memorial.

“She’s not going into the Panthéon as a Holocaust victim but as someone who overcame this horror and that’s why she’s in people’s hearts,” he told AFP.

The 5th woman

Simone Veil was 16 when she was deported along with family members in 1944 to Auschwitz. Her mother, father and brother were killed in the Holocaust. After her return, she became a resolute advocate of women’s rights as well as European reconciliation, securing her biggest political victory in 1974 by convincing the French parliament to legalize abortion despite fierce opposition.

She also became the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979, a post she held for three years.

 (Photo: EPA)

(Photo: EPA)

 

The move to have Veil’s remains transferred to the Panthéon began immediately after her death on June 30, 2017, with two petitions quickly gaining hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Until now, only four women have been interred there: scientist Marie Curie, Sophie Berthelot, who was buried alongside her chemist husband Marcellin Berthelot and two resistance fighters Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion.

A national decision

As the sun beat down, a large crowd gathered for the ceremony which was attended by members of her family, and a host of politicians and dignitaries, among them the former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.

At the ceremony, President Emmanuel Macron said the decision to bury her in the Panthéon was a decision taken by the entire nation.

President Macron stands by the coffins (Photo: EPA)

President Macron stands by the coffins (Photo: EPA)

 

“It is… what all French people wanted,” he said. “With Simone Veil, all the women that have made France are here.”

The transfer of Veil’s remains had began on Friday, when the couple’s coffins were exhumed from the Montparnasse cemetery and brought to the crypt of the French Holocaust Memorial in central Paris, which she helped found.

After Macron’s address, the two coffins were transferred into the Panthéon where the coffins will lie in state until Monday, with admission free until July 8.

(BBG) Emmanuel Macron Misses a Chance to Stay Quiet

(BBG) The dispute with Italy over the Aquarius migrant ship was diplomatically inept and hypocritical.

Two weeks before a crucial meeting of EU leaders, member countries are at loggerheads again over immigration. A diplomatic spat between France and Italy’s new populist government shows how difficult it will be for the European Council to strike a meaningful deal at the end of June on topics such as relocating refugees or deepening the monetary union.

The problem is tone as much as substance. So long as politicians keep playing to their domestic galleries, the compromises Europe needs to thrive will remain elusive.

The transalpine rift started when Italy turned away a boat full of migrants, the Aquarius, after Malta had just done the same. Spain eventually said it would welcome the vessel (the boat has currently been re-routed toward the waters around Sardinia because of adverse sea conditions). But the Italian decision prompted furious reactions across the EU. In particular, French president Emmanuel Macron said it was “cynical and irresponsible.” Rome reacted angrily. Its foreign ministry summoned a senior French diplomat for a dressing down. Giovanni Tria, Italy’s finance minister, cancelled a visit to Paris.

There’s little doubt that Matteo Salvini, Italy’s new home affairs minister and leader of the anti-immigration League, used the 629 migrants stranded at sea to score cheap political points. But the reaction from Paris was clumsy – and hypocritical. France has repeatedly turned back migrants who want to cross the Italian border, hiding behind an EU rule that says asylum seekers should be processed in the state where they first enter the bloc.

Italy has punched well above its weight in rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean, receiving precious little help from the rest of the EU. However irresponsible Salvini’s behaviour – and troubling the signal about the populist government’s attitude toward migrants – Macron could have let this one pass.

His reaction was diplomatically inept too. Rome’s new rulers thrive on attacks from abroad, which Salvini and his ilk depict as insults to Italy’s sovereignty. The best course of action, as shown in a recent interview with Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister, is to steer clear of public criticism and simply recall that all countries have obligations to meet. The irony here is that neither Rome nor Paris ended up offering to rescue the migrants stranded at sea. It was Madrid. Macron missed a good opportunity to shut up.

None of this is to exonerate Italy. The continuous lashing out at other countries could take a toll diplomatically. Since the formation of the government, Rome has indulged in angry spats with Tunisia, Malta and France over refugees, and relentlessly criticized Germany about the economy. Tria has been a welcome exception. The attacks may play well at home, but might be counter-productive in the long run.

A lot depends, of course, on what the populists actually want to achieve during their time in power. Maybe the Five Star Movement and League would like to provoke their European partners to such an extent that Italy is pushed out of the EU and the euro zone – creating an “Ital-exit” by the back door. But if that’s not what they have in mind, they need allies rather than sparring partners.

It’s reasonable to want to change the so-called Dublin regulation to achieve a fairer distribution of asylum seekers, but this needs the backing of other countries. On the economy, Italy requires support to bring about more financial risk-sharing across the euro zone, including a joint guarantee on bank deposits and, eventually, a euro zone Treasury. With Germany very skeptical of these plans, Italy’s best hope is Macron and his dreams of closer monetary union.

Unfortunately, the transalpine rift confirms a sad truth about the EU. While countries need each other to find answers to the problems affecting their voters, with immigration among the thorniest trans-national issues, politicians will always pander to their domestic audience. That’s how they win and lose elections.

Yet Britain’s constant sniping at the EU has already helped push that country toward its vote to leave. Without some careful leadership on both sides, this could happen again.

(BBG) Guests Worth $120 Billion Sup With Trump at First State Dinner

(BBG) Eight of the world’s wealthiest people attended President Donald Trump’s first state dinner last night along with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.

Five of them — LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Blackstone Chief Executive Officer Steve Schwarzman, leveraged-buyout tycoon Henry Kravis and Federal Express founder Fred Smith — have a combined net worth exceeding $114 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Other billionaires present were Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein, cosmetics heir Ron Lauder and Trump himself, all with fortunes below the $4 billion cutoff for the ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.

The Trump administration has been good to his guests. Since his election in November 2016, the fortunes of the five wealthiest have surged almost 70 percent, more than triple the gains of the S&P 500 Index.

(BBG) Macron Tells U.S. Turning Its Back on World Is Bigger Risk

(BBG) French President Emmanuel Macron told U.S. lawmakers they must join with the international community to help preserve and extend the benefits of the postwar world order.

Addressing a joint session of Congress Wednesday on the third day of a state visit, Macron appealed to the U.S. not to turn inward as he listed a host of threats facing the world from climate change and rogue nuclear weapons to inequality and fake news.

“We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks right in front of us,” he said. “The only option is to strengthen our cooperation. We can build the new 21st century world order on a new breed of multilateralism.”

Macron’s trip has been dominated by rifts between the U.S. and the European Union stemming from President Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy. With the U.S. threatening to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and impose tariffs on its trading partners, the French leader set out an alternative world view in which nations act together to control dangers and help the middle classes.

“The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism,” he said in his speech in English. “You are the one now who has to help to preserve and reinvent it.”

Pence’s Poker Face

Macron was loudly cheered by Democrats, in particular when he predicted that the U.S. would one day rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Vice President Mike Pence didn’t move in response to that comment and several passages drew only sparse applause from the Republicans.

“France is a great international ally, but you have to remember this president is center left or even more left,” Brian Babin, a Republican from Texas, said. “I think we need to really, really keep a sober mind and a sober eye.”

The U.S. Capitol has a long history as a setting for French leaders looking to make their mark on world affairs. The Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who fought for the U.S. in the Revolutionary War, was the firstforeign dignitary to address Congress in 1824 and Macron’s speech comes on the anniversary of one by Charles de Gaulle in 1960. Nicolas Sarkozy was the last French President to appear before U.S. lawmakers in 2007.

Macron the previous day had proposed a new agreement with Iran in an effort to persuade Trump not to reimpose sanctions. The French plan would involve another pact extending restrictions on its nuclear program, restricting its ballistic missile work and limiting Iran’s broader influence in the Middle East.

Trump seemed at least somewhat interested in Macron’s blueprint, calling it a “new deal” with “solid foundations.” Teams of American negotiators have been working with European allies for weeks on a new accord along the lines of what Macron laid out. Like Macron, their biggest challenge is the absence of any guarantee that Trump will accept the result.

Historic Allies

Macron’s speech was aimed at rallying broader support for that initiative, and for the principle of cooperation between nations. Macron vowed that Iran would never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons and pledged to remain engaged in the Middle East, appealing to the U.S. to maintain its presence alongside French troops.

There were long passages about historic battles when French and U.S. troops fought alongside each other with eulogies to soldiers who lost their lives defending western values. Nationalism, he said, is an “illusion.”

On trade, he defended “free and fair” relationships, but said that grievances between nations should be pursued through the World Trade Organization since a conflict over commerce was in no one’s interests.

As a former investment banker and economy minister, Macron may be more in line with traditional Republicans than their own president. His recognition that some countries engage in trade violations and overcapacity of steel and aluminum — but that Europe isn’t the problem — tracks closely with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s response to Trump’s tariff announcement last month.

Congressional Republicans have urged the Trump administration to be more targeted in its trade policy, rather than instituting broad measures that impact traditional allies like France. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit the White House Friday with a similar message.

+++ (JN) Governo francês desenvolve rival da WhatsApp e Telegram

(JNO governo francês está a desenvolver o seu próprio serviço de mensagens encriptadas. Inicialmente, o serviço será usado apenas pelo Executivo gaulês, mas poderá ser disponibilizado ao público em geral.

Governo francês desenvolve rival da WhatsApp e Telegram
Bruno Simão/Negócios

O governo francês está a desenvolver um novo serviço de mensagens encriptadas, similar ao WhatsApp e Telegram, que deverá ser de uso obrigatório por todos os membros do Executivo já no Verão, indicou esta segunda-feira uma porta-voz do Ministério Digital gaulês.

A medida surge por receios de que entidades estrangeiras possam espiar as conversas privadas entre os membros do governo. Quer o WhatsApp quer o Telegram estão baseados em França, o que aumenta o risco de violação de dados nos servidores localizados fora do país.

Cerca de 20 membros do governo e altos cargos da administração pública estão a testar a nova app que foi criada por uma empresa contratada pelo Estado.

“Precisamos de encontrar uma forma de ter um serviço de mensagens encriptadas cuja encriptação não seja feita nos EUA ou Rússia”, referiu a porta-voz. “Pensando nas potenciais falhas que podem acontecer, como vimos no Facebook, entendemos agir”, acrescentou.

O WhatsApp foi comprado em 2014 pelo Facebook, que tem estado sob fogo devido ao acesso indevido a dados dos utilizadores da maior rede social do mundo por parte da consultora política Cambridge Analytica.

A nova app francesa poderá eventualmente ser disponibilizada ao público em geral, admitiu a porta-voz.

O presidente francês, Emmanuel Macron, bem como o seu círculo mais próximo usa frequentemente o Telegram, criado por um empresário russo. Moscovo começou a bloquear o acesso ao Telegram após a empresa ter recusado cumprir uma ordem que dava acesso às mensagens dos utilizadores por parte dos serviços de segurança russos.

+++ (BBC) Nicolas Sarkozy: French ex-president says funding probe is ‘hell’

…Everybody and their dogs are saying the claims are true…

…And they are saying that Mr Sarkozy was very keen to attack Libia to destroy evidence of the illegal funding…

(BBC)

Ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) with Gaddafi in Libya in Tripoli, 25 Jul 2007Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Sarkozy clinched big trade deals for France with Libya’s Gaddafi in 2007 when he was president

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allegations he received campaign funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are making his life “hell”.

“I am accused without any physical evidence,” Mr Sarkozy told magistrates, Le Figaro newspaper reports.

He has been placed under formal investigation for illicit election campaign financing in 2007, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption.

Mr Sarkozy, 63, denies any wrongdoing.

The centre-right politician, who was in police custody being questioned for two days this week, says his Libyan accusers are seeking vengeance for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.

On Thursday, Le Figaro published what it said was the full court statement made by Mr Sarkozy to French investigators (in French).

In it, he says that he is aware the allegations against him are “serious”, but that they amount to “slander” and have made his life “hell” since 11 March 2011, when the claims were first made by Gaddafi.


Hammer blow for ex-leader

Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy enters his car as he leaves his house in Paris, 21 March 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMr Sarkozy has been questioned in police custody

These accusations against Nicolas Sarkozy are in a different realm from all those other judicial problems that he has faced. The others are classic allegations of illegal party funding and abuse of influence.

This one is about taking money from a foreign dictator.

In each case, presumption of innocence has to prevail. Mr Sarkozy’s key argument is that he is the victim of a left-wing vendetta: judges out to get him.

On Libya, he points out that his accusers – henchmen of Gaddafi and sleazy middlemen – are not exactly paragons of veracity.

But the truth is that this is a hammer blow to the former president. The judges believe there are “serious and coherent” indications that he did indeed take money from the Libyans, and on that basis they will now conduct their investigation.

The implications are devastating. If the charges are true, then the whole story of Sarkozy’s presidency will have to be re-assessed. More importantly, what would it say about the French-led campaign to topple Gaddafi in 2011? A campaign in which the UK was persuaded by France to take part.

Big questions – if the charges are true. But don’t expect any quick answers. This case could drag on for years.


What is the Libya case about?

In 2013, France opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Sarkozy’s campaign had benefited from millions of euros of illicit funds from Gaddafi.

He failed in his bid to return to power in 2012, however, losing to Socialist candidate François Hollande.

The claims came from a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, and some former Gaddafi regime officials.

In November 2016, Mr Takieddine told the French news website Mediapart that in 2006-2007 he had handed over three suitcases stuffed with 200- and 500-euro notes to Mr Sarkozy and Claude Guéant, who was his chief of staff.

Mr Takieddine alleged the cash came from Gaddafi and totalled €5m (£4.4m; $6.2m).

Mr Sarkozy was detained in 2014 in a separate investigation into alleged campaign funding abuses – the first time this has happened to a French ex-president.

Mr Guéant, who was managing Mr Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007, told the franceinfo website on Tuesday that he had “never seen a penny of Libyan financing”.

He was placed under formal investigation earlier this year over a €500,000 bank transfer in 2008. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed the money came from the sale of two paintings.

Does Sarkozy face other charges?

Criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr Sarkozy in one other case of alleged illicit campaign financing.

It is alleged that he engaged in accounting fraud to overshoot the ceiling for campaign expenditure in 2012, which was €22.5m.

Mr Sarkozy denies he was aware of the overspending.

The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal.

In connection with his 2007 campaign, Mr Sarkozy was previously cleared over claims that he had used secret funding from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and that he had tried to influence investigating magistrates.