Peugeot-Citroen to open talks with French unions

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The head of French car maker, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, has agreed to open talks with unions following the announcement of cuts that will result in the loss of 8000 jobs.

In July, the ailing company announced the measures as well as the closure of its plant in Aulnay, north of Paris.

PSA Union leader Jean-Pierre Mercier said the workers were happy that talks are opening:

“We’re faced with a company that is tough, a management that doesn’t want to give anything up. But today through the unity of the workforce, we have managed to score a very important first point.”

On Wednesday the French government promised a 7 billion euro state guarantee for PSA’s finance division, but the its Chief Executive, Philippe Varin says savings still need to be made:

“The closure of the Aulnay plant will take place. A total of 8,000 jobs in total are concerned. But as we have said since the very start: we attach a great importance to the limitation of the social impact.”

Peugeot reported a 3.9% fall in sales during the July to September quarter and its shares fell sharply as it said it would not pay dividends while in receipt of government aid.

Rogue-trader Kerviel loses appeal

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Jerome Kerviel, the man behind France’s biggest rogue trading scandal, has lost his appeal at a Paris court, which has upheld his jail term.

Kerviel was originally given five years, two of which were suspended, in 2010.

The former Societe Generale trader has also been ordered to repay the impossibly large sum of 4.9 billion euros that he lost in illicit positions on the financial markets.

The little known junior trader working in a grim Paris suburb became internationally known overnight as the financial crisis began to hit in 2008. It emerged he had taken positions worth 50 billion euros on the markets.

Kerviel never denied masking his actions, but has always claimed his bosses were complicit and that he has simply become a pawn of what he called the “rotten financial system.”

Testifying in 2009 former Societe Generale CEO, Daniel Bouton, denied Kerviel’s accusations and said the bank’s risk managers never stood a chance against his manipulations.

After the decision was announced his lawyers said they were considering the possibility of a higher appeal, but Kerviel himself later told RTL radio that he would not appeal.

EU summit in ‘small revolution’

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European leaders have agreed a deal on a banking union.

France and the European Commission arrived at the summit keen to run ahead with a new European bank supervisory mechanism to be in place by January, but the cautious German chancellor, Angela Merkel said she thinks baby steps are needed first: “Concerning the move towards banking supervision, we have decided to move forward with the principle that quality is more important than rapidity. This means we will not have a working banking supervision at the beginning of 2013.”

The summit agreement now says that “work on the operational implementation will take place in the course of 2013” rather than in January.

European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy hailed the result of the summit as highly successful: “This is a small revolution, it means that we’ll have only one supervisor for the whole Europe, who – to a certain extent – will replace all the national supervisors.

“You know the source of our problem is the financial crisis. Now we will have only one supervisor for Europe, if we had this in 2008 I don’t think the crisis would have reached this level.”

The art of compromise has prevailed once again in Europe, but there is still much more that needs to be done, as the Spanish and Greek emergencies are still waiting.

I saw Noel Gallagher

A little while ago I went to see Bob Dylan play live and despite him being one of my heroes I left feeling quite disappointed. I got the impression he was just going through the motions and didn’t really care about being there. The only thing I could take away from that gig was at least I had seen him with my own two eyes.

The contrast when I saw Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds play earlier last week was amazing. He too is the sort of figure who could sell out a venue with very little effort but it turned out to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. To start with the people at the Transbordeur in Lyon, France had got the sound and lighting perfect.

And things started out very well when this chap came on stage:

Supporting act Jake Bugg is still very young but full of stage presence and he can play the guitar like a demon.

He takes his influences from folk artists of Dylan’s era and he has produced some really nice songs of that ilk with a modern twist. At the time of writing his single “Taste It” is being given away for free on iTunes (Log in on your own UK itunes account to find it) So I strongly recommend that you check him out.

After that performance by a young hopeful I was half expecting a lackluster performance from an established artist just turning up for a payday, but from the moment he walked on stage I realised how wrong I was. With the enthusiastic but tame French crowd all chanting No-el! No-el! No-el! he came on stage and immediately showed his true star quality.

The man who has been awarded the 2012 Godlike Genius award by NME then wowed the audience with a collection of new songs such as the hard hitting Freaky Teeth:

And unlike Dylan, Gallagher really took the time to interact with the audience throughout the gig, although he kept the same confrontational style that Oasis were known for – he threw out a few insults with a twinkle in his eye – and the audience loved it.

He also struck the right balance between old and new, playing some of his contemporary songs but knowing the audience will also be filled with diehard Oasis fans it lead to some really magical moments:

At the end of the gig a humble Noel Gallagher came forward and thanked the audience who had all been treated to a fantastic evening.

I hope you’ll take two things away from this article, check out Jake Bugg and go and see this Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live. You won’t regret it.

Muhammad cartoon sparks anti-French protests

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French embassies around the world have been hit by protests following the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a satirical magazine.

Weekly paper, Charlie Hebdo, had its Paris offices burned down by a petrol bomb attack in November, after printing an edition which named the Prophet as “guest editor” and has now printed obscene cartoons of Muhammad in the nude.

The publication of the caricatures has divided opinion in France. It highlights the tension between the western principle of freedom of speech and Islamic beliefs that find insults to the Prophet intolerable.

In Iran, dozens of students and clerics gathered outside the French embassy in Tehran chanting “death to France”, and “Down with the US” as an American made film they find blasphemous continues to also cause controversy.

In Tunisia the French embassy has announced the closure of all French schools until Monday as violence is feared and protests have already taken place in Pakistan where hundreds of people clashed with police. Officers used tear gas and batons to prevent them from reaching French government buildings.

French embassies, consulates, cultural centres and schools in some 20 muslim countries are temporarily closing as much larger demonstrations are expected after Friday prayers.

 

Royal couple ‘hugely saddened’ by topless pictures

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are said to be “hugely saddened” by what they called a “grotesque” invasion of their privacy, after a French celebrity magazine published pictures of Kate Middleton topless.

Following the experiences of his late mother Diana, William is highly protective of Kate and is said to be furious that ‘Closer’ magazine published a five page spread of her sunbathing on a balcony with him in the South of France.

The pictures were taken while they were on holiday staying at a friend’s home near Aix-en-Provence.

Media lawyer Claire Gill said there need to be stronger penalties to stop these kinds of breaches of privacy from happening: “In my view this case illustrates really that the awards of damages that are being handed out both here (in the UK) and in France are far too low to deter a newspaper from publishing where they calculate that the commercial gain is going to outweigh any damages that they have to pay out.”

With the couple currently touring Southeast Asia, the British royal family issued a statement saying it was “reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana,” and said lawyers are being consulted.

Beautiful not degrading

Closer’s editor-in-chief Laurence Pieau described the photos as a “beautiful series” that showed a couple in love and were in no way degrading. She said the magazine had more intimate shots from the same series that it opted not to publish.

“There’s been an over-reaction to these photos. What we see is a young couple, who just got married, who are very much in love, who are splendid,” Pieau told French BFM television.

“She’s a real 21st Century princess,” she added: “It’s a young woman who is topless, the same as you can see on any beach in France or around the world.”

Closer, published by Italian company Mondadori, would almost certainly lose any legal case over invasion of privacy, although profits from the issue would likely far exceed any fine levied, which is likely to be just a few thousand euros.

euronews perspectives: London Olympics

As the British capital geared up to host the Olympics, European TV channels gave their views. Working for euronews I took a look at RAI 2 from Italy, France 2, TVE from Spain and Russian RTR, to see how they’ve been covering the games. Take a look and let me know what you think.