Displaying items by tag: France
Britain and France have now agreed to unite to stop illegal migrants from crossing the Channel. Interior minister Suella Braverman said Britain faced an ‘invasion’ from people in small boats, saying, ‘It is in the interests of the UK and French governments to solve this problem together. There are no quick fixes, but this arrangement means we can have more gendarmes patrolling French beaches and ensure UK and French officers work hand in hand to stop people smugglers.’ There will be 40% more UK-funded officers patrolling French beaches in the next five months. A task force will focus on reversing the rise in Albanian nationals and organised crime groups exploiting illegal routes. British officers will work in French-led control rooms and on the ground to improve coordination and intelligence sharing. There will be drones, detection dog teams, CCTV, and helicopters to help discover and prevent crossings, plus reception and removal centres in France to prevent journeys to the UK of economic migrants.
Attacks on Nord Stream gas pipelines, on Poland’s Druzhba pipeline (the most important oil pipeline from Russia to Western Europe), on submarine cables in France and the north Atlantic, and on the German railway show the need for increased protection of critical infrastructure. Loss of energy has extreme and immediate consequences for homes and industry. Three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, damaged by saltwater infiltration, are probably no longer usable. There have already been cyber-attacks on wind farms, and access to coal-fired power plants is being blocked by extremists. Most recently Russia damaged 1/3rd of Ukraine’s power plants. Germany has allowed a Chinese shipping company to enter the port of Hamburg, giving China access to sensitive European maritime traffic information.
Hervé Trentin, a veteran firefighter, stood on the edge of a charred section of forest wiping tears from his cheeks. It was the second time he had cried that morning. He and his team were moving around an area south of Bordeaux trying to stay ahead of a megafire. Their job was burning the forest, to create firebreaks - a tactic they are trained to master. They are the only ones in the region capable of doing the job. Trentin grew up there, and setting his home soil alight was disturbing. He said ‘The forest needs over thirty years to recover.’ In July a megafire appeared to be under control, but the heat remained in the earth, creating a ‘zombie fire’ that re-emerged and accelerated new fires in the dry conditions.
Although over half of the population is defined as Christian, most have never had authentic contact with the Gospel. Only 2% are Evangelical, and 8% regularly attend church. A staggering 50 million have no link to a church, and 80% have never even handled a Bible. Many are suspicious of organised religion. Defined by secularism, the country has separated itself from its only source of healing. The philosophies and post-modern relative truth have left many seeking meaning and purpose. Despair and hopelessness have led to Europe’s highest number of youth suicides. However, this search for meaning has also led some to seek and find Christ. Dozens of churches are now being planted each year. France stands in desperate need of a move of God: only He can bring the healing and hope this nation needs.
All week Europe has been battling wildfires fuelled by soaring temperatures in Portugal, France, Turkey and Spain. Pray for 3,500 Portuguese firefighters battling dozens of blazes in record-breaking temperatures. Pray for the 600 people in Leiria who were forced out of their homes, and over 3,000 who were evacuated in Turkey. Pray for devastated people like 77-year-old Adelino, a Portuguese farmer who said, ‘Everything burned. It looked like the end of the world.’ Pray for Spanish farmers who have lost over 70,300 hectares. Pray for 1,000 French firefighters trying to control two major wildfires. 4,000 hectares have already burned in southwest France.
France is in uncharted waters after President Emmanuel Macron lost his majority, with a large, shaky opposition bloc on the left and many more far-right lawmakers surging into the National Assembly. Just two months into his second five-year term, Macron has the narrowest majority in French political history and must govern through coalition-building. Marine Le Pen's strategy to turn her far-right party mainstream has succeeded, increasing its lawmakers almost tenfold and cementing the party's rise from fringe status to mainstream opposition. The largest opposition group can claim the privilege of chairing the National Assembly's finance committee - a strategic role because the committee's president sets the agenda, giving any opposition lawmaker determined to hamstring the majority a tool to do so. It also confers powers of inquiry, with access to tax and public spending documents usually off-limits. Marine Le Pen says she intends to lobby for this highly strategic post.
In Creteil, a communist, socialist, and conservative suburb of Paris, a song of reconciliation and unity is rising - and a message that is attracting people from diverse backgrounds. ‘I don't have to build a church; I have to build a place where people will be loved. Not trying to make them look like me, just love them, introduce them to God, and they will be changed by the Holy Spirit’, says French pastor Ivan Carluer, founder of Martin Luther King Church. He drew his inspiration from the civil rights leader's message of unconditional love. Carluer also had a dream to create a space where blacks, whites, and people of other racial backgrounds could come together and reflect the diversity of Paris. Carluer's dream is now a reality. ``We have 20% all black, 10% all white, 10% Asian, and 60% cannot be defined,’ he laughs. ‘Jesus' colour!’ MLK is now one of the country's largest evangelical churches, and Ivan is a rising figure in France's Protestant movement.
On 7 February President Macron travelled to Moscow and then to Kyiv, to meet the presidents of Russia and Ukraine and seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis. At the same time, German chancellor Olaf Scholz was in Washington aiming to convince Joe Biden to trust him despite being wishy-washy on Russia. On 10 February Boris Johnson went to Brussels. In the week beginning 14 February, Scholz will meet Vladimir Putin himself. Despite Scholz’s doveish approach to Russia threatening European unity, France, Germany, and the US are still allies. Many believe the scenario of Macron keeping Scholz and Biden out of the loop on his talks with Putin and Zelensky is as unlikely as the German chancellor cutting a deal with Biden behind Macron’s back.
Studies are underway to find the precise characteristics of the latest Covid-19 variant, BA2. Accounting for over half of sequenced Omicron cases in 57 countries, it appears more transmissible than the original strain and more able to infect the vaccinated. BA2, nicknamed ‘Omicron's little brother’, was mentioned for the first time during a press conference on 20 January and is being scrutinised by scientists. It appears to have a growth advantage compared to the version of Omicron that has swept the globe. Analysis suggests it could be substantial, although there is a risk of over-estimating growth advantage in the early stages. What we know is that it is a growing proportion of cases. There are no precise data yet on its resistance to vaccines or the severity of the cases.
France and Britain have clashed repeatedly over migrants crossing the Channel, post-Brexit trade arrangements, the sale of submarines to Australia, and fishing territories. The fishing dispute has come to a head as France threatened the UK with a lawsuit unless a few dozen fishing licences are granted as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ before 10 December. The deadline expired without a breakthrough in talks, despite France's threat, and 104 French boats still lack licences to operate in British and Channel Island waters. Britain earlier denied discriminating against French boats, saying many of the vessels are unable to provide the paperwork required to qualify for a licence. ‘This is a technical process based on evidence rather than deadlines’, a UK government spokesman said. France's Europe minister Clement Beaune said, ‘If they stick to their guns, then we will ask the European Commission to begin a legal complaint’.