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Macron urges world leaders to contribute more to fight infectious diseases

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday took the unusual step of singling out a series of countries that he said could contribute more to funding the fight against infectious diseases.

Speaking at a donors’ conference for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Macron said everyone should up their pledges for the coming three-year period by 15 per cent.

The fund says that reaching its funding goal of 14 billion dollars could help save 16 million lives and avoid 234 million infections by 2023.

The Global Fund, which is mainly backed by governments but also gets some private funding, recorded pledges of 12.9 billion dollars in its last funding round, held in Canada in 2016.

Macron said France was already on board for a 15-per-cent increase, and he suggested that Japan, Norway and Australia should also up their contributions.

“I am sure that Japan can reach 15 per cent,” Macron argued. “It would be a game changer … if Japan makes this effort!”

The Gulf States of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which made much smaller contributions if any in 2016, were “countries that we have great expectations of,” he added.

“I am talking about these countries which, if I’ve understood it right, have resources,” Macron said to laughter and applause in the Lyon conference hall, suggesting each could offer 100 million to 150 million dollars.


FAT/AFA

Edited by Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide

Fatima Sule: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Foreign

Macron’s centrist party sees majority at risk as dissidents leaves

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A split by left-leaning dissidents on Tuesday looked set to narrowly rob French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party of its majority in the National Assembly, though allies will keep his government safe.

A group of 16 current and former members of Macron’s parliamentary group, along with one Green, said they were forming a new bloc with a greater focus on social and environmental issues.

The move would take Macron’s La Republique en Marche (LREM, the Republic on the Move,) down from 295 to 288 seats in the 577-member assembly, leaving the party one seat short of commanding a majority on its own.

However, the centrist Democratic Movement (MoDem) party, which is in coalition with Macron’s LREM, lends the government a further 46 seats, ensuring its overall majority is not at risk.

Macron won the 2017 presidential election arguing that the left-right divide was outdated, and promising to combine job creation and support for business with social and environmental protection.

However, some left-leaning supporters had since been disappointed with what they said was an excessively pro-business approach.

Meanwhile, environmental policy, tougher migrant detention rules, and arms sales to Saudi Arabia had also caused unease for dissidents.

According to the founding member Aurelien Tache, the new group, baptized Ecology Solidarity Democracy, was seeking priority for social, ecological and democratic questions.

However, one of the fellow dissidents, Hubert Julien-Laferriere, insisted that nobody was interested in betraying their commitments of 2017, rather, the majority had left them behind.

According to Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le-Drian, the split was a pity and assured of Emmanuel Macron’s majority.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Felix Ajide (NAN)

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Elysee: Macron and Merkel to join forces on EU Covid-19 response

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are to launch a joint initiative for a European response to Covid-19 later on Monday, the Elysee Palace has said.

The Elysee did not give any further details about the nature of the initiative, but France and Germany have so far taken sharply different views on a potential European recovery plan.

France, Spain and Italy have been pushing for a major fund to provide grants and loans to restart the economies of the bloc’s worst-hit countries – with Italy and Spain those that have suffered most.

Germany and the Netherlands have been more sceptical.

Merkel and Macron would be holding talks by videoconference at 3:30 pm (1330 GMT) followed by a joint press conference at 5 pm, the Elysee said.

The European Commission currently has the task of drawing up a compromise that can garner the consent of all 27 EU member states, set to be made public next Wednesday.

The full details are not yet known, but commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made clear it will be anchored within the next long-term EU budget, starting 2021.

The package is to be worth considerably larger than a 320-billion-euro (346 billion dollars) figure that circulated in recent days, according to a commission official familiar with the talks, and involve a large proportion of grants.

EU officials have previously spoken of an instrument worth at least 1 trillion euros.

EU countries already agreed on a half-trillion package of short-term crisis loan instruments.

The first credit lines worth 240 billion euros from the eurozone bailout went live on Friday.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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France’s Macron calls in Sanofi boss after vaccine comments

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The chief executive of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi will report to the Elysee Palace on Tuesday for a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, the president’s office said on Friday.

The development comes amid growing outrage in France after Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson indicated to news agency Bloomberg that the U.S would get priority access to any novel coronavirus vaccine the firm may develop.

Bloomberg cited Hudson as saying that because the U.S was investing in work on the vaccine, it would have the right to the biggest pre-order and would probably get it days or weeks ahead of other countries.

President Emmanuel Macron, who has argued that any vaccine for the coronavirus should be considered a global public good, was `indignant at Hudson’s comments, the Elysee said on Thursday.

Sanofi chairman Serge Weinberg sought to limit the damage on Thursday evening, telling France 2 television that there would be no particular head start for any country.

The U.S might get priority for vaccine doses produced in the company’s US-based factories, but Sanofi had bigger production facilities in France and other European countries, Weinberg said.

Sanofi has two vaccines under development, one of them in conjunction with the U.S. government, and says it hopes to get them approved between the middle and second half of next year.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

 

 

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Macron says coronavirus vaccine must be public property 

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Any vaccine against the new coronavirus must be considered a “global public good,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a pledging conference for international efforts to develop the medicine.

The vaccine should be “given to the entire planet by the organisation we choose,” Macron said.

He warned that the world is in a “race against time” to save lives.

“Faced with COVID-19, ‘everyone for themselves’ would be a major mistake,” Macron warned.

“We can only come out the other side of this together,” he added.

Macron promises 500 million euros (536 million dollars) to help fund the vaccine effort.

This is in addition to ramped-up funding for the World Health Organisation, while Germany meanwhile offers 525 million.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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There are knowledge gaps about China’s virus approach – Macron

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French President Emmanuel Macron has dismissed the idea that China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic could be a role model for democracies, according to the Financial Times.

The British newspaper cited Macron, in an interview, saying that there was no comparison between countries where information flows freely and those where truth is suppressed.

“Given these differences, the choices made and what China is today, which I respect, let’s not be so naive as to say it’s been much better at handling this,” Macron told the newspaper.

“We don’t know. There are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about,” he added.

Macron’s comments came as China denied suspicions reportedly raised by U.S. intelligence sources that the coronavirus might have originated in a medical laboratory rather than a food market in the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, authorities in Wuhan revised their count of coronavirus deaths sharply upwards by 1,290 to 3,869.

The new figure was due to late reports from medical institutions and the fact that some coronavirus patients died at home while hospitals were overloaded in the early stages of the epidemic, the provincial government said.

European governments have faced similar difficulties accounting for all deaths in their statistics about the illness.

Macron, however, expressed support for the World Health Organisation during a video meeting of G7 leaders late Thursday, his office said.

The White House accused the WHO of a “lack of transparency and chronic mismanagement of the pandemic” in a statement released after the meeting, chaired by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said he is halting funding for the global body.

In his interview with the Financial Times, Macron also warned that abandoning freedoms would pose a threat to Western democracies.

“You can’t abandon your fundamental DNA on the grounds that there is a health crisis,” he said.

The French president said the European Union was at “a moment of truth” amid the economic and health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macron called for solidarity within the European Union, urging reluctant northern members to band together and support Spain and Italy – where more than 40,000 people have died from COVID-19.

“We are at a moment of truth, which is to decide whether the European Union is a political project or just a market project.

“I think it’s a political project … We need financial transfers and solidarity, if only so that Europe holds on,” Macron said.

France has joined Spain and Italy in pushing for a medium-term EU economic recovery fund worth hundreds of billions of euros, after the bloc’s sluggish and divided response to the crisis infuriated even pro-EU Italians.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has now twice apologised to Italy for the lack of support in the first weeks of the epidemic.

But while the bloc has agreed massive short-term economic action and has overcome initial national bans on transfers of medical equipment to other countries, there is still no agreement on the investment fund.

The Financial Times reported that the French president banged his desk repeatedly with his hands for emphasis, and said the EU and the euro single currency would be threatened if richer members did not support measures to help the pandemic-stricken countries of southern Europe.

The Netherlands and Germany have long opposed any jointly issued European debt, such as the so-called coronabonds proposed by Italy.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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France’s Macron expected to announce length of lockdown extension

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French President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Monday evening and is expected to clarify how long a previously announced extension of the county’s lockdown will last.

In a televised speech scheduled for 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), his third since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the president will likely elaborate on last week’s move to extend France’s lockdown beyond the initial end date of April 15.

Macron will not indicate the crisis is yet coming to a close,
French media reported on Sunday, citing unnamed top political sources.

The Journal du Dimanche wrote that existing restrictions on public life could even be extended into mid or late May.

France’s scientific council recently recommended the restrictions, which have been in effect since March 17 and should last at least six weeks.

People are only allowed to leave the house for one hour a day within a radius of one kilometre from their homes for essential reasons such as shopping, walking or other forms of exercise.

YEE

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Foreign

Macron wants greater French independence in fight against Covid-19 

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  F

rench President Emmanuel Macron wants more French independence in the fight against the coronavirus, for example in the production of medical masks.

“We have to produce more on our own soil to reduce our dependency,” Macron said after visiting mask maker Kolmi-Hopen in Saint-Barthelemy-d’Anjou near Angers in north-western France on Tuesday.

He said that by the end of the year, France should have achieved its full independence in mask production.

“By the end of April, we will have the capacity to produce 15 million masks a week in France,” Macron said.

France recently ordered 1 billion masks, some from China.

Macron said that he was committed to rebuilding French and European sovereignty.

He also announced that a consortium of four large industrial groups plans to manufacture 10,000 ventilators by mid-May.

This consortium consists of: electrical specialist Schneider Electric; automotive supplier Valeo; and Opel parent PSA.

It will operate under the leadership of Air Liquide, a French manufacturer of industrial gases.

The French state also plans to make 4 billion euros (4.4 billion dollars) available to the national health authority for ordering masks, medicines and respirators.

“We have to fight the virus with the nurses at the front,” said Macron.

It is an “invisible enemy,” he said, adding that he believed in a “united France”.

Reforms had been adopted before the crisis, which would allow France to be more competitive, he said, adding: “But we have to regain moral strength and the will to produce more in France.”

YEE

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
(NAN)

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President Macron visits Paris hospital treating coronavirus patients

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday visited a hospital in Paris that has been treating coronavirus patients, as his government faces pressure to show the country it is dealing with the outbreak effectively.

Two people have died from the coronavirus so far in France – an elderly Chinese tourist and a 60-year-old French national.

That 60-year old victim died this week in Paris’ Hopital Salpetriere, which Macron visited on Thursday.

France is on high alert after neighbouring Italy became a new front in the global fight to contain the outbreak, and Macron is due to visit Italy later on Thursday.

A second person suffering from coronavirus has died in France, and a Frenchman who travelled to Italy’s Lombardy region also tested positive, the country’s health authorities said on Wednesday.

The death was one of three new cases in France this week, said Jerome Salomon, the country’s director-general of health, and an infectious disease specialist.

There are now 17 confirmed cases in the country.

“So far it seems that people in France are taking a cautious approach to the rising number of coronavirus cases.

“They are certainly watching developments but there is no sense of panic yet, ” said Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris.

Coronavirus cases in people who travelled recently to northern Italy have now been found in France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Croatia and Algeria.

France’s first coronavirus death was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist, who died in hospital in mid-February.

The third new case involved a 55-year-old now on life support in the city of Amiens, in northern France.

The French government has asked citizens returning from Lombardy and the neighbouring Veneto region to avoid “all non-essential outings” and keep their children home from school.

The same advisory has been issued to people returning from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and South Korea.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim

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Macron ally pulls out of Paris mayor race over alleged sexual video

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A close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday pulled out of the race for Mayor of Paris after the publication of what French media reported was a private video of sexual nature.

The official candidate of Macron’s Centrist Party for the March elections, Benjamin Griveaux, said an internet site and social media published ignoble attacks on his private life.

“I don’t wish to expose my family and myself any further, when all attacks are permitted. I have decided to withdraw my candidacy,” he said.

Griveaux, a long-standing Macron ally who resigned from a ministerial job on January to run for mayor of Paris, had already been struggling to make an impact in the race.

However, recent opinion polls had already put him in third place behind outgoing Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo, and conservative challenger Rachida Dati, in the highly symbolic contest.

Meanwhile, another high-profile Macron supporter, star mathematician Cedric Villani, was running a dissident campaign in the capital, and had been expelled from Macron’s centrist LREM party as a result.

Broadcaster BFMTV reported that LREM leader Stanislas Guerini, would meet with party leaders and other candidates on the party’s electoral schedule for Paris to discuss a replacement for Griveaux.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Muhammad Suleiman Tola

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General news

French prime minister comes to Macron’s aid in local elections

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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday announced a mayoral run in local elections, as President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist LREM party faces a difficult campaign.

Philippe told local newspaper Paris-Normandie that he will run again for his old job as mayor of the port city of Le Havre in the elections,which is  due to take place in two rounds on March 15  and March 22.

Macron’s party was formed in 2016, two years after the last nationwide local elections. It needs to build up a local base, but faces the prospect of winning in few, if any, big cities.

Philippe  a centre-right politician who was mayor of Le Havre from 2010 until Macron chose him as premier in 2017, said he did not plan to take up the position of mayor immediately if he won.

“For the moment, I am fulfilling the mission that the president gave me as best I can,’’ he told the newspaper.

But as soon as that was over, he added “my ambition is to become mayor of Le Havre again’’.

Philippe had last year been mooted as a possible mayoral candidate for Paris, the biggest prize in the March polls.

Macron confidant Benjamin Griveaux is now running in the capital, but he is trailing Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo and conservative candidate Rachida Dati in the latest opinion polls.

Another LREM lawmaker, star mathematician Cedric Villani, is running a dissident campaign in the capital, despite an appeal from Macron in person for him to step down and back Griveaux.

France’s Council of State meanwhile suspended several provisions in a circular governing the election issued by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

Castaner had instructed regional administrators not to attribute any political label to candidates in towns with a population of less than 9,000.

That would mean that overall national tallies of the results would exclude the ballots cast by almost half the electorate, the council’s administrative judges for urgent issues ruled.

The judges also suspended a rule that would have allowed candidates to be categorised as various centrists if they were backed by Macron’s party or allies, without the need for them to be formally adopted as the party’s candidates.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Muhammad Suleiman Tola

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Macron begins visit to Israel, meets Netanyahu

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 French President Emmanuel Macron began his visit to Israel on Wednesday morning with a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister’s office issued a statement saying that Netanyahu and his wife welcomed Macron at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

“He and Prime Minister Netanyahu are currently having a working meeting over breakfast,” read the statement.

The two are expected to discuss issues related to Iran and the Palestinians.

Macron is also scheduled to meet with Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Macron arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.

He is scheduled to attend a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp on Thursday in Israel.

Edited by: Halima Sheji/Emmanuel Yashim

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Foreign

Macron to attend Berlin Libya peace conference on Sunday

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 French President Emmanuel Macron will attend a Libyan peace conference called by Germany in Berlin on Sunday, a source in the Elysee Palace says.

Macron spoke to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Thursday ahead of the talks, which are intended to bring eastern Libyan military strongman, Khalifa Haftar, together with Fayez al-Serraj, the prime minister of a weak UN backed government based in the capital Tripoli.

Macron has held two previous peace summits with the rival leaders in France, without lasting success, while Italy and most recently Russia have also tried to bring the warring parties together.

France’s relations with Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) have declined over the past year, after Paris backed an offensive by Haftar in southern Libya.

France denies, however, GNA allegations that it supported the offensive on Tripoli launched by Haftar in April.

Edited by: Halima Sheji/Ifeyinwa Omowole

 

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Sahel leaders in France for anti-terrorism summit with Macron

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The leaders of five countries in Africa’s Sahel region were expected in France on Monday for a summit called by President Emmanuel Macron on the fight against militants.

France has some 4,500 troops based in Mali, Niger and Chad to back up local forces against fighters and Macron wants political commitments from the region’s leaders.

The presidents of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger will meet Macron in Pau, where seven out of 13 French soldiers, killed in Mali in November, were based.

Macron initially called the summit for December, shortly after the troops died in a helicopter collision while taking on jihadists.

He said he wanted the Sahel leaders to clearly state what they wanted from Paris, oppose local “anti-French” sentiment and do “the necessary political work on their side’’ to build on France’s military actions.

France’s military involvement is sensitive in the Sahel countries, which are all former French colonies and Macron’s initiative was poorly received.

The Burkinabe President, Roch Kabore, said he had learned about the invitation from the press and found Macron’s “tone and conditions to be problematic’’.

However, the summit was later postponed after a militant attack in Niger killed 71 soldiers.

French troops have been in the Sahel region since they intervened in 2013 to recapture Northern Mali from jihadists.

France and the EU have supported a joint force between the five Sahel countries in an attempt to build up local military capacities.

But so far, it had recorded little success.

Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Macron hopes to break deadlock in pension reform crisis

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he hopes to break the deadlock in the country’s pension reform dispute, warning that the pension system must be balanced out of responsibility to the future generation.

The government spokeswoman, Sibeth Ndiaye, after a cabinet meeting on Monday, said Macron hopes to find solution at talks beginning on Tuesday, with new Bill to be voted on in the National Assembly ahead of March’s local elections.

Ndiaye added that the government was open to suggestion from social partners.

“A particular sticking point is a planned raise of the standard age of retirement on full pension from 62 to 64, which the government hopes will plug the large financing gap in the pension system.

“Observers predict that the government will make concessions on this point.

“The strike has crippled France for more than a month now. Monday again, saw limited public transport service across the country, with trains packed now that many have returned from holiday,“ Indiaye said.

According to the State-Owned Rail Company (SNCF), 36 per cent of train drivers are refusing to work on Monday.

However, students were seen joining the action on Monday, blockading some universities. Among their grievances was the fact that important examinations had been scheduled to go ahead in spite transport strikes.

Meanwhile, the examinations were postponed in December due to the lingering transport strikes.

However, lawyers had earlier joined the strike, though government hoped its pension reform would end the fragmentation of pensions into 42 different funds and introduce a universal points system.

Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Muhammad Suleiman Tola

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Paris police chase protesters away from Macron party headquarters

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Police in Paris on Thursday fired tear gas to force protesters away from the headquarters of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party as a strike against his pension reforms continued.

The head of Macron’s La Republique en Marche party, Stanislas Guerini, condemned what he described on Twitter as an “attempted intrusion by radicalised demonstrators” at the party’s office.

Police were not able to confirm what happened at the party headquarters however said three people had been arrested during an undeclared demonstration nearby.

In a televised New Year’s Eve address, Macron said he expected Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to find a compromise on the pension reforms with “the trade unions and employer groups who desire it.”

However, trade unions were unimpressed with his statement, which offered no specific concessions on plans to replace existing professional pension schemes with a single national scheme and raise the standard age for retirement on a full pension from 62 to 64.

The head of the hardline CGT trade union, Philippe Martinez, told RMC radio on New Year’s Day that he was calling on “all the French people to mobilise, to protest and to go out on strike.”

Earlier in the week, a CGT official told public broadcaster FranceInfo that the union was planning to blockade the country’s fuel refineries from Jan. 7 to 10.

According to French media, train services and Paris public transport have been disrupted by strike action since Dec. 5, now the longest-ever strike in the history of state railway company SNCF.

The planned reforms would phase out the right of public sector transport workers to retire on a full pension at the age of 52 or 57.

The SNCF said that only 6.9 per cent of its staff were still out on strike though 33.9 per cent of train drivers were still striking.

Half the scheduled TGV high speed trains were cancelled, while two out of three services should be available between Friday and Sunday when many people are expected to return from Christmas holidays.

Ministers are set to meet with trade unions and employers’ groups on Jan. 7 to discuss some aspects of the reform plans.

Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Ali Baba-Inuwa

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France’s Macron sticks to pension reform, open to improvements

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French President Emmanuel Macron insisted he wants to press ahead with controversial plans to reform and unify the country’s pension system, but he is open to improvements, he said on Wednesday.

Macron said he was prepared to discuss ways to improve the plans together with the trade unions, the state-run rail company SNCF, and the operator of the Paris metro RATP.

The president also reportedly said he hopes that there would be a break in the industrial action for Christmas.

Numerous trade unions have held continuing strikes calling on Macron to back down from the plans, and have increased the pressure on the government by threatening to continue the strikes through Christmas.

Strikes have restricted national rail travel and the Paris metro system for two weeks.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the planned changes.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe plans to meet with representatives from the trade unions and employers’ associations in an attempt to defuse the situation.

On Wednesday, only limited transport services were available in the greater Paris metropolitan area, and many lines were not running at all.

SNCF, the national rail operator, recently promised customers who had already bought tickets for the weekend before Christmas that they would be able to travel.

However, many trains have been cancelled and the service has made numerous changes to timetables.

Similarly, France’s warring trade unions on Wednesday defended their decision to cut power to thousands of homes, companies and even the Bank of France to force a weakened government to drop a wide-ranging pension reform.

The power cuts added to a sense of chaos in the second week of nationwide strikes that have crippled transport shut schools and brought more than half a million people onto the street against Macron’s reform.

Asked on French radio whether the power cuts, illegal under French law, weren’t a step too far, Philippe Martinez, the Head of the Hardline CGT Union, said the cuts were necessary to force Macron to back down.

“I understand these workers’ anger.

“These are targeted cuts. You’ll understand that spitting on the public service can make some of us angry,” the mustachioed union leader said.

Macron’s transport minister condemned the power cuts, which hit at least 150,000 homes on Tuesday according to the French power grid, and said the government would ask the grid company to file complaints.

“I hear they’re cutting power to CAC 40 companies, prefectures, shopping malls.

“That’s already rather questionable,” Elisabeth Borne said, referring to an index of blue-chip companies on the French stock market.

“But clinics, metro stations, fire brigades and thousands of French people also saw power cuts. This is far from normal ways of striking,” she said.

The hardening union tactics came just as Macron was forced to change the lead negotiator for the reform, naming a lawmaker from his party to replace pension’s tsar Jean-Paul Delevoye, who resigned following accusations of conflicts of interest.

Macron wants to turn the myriad of French pension systems into a single points-based one.

That would force employees at state-backed companies such as the national railways company SNCF or power utility EDF, who currently enjoy more generous pension plans than private-sector workers, to work longer.

Train drivers at SNCF can retire at just over 50, for instance, against 62 for those in the private sector.

That means French taxpayers have to plug in the deficit of the railway company’s pension system to the tune of 3 billion euros every year.

Edited by: Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim
(NAN)

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Macron to visit Moscow for 75th anniversary victory day celebration

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French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann President Emmanuel Macron will  visit Moscow to attend the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on May 9, 2020.

French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann disclosed this in an interview with Russia’s Echo of Moscow broadcaster.

“President Macron said that he would attend the Victory Day Parade in Moscow on May 9.

“Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have already confirmed their participation in the event,’’ he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Dec. 11 “in the meantime, U.S. President Trump is considering travelling to Moscow for the Victory Day celebration.’’

Russian Defence Ministry, also said that the U.S. soldiers would be invited to 2020 Victory Day Parade in Moscow.

Russia has also invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the event to commemorate the victory of the Soviet Union and its allies over the Nazy Germany in 1945.

Russia holds annual Victory Day military parades on May 9 annually.

Thousands of people gather around the Red Square in central Moscow to see the march of the country’s varied military units and a spectacular air show.

The event is attended by leaders of other states and international organisations at the invitation of the Russian government.

Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

(NAN)

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Macron, Sahel leaders postpone summit on French intervention

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French President Emmanuel Macron and Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou on Thursday agreed to postpone a summit on France’s military involvement in the Sahel region after a deadly attack on Nigerien forces, the Elysee Palace said.

Macron had invited the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger for the summit after 13 French soldiers were killed in a helicopter collision during action against jihadists in Mali in November.

However, the invitation, accompanied by a series of demands addressed to the Sahel leaders, risked coming across as more of a summons, a sensitive point in the five former French colonies.

Macron had said that he wanted the leaders to clearly state what they wanted from France, oppose “anti-French” sentiment, and do “the necessary political work on their side’’ to build on France’s military actions.

France has 4,500 troops based in Chad, Mali and Niger to back up local security forces against armed extremist groups that are active in the region.

Macron had called Issoufou to offer his condolences after 71 Nigerien soldiers were killed in an attack on a Nigerien military camp.

The Elysee said that the chief of staff, French Armed Forces, Gen. Francois Lecointre, would be travelling to Niger to meet Issoufou.

The two leaders agreed to propose to the other Sahel presidents that the summit, originally scheduled for Monday, Dec. 16, should be postponed to 2020.

Edited by: Yahaya Isah/Abdulfatah Babatunde
(NAN)
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French unions gear up for show of force over Macron’s pension reforms

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French unions were, on Tuesday, gearing up for a show of force as strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans went into a sixth day running.

The hardline unions have called for the second day of mass protests as Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was due to outline the government’s plans at the end of a consultation period.

On the first strike day, on Nov. 5, more than 800,000 people hit the streets against Macron’s plans to replace France’s 42 different pension schemes with a single point-based system.

Once again, Paris public transport firm, RATP, warned that most metro lines would be closed and only one in three buses were running.

But on the railways, there was some improvement in services, with the state railway company, SNCF, saying one in five TGV high-speed trains would run.

Public transport and rail workers are set to be among the biggest losers in the reform, as their rights to earlier retirement in some cases at age 52 are expected to be phased out.

Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn and Pension’s Commissioner, Jean-Paul Delevoye, met unions on Monday for a final round of talks ahead of Philippe’s announcements.

But hardliners were unimpressed, with the CGT later denouncing the government’s obstinacy.

The pension reform plans are the third big confrontation between Macron and hardline unions, who was unable to stop his business-friendly changes to labour laws and reforms to the SNCF.

Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Abdulfatah Babatunde
(NAN)

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French unions gear up for show of force over Macron’s pension reforms

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 French unions were on Tuesday gearing up for a show of force as strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans went into a sixth day running.

A day before Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was due to outline the government’s plans at the end of a consultation period, hardline unions have called for a second day of mass protests.

On the first strike day last Thursday, more than 800,000 people hit the streets against Macron’s plans to replace France’s 42 different pension schemes with a single point-based system.

Once again, Paris public transport firm RATP warned that most metro lines would be closed, and only one in three buses were running.

But on the railways, there was some improvement in services, with state railway company SNCF saying one in five TGV high-speed trains would run, compared to one in 10 on Thursday.

Public transport and rail workers are set to be among the biggest losers in the reform, as their rights to earlier retirement – in some cases at age 52 – are expected to be phased out.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn and pensions commissioner Jean-Paul Delevoye met unions on Monday for a final round of talks ahead of Philippe’s announcements.

But hardliners were unimpressed, with the CGT later denouncing the government’s “obstinacy.”

The pension reform plans are the third big confrontation between Macron and hardline unions, who were unable to stop his business-friendly changes to labour laws and reforms to the SNCF.

YEE

Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
(NAN)

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