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INTERNET

Sarkozy in new ‘Twitter tax’ threat

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday he wants "Internet giants" to pay tax in France, shortly before he was due to meet the founder of the micro-blogging site Twitter.

“It is unacceptable that they have a turnover of several billion euros in France without paying tax,” he told Le Point magazine, adding that the French government should consider taxing online advertising revenues.

French lawmakers last year rejected plans for a proposed tax on online advertising revenues, fearing the project would hurt small local companies more than global Internet giants like Google, Facebook or Twitter.

A spokesman for Google hit back, arguing that “the Internet offers a wonderful opportunity to generate growth and jobs in France”.

Google cited a report from management consultant McKinsey that said Internet companies contributed €60 billion ($78 billion) to the French economy in 2009, or 3.2 percent of output, and could create 450,000 jobs by 2015.

“This positive contribution would have a better chance of coming about in an environment that is supportive of the web in France and of investment in the sector. Public policy should support this,” the spokesman argued.

The president’s comment came as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was in Paris to meet with French presidential candidates, including Sarkozy.

Sarkozy urged Twitter to follow other Internet companies and base their European operations in France, the president’s office said.

“Jack Dorsey responded positively to this invitation,” it added.

Sarkozy argued that France should not “only be a consumer of digital products, but a creator of digital technology and innovative methods” and pointed out that both Google and Microsoft had recently opened offices in France.

Earlier Dorsey had met the front-running Socialist candidate François Hollande and with centrist Francois Bayrou, and he met Sarkozy later in the day.

Hollande’s campaign team said the candidate and Dorsey discussed the development of innovative companies in France and the Internet sector.

POLITICS

French diplomats to strike over ‘avalanche’ of reforms

French diplomats are to strike next month for only the second time in their history, protesting an "avalanche" of reforms that unions say are undermining the foreign service at a time of global tensions.

French diplomats to strike over 'avalanche' of reforms

“The Quai d’Orsay is disappearing little by little,” read a statement from six staff unions, using a familiar name for the French foreign ministry’s headquarters on the south bank of the Seine in central Paris.

The main complaint is a reform to career structures which will see the special status accorded to the most senior diplomats scrapped from next year, unions say.

“These measures dismantling our diplomatic service make no sense at a time when war has returned in Europe,” their joint statement said.

Under changes championed by President Emmanuel Macron, and rushed through by decree in April, top foreign service officials would lose their special protected status and be absorbed in a larger pool of elite public sector workers.

This could mean France’s roughly 700 most senior diplomats being asked to join other ministries and facing competition from non-diplomats for top postings.

“We’re very worried,” one serving diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. “We’re not interchangeable. I have the utmost respect for my colleagues in other state services but I don’t know how to do their job and they don’t know how to do mine.”

The strike has been called for June 2nd.

France has the third-biggest foreign service in the world after China and the United States, with around 14,000 employees at the foreign ministry in total.

The vast majority of these are non-diplomats or people on local contracts in countries around the world.

The aim of the government shake-up is to encourage more mobility between state services, which have historically been divided up into separate units with rules and job protections that make moving between them very difficult.

The government is also keen to attract new, more diverse candidates to the diplomatic service by opening new routes to the ministry, but critics see a danger of political interference.

“The door is now open to American-style nominations,” former ambassador to Washington and vocal critic of the reform, Gerard Araud, tweeted last month.

American ambassadors are named by the president, who often uses the power to reward political allies and donors with plum foreign postings.

The last and only strike by French diplomats was in 2003 to push for pay increases.

The stoppage on June 2nd underlines “the real malaise in the ministry, which does not have a rebellious culture,” Olivier da Silva from the CFTC union said.

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