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EU chief slams ‘reactionary’ France

The president of the European Commission slammed France on Monday for its “reactionary” stance towards globalization. José Manuel Barroso’s comments follow marathon trade talks between EU member states over a potential EU-US free trade deal.

EU chief slams 'reactionary' France
Jean Manuel Barroso, the President of the EU Commission. Photo: Patrick Hertzog/AFP

José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission branded France “reactionary” on Monday in reference to Paris’s position during crucial talks over a potential landmark free trade deal between EU and the United States.

During the fraught negotiations France insisted that its prized audiovisual sector must be exempt from what would stand as the world’s largest free trade agreement. The stubborn insistence on 'cultural exception' angered EU chiefs and Barroso vented his frustration in an interview with the International Herald Tribune.

“It’s part of the anti-globalization program that I consider totally reactionary,” Barroso told the Paris based newspaper.

“Some of those [who defend France’s ‘cultural exception’] say they are left but they are actually extremely reactionary,” he added.

“They do not understand the benefits brought by globalization, including from a cultural point of view, to broaden perspectives and give us the sentiment of belonging to same humanity,” the EU chief said.

Speaking at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland French President François Hollande said he could not believe Barroso, who did not actually name France in his attack, was behind such as accusation.

"I do not want to believe that the President of the European Commission could make such a statement about France​​," he said to reporters upon his arrival at Lough Erne.

This is not the first time Barroso has laid into France for its stance towards globalization. The EU chief said last month that France was "spitting in the wind" with its anti-global view.

French officials say culture generally in Europe is well protected from the Hollywood juggernaut, but with rapid technological change in the digital era, current protections on films and other content could easily be taken over.

It was therefore better to exclude the audiovisual sector now rather than risk putting it in the talks and get a deal that later proves dated and inadequate, they said.

EU officials, however repeatedly warned that excluding any economic sector could hand the US an early bargaining chip in what promise to be tough negotiations.

Washington has said no areas should be excluded from the talks.

But after 13 hours of talks on Friday, France finally got its way with the EU agreeing to bow to a compromise.

Minister Richard Bruton of Ireland, which holds the current EU presidency and so chairs the talks, said: "We have made a lot of changes to give confidence that the audiovisual sector will be protected."

France jealously guards it cultural sector, with French TV stations required to air at least 40-percent home produced content while another 20 percent must come from Europe.

Cinema-goers pay a levy on each ticket to help fund the French film industry which many believe could not survive without such support in the face of Hollywood's dominance.

At the meeting, ministers were also to review a series of trade disputes with China which have also exposed deep differences within the EU – notably between Berlin and Paris.

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SECT

French court jails Aussie ‘guru’ for teen girls’ rape

An Australian Hare Krishna follower dubbed the “guru of Valbonne” was jailed for 15 years this week for raping two 15-year-old girls in the south of France. In a separate case in France, a cult leader, was jailed for five years for forcing family members to have sex with each other.

French court jails Aussie 'guru' for teen girls' rape
An Australian Hare Krishna dubbed the “guru of Valbonne” was this week sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping two 15-year-old girls in the south of France. Photo: Indi Samarajiva

A court in the southern French city of Nice sentenced a 41-year-old Australian man to 15 years in prison this week, after finding him guilty of raping two 15-year-old female “followers”, according to local newspaper Nice Matin.

Sean O’ Neil, was labelled a “sexual predator” by prosecutor Muriel Fusina during sentencing on Wednesday.

O'Neill himself had claimed he had been reluctantly servicing the “unbridled sexual appetites” of the teenage girls.

Prosecuting lawyer Katia Calvini rejected those claims out of hand on Wednesday, telling the court: “He is a narcissistic pervert, he’s just trying to shift the responsibility for what actually happened.”

Fusina agreed, telling the Australian expat: “You are a sexual predator, who used the concepts of Hare Krishna for your own perverted ends."

"In your clutches, two teenage girls lost their virginity. Under your influence, they prayed for two hours every day, undertook a vegan diet, and broke off ties with their friends," she continued.

O’ Neil had told the court earlier in the day that he had only come to France in the first place at the “urgent request” of ‘Marie’ – one of his teenage victims, whom he had met online.

To the shock and visible upset of his victims, present in the court on Wednesday, O’ Neil even went so far as to blame them for the apparent physical abuse he subjected them to.

“She asked me to to hit her, so I did, until my hands hurt,” a weeping O’ Neil told the court in Nice, adding that he had had no choice but to engage in group sex with the girls.

O’ Neil was acquitted of the rape of a third teenage girl, but the court ordered that he be deported from France for life at the conclusion of his prison sentence.

'You forced a mother to have sex with her own children'

Elsewhere this week, a 57-year-old former English teacher and erstwhile cult leader was sentenced to five years in prison for “abuse of weakness,” for forcing followers and even members of the same family to have sex with each other.

The sentence was passed in the context of France’s strict 2001 law against cults.

The court in Caen, north-western France on Wednesday found that Françoise Dercle from the ‘Parc d’Accueil’ sect had forced her followers to have sex with each other, often in groups, between 2002 and 2007.

Dercle frequently even forced family members to engage in incestuous sex acts with each other, the court found.

Judge Henri Ody on Wednesday confronted Dercle with a particularly disturbing incident. “You forced a mother to have sexual relations with her [adult] children, one of whom was severely handicapped,” Ody told Dercle.

She had originally been given a four-year jail term in January, but her sentence was increased by 12 months on Wednesday.

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