• France's news in English

'France's image is bad but the reality is different'

Ben McPartland · 13 Aug 2014, 15:56

Published: 13 Aug 2014 15:56 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

On a recent visit to New York Chiara Corazza, the woman in charge of promoting Paris abroad, tells a story of how she received sympathy from a taxi driver for having to hand over 75 percent of her earnings to the French tax man.

“I have to tell them ‘I am not paying this rate’. Of course the tax level exists in France but hardly anyone is paying it,” the Director General of the Greater Paris Investment Agency tells The Local.

It’s just one example of how the image of France abroad can often be skewed. More often than not, it’s down to those avid French bashers in certain sections of the Anglo media.

“There’s a huge gap between the image [presented by the Anglo Saxon press] and the reality,” she said. “They are not very favorable to France. It’s cultural and it’s hard to change," says Corazza, who says France needs its own global media presence to boost its image.

The image of France as a country creaking under record unemployment, never-ending strikes, crippling public debt with a population that is increasingly disillusioned and xenophobic is the common narrative presented abroad, and it's fair to say, by elements of the French media too. 

But it’s not just a problem of image. In November last year during a televised debate with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, Corazzo herself said there was a real “cry of alarm” in Paris because it was losing its attractiveness compared to other international cities.

Earlier this year a UN report revealed that France had seen a 77 percent decline in direct foreign investment last year, while another poll by financial news site Bloomberg suggested French President François Hollande was more unpopular than Vladimir Putin among foreign investors.

But Corazza is keen to stress, that it's not as bad as the surveys or the press make out. Foreign investors will make money in Paris, she says.

“When investors come here, they discover there is a market here to do business. You just have to tell them to look at the results of investors who have come here in the last 10 years and they will see that most of them have increased turnover by 20 percent.

“When they come to Paris they find the skills and good infrastructure and the telecommunications,” she says. “Energy is less expensive here. They find professional workers who are reliable. They find an efficient state and an efficient administration and they find a good balance between the quality of life and work.”

Corazza also points to the number of French companies like Vinci, Carrefour, LVMH and EDF that are global leaders.

“If things were that bad in France, these companies would leave,” she said.

Corazza, who says she does not take sides when it comes to politics, admits that since being elected in 2012 the Socialist government has at times made her job more difficult.

When government ministers like Arnaud Montebourg start declaring open war with some foreign investors like Indian steel magnate Laksi Mittal or US tyre tycoon Maurice Taylor, it is agencies like hers that are often left to pick up the pieces.

Corazza says Hollande and co are still learning the job and as a result her organization has had to increase its lobbying to try “to convince the government what needs to be done.”

Announced cuts in social charges for companies, easing of visa requirements for Chinese nationals, a plant to create “talent passports” to bring the brightest young minds from abroad, “entrepreneur visas”, reforms to capital gains tax, and the passing of a law that allows more university courses to be taught in English, suggests the government has taken steps to try to boost that image and open the country up to foreign investment.

Story continues below…

Paris vs the rest of France

One project that Corazza is naturally keen to promote and believes will massively boost the fortunes of the French capital is the “Grand Paris” project which will see billions of euros invested in development of the Ile de France region, and will include new Metro and train lines.

Several other cities around France, notably Marseille have complained about the billions being invested in the capital, which will only reinforced economic Paris’s dominance over the rest of the country.

But Corazza argues that what is good for Paris is good for France.

“If foreign investors did not come to Paris, they would not come to France. We don’t have a big second city, like in Germany or Spain,” she says.

“Everyone understands that Paris is the engine of France."

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available