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EURO 2016

EURO

Six things you didn’t know about France and Iceland

To everyone’s surprise, it will be the underdog Iceland squaring off against host country France in the quarter-finals of the Euro 2016 on Sunday. Here are some surprising links between the two countries that you might not know about.

Six things you didn’t know about France and Iceland
Photo: omgponies2/Flickr, Jean-Phi92/Flickr

27,000 Icelandic football fans have come to France to support their team in the Euro 2016 tournament.

Not bad for a country of 332,000 people. That’s about 8 percent of their population.

“It's like having your family at the game,” Iceland defender Kari Árnason said. “I know probably 50 percent of the crowd — or at least recognize them.”

And the fans were certainly ecstatic after the team’s surprise victory over England on Monday. The president himself is coming to watch the match on Sunday. 

But enough about football.

Here are a few connections between France and Iceland that you probably don't know about.

Icelanders love their fromage almost as much as the French do

Photo: omgponies2/Flickr

Everyone knows that the French eat more cheese than any other country in the world. But did you know that the second biggest cheese consumer is in fact… Iceland?

The average Icelander eats an impressive 25.2 kg of cheese per year, just slightly less than France’s 25.9 kg, according to the International Dairy Federation.

But Icelandic cheese doesn’t look or taste anything like your typical French Brie or Camembert. Iceland’s cheese of choice, called Skyr, is actually more yogurt-like and eaten with spoons. It’s been a part of Icelandic cuisine for over a thousand years. 

And for good reason, you'll agree if you've tasted it. 

A taste of Iceland in Paris

Photo: Lemon Paris Facebook Page

Wondering where you can try some of this delightful Skyr? 

Good news if you’re in Paris: the first Icelandic juice bar came to the French capital in 2015. Lemon in the 2nd arrondissement spins out smoothies and juices with names like “Icelandic flirt”, often incorporating their beloved Skyr.  

Lemon is your spot if you'd like to get a taste of Iceland's favorite fromage in Paris.

The French really love the land of ice and fire…

So much in fact that over 65,000 of them visited the tiny country in 2015, according to data looking at arrivals through the main airport outside of Reykjavik.  

For Iceland enthusiasts in Paris, the Icelandic Embassy organized nearly a month’s worth of events surrounding the country’s national holiday on June 17th, with concerts by Icelandic musicians and tastings of Icelandic specialties. 

The friendship between French and Icelandic fisherman

The French museum in Fáskrúðsfjörður. Photo: jbdodane/Flickr

It turns out French fisherman were a significant part of Iceland’s history. 

For over 300 years until 1938, about 5,000 French men per year came to fish cod in Icelandic waters.

“The Icelandic Nobel Prize winning author Mr. Halldór Laxness described in an article in 1943 the close ties between the French fishermen and the Icelanders,” said Halldór Ásgrímsson, previous Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, in a speech to the French Senate in Paris in 1997.

“Both had to endure the harsh environment of Icelandic waters. This reality developed a mutual understanding and respect between the fishermen of both countries.”

The village of Fáskrúðsfjörður in eastern Iceland is home to a French museum and a hotel that was originally built as a hospital for these French fishermen, complete with a restaurant, bar, and beneath it an underground tunnel made to like a French yacht. 

French film festival in Reykjavik

Icelanders are big French film buffs it seems.

Iceland’s major cultural event of the year, attracting around 10,000 people each year to the capital of Reykjavik, is none other than a French film festival. 

Organized by the French Embassy in Reykjavik, Alliance Francaise, and Green Light Films, the festival celebrated its 16th year in 2016.

 The Icelandic horse in France

Photo: Mary Warren

The purebred, hardy little horses that you can find peaceful grazing in fields all around Iceland are the national pride of the country, and the robust breed has now come to France. 

An organization called Pur Cheval has a mission “to make our Icelandic horses shine here in France”, according to their website.

Stop by their headquarters in Breteau in north-central France if you’d like to befriend some of these friendly, stocky horses (and don’t you dare call them ponies).

So what do you think — will host country France triumph on Sunday, or will the lovable underdog Icelanders steal the spotlight once again?

By Katie Warren

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Britain tried to turn former French president Chirac against the euro

British diplomats tried to establish a "very private link" with former French president Jacques Chirac with the "unavowed aim" of exposing him to the risks of a European currency union, declassified documents revealed Thursday.

How Britain tried to turn former French president Chirac against the euro
French President Jacques Chirac (L) welcomes British Prime Minister John Major at the Elysee Palace 29 July 1995 in Paris. Photo: AFP
The government files from 1995 document Britain's plan to influence the French president's decision on whether to proceed with the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the group of policies that led to the formation of the euro.
   
“Chirac is alive to the risks of ploughing ahead with the EMU without thinking through the implications,” then British ambassador in Paris Christopher Mallaby wrote to the prime minister at the time, John Major, in a cable outlining his plan to “move the debate in our direction”.
   
He suggested “establishing a very private link” between Downing Street and Chirac's Elysee palace. 
   
“The pretext could be private discussions” about currency union, he wrote.
 
Photo: AFP
 
“The unavowed aim would be to ensure that Chirac was exposed to the risks of an early move to EMU, including the divisive political effect within the EU,” he added.
   
Britain never joined the currency union, having infamously been forced to withdraw the pound from a precursor on “Black Wednesday” in 1992 when it could 
not keep sterling above an agreed level, and was keen to stall the move towards a full union.
   
Mallaby targeted Chirac as a potential ally, saying his “thinking is unformed and influenceable.”
   
The documents also revealed Chirac's scepticism about European integration.
   
“He said bluntly that Europe was no longer very popular,” a foreign office cable quoted him as saying at a 1995 heads of government meeting.
   
The president added that the “EU seemed to be cut off from the real problems affecting the ordinary citizen… and people saw it as a mammoth bureaucracy poking its nose in where it was not needed,” added the memo.
   
Prime Minister Major replied that “he had been waiting five years to hear someone else say things like this!”, according to the cables.
   
Major is now a fierce opponent of Brexit, having been fatally damaged in office by internal divisions over his decision to sign Britain up to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.
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