Why there won't be a Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées this year

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Why there won't be a Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées this year
Photo: AFP

The Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées welcomes 15 million visitors each year, but Paris has decided to cancel it this year. What's the story?


For many one of the highlights of the festive season in Paris is a trip to the Champs-Elysées Christmas market. 
Each year some 15 million visitors stroll around the stalls on the city's most famous avenue.
But this year, it looks almost certain that Parisians and tourists looking to get into the Christmas spirit will have to find somewhere else to get their vin chaud or chocolat chaud.
That's because the market has been cancelled by City Hall councillors.
On the face of it that decision sounds ludicrous at a time when Paris is fighting to bring back tourists after many were persuaded to stay away due to terror fears.
But it is not a case of Paris officials crying "bah humbug".
The decision to scrap the market is more down to an ongoing feud and a desire to improve the quality of what's on offer than any attempt by the Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to kill the City of Light's Christmas spirit.
For the past nine years, 77-year-old Marcel Campion, known as "king of the fairground" has been in charge of the event but in the summer Paris City Council voted unanimously not to renew the deal with Campion.
That decision did not go down well with Campion and his fairground workers.
They decided to protest in recent days by blocking the main arteries into the city. Their actions caused monstrous traffic jams around Paris. Campion has also appealed to an administrative court to have the council's decision overturned. His appeal will be heard on November 14th, so he may still get his way.
But with Paris standing firm, the market looks unlikely to go ahead.
Jean-François Martins, in charge of tourism at City Hall justified the decision to scrap the market by basically arguing "it wasn't good enough for Paris."
For Martins the problem was that most of the goods on sale at the market were made in China rather than France and he described the stalls as all "rotten".
"The end of year festivities do not depend on a market selling churros and products made in Asia," said Martins.
"You can't make a profit out of Paris without quality products. That's what we've been telling Campion (pictured below, right, alongside Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, centre) for two years and we haven't seen any efforts on his part, hence the vote this summer," he added. 
It seems that for City Hall cancelling the event in 2017 signals an opportunity to create something much more high-end and representative of Paris in 2018. Campion has been invited to apply.
"Paris wants to host a Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées, but we want to take the time to reflect on the best solution for Parisians and tourists," a City Hall spokesperson told Le Parisien.
"A cornet of churros for €15 is not really the most beautiful showcase of Parisian gastronomy."

Paris fairground workers block traffic over decision to cancel Christmas market Photo: AFP

Even though Paris wants a Christmas market to be more akin to the emblematic one in Strasbourg with an emphasis on "made in Paris" goods there is more to the decision to scrap the event than a simple desire to raise the standards.
The reality is that Paris City Hall and its mayor Anne Hidalgo has been at war with Campion for some time.
Officially the culture ministry accused the fairground king of illegally occupying a site of historic interest, but it appeared Paris authorities were simply no longer comfortable to be working with him.
After years of suspicion Campion, or at least his company “Festivals and Leisure” (Fêtes et Loisirs), was placed under formal investigation for various offences including: colluding with competitors, abuse of property, money laundering, favouritism and involvement in organised crime.
Campion pleaded innocence. "I'm not a gangster," he said.
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But City Hall has little sympathy and Campion has done little to appease the situation, notably by ignoring council's decision by telling his workers to set up stalls in their usual spots. Police in Paris have been forced to intervene.
"If anyone is acting outside of the law it's Monsieur Campion who has been illegally setting up his sheds on the Champs-Elysees for the past three weeks," Martins said. "We told him our decision in the summer and he needs to respect the law."
He's also done his best to insult the mayor, calling Hidalgo "mentally disturbed" this week. 
"She spends four years giving me the 'bises' and now she won't speak to me anymore," he said.
While the blockades around Paris have been lifted, Campion has threatened to tell fairground workers to take up their positions again on November 14th.
For their part City Hall remain confident they will get their way and Paris will get the Christmas market it deserves. But not until next year.
This year, anyone who needs that Christmas fix can visit the mini-market that will be set up alongside the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement.
Although don't expect to find any churros.



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