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POLITICS

‘Stop car-ping’: French ecology minister defends his nine motorized vehicles

France's Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot has come under fire after it emerged he owns no less than nine motorised vehicles including six cars, a boat, a scooter and a motorbike - not the kind of possessions you would associate with France's best-known environmental campaigner.

'Stop car-ping': French ecology minister defends his nine motorized vehicles
Hulot, who became a household name in France when he worked as a documentary filmmaker, was forced to defend himself against what he described as “absurd” criticism after details of his collection of vehicles were made public at the weekend.
 
The embarrassing revelation came after France's high authority for transparency in public life published details of each minister's wealth and possessions.
 
It emerged that Hulot, who has a fortune of €7.3 million which he said he built up through his TV work was one of 11 millionaire French ministers.
 
That fact has only given fuel to critics of President Emmanuel Macron who label him the “president of the rich”.
 
But for Hulot it was his vast fleet of vehicles, worth €105,000 that drew criticism, rather than his wealth.
 
In all, Hulot owns nine motorised vehicles including six cars, a scooter, a motor boat and a motorbike.
 
Among the vehicles he owns is a 20-year-old 4×4 Landrover, a 30-year-old Citroen 2CV and Volkswagen van.
 
Also among his other vehicles is his wife's personal car, a van for transporting horses, which he keeps in Brittany, a BMW motorbike and a small motorboat.
 
He also owns an electric BMW car.
 
Hulot insists he never uses his 4×4, which is parked on his property in Corsica. He says his Volkswagen van is just for family holidays and the Citroen 2 CV is his daughter's car.
 
The minister insisted that “95 percent of the time” he drives electric vehicles, including an electric scooter and the cars made available to him as minister, which he uses for official visits.
 
“Transparency yes, voyeurism and hair-splitting, no,” was how Hulot reacted to the controversy of his fleet of motor vehicles.
 
But despite Hulot's wealth and array of personal transport options he was not actually the richest minister.
 
That crown went to Muriel Pénicaud, the labour minister, who has a fortune worth €7.5 million. Other millionaire ministers include Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and Health Minister Agnes Buzyn.
 
But not all of France's ministers are loaded.
 
The budget minister Gérald Darmanin declared wealth of €48,000. The average wealth of households in France is €158,000, according to Le Monde newspaper.
 

POLITICS

France says all troops left Mali, ending nine-year military mission

The last soldiers belonging to France's Barkhane operation in Mali have now left the African country, the French chiefs of staff said on Monday.

France says all troops left Mali, ending nine-year military mission

French forces have been supporting Mali against insurgents for nearly a decade, but President Emmanuel Macron decided to pull out after France and the Malian junta fell out in the wake of a military takeover.

“Today at 13H00 Paris time (1100 GMT) the final contingent of the Barkhane force still on Malian territory crossed the border between Mali and Niger,” the statement said.

The army had met the “major military logistics challenge” of the pull-out “in an orderly and safe fashion”, it added.

After ties ruptured between Paris and the junta that took power in Mali in August 2020, France began to withdraw its troops in February, as jihadist violence surged in the Sahel.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Why were French soldiers in Mali?

Friction developed over the junta’s delays in restoring civilian rule and escalated when Mali brought in Russian paramilitaries — personnel described by France as “mercenaries” from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group.

‘Prevented caliphate’

Macron on Monday congratulated the military on its nine years in Mali, saying it had “prevented the establishment of a territorial caliphate, and fought against terrorists that attack local populations and threaten Europe”. 

Most high-ranking members of the “terrorist groups” had been “neutralised”, he said, adding that 59 French soldiers had died in Mali in total.

More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally based on the findings of non-governmental organisation ACLED.

In this file photo taken on December 07, 2021 shows the French flag and France-led special operations logo for the new Task Force Takuba, a multinational military mission in sub-Saharan Africa’s troubled Sahel region. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

BACKGROUND: France announces withdrawal of troops from Mali

At its peak, France’s Barkhane mission had 5,100 troops among five Sahel allies, all former French colonies — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The forces have provided key support in air power, troop transport and reconnaissance. France has an air base in Niger’s capital Niamey where it has deployed drones.

After the Malian pullout, the mission will have “around 2,500” troops, Barkhane commander General Laurent Michon said last month.

The reconfigured mission will emphasise “more cooperative operations,” he said.

Frontline Niger

France will keep more than 1,000 men in Niger, where a tactical group will continue to work in partnership with the Nigerien forces.

Niger is a frontline state in the fight against jihadism as the unstable region struggles with a string of military coups.

“The democratic regression in West Africa is extremely worrying,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told French MPs ahead of a trip to the region in July. 

“However, in spite of these events (and) the withdrawal from Mali, France will continue to help West African armies fight terrorist groups.”

Niger is one of the biggest recipients of French aid, receiving 143 million euros ($146 million) last year.

READ ALSO: France calls Mali’s exit from defence accords ‘unjustified’

The two sides will sign agreements for a French loan of 50 million euros and a grant of 20 million euros.

Niger, the world’s poorest country by the benchmark of the UN’s Human Development Index, has been badly hit by the jihadist insurgency that began in northern Mali in 2012 and then swept to neighbouring countries.

Niger is facing insurgencies both on its western border with Mali and Burkina Faso and on its south-eastern frontier with Nigeria.

More than a thousand troops will be deployed in Niger, providing air support and training, according to French sources.

French troops are also in Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal, as well as in the east of Africa, in Djibouti.

READ ALSO: Macron agrees to return Benin sculptures ‘without delay’

Macron in June asked the government and military chiefs “to rethink our overall presence on the African continent by the autumn.”

He called for “a presence that is less static and less exposed” and “a closer relationship” with African armed forces.

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