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ENERGY

France announces fuel rebate to help drivers cope with soaring prices

The French government has announced a package worth 2.0 billion euros ($2.2 billion) to help consumers struggling with soaring fuel prices, with the cost of filling up set to be cut by 15 cents at the pump.

A motorist fills a car at a petrol station in Caen, France
A motorist fills a car at a petrol station in Caen, northwestern France. A discount at the pump of 15 cents per litre will apply from April 1st to cushion the surge in fuel prices, French Prime Minister announced on March 12th, 2022. Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Saturday that petrol and diesel prices would be reduced by 15 cents per litre from April 1st for four months.

The bill will be slashed by this amount when vehicle owners pay, with the state then reimbursing petrol station owners for the difference.

“That means every time you fill up for 60 euros, you save around nine euros,” Castex said in an interview with Le Parisien.

With petrol prices now topping two euros per litre at the pump in some areas, the government has come under pressure to reduce the impact on households.

It has also been under pressure to cut fuel taxes ahead of presidential elections next month, with more than half of prices at the pump made up of taxation.

Underlying petrol and diesel costs are linked to global oil markets which have risen by around 30 percent since the start of the year due to strong global demand and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last October, the government of President Emmanuel Macron announced a cap on gas and electricity prices until the end of 2022 and handed out cheques to poor households to help them with their domestic energy bills.

Eight out of 10 French households have a vehicle, according to official statistics.

Polls suggest Macron is the frontrunner in elections on April 10th and 24th.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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