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PODCAST: Could foreigners face French tests and has France has changed since 2017?

In the latest episode of the Talking France podcast, The Local team plus John Lichfield and Rim-Sarah Alouane look at what the election candidates plan for foreigners in France, how the idea of the secular French state has been 'weaponised' and which political party is selling election-special condoms.

PODCAST: Could foreigners face French tests and has France has changed since 2017?
Graphic: The Local

Ben McPartland is joined by Local France editor Emma Pearson, reporter Sam Bradpiece and columnist John Lichfield to talk about the latest from the French election trail – from the behaviour of former presidents to what the candidates have planned for foreign residents in France and the likelihood of an election shock in the second round.

Legal academic Rim-Sarah Alouane, of Toulouse-Capitole university, a specialist in religious freedom and civil liberties, explains what the French concept of laïcité (secularism) actually is, how it has changed and become weaponsised in the political discourse and what this means for Emmanuel Macron.

You can find the podcast HERE, or on Spotify or Apple, or listen on the link below.

Rim-Sarah told us: “We have witnessed in recent years a weaponisation of laïcité, itbe came a tool for political identity and to erase religious visibility from the public, and especially Islam. 

“In 2017 when Macron won, he was one of the very few candidates who didn’t run his campaign on identity issues.

“But since then we have had a double discourse – between Macron speaking to the international community about equality and laïcité, but then you have many of his ministers who are saying the opposite – for example calling for the banning of the Muslim headscarf or saying that having a halal food aisle in the supermarket is’ shocking’.” 

Asked if there was a chance a for a dramatic twist in the campaign John Lichfield says: “There is a sense that it’s a done deal and there isn’t any great enthusiasm for any of the candidates, even for Macron . . . It’s been a strange campaign and therefore strange things can happen.”

The team is also looking at ‘election merch’ each party is selling – from slogan T-shirts to frisbees and condoms – and explaining some French phrases that you’ll hear at election time. 

You can find all previous episodes of Talking France HERE, and we’ll be releasing new ones every week until after the elections.

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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.