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POLITICS

Australian PM welcomes ‘new start’ in relations with France

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed a "new start" in relations with France as he met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday, after an acrimonious row between the countries over a submarine contract last year.

Australian PM welcomes 'new start' in relations with France
France's President Emmanuel Macron (L)shakes hands with Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (R) prior to a working lunch at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris on July 1, 2022. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

“My presence here represents a new start for our countries’ relationship,” Albanese said after arriving at the Elysee Palace. “Australia’s relationship with France matters. Trust, respect and honesty matter. This is how I will approach my relations.”

Macron said that Albanese’s recent election and the first conversations between the pair “mark a willingness to rebuild a relationship of trust between our two countries, a relationship based on mutual respect.”

After acknowledging “difficult times”, Macron emphasised the two countries’ strategic partnership, their shared war history in Europe and their joint interests in stability in the Pacific region.

The statements, which followed a warm greeting between the two men and their wives in the courtyard of the presidential palace, mark a sea change in ties since the departure of former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.

Macron was left furious last year after Morrison secretly negotiated to buy US-designed submarines and then ditched a landmark submarine contract with France worth €33 billion when it was signed in 2016.

France broke off diplomatic contacts with Australia and Macron repeatedly accused Morrison of having lied to him during a dinner they had in Paris in June 2021.

Outgoing French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian applauded Morrison’s election loss in May to Albanese, saying it “suits me fine.”

Morrison’s actions were marked by “brutality and cynicism, and I would even be tempted to say of unequivocal incompetence”, Le Drian said as he handed over to his successor Catherine Colonna on May 21st.

Albanese announced earlier this month that French submarine maker Naval Group had agreed to a “fair and an equitable settlement” of €555 million for Australia ending the decade-old submarine contract.

“It is important that that reset occur,” Albanese told national broadcaster ABC in an interview on June 24th.

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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