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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Government reshuffle, a strike deal and pétanque news

From the latest political shenanigans to torturous French puns and exciting news from the world of pétanque, our weekly newsletter Inside France brings you all the news and talking points from France that you might have missed.

Inside France: Government reshuffle, a strike deal and pétanque news
French president-branded pétanque balls are on sale at the Elysee. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

Reshuffling the reshuffled

We’d barely learned the names of some of France’s new government ministers before a second reshuffle of the government was held this week.

President Emmanuel Macron appointed a new Prime Minister – Elisabeth Borne – shortly after he won re-election in April and the pair named a new government. But after a disastrous parliamentary election result that saw Macron lose his overall majority in parliament, a second reshuffle was required.

Some of this was out of necessity, since three ministers lost their bid for election or re-election – French ministers do not have to be elected MPs, but Macron said before the election that any minister who stood and lost would be expected to relinquish their seats. But the reshuffle went wider than that, with several new faces while other Macron loyalists were rewarded.

The new cabinet, with a 50/50 gender balance as with previous cabinets, also provides an interesting French pronunciation challenge for foreigners. 

Summer strikes

Striking staff at Paris airports on Friday voted to accept a day deal, and cancelled planned strike days for later in July. Their move comes just a day after airport-based firefighters also accepted a pay deal and cancelled their own strike action.

So better prospects for anyone with flights booked out of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, but there are still other strikes planned by Ryanair staff and on the railways. 

CALENDAR: The French transport strikes planned for summer 2022

Frenchman of the decade

France’s new hero is obviously 34-year-old Raphaël Paesa, an electronics technician from Toulouse who has invented a luminous cochonnet (jack) which allows pétanque games to continue into the night. 

One year since its initial launch, the product is sold out and a new edition will be released in time for this summer season.

Often seen as an ‘old man’s game’, pétanque is actually hugely popular throughout France, from old men in villages to groups of young people in the cities – in my neighbourhood of Paris there were even illicit ‘pétanque sauvage‘ sessions during lockdown as enthusiasts couldn’t bear to miss out on their games.

British bye-bye

Events across the Channel also caught the attention in France, where the fall of the notorious ‘French-basher’ Boris Johnson was not much mourned.

Most political observers agree that British-French relations fell to their worst level since World War II during Johnson’s term as Prime Minister – despite his father Stanley taking French citizenship – and many are now hoping for a re-set in the relationship under Johnson’s eventual successor.

The leftwing French daily Libération splashed on Johnson’s departure under the headline Big Beigne, a slightly torturous Big Ben pun, as in French a beigne means a hit or a blow.

The same newspaper simply wished the UK ‘good luck’ at the beginning of Johnson’s premiership.

Talking France

The Talking France podcast is now taking a break for the summer, you can catch the last episode of this series – where we discuss the all-important French subject of holidays – here and you can find the whole of series 1 and series 2  HERE.

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Strikes, Citroëns and Champagne communists

From good news for French bill-payers to the art of surviving strikes, via festivals and the iconic Citroën 2CV, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Strikes, Citroëns and Champagne communists

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

After a surprisingly quiet summer in terms of strike action, French unions are once again causing chaos – this time all over Europe – as air traffic controllers go on strike in a dispute over pay, working conditions and future recruitment.

It’s obviously never fun getting caught up in a strike, especially airline strikes which can ruin important trips and much-anticipated holidays.

However they are a fact of life and I believe that one of the most important skills for life in France is learning how to be philosophical about strikes. Everyone finds their own path to this form of inner peace, but for me it was realising how much of the French social contract – from good public services to workers’ rights – depends on the power of the street to hold governments to account.

Oh, and strike days are also a great time to learn some new French swear-words. 

READ ALSO How to stop worrying and learn to love French strikes

It looks we may all be getting some practice at this soon in a possibly troubled autumn – unions and leftist political parties are already calling for demos later in September over the cost-of-living, and that’s even before Emmanuel Macron introduces his highly controversial bills for reforming both the pension system (again) and the unemployment benefits system.

Things could get lively. 

Bills

Whether because they’re afraid of social unrest or because they’re lovely people, the French government has announced that the cap on energy prices will be extended into 2023, albeit raised to a maximum 15 percent increase.

Bills increasing is never good news, and of course will hit those on low incomes the hardest, but a glance over the Channel at 200 percent increases in electricity bills is enough to make me thank my lucky stars that I live in France.

Champagne communists 

Running since 1930, the Fête de l’Humanité is a pretty big deal in France, attracting around 500,000 people – it raises funds for the Communist newspaper l’Humanité but attracts speakers from across the political left, as well as being a major music festival with dozens of well-known bands appearing over the three days.

But for my money, the best thing about it is that local Communist parties from all over France (and the world in fact) come and set up stands, most of which lure in punters with the food and drink speciality of their regions.

If dancing in a tent with drunk French Communists while sipping €4 glasses of Champagne is your thing, then you will love the Fête de l’Humanité. (And no, ‘Champagne socialist’ is not an insult in France, instead we say gauche caviar).

Podcast

If you like idle chit-chat about France – as well as some serious topics – check out our weekly Talking France podcast.

In the most recent episode we tackle the heavy subjects of assisted dying, plus the problems of the French nuclear industry, before heading to the lighter waters of Dijon mustard, Bordeaux wine and some topical French phrases.

Listen on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasts, download it HERE or listen on the link below.

Photo of the week

This has to be the French photo of the week, for all the reasons explained below

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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