EU and France play down tensions over reforms
In releasing its tally of evictions including one as recent as Sept. 18 Amnesty brought together a doctor and a teacher who had both cared for Roma from families they said wanted to join French society, contrary to the image of Roma as resistant to integration. What we see on the ground is a break with the stereotypes of social and sanitary problems, and other cliches that are being invoked now, said Jean-Francois Corty, a doctor with Medecins du Monde. Most of the people we see want to integrate, want work, want their children in schools, and want the benefits of modern medicine. Roma started arriving in Europe from India in the 14th century, and there are an estimated 8 million in Europe, with the largest population in Romania. Facing discrimination and poor prospects in Romania, many go west to France and other rich European countries. There are an estimated 20,000 Roma in France, a population that has remained stable over several years despite repeated efforts by both Socialist and conservative governments to persuade them sometimes forcibly to return home. Many French blame the Roma for a rise in petty crime and an influx of beggars, especially in tourist areas of Paris, where crime rings involving children have been broken up, and where subway announcements warn about pickpockets. In Sweden, police this week acknowledged compiling a secret, illegal registry of more than 4,000 Roma, including children, coming under criticism from politicians who said it was unconstitutional to register people by ethnicity. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls provoked anger Tuesday for saying the Roma migrants had a duty to return to their homeland and despite a wave of criticism, refused to back down Wednesday. He said the Roma had failed to integrate and that France had no responsibility to them. We dont have the obligation to welcome these populations, we need to say it clearly and calmly.
Germany also wants to see the euro zone’s second largest economy address overspending. Brussels says Paris is not taking radical enough action to combat rising labour costs, a falling share of international export markets and an industrial decline, threatening a shock to its economy that would resonate through the 17-nation euro zone. France’s economic well-being is central to the health of the currency area, but the country’s pride in its status as a leading member of the European Union means it resists taking advice from EU institutions. The pension reform, among the most closely watched measures undertaken by Hollande since he took office in May 2012, aims to fill a hole in the pension system that could reach almost 21 billion euros ($28 billion) by 2020. Though Hollande’s reform will lengthen the number of years worked, it does not change the legal retirement age of 62 years for a full pension, which is one of the lowest in Europe. “NO CONSTRAINTS” In the shadow of the pension reform, Moscovici presented France’s 2014 budget to parliament on Wednesday. He plans 15 billion euros in savings to reach a deficit of 3.6 percent of economic output, which should allow Paris to bring the budget deficit to below the EU’s 3 percent ceiling in 2015. Under EU rules, sharpened at the peak of the debt crisis in late 2011, euro zone countries can face fines if they fail to meet deficit targets and risk damaging investor confidence. Moscovici was also keen to convince Rehn, who has new powers to check countries’ budgets, that France’s planned budget savings and economic forecasts are in line with its commitments. He also sought to play down any suggestion that France would not respect the Commission’s new monitoring powers. “Europe does not pose a constraint. Europe is not a problem. In France, Europe is a solution,” Moscovici said. In one of the most far-reaching responses to the region’s debt crisis, euro zone countries must submit their draft 2014 budgets to the Commission by October 15.
[ID:nL6N0GV3EI] The stakes are particularly high for Bouygues because its smaller size has made it vulnerable since Free’s mobile launch. Now Bouygues is seeking to capitalize on the headstart it has in 4G because of the authorization it obtained from the French government in March to re-use old spectrum once used for voice for mobile data. As a result, Bouygues will have broader coverage than rivals more quickly, and will also be the only operator able to offer Apple Inc’s iPhone users 4G speeds as of October. SFR and Orange are aiming to cover 40 percent of the population by the end of the year. Both have said they aim for at least 1 million 4G customers by the end of the year. Bouygues has not given a customer target. Orange has filed a court challenge to the government’s decision to allow Bouygues to get a headstart in 4G, arguing that the move was unfair. But Orange Chief Executive Stephane Richard said on Monday that Bouygues’s advantage in 4G would not last forever: “Maybe Bouygues will temporarily have better coverage of the population but this advantage will fade.” In a bid to recruit customers quickly, Bouygues will give away one month of 4G usage for free through mid-November. The offer will be open to customers from rival operators. “With the launch, we are offering the opportunity to 40 million French people to discover 4G for free and with no obligation,” Bouygues Telecom Chief Executive Olivier Roussat said in a statement. With its existing 4G offers starting at 29.99 euros a month, Bouygues also added a high-end plan with a generous mobile data allotment of 16 gigabytes for 59.99 euros without a smartphone contract.