Reporting: Coronavirus hit French luxury goods sales

The fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak is set to hit one of France’s top draws for foreign tourists, the luxury goods sector. Our report from Paris.

Coronavirus hit French luxury goods sales

https://newseu.cgtn.com/news/2020-02-11/Coronavirus-hits-French-luxury-goods-sales–NYRoSfxQ7m/index.html

Controversial pension reform bill is approved in France

My report for CGTN Europe online

The controversial pension reform bill in France, which has brought tens of thousands of people out in protests for the past seven weeks, has been approved by the cabinet.

The controversial pension reform bill in France, which has brought tens of thousands of people out in protests for the past seven weeks, has been approved by the cabinet.

It will now go to the committee stage in parliament before MPs get their chance to debate the proposals from the middle of next month.

The social security minister, Agnes Buzyn, said: “It’s clear that the rebuilding of the pension system is socially and democratically essential.

“This new universal system aims to create equality for all the French and all generations, to simplify and clarify, and to put in place a system controlled by democratic decisions allowing it to be responsibly managed.”

The meeting took place as tens of thousands of people were gathering in the center of Paris as well as many other French cities for another day of mass demonstrations against the pension reforms.

However, these hardcore opponents are increasingly a minority, with polls showing that a majority of the French think ministers struck a reasonable compromise.

The police were out in heavy numbers in Paris on Friday as the approved route for the march wound through much of the historic center of the French capital, leaving many tourists bemused as the demonstrators filed along the cobbled avenues past the Louvre museum.

Despite the venerable setting on the banks of the Seine river, many of the protesters repeated the same simple message – that their determination to continue to protest has not been dimmed.

Veronique, a teacher, told CGTN: “We are not going to change our position, because we believe in our demands, we believe in our message. We are still coming out here in the street even though it is cold and we’ve been here protesting for a long time now.”

Georges, who works on the Paris metro, said: “People in the street are sick and tired because this government doesn’t want to listen. President Macron travels and gives lessons abroad but he should be more concerned about his people in France.”

Despite the pressure being brought by the unions, the bill will now go to parliament, where President Macron’s party has a big majority.

But demonstrators say they will continue to head to the streets in defiance of the government, with one union saying they are already drawing up plans for three more days of nationwide demonstrations starting next week.

One step forward for Russian rugby

The Rugby World Cup has come to an end. How did Russia get on?

The Bears exited at the pool stage after playing in only their second world cup finals (their debut in this tournament was in 2011).

However, they could not improve on their showing eight years ago – then they scored 57 points, ran in eight tries and landed a losing bonus point against the United States.

This time around things were much tougher.

They played in the tournament curtain-raiser against Japan and did cross the line after only five minutes, setting a new record for the fastest try scored in an opening match of a Rugby World Cup.

But they would go on to score only another 14 points in total (and no more tries) after this.

19 points from four games is very poor return.

I went to all three of then team’s warm-up matches in Moscow and got to know some of the squad during their summer preparations ahead of the tournament.

They won the first match, against a combined XV from the best of the Russia domestic league (minus those called up to the national squad).

But they went down easily in the other two games, against English Championship side Jersey Reds at the small Slava ground and versus Pro12’s Connacht at the much bigger Dinamo Moscow stadium.

And then when it came to the tournament proper, four defeats.

They came up against Ireland again (and captain Vasily Artemyev, in the selfie above, knows a lot of the Irish after going to secondary school in Dublin), as well as Scotland and the hosts Japan, and Russia lost those games, as was unfortunately expected.

They would have had the Samoa game labelled as the one opportunity for some possible points but lost that as well.

Despite the disappointing showing in Japan, there are already plans from Russia to explore a bid for the 2027 men’s world cup.

In 2014, Russia staged the 2014 Winter Olympics and last year, the country showed that it could handle another of the planet’s biggest showpieces: the men’s football world cup.

Could it do the same with rugby?

The game is returning to France, one of the sport’s key markets, for the 2023 event.

After that, would the game’s global leaders take a punt on another nascent market?

Japan is far more established in comparison with Russia, and 2019 was seen as a tentative (and overdue) move into a new market.

Argentina has not staged a World Cup and there is an unwritten rule that world cups swing between the two hemispheres.

After Japan 2019 and France 2023, the calls for another southern tournament from players in Argentina, South Africa and the trans-Tasman giants of Australia and New Zealand will be hard to resist.

Paying up

Enormous donations follow the gutting of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

The sight of the spire of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris toppling into the burning body of the 850-year-old building live on TV was haunting.

The fire spread quickly, shocking Parisians gathering on the bridges over the River Seine that surrounded the island on which the cathedral stands.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke of how part of the heart of every French man and woman was burning.

It seemed that the very historic consciousness of France was alight.

The old, rich families of France were quick to respond with pens poised above chequebooks to support the restoration of Notre Dame.

The Kering luxury group, home to brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga, pledged $113m. L’Oreal offered $226m. Disney, who produced the 1996 film ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, pledged $5m. Others joined in, with oil giant Total also giving $113m.

But eyebrows have been raised at these huge sums of money.

Paris is a city with more than 3,000 people sleeping on the streets, according to the French capital’s own census on homelessness.

Could this fund for the cathedral provide more shelters, more hot food and drink, more help to them to get back on their feet?

And what about trying to improve the quality of life and the life chances of children growing up in the underdeveloped corners of French cities?

There must be money to restore Notre Dame: it is one of the world’s top visitor attractions with historical connections to nations across the globe.

But there are also other causes to fight for.

Art has been destroyed and literature burnt throughout human civilisation and the destruction of ideas and imagination is a real threat to human culture.

But a civilised humanity requires a focus on humans themselves, as well as the culture they create.

Notre Dame has been damaged before, being bombed in the First World War, and there is an ambition among the authorities in Paris to try to rebuild it in time for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in the city.

GREECE – Video Report

A power cut knocks out electricity  and water services on the Greek island of Hydra

No electricity forced most restaurants and bars to close early as they were not able to provide working toilets; refrigerators and freezers malfunctioned; and candles in a public place posed a fire risk.

The payment situation was a problem: ATMs were not dispensing cash and some shops would not accept card payment.

WiFi networks in hotels and restaurants went down and people could not charge their phones, tablets or cameras. As well as not being able to have a cool shower for a respite from the 33C heat, air conditioning units were not working, leading to an uncomfortable night for many visitors.

However, the blackout made for a spookily dark town, with only the flicker of candles to be spotted in house windows here and there. The drop-out in power coincided with a full moon, which rose majestically over the dark, quiet harbour.

ICELAND – Video Report

Iceland: where volcanoes erupt underneath glaciers

It is the land of the world’s largest ice cap outside the two poles, sitting astride a massive ridge of underwater volcanoes, being pulled apart slowly by the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

An attempt to list Iceland’s geological wonders is no small endeavour. In addition to the features noted above, there are glaciers spilling down mountain ranges, mud pots gurgling with acid and fumaroles spitting sulphur over crimson rocks. Geysers fire scalding water high into the near-Arctic air, the biggest waterfalls in Europe churn over cliffs, there are hexagonal basalt columns and sea arches, flat-topped mountains standing like enormous cuboids, deserts, black-sand beaches and caverns.

Windswept and wet, unforgiving in its terrain and teetering in near-total darkness in the winter and near-endless light in the summer, Iceland is a unique, extreme place.

Look to your right for some Iceland photos on my Instagram – or click here.

A mountain view for Catalonia

Could a Pyrenean principality be a blueprint for an independent Catalonia?

CREDIT: visitandorra.com

A free and sovereign nation-state, where Catalan is the official language and the euro is the currency.

Whilst that may be a dream for many people across Catalonia – it is the reality for the 80,000 citizens of the principality of Andorra.

Could the tiny mountain nation be a model for a future Catalonia if they region were to break free from Spain?

Andorra is sandwiched between France and Spain, unique in that it is the only country governed by a co-monarchy. One head of state is the president of France and the other is the Bishop of Urgell (a town in Spain just to the south of Andorra).

The heads of state act in concert with the elected government. Winter skiing and summer hiking provide a substantial tourist income.

Andorra has a lot of cultural affinity with Catalonia through music, literature, and dance.

A breakaway Catalonia would have several other similarities.

Like Andorra, it would not be in the European Union, it would use the euro, and, of course, it would be a Catalan-speaking country.

But there are no guarantees that Andorrans would rush to embrace their separatist brethren across the mountains.

They might very well like to see another Catalan-speaking nation.

But Andorra could find itself having to choose between being the first country to recognise an independent Catalonia or preferring the stability of the wider region and hoping that the integrity of Spain is preserved.

CREDIT: britannica.com

There is also the example of the little-known enclave of Llivia.

A part of Spain surrounded by France, Llivia is a relic of the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, when Spain ceded a group of villages to France.

But rather than a village, Llivia had been designated a town, and so it remained part of Spain. As every village to the north, south, east and west integrated into France, Llivia was left as an inland island of Spain.

In truth, it is more an island of Catalonia.

The Catalan estelada flag flies from the balconies, Catalan is spoken and it is part of the Catalan province of Gerona. Llivia also voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in the banned referendum on 1 October.

The enclave offers an intriguing viewpoint of a part of Spain that is already physically separate from the mother country.

And Andorra, too, provides a fascinating and unique example of a Catalanaphone nation-state.

For pro-independence Catalans who have been suffering from nightmares over the last week after their leader fled to Belgium and Spain withdrew some of Catalonia’s devolved powers, they could perhaps settle on a more pleasant dream if they turn their gaze northwards to the Pyrenees and the thoughts of what the future could yet bring.