Jacques Chirac, French president from 1995 to 2005, was found guilty on Thursday, December 15, of misuse of funds for creating false posts to funnel money to political allies during his time as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post reported. Chirac, 79, who did not take part in the trial due to issues of memory loss, was given a two-year suspended sentence, making him the first former leader convicted of a crime since Marshal Philippe Petain was convicted in 1945 for his leadership of France’s collaboration with Nazis, according to the AP and Time. Chirac later contested the decision but said that he would not appeal, according to la Libération.
INSEE, France’s national statistics office, publishing a report on Friday, December 16, indicating that as consumer confidence declines in France, the nation’s GDP is expected to shrink 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012 before rebounding slightly in the second quarter of next year, Bloomberg and la Tribune. If INSEE’s projections prove correct, it will be France’s second official recession – two consecutive quarters of negative growth – since 2007 and the nation’s fourth since 1949, according to le Monde. Economy Minister François Baroin said that, despite the promise of recession, the government planned no further austerity measures, as considerable budget cuts have been made in the past months, according to 20 Minutes.
Winter storm Joachim hit France’s Atlantic coast late last week, leaving about 400,000 homes in the northwest region without power and an estimated €180 to 250 million in damages, la Libération and the Wall Street Journal reported. Also damaged was the cargo ship, TK Bremen, which washed ashore on the beach near Erdeven as gusts of wind greater than 80 miles per hour hit the seaboard overnight from Thursday to Friday, December 15 to 16, according to Ouest-France. The ship, which will have to be dismantled on shore, has leaked portions of the 220 tons of fuel aboard onto the coast. Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet called the region an environmental and economic mess upon visiting the site on the afternoon of Friday, December 16, according to the Washington Post and le Parisien.
A Paris terrorism tribunal sentenced on Thursday, December 15, Venezuelan Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, “Carlos the Jackal,” who has already been in French jails for nearly two decades, to another life sentence for four separate bomb attacks that killed 11 people and wounded nearly 200 three decades ago, the LA Times reported. Sanchez, who had been serving time for killing two police and an informant in 1975, is facing at least another 18 years in prison, prolonging the wait until he would be eligible to apply for conditional release, which had been set at 2012, according to Reuters.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a public appeal last week for French President Nicolas Sarkozy to block a bill to be voted on by the French Parliament on Thursday, December 22, which would criminalize denial of the 1915 genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal reported. As retaliation for the proposed bill, Erdogan threatened to withdraw the Turkish ambassador to France while drawing attention to France’s involvement in the massacres in Rwanda and Algeria, as explored by the Guardian.
Four months from the presidential elections, the most recent poll by IFOP released on Friday, December 16, showed far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen edging upward from 17 to 20 percent since October, while support for incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy has dropped from 26 to 24 percent. Support for the Socialist rival François Hollande has also dropped from 32.5 to 27.5 percent, according to Bloomberg. The emerging candidacies of François Bayrou and Dominique de Villepin have taken votes from the frontrunners, as well, as Bayrou reached 11 percent and Villepin 3.5 percent, according to le JDD.