Up Coming French Events:
Fête de la musique June 21st 2005 - Yearly music festival that takes place throughout France, when I say throughout I mean throughout. Just about every city, town and village will have some type of concert.
French voters soundly rejected the proposed European Constitutional Treaty (CT). The final vote was 55% no, 45% yes. This was a shock to the mainstream political establishment as all mainstream parties supported the CT.
The reasons behind this vote are many, first French voters’ overwhelming displeasure with the government of former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. The two biggest complaints: high unemployment and low spending power. Secondly many French feel the EU is too big, citing the admission of ten new Eastern European countries in 2004. Workers in those countries earn low wages, creating harmful competition among EU countries and threatening French jobs. Already some French companies have relocated to these low wage EU countries, leading to job losses in France. Losing jobs to a third world country is bad enough but to another EU country is intolerable to many French.
A French news program I saw reported on a French light fixture manufacturer who moved his labor-intensive production to the east. Why? The owner said moving that type of production to the east allowed him to keep part of his non-labor intensive production in France, saving French jobs. He said if he kept all production in France his business would face bankruptcy within a few years.
Raffarin resigned the day after the vote and was replaced by Dominique de Villepin, famous for his antiwar speech before the UN Security Council in 2003. He is a close confidant of President Jacques Chirac. Interestingly enough Villepin never held an elected office. French political insiders best remember him as the mastermind behind the dissolved parliament disaster of 1997. After the dissolution Chirac called for early elections only to lose, resulting in the left’s return to power.
Also very interesting is the return of Nicolas Sarkozy, a potential presidential candidate in 2007. Sarkozy left the Raffarin government last year at the request of Chirac. After becoming President of the ruling UMP party, Chirac asked him to step down. Why? Chirac said that a Minister, at the time Sarkozy was Interior Minister, could not be the President of a political party. So Sarkozy left only to be called back by Chirac and asked to be Interior Minister again. The rumor is that Villepin and Sarkozy do not get along. So why was Sarkozy call back into government? Because he is very popular and seen as someone who gets things done.
Down on the (French) farm
This is a repeat from June 2004 as we just finished another ‘Tonte’.
Farms have their own rhythm, certain things at certain times of the year. In May it’s La Tonte, or sheep shearing. This, my friends is very, very difficult work. It’s like trying to give a hair cut to a 100-pound child, who is constantly moving. I didn’t do any shearing; two sheep shearers were hired to do that, called tondeurs in French. No, I along with many of my in-laws was the one who brought the sheep to the shearers. Believe me it’s not easy to grab a 150-pound, sheep turn it over on its back and then drag to get its ‘hair cut’. In total over two hundred sheep were sheared. We started at seven in the morning and finished around four in the afternoon.
To give you an idea of how economics are not in the farmer’s favor, fifty years ago the wool a sheep produced paid the shearing costs and the sheep’s food for a year. Now the wool produced will not even pay for the shearing.