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France

Yearbook 2010

France. Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was completely acquitted in January of the indictment of false bribery charges in 2004 against party colleague Nicolas Sarkozy, who later became president. Three co-defendants in the so-called Clearstream affair were sentenced to prison, essentially conditional, and in one case fined. de Villepin later formed a new party, the Republic Solidaire (Solidarity Republic), which was expected to stand against Sarkozy and the ruling party Union for a People's Movement (UMP) in the 2012 presidential election.

2010 France

According to COUNTRYAAH, Sarkozy's ruling party UMP lost big in the regional elections in March. The Socialist Party in alliance with Communists and environmentalists prevailed in 22 regions and the Left along with nationalists prevailed in Corsica. The UMP won only in Alsace and two of the overseas regions.

2010 FranceOn orders from Sarkozy, during the summer, demolitions of about 300 Roma camps in France began. More than a thousand Roma from Bulgaria and Romania were sent back to their home country. The mass rejections triggered protests and the European Commission asked the government to declare. In September, the EU came up with sharply worded criticism of France, after government officials had assured that the measures were not directed at the Roma - something which was then disproved by official documents. France also received stinging criticism for its treatment of the Roma.

The government's plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 years, and for maximum pensions from 65 to 67, caused repeated one-day strikes and demonstrations during the year.

The protests culminated over a couple of weeks in October when up to three million people attended. Workers at all the country's oil depots strike with widespread fuel shortages as a result. Air traffic and train traffic were affected. Road traffic was disrupted when truck drivers blocked roads and the teaching of many schools was disrupted when high schoolers also participated in the protests. Many said they understood the need for a pension reform because of large deficits in the system, but protested that the government was pushing it through without dialogue. Dissatisfaction was also expressed over Sarkozy's policies in general. The president's popularity figures were at the bottom.

The government nevertheless maintained its line and the bill was adopted by both chambers of Parliament. After the constitutional review of the law, at the request of the opposition, it came into force in November. Afterwards, Sarkozy carried out an expected government reform. Michele Alliot-Marie became new foreign minister and Alain Juppé new defense minister. Prime Minister François Fillon remained in office.

France became the first in Europe to legislate against a comprehensive Muslim veil, burka or niqab, in public place. The bill was part of an ongoing intensive debate on French identity and French values. Critics felt that the ban violated religious freedom and stigmatized an already vulnerable group. However, the proposal was voted on by a large majority in both chambers of Parliament, and in October the Constitutional Court had approved it.

Jérôme Kerviel, former stock trader at the big bank Société Générale, was sentenced in October to three years in prison for computer intrusion, forgery and infidelity against the principal. Kerviel was also sentenced to compensate the bank for damages caused by wild speculative securities trading. However, the bank made clear that it was not expected to recover the full amount: the losses revealed in 2008 amounted to EUR 4.9 billion.

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