France has sent 300 firefighters to its border with Spain to combat rampant wildfires, Europe 1 and Liberation reported. The blazes, concentrated in the Eastern Pyrenées and Spanish Catalonia, have already resulted in four deaths, all French. Six bomber planes were deployed to douse the flames as well. While more than 32,000 acres have been burned in Spain, so far the fire has not touched more than 50 acres of French soil. Barcelona-born minister of the interior Manuel Valls has warned that “the situation is still tense” and the winds may change. Thus far, 476 people have already had to evacuate, mostly from nearby towns Figueres, Roses, Port-Bou and Colera.
President François Hollande announced on Wednesday, July 18, that his office had asked former Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine to lead a committee to explore the central role of France in NATO, a cause of unease for Socialists after France returned to the integrated military command under the leadership of former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009, The Chicago Tribune reported. The news came after Hollande announced on Friday, July 13, that former diplomat and current deputy United Nations envoy to Syria Jean-Marie Guéhenno would spearhead a reworking of the French livre blanc, which sets the priorities for the French military, taking into consideration restraints of budget, resources and personnel, as covered by Le Monde and Ouest-France.
French president François Hollande faced criticism this week from his right-wing opponents for his comments during the commemoration ceremony for the Val d’Hiv raid, according to Le Monde. July 22 marked the 70th anniversary of the raid, in which Vichy-controlled France collaborated with the Nazi police to round up 13,152 European Jews seeking asylum, including 400 children. Hollande’s speech, in which he referred to “crimes committed in France by the French,” was panned by the special advisor to former president Nicholas Sarkozy, Henri Guaino, denying blame for the event and declaring “my France...was in London [with head of the Résistance Général Charles De Gaulle]. [Hollande] did not speak about the France I love.” Furthermore, former minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement stated that “unfortunately, the president did not say that the crimes committed by the French police...were under orders of the French state of Vichy collaborating with Nazi Germany.”
After the attack in Damascus that killed three key advisors to the Syrian government, Russian president Vladimir Putin traveled to Berlin and Paris to defend his support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government, L’Expression reported. This stance has been denounced by many world leaders, including French president François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who stated that Russia worked “constructively” with Syria during the Houla massacre, which killed 108. Putin also spoke by telephone to President Barack Obama. The leaders agreed on a peaceful transition of power despite ideological differences, according to TF1. Russian press secretary Dmitri Peskov said any action against Syria without the United Nations would be “ineffective,” as quoted by Le Figaro.
French president François Hollande’s controversial tax plan, including a tax-rate of 75 percent for citizens earning more than €1 million euros a year, will be sustained during the period of balancing the budget, Les Echos reported. Minister for the Budget Jérôme Cahuzac stated, “the timeframe for reducing the debt threatens to take longer than one, two, three years.” This announcement came as a disappointment to many French executives, some of whom have already started expatriating to London for gentler tax laws, according to Le Figaro. After David Cameron announced that he would “roll out the red carpet for French companies,” some French executives say that convincing a high-level executive to come to Paris “has become ‘Mission Impossible.’”