Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer PARIS | Wed Oct 2, 2013 1:15pm BST PARIS (Reuters) – President Francois Hollande told two of his top ministers on Wednesday they should end a public row over France’s policy towards its Roma population if they wanted to stay in his government. Interior Minister Manuel Valls last week said most of some 20,000 Roma housed in makeshift camps around French cities could never be integrated into French society and so should be “taken back to the border” for transfer back to Romania and Bulgaria. Housing Minister Cecile Duflot, a leader of the ecologist Greens coalition partners to the ruling Socialists, denounced Valls for betraying the core human rights values that France prided itself on, and demanded that Hollande reprimand him. Seeking to heal a widening rift between centrists and left-wingers in his coalition over the issue, Hollande took both Duflot and Valls to task at his weekly cabinet meeting. “I insist that all ministers pay full mind to their mission, their behaviour, how they express themselves and of course, how they act,” Hollande told the meeting, according to presidential aides. “Being a member of a government does not mean you cannot have your point of view but it does mean you have to strictly apply the rules I have just set out,” he said, adding: “the debate should be inside the government not in public”. The dispute not only exposed tensions within Hollande’s 17-month-old coalition but raised new questions over the authority of the president, whose poll ratings have fallen to 23 percent amid dissatisfaction over his record on the economy and jobs. Hollande said he was also asking Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is suffering from low popularity ratings too, to ensure better coordination in the government. The far-right National Front has signalled it plans to make the Roma issue a central campaign theme for next March’s municipal elections. It is hopeful it can tap a protest vote against Hollande to score gains in town halls across France. Valls’ tough talk on law and order has made him Hollande’s most popular government minister. A poll released at the weekend showed three-quarters of French agreed with his comments on the Roma. Hollande’s government has sought to distance itself from a hard-line policy under conservative former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who explicitly accused Roma of links to crime and launched a programme of deportations. Yet since the beginning of the year some 13,000 Roma have been evicted from illegal camps and welfare groups say the failure of schemes to re-house their inhabitants means they find themselves on the streets or simply set up new camps elsewhere. Moreover France this week said it was currently opposed to Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone when current restrictions on the movement of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens end in January 2014.
The gym, which opened last month in the up-market Paris suburb of Le Raincy, is owned by a French Muslim couple who say their religion and appearance – she wears a headscarf and he a long beard – are the reason the mayor wants to shut them down. The squabble has erupted five months before conservative mayor Eric Raoult, who says safety is his only concern, seeks re-election in nationwide municipal polls in which the anti-immigrant National Front is expected to gain ground. It reflects France’s uneasy relations with its five million-strong Muslim minority, Europe’s largest, and tensions over an official policy of secularism Muslims say is used against them. “‘I don’t want any veiled women in my town,’ he told us,” said gym manager Nadia El Gendouli, who sports a piercing in her nose and plunging neckline. “‘You’re a fundamentalist!’ he told me.” At the town hall on Thursday, Raoult denied the allegation that he did not want women wearing Muslim veils in Le Raincy. “These are fundamentalists, they lie!” he shouted. “They consider because they’re Muslims they’re victims and they consider they have more rights,” he said. Local security officials said on Friday the gym met all safety standards. That meant it could stay open, but it did not guarantee it would now be out of the political spotlight. The Orty Gym – Orty means “my sisters” in Arabic – is a 200 square-meter space with pink work-out equipment, freshly-painted fuchsia and orange walls and a large room where classes such as Hip Hop, Zumba, Stretching and Step are offered. Some of the 70 women exercising in the room cover their hair with a headscarf but many do not as all races and religions are welcome, said Lynda Ellabou, who owns the gym with her husband. SECULARISM Ellabou, wearing a fashionable pink and black headscarf, said their problems began in June after Raoult realized the couple planning to open the gym on a commercial strip on the periphery of the suburb of 14,000 residents were Muslim. “When he saw my (bearded) husband he had a shock. ‘You’ve rented a place where?’ he asked us,” Ellabou recalled.
Gilberto Benetton, who invests in Alitalia via motorway group Atlantia’s 8.9 percent stake in the airline, said earlier on Tuesday he would welcome Air France-KLM taking control of the group, but warned Italy’s interests should be protected first. Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, other ministers, banks and Alitalia’s management met on Tuesday to find a way of beefing up Alitalia’s finances to give it greater negotiating clout in its dealings with Air France-KLM. But the talks failed to reach any decision because of the uncertain political climate and another meeting was called for next week. There are worries that any Air France-KLM investment would clash with Italy’s ambition to make Rome a hub for intercontinental flights, and instead turn Alitalia into a regional player and trigger job cuts. But de Juniac’s comments signaled he did not doubt Alitalia’s ability to operate on long-haul routes – a strategy the group is betting on to revive its fortunes after its plans to become a strong regional player came unstuck in the face of tough competition and lower demand. “Air France-KLM-Alitalia, if one day we are united, could become a very great European brand. In such a scenario, we could supply (Alitalia’s) long-haul flights with passengers from Air France and KLM and they could do the same for us,” he said. De Juniac added that he could see Alitalia boosting its intercontinental routes where its own network might be weak. “Alitalia has strong points in Africa, Latin America and North America, where there is a strong Italian diaspora that can complement ours,” he told the paper. “Alitalia strengthens our commercial footprint pretty much everywhere. There are already many synergies.” NO CAPITAL INCREASE Analysts said Air France-KLM was unlikely to give up on Alitalia by letting it fail and opening Europe’s fourth-largest travel market to more competition. But Air France-KLM has set strict conditions on how the company should be restructured. Sources said last week that Air France had voted against a proposed capital increase at Alitalia of at least 100 million euros ($135 million). “Air France-KLM voted against the capital increase because the proposals on how to revive Alitalia were inexistent,” a banking source said.
16 and 17. Fernandez-Castano missed the winning putt from 10 feet on the last hole. Joost Luiten and Gregory Bourdy birdied their last three holes to beat Jamie Donaldson and Marc Warren 2 and 1. Chris Wood and Scott Jamieson combined for six birdies to defeat Thorbjorn Olesen and Francesco Molinari 2 and 1. Jimenez and Manassero edged Casey and Tommy Fleetwood by a hole to give Continental Europe an 8-6 lead. In the afternoon, Donaldson and Warren spurred a comeback for Britain and Ireland by defeating Thomas Bjorn and Mikko Ilonen 2 and 1. Then Gallacher and Lawrie capitalized on a poor start from Colsaerts and Fernandez-Castano to go 3 up after five holes. The Scottish pair won 2 and 1 to tie 8-8. Luiten and Bourdy are participating for the first time in the Seve Trophy and have won all four matches theyve played. The rookies beat Wood and Jamieson by two holes. Wood eagled from a bunker shot on No. 17, forcing the pair to play the last hole on the golf course of Saint-Nom-la-Breteche. But Luiten and Bourdy sealed the win with a birdie and a 9-8 lead for Continental Europe.