Green candiate aiming to become Paris' next mayor pledges major environmental and social programs

Despite other pressing news, just under a dozen members met with the candidate, David Belliard, who in a Hotel de Ville annex today came across as determined to transform the city by blocking sprawling urban-commercial complexes, backed by Mayor Anne Hildago seeking re-election in the nation's March 15-22 municipal elections.

His broader goal, he said repeatedly, is to transform such projects that range from building a large park with woods in the 12th arrondissement to re-opening the left-bank Bievre river that now runs underground into the Seine.

In just over an hour, he evoked in greater detail most of his party's objecteives previously expressed on the campaign trail – reducing if not eliminating the power of private lobbies in citywide infrastructure and transport projects ; pressing for closer cooperation with neighborning regional bodies, largely ignored, he charged, by Hildago's administration, but above all pursing a « greener » Paris via expanded parks in conjunction with an acceleration of low-income, « social » housing, while halting where possible the alleged Hildago preference for concrete.

Summing up for a radio piece afterward, Eleanor Beardsley said that what struck her most was Belliard's repeated call for drastic change. « With 42-degree summers now, we cannot go on as before...we cannot lie anymore ; (about climate change ) we have to drastically change, » she quoted him as saying.

---Axel Krause


Dissident Paris Mayor candidate Villani claims loyalty to Macron


Cédric Villani, mathematician and independent candidate for Paris Mayor in the March elections, began his day on February 11 by meeting with about 25 AAPA members at Bloomberg’s offices next to Opéra.

Villani outlined his programme to “open up politics” to the outside world with more direct democracy, to free Paris of pollution and incivility, and to resolve the city's housing shortage. He would foster scientific knowledge and culture, scrap two of the five layers in France’s administrative “millefeuille”, and extend the French capital beyond the périphérique.

Despite his policy divergence with President Emmanuel Macron and expulsion from the ruling LREM party, Villani denied there had been a “separation” or “rupture”, and insisted he remains loyal to the party’s principles and promises. He dismissed the suggestion that his refusal to back official LREM candidate Benjamin Griveaux in the election would end in defeat for them both. The two campaigns are different, and so is the profile of their supporters, he said.

He declined to put a number on the “many” spider brooches he owns, and was clearly pleased that an Iranian research team has named a spider after him. Villani’s election programme is available online at: https://www.cedricvillani.paris/


Benjamin Griveaux unveils his project for Paris

In just a decade from now, the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est will no longer be able to cope with traffic from Strasbourg, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, Benjamin Griveaux, candidate of La République en Marche for mayor of Paris, told the Anglo-American Press Association on January 30th.
If he is elected, Griveaux wants to build a new metropolitan train station at the northeastern edge of Paris, either at La Villette or in the suburb of Noisy. He says the project would take ten years and cost euros 1.5 billion.
Griveaux would “return to nature” 74 acres of disused railway tracks, endowing the residents of Paris’s most densely populated districts with a New York-style Central Park.
Other ideas proposed by Griveaux were: creating port facilities on the Seine so that businesses could deliver goods by boat; developing teleworking to reduce traffic and greenhouse emissions; offering a euros 2,000 bonus to motorcyclists who switch to electrical vehicles; increasing the frequency of buses into the city from parking lots at the periphery, and fighting the housing crisis by helping landlords to renovate vacant apartments to legal standards.
“Up to ten per cent of apartments in some Paris districts have no running water, no showers or toilets, except on the landing,” Griveaux said. It was also incredible, he said, that Paris has no traffic police.
Griveaux said the independent candidacy of Cédric Villani, who like him is a deputy in the National Assembly for La République en Marche, is “an ego thing”. Villani has refused all contact with him. “One can be a mathematician and make wrong calculations,” he said.
It is too late to change the voting system for the upcoming March 15th and 22nd municipal elections, Griveaux said. In Paris, the municipal poll is in fact 17 different elections, with four central Paris districts in one group, plus 16 others electing city councillors, who then elect the mayor. Griveaux said the present system poses a danger comparable to the US presidential election, which enabled Donald Trump to became president despite losing the popular vote.


AXA CEO Tells AAPA: Climate Change, healthcare Costs are Top Priorities


AXA CEO Thomas Buberl invited the AAPA to lunch at the company's headquarters around the corner from the Elysee Palace on January 10 for a broad on-the-record discussion dominated by the themes of instability and climate change.

Buberl, who was appointed as the third CEO of the French-headquartered international financial services company, said he believes the US-China trade war and climate change are the hallmarks of geo-political instability, adding,“I have always seen instability as a source of great potential for AXA to serve their customers better. More instability means more necessity for awareness of risks, but also more and different solutions to reduce risks.”

He also indicated he was concerned about the rise of populism and political fragmentation, Europe’s inconclusive efforts to define its role in the world, and by soaring healthcare costs and threats to cybersecurity.

Expecting interest rates to remain low for the foreseeable future, Buberl has lowered the portion of life insurance and savings in the company's portfolio from 80% to 20%.

AXA has made climate change a top priority: it is one of the first big companies to start divesting from coal and has met its pledge to raise green investments to €12 billion by 2020.


Air France-KLM boss Ben Smith talks planes, unions and greenhouse gas with the AAPA

Long lunches, long holidays, and myriad trades unions were all part of the steep learning curve facing Canadian Ben Smith when he took the helm of Air France-KLM in 2018, the affable 48-year-old told the Anglo-American Press Association.

And he had to work hard on his French, he said during a wide-ranging discussion held in the offices of Bloomberg near the Paris Opera on Friday 17 January, as a lengthy strike in France against pension reform was slowly fizzling out.

When Smith became the airline's CEO, a pilots’ strike had just cost the company €335 million. But during the latest anti-reform work stoppages nationwide, not a single Air France flight was cancelled due to a strike by airline staff, although some were affected by air traffic control industrial action, he noted.
Greta Thunberg, greenhouse gas emissions and how to lower them, labour deals, the troubled Boeing 737 Max, Airbus, Transavia, and the €120 million Air France spends to finance its comité d’entreprise, were among the many topics touched upon in the meeting with the AAPA


Macron's diplomatic advisor outlines presidential foreign policy

NATO, Trump, Brexit, Russia, trade, EU reform, European strategic sovereignty: Emmanuel Macron's diplomatic advisor provided AAPA members with insights on the French president's foreign policy thinking.
The meeting on December 17 was an off-the-record briefing provided by Emmanuel Bonne on how the centrist president is seeking to position France as he enters the second half of his five-year mandate.


Fashion's Commitment to Sustainability: Kering CSO Speaks to the AAPA

Kering's Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International Institutional Affairs, Marie-Claire Daveu, hosted the AAPA at a morning coffee on December 3 at Kering's headquarters on the rue de Sèvres in a historic building that -- until 2000 -- housed the Laennec hospital.

Kering was appointed by French president Emmanuel Macron to head the country's effort to make fashion more sustainable. It led the company to create its 2025 strategy – the deadline year by which Kering will aim to reduce its environmental footprint by 40% and its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, and to put into effect full traceability of its raw material sourcing. Daveu also pointed out that already 67% of the energy used throughout the Kering company is created from sustainable sources.

In an effort to extend the fashion industry's commitment to sustainability beyond the luxury niche and in the long term, Kering recently created a G7 Fashion Pact, to which 56 companies in the G7 have already committed.

And, as an unintentional follow-up to the AAPA's Climate Change and Mass Migration panel discussion held November 28 at the OECD, she mentioned Kering's recognition of the link between these two phenomena, which are crucial social concerns today.


Muslim and Jewish «best friends » bring women together to fight anti-Semitism and racism

On November 12th The Anglo American Press Association had a meeting and conversation with Samia Essabaa and Suzanne Nakache, the Muslim and Jewish founders of Langage de Femmes, a multi-confessional, intergenerational group of women fighting racism and anti-Semitism in France.
France has Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations and hate crimes have grown in recent years.
But Essabaa and Nakache spoke of how their group is able to break down barriers between communities and increase understanding, by allowing women to focus on issues that unite them.
The group comes together over movies, plays, dinners and events at synagogues and mosques.
And every year they take a group of diverse women to Auschwitz to show where hatred of “the other” can lead.
-Eleanor Beardsley


Sibeth Ndiaye, the spokesperson for the French government, met with the Anglo-American Press Association on November 14th, 2019.

In a 90 minute group interview, Ndiaye discussed her attachment to France, her relationship with President Emmanuel Macron, how the crisis of the Gilets Jaunes has changed his policies, Franco-American relations, sectarianism in France, the reasons behind the strike scheduled for December 5th, pension reform, the accusation of rape against film director Roman Polanski, racism against herself, the issue of returning jihadis and the difficulty of providing housing for migrants.
Ndiaye said she decided to become a French citizen in 2016, after the death of her mother. Her parents had met in Paris when both were militant Communist students, campaigning for African independence. “Senegal and France have always been inter-mingled in my personal story. There has always been a part of me that was French,” she said.
Ndiaye first met Emmanuel Macron when he was deputy secretary general of the Élysée. “He was always very approachable, welcoming and cordial with the people around him,” she said. Their relationship was a professional one, based on great respect. She came to know him better from travelling with him on trains and planes during the 2017 presidential campaign.
“He is a stubborn, committed person,” Ndiaye said of Macron. “He is someone who doesn’t like the established order, the idea that it’s always been done like that. The idea that it’s been that way for a very long time is totally foreign to him.”
The Gilets Jaunes crisis revealed “the difficulty for a part of our country to feel fully integrated in globalisation,” Ndiaye said. Macron had realised that he could not reform “for the French in their name” but had to reform with the French. He seeks greater proximity with his compatriots during the second half of his term.
The US and France “have divergent visions of the world,” Ndiaye said. “We say frankly that we can disagree with the US government, for example regarding trade and more broadly on the question of multilateralism.”
Regarding sectarianism, Ndiaye said, “France is a nation built on the idea of the citizen belonging first of all to the national community, before being black or white, before being Jewish, Muslim, Catholic or any other identity.”
Asked to explain the mobilisation for strikes and demonstrations on December 5th, Ndiaye spoke of the “great suffering of professional categories” including hospital workers and farmers. She said pension reform is a source of disquiet for all French people. Confidence has been destroyed by the fact that governments have attempted pension reforms every five years for the past 20 years. “There are obviously categories who have legtimate worries,” she said. The government is “holding out its hand to all” and “all options are on the table.”
Ndiaye said she would not go to see Polanski’s new film about the Dreyfus Affair because of recent accusations against him, but she did not call for a boycott because there must be an investigation by the French justice system.
Social media continue to convey racist remarks about her, Ndiaye said. She paid tribute to three French politicians who “didn’t necessarily notice that I was a woman, nor that I was black,” when she worked for them: Claude Bartolone, Arnaud Montebourg and Emmanuel Macron. It registered with Macron that she was black the day security guards and police prevented her following him at the aeronautics show at Le Bourget, because they weren’t used to seeing a black person in the entourage of a cabinet minister.
Ndiaye said more than 250 jihadists have travelled from Turkey to France since 2014. It was better for French citizens who joined Islamic State to be put on trial in the region where they may have committed crimes, she said. The the issue is being dealt with on a case by case basis. Children of French jihadists could not be separated from their mothers.
Wasn’t it shameful for France to leave thousands of migrants living rough or in tents? Ndiaye was asked. She said the government had “gone to considerable effort to build welcome centres”. Fifteen thousand places had been “unblocked” in low income housing in the last 18 months, creating tension with French people on waiting lists. The government will find another 16,000 places in 2020, she said. An asylum application usually takes 18 months to be considered, but the government tries to examine the applications of people who it knows will be rejected first, Ndiaye said


Shaking it up at the Châtelet

A rare chance to watch the final rehearsals for a musical at the Théâtre du Châtelet was the cherry on the cake for AAPA members who met with the theatre's new Artistic Director on November 26.

Ruth Mackenzie is the first woman in the job, and first non-French national - she is British. She made it clear to our group that she is not at all daunted by the challenges either one of those factors might pose in a French theatre.

After her first production - "Les Justes", in September - gave Camus a rap edge, "An American in Paris" continued a new tradition at the theatre of staging American musicals in English. Mackenzie has other plans to continue to shake things up, including taking theatre to the suburbs, changing the linear training system in French theatre, and improving diversity.