French historian Benjamin Stora discusses French-Algerian reconciliation

AAPA members met with French historian Benjamin Stora, author of a recent and controversial report commissioned by President Macron on French-Algerian relations. Prof. Stora is an expert on the topic from the colonial period until today, and is especially known for his work covering the years of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962).

With about 25 members attending the zoom conference on April 21, Prof. Stora discussed the report that President Macron asked him to produce (without remuneration, he specified). The President wanted Prof. Stora to elaborate a plan that would permit true reconciliation between the two nations, sixty years after the end of the war. The history of this tragic period is infused with passionate memories and the report has been met with criticism on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Prof. Stora provided many insights into understanding the complex and traumatic relationship between the two countries. He stressed the importance for all parties concerned to search for la juste mémoire, a fair and accurate memory of events. "The objective is not to write a common history, but to seek to explain the colonial event together, and not to believe that everything can be resolved in a final verdict,” he said. Both France and Algeria have favored their own memories, ignoring those of the other side. This has resulted in a double resentment that undermines both societies still today.

He warned against what he calls "dangerous memories" (mémoires dangereuses), a recent phenomenon among French citizens of Algerian descent, in which "the war of memories" has shifted into the making of identities that are no longer defined exclusively in relation to the war but refer to notions such as race, religion or social inequality. The confrontation of memories has morphed into a confrontation of identities and their relationship to the French Republic.

Thomas Haley


Britain Post-Brexit

The AAPA welcomed back an old friend on April 7 when veteran diplomat Lord Peter Ricketts, a life peer in the UK House of Lords (and Ambassador in Paris from 2012 to 2016) joined us on Zoom to discuss Britain Post-Brexit in a discussion moderated by AAPA VP Shellie Karabell.

He admitted he was "surprised by how ill-prepared the government was" for Brexit and wondered how the country would achieve the findings of the Government Integrated Review touting Britain's future as "tech power" world leader, adding that it seemed as though the Johnson government had no sense of priority regarding the order in which problems and opportunities could be tackled.

But he acknowledged that the country's handling of vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic has given the Johnson government its own shot in the arm, and turned the mood in the country more positive.

Other topics drew on Lord Ricketts' 40-year diplomatic background in foreign and security/defense affairs.
Highlights:
- on European defense, a strong link between France and the UK in mutual defense;
- on trade, UK would probably side with Europe in relations with China on trade rather than with the US, and will keep monitoring ma. rights issues in China;
- on unilateral trade and business: despite continued attempts at forging closer ties with India, efforts with the former empire's "jewel in the crown" have not produced lasting results;
- on the "special relationship" between the UK & US...probably more in the mind of the UK than the US; he expects some difficulties with the US regarding the Irish border post-Brexit, but also expects improved UK-US relations with the Biden Presidency;
- on Russia, the UK is less interested in closer ties than other European nations (i.e, France), given the Kremlin's use of London as a poisoning theatre;
- and the question the UK will have to face is what role it wants to play in the world?

Answers to be found in his new book, Hard Choices, due out on May 13!


'Nationalist' Marine Le Pen denounces 'globalist' Macron in meeting with AAPA

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right Rassemblement National party, was hosted by the AAPA in a well-attended video-conference on March 30. Le Pen has been in the news since opinion polls started showing her within a whisker of beating President Emmanuel Macron in a putative second round of the presidential election in 2022.

Le Pen maintained her drive to "detoxify" (dédiaboliser) the brand and movement set up by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen and taken over by her a decade ago, maintaining her stand against mass immigration but saying she would opt for a government of national unity if elected.

In what may be seen as a timely warning to European liberals, Le Pen positioned herself firmly alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK’s Brexiters — and by implication former US president Donald Trump — as a nationalist pitted against the forces of globalisation. “There’s no more split between left and right, there’s a split between the globalists and the nationalists,” she said, adding that she stood for “regulating globalisation”, “controlling borders” and “protecting citizens by using the tools of the sovereign nation state”, whereas Macron was “unashamedly a champion of the internationalist model".

She answered questions on the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccinations, the French left, the national debt, and immigration among others. Le Pen also rejected the "extreme right" label. “I am not extreme,” she said. “What’s more, a good part of what I am proposing is already enforced in many countries around the world, including in some cases in the US and Great Britain.”

by Victor Mallet


Ex-AAPA VP Michael Balter tells us about the $10-million defamation suit he is facing for his #MeToo reporting

The AAPA met with ex-VP Michael Balter on March 18 to hear about the $10-million defamation lawsuit he is fighting and the issues surrounding it. Michael was served with the suit last June by archeologist Danielle Kurin, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Victims, or survivors as they prefer to be called, allege she was complicit in her former husband’s sexual harassment of female students while on fieldwork in Peru.
Michael, who now lives near New York City, started reporting on sexual harassment in academia five years ago, before the Harvey Weinstein case pushed #MeToo to center stage. His first piece on the issue was a major investigation in Science of a case at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Since then he has continued his #MeToo reporting for The Verge, among other publications, and as a freelance journalist.
"I stand entirely by my reporting, which has only been bolstered as discovery in the lawsuit has gone forward, » he told the AAPA. "This lawsuit is not just about me. The real issues are freedom of the press and the rights of victims and survivors to tell their stories without fear of retaliation, including in the form of lawsuits."
Michael is backed in the lawsuit by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, and is represented by a pro bono team of six attorneys.


Authors’ Panel

Looking for inspiration and guidance on writing that book? Eight AAPA authors provided advice on finding a publisher, getting an advance, choosing an agent, marketing your opus and more in a panel discussion on Zoom on December 10. Click the link below to hear what the panelists—Monique El-Faizy, Peter Gumbel, Susan Herrmann Loomis, Linda Hervieux, Victor Mallet, Stefania Rousselle, Dana Thomas and Harriet Welty Rochefort--discussed with moderator VP Shellie Karabell. It'll be 90 minutes well spent! AAPA Authors' Panel - Zoom


AAPA meets with Catholic priest to discuss laicité, sex abuse scandal, and scouts

The AAPA met on November 20 with Yves Combeau, a Paris-based Dominican priest, scholar and historian. Father Combeau is a specialist in the history of youth movements, particularly scouting, and has published several works of non-fiction and fiction on the subject.

Combeau’s briefing has come at a time when France's Catholic Church is in crisis. The terrorist threat at places of worship has been at its highest level, and the ongoing sex abuse scandal continues to threaten the Church's reputation, as 6,000 victim testimonies have been recorded since 2018. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, churches across France struggled to fill seats.

Combeau spoke openly about numerous topics, especially laicité, which has taken center stage in recent conversations in France. He talked about how the Church has faced its sex abuse scandal, how the pandemic has affected attendance, and whether we can expect the Church’s rules on celibacy to change anytime soon.

He also explained where funding for Catholic TV comes from, why we still hear church bells ringing out through this "laique" country, and why scouts always wear shorts – even in bristling winter weather.


European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton says: “don’t send me your lobbies”

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, is very clear about the direction that European Union (EU) regulation on internet companies should take.

Strategy is based on 4 pillars: a Data Governance Act, a Digital Services Act, to be unveiled in early December and update the 2000 e-Commerce directive, a Digital Markets Act and the 2019 Cybersecurity Act, he told the AAPA at a virtual meeting on Friday, 13 November. With decades of experience running high tech companies including France Telecom (now Orange), Breton candidly acknowledges he is the man for the job.

He recently talked with Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, and reiterated his message: that internet companies are welcome in the EU, as long as they respect the regulations. For the future, that means no more cherrypicking, such as preferential tax regimes in countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands, he said.

Joe Biden’s election as US president “doesn’t change anything” to the perspective for the transatlantic partnership and alliance, he said. Democracy in the divided US, where power is shared between the House of Representatives and the Senate, is a bit like that in Brussels, where power is shared between the European Parliament and Council, which represents member States.

Breton has no qualms about Biden recruiting high tech experts to his team of advisors, as the EU itself has done in his case. The only proviso is that they have “zero links with their previous jobs.”

He tells companies “don’t send me your lobbies” that are even more numerous in Brussels than Washington. “I don’t need them. I say ‘just pick up the phone and call me’. My door is always open.” Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has taken up the opportunity “many times” to discuss fake news and other issues.

Breton says his technique is to explain rather than to lecture, and that he is not against any company or country. He has been “favourably impressed” by the involvement of Internet firms’ CEOs in tackling fake news. “Discussions with most of them have been very positive.” Anonymity of participants should be preserved, but compliance on what can or cannot be said or shown must be enforced.

This will be one of the tasks of a future joint European board that will bring together all the national regulators. Member States will select one of them to do the work in the face of data that doubles in volume every 18 months or so.

Pierre Tran’s article: https://sldinfo.com/2020/11/the-european-defence-fund-and-european-defence-the-perspective-of-the-eu-commissioner-for-the-internal-market/


Whither the bistro après-Covid? A French chef responds

Alain Fontaine, bistrotier and bon vivant who operates in the beating heart of Paris, honored AAPA with a meeting on June 25.

Besides his toque, Fontaine wears two other hats: he is president of the Association Française des Maîtres Restaurateurs -- essentially chefs who insist on preparing all meals on site from fresh, raw ingredients -- and he is spearheading a drive to win UNESCO recognition of the French bistro and café as intangible cultural heritage.

So who better to discuss the terrible blow his sector suffered during the coronavirus lockdown and its hopes and fears for the future? Bistros and cafes were in steady and alarming decline before the pandemic -- dropping from 200,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to a little over 50,000 after World War II to 25,000 today -- and Fontaine held out little hope for a miraculous turnaround.

But the ebullient chef dismissed dire predictions that up to 40 percent of the businesses would not survive the crisis, saying many would simply change hands, for better or worse. Even if the numbers continue to dwindle, Fontaine is sanguine about the bistro's longevity, as an “anchor” of France's art de vivre.--
-Gina Doggett


Green candidate 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/