AAPA Members Visit World’s Biggest Auction Space

The AAPA’s evening field trip on May 18 to Drouot, Paris' historic and esteemed auction house, was an eye-opener to most of the group who had never experienced a high-powered auction in full swing.

Drouot opened in 1852 and is the world’s largest public auction space, with 18 auction halls where 110  affiliated auctioneers sell off objects to the highest bidders from premium art works to more humble possessions. Today, some 500,000 items a year pass through Drouot - art, furniture, wine and curios from past centuries as well as younger bargains.

Our group was greeted with champagne and a presentation of Drouot from CEO Olivier Lange. Then we were taken upstairs and allowed to wander the exhibit rooms where vast worlds were on display.

What sets this house apart from confreres Christies and Sotheby's is it’s accessible to everyone. You don't have to be an art expert or a millionaire to bid at Drouot. Some 5,000 people come in off rue Drouot every day to browse or bid.

We were able to watch two auctions taking place, including a competitive, modern art sale where a work by French artist Yves Klein was knocked down for 465,000 euros, many times the estimate. Bidders' calls came in from around the world as a line of multilingual staff manned the phones and logged internet bids.

We also had the privilege of being taken downstairs in a freight elevator into the bowels of the newly redesigned auction house to see all the items being stored for pick up. If you can’t take what you bought right away, Drouot will hold it for you for a fee. There are some real treasures down there!

-Eleanor Beardsley



French presidential elections unprecedented, researcher says

The run-up to France’s 2017 presidential elections is unlike any in the past, with an

electorate confused by waning confidence in politicians, worried about security and distressed by chronic unemployment, a respected political researcher told the AAPA on March 28.

It’s the first presidential election to be held under a state of emergency, Sciences Po professor Pascal Perrineau told a well-attended event at the Falstaff Café on Place de la Bastille. Not only are people preoccupied with economic issues and unemployment, but terrorism and immigration are also weighing on voters’ minds, he said.

But, Perrineau says, people have no confidence in the ability of politicians to help them.
“Never has the mistrust in politics been as high as today,” Perrineau said. “At the same time they are passionate about the spectacle.”

As for France casting out all of its establishment politicians – Francois Hollande, Alain Juppé, Francois Fillon, and Manuel Valls – Perrineau said, “The French are satisfied with sweeping everyone away. We are revolutionaries. We are people who cut off heads!”
He added, “But, oh, then we feel anguish because we say: “Who is going to do the job now? We are surrounded by amateurs!” For example, Hamon, Macron and Le Pen.”
Perrineau noted if it’s a runoff between Macron and Le Pen, neither has majority representation in parliament or even the beginnings of legislative means needed to successfully govern.

-Jake Cigainero


Link to article by Kim Willshire:




French Elections Could Spring Some Surprises, Pollsters Say

France’s presidential election could spring some surprises even if the lineup for the second round currently seems fairly clear-cut today, a panel of polling experts told the AAPA on April 7.

Once they got into the voting booths, many voters confounded polling agencies in recent crucial votes in the U.S. and the U.K. by making choices that they hadn’t previously shared with canvassers, and there’s a possibility this last-minute effect could repeat itself in France on April 23 and May 7, they said.

Over 30 AAPA members and three senior pollsters -- Frédéric Micheau of OpinionWay, Edouard Lecerf of Kantar Public and Jérome Fourquet of Ifop -- gleaned useful background information for news hounds covering the elections.

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon has lost a broad swathe of the conservatives’ normal backing because he has been tainted by accusations of misusing public funds and influence trafficking, as well as his harsh economic program that is turning off many center-right voters.

The question is, when people get into the voting booth, will they opt for a tainted candidate or will they say, “He may not be very clean, but the interest of the country comes first,” said Jerome Fourquet.

“Some might feel that it’s better to go with the devil you know” than an untested but popular candidate like Emmanuel Macron or the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, added Edouard Lecerf.

Fourquet said Fillon could benefit from an “army of reserves who will reveal themselves at the last minute,” having been too embarrassed or rattled by negative media coverage to admit their preference.

If Fillon is eliminated in the first round and his electorate flock to Le Pen two weeks later, she would stand a bigger chance of winning, but only if a big chunk of left-leaning voters abstain,the pollsters said. “Accidents can happen, but absolutely everything would need to be in line for her,” Fourquet said.

Frédéric Micheau of OpinionWay noted that French voters demand honesty from their politicians before competence. Fillon is bottom of the list when they are asked to rank the candidates for their trustworthiness, he said.

Resisting pressure from members, the speakers declined to predict the winner in the May 7 runoff, saying today’s poll results reflect only today’s opinions, and opinions can change dramatically on the home straight.

Fourquet commented that French society is no longer divided along traditional left-right leanings but between nationalists and globalists. And 80% of Le Pen’s followers are overwhelmingly pessimistic, while Macron’s are optimistic in the same proportion.

-David Pearson


(With special thanks to Sara Llana for setting up this event and to Bloomberg News Paris bureau chief Geraldine Amiel for agreeing to host it in the Bloomberg auditorium).

Link to Irish Times article by Lara Marlowe:


Link to article in Forbes.com by Shellie Karabell:


Link to The Local article by Ben McPartland:



The EU Couldn’t Survive Le Pen Presidency - INSEAD professor

FullSizeRender Webber 2“It would be almost impossible for the EU to survive if Marine Le Pen should win the up-coming French Presidential elections and withdraw France from it,”  INSEAD Political Science Professor Douglas Webber told 17 AAPA members on March 21.

“Europe can survive without the UK, but not without France. It would be a political earthquake,” he continued, referring to Le Pen’s vow to negotiate new EU membership terms if she wins the election and then put them to a referendum.

Prof. Webber spoke to us at an evening event at Café Falstaff on the Place de la Bastille.

Ms. Le Pen  would almost certainly have to try to take France out of the EU, as she would have no chance of implementing her program while France is in the EU:  ‘Between 1/5 and 1/4 of the measures she’s proposing (leaving the single-currency Eurozone for example) is contrary to EU law,” he stated.

On balance, however, Webber thought it unlikely that Le Pen would become president  - or, if she did, that she would win a majority in favor of leaving the EU in a referendum.

Webber discussed the evolution of the EU, the general political trend within Europe towards increasing nationalism, and the impact of the election of Donald Trump as 45th US President.

The current state of affairs, opined Webber, has evolved out of three phases spanning the last 25 years: The Post-Cold War period, from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of Communism in 1989 to the Iraq civil war beginning around 2004 and  the financial crisis of 2008; a transition period, from 2008 until 2015, including growing contestation of globalization and Europeanization and a growing number of terrorist groups and attacks, and finally an emerging post-liberal period, including terror attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe in 2015-2016, the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump marked by growing nationalist, isolationist and protectionist sentiments.

 Brexit and Trump Strengthen EU

 Contrary to popular opinion, Webber believes the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump have galvanized European voters to support the European Union rather than reject it, and foresees the election of the strongly pro-European Emmanuel Macron as French President, barring any “black swan” events between now and the second round of voting – such as an astonishing revelation or another terrorist attack.

In Germany, Webber thinks the re-election of Angela Merkel as Chancellor is not a “given” and suggests the SPD candidate Martin Schulz could challenge and defeat the incumbent.  “Schulz in Germany and Macron in France could revive the important Franco-German relationship which is central to the European Union,” he continued. “They could create closer integration on internal and border security and on defense.  Together, they pull the north and south of Europe together.”

But he was less optimistic about the EU’s long-term prospects, as he was doubtful whether it could resolve the challenges posed by economic divergence within the Eurozone and a prospective rise in the number of people trying to migrate to Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

-Shellie Karabell

Link to Irish times article by Lara Marlowe:







Pompidou Center’s Attraction Still Rising After 40 Years

Terror attacks scared off visitors to the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay last year, but the numbers kept on rising for the Pompidou Centre, its president Serge Lasvignes told AAPA members over lunch on Jan. 11 as the centre marks its 40th anniversary.

The nine percent rise at the Pompidou - 3.33 million people turned up in 2016 - was because the bulk of its visitors are French and they see the modern art museum as their own local cultural centre to which they return again and again, Mr. Lasvignes explained.

The Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay are more popular with foreign visitors - many of whom were scared by the recent spate of terror attacks - and that explains why they both reported a decline in visitor numbers last year, he said.

He spoke of the raft of celebration events that are scheduled throughout the year to mark the 40th birthday of the building that scandalised many French when it opened back in 1977, when Le Figaro newspaper dubbed it a "Loch Ness monster."

Mr. Lasvignes also shared his thoughts on the "dilemma" he would face if Marine Le Pen wins the presidential election this spring.

"Unless it was impossible, I would stay in a spirit of resistance,” he said. "We would have to be in opposition to any government whose programme was about closing minds or about cultural conservatism. In that case, the Pompidou Centre and French culture would have to rediscover its militant role.”

-Rory Mulholland

IMG_3932 panoramique 2

Marine Le Pen Asserts Controversial Positions on EU, Russia

img_3918-seconda-paginaThe AAPA kicked off 2017 with a news-making event on Jan. 6 when nearly 60 members met with one of France's top political personalities - National Front party leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

The timing was ideal, with the French presidential elections just four months away and Ms. Le Pen increasingly tipped to secure a place in the runoff round of voting on May 7.

After Brexit and Donald Trump, the world's eyes are now on Le Pen. Will a populist wave also carry France's far right leader to the top?

During a full hour of questioning at her party’s campaign headquarters, Le Pen covered a broad range of topics, from Frexit (French exit from the EU) to relations with Russia to the financing of her campaign. She was quick and incisive, with a sharp answer for everything.

When asked if she thought Russia might tamper with the French election as it allegedly did with the U.S. vote, Le Pen chuckled, remarking that "when something goes wrong everyone loves to blame Russia." In the next breath she reminded the room that it was actually the U.S. that had listened in on the personal phone calls of its closest European allies.

img_3914-le-pen-finaleLe Pen has worked to "de-diabolise" her party over the last years and make it more mainstream. In that regard, her personal manner also seemed less tough. She was smooth and measured, and her stances appeared more moderate. This prompted several members to ask if she had not backtracked on some issues. Le Pen vehemently denied this, saying journalists were always looking to stir up controversy!

Le Pen said Islam is compatible with French values. She said practicing Muslims, like Catholics and Jews, have every right to their religion and pose no threat to French society. It's a second type of Islam, she said, the totalitarian, sharia-espousing brand, that she'll fight without mercy.

The AAPA's meeting with Le Pen held something for everyone, as the multifaceted press coverage can attest.

-Eleanor Beardsley

Links to a selection of articles by AAPA members who covered the event:


















Here's to a Memorable 2017

Dear Member,

As we turn the page on what has been a very eventful year, I want to take a minute of your time to wish you all a positive year on the personal and professional levels. The past 12 months have kept you busy chasing news, and much of it was bad. The coming year will be interesting politically on both sides of the Atlantic, and your workload won't diminish. Au contraire...

One of the clear messages from the membership survey was that you want to meet more high-profile guests. We're starting the year with one of the main presidential hopefuls, Marine Le Pen, and we'll be working on other speakers to help you explain the election issues to your audiences. Naturally, we will continue to provide a varied menu of events outside the political sphere. There will be more social events so you can unwind and catch up with your fellow scribblers, and hopefully another training workshop to give us a firmer grip on social media skills.

I wish you and your families sound health and high spirits in what promises to be a memorable 2017.

David Pearson
AAPA President

Report on the AAPA’s Annual General Meeting Dec. 16

Twenty-five members attended our AGM on Friday, Dec. 16, at the Brasserie de l'Assemblée in the 7th, which started at 7 pm, lasted one hour and was followed by some socializing over drinks and hors-d’oeuvres.
1. President’s report

President David Pearson opened the meeting by looking back at 2016, which with 18 events equaled 2015’s record number. Membership increased and finances remained robust.
There was a broad variety of events, although our guests didn’t include any high-profile ministers or politicians. Looking to 2017, one priority is to get high-value figures ahead of the presidential election in April/May.
The best attended event, with more than 80 guests, was the gala, held this year at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley. The Embassy gave us very attractive deal, and the overall cost of subsidizing the annual event was substantially less than at the U.K. ambassador’s residence in 2015.
A freelance seminar in October (kudos to Barbara Casassus) in association with the NUJ’s Paris branch was success. We’re looking at ideas for other workshop/seminars to help members improve their skills in what has become a very tough employment environment.
Monthly happy hours (applause for social affairs officer Linda Hervieux) have proved popular apart from the thinly attended one over U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Suggestions for alternative venues to the Bonne Bière should go to Linda (lindahervieux@yahoo.com).
AAPA’s Facebook account is thriving with 60 members signed up, 12 more than last year.
The web site is looking good, with 239 visits, 951 page views in November.
The Twitter account, on the other hand, has been mostly moribund due to a lack of volunteers among committee members to keep it alive, even though the U.S. ambassador is following us.
Special thanks to:
• • Barbara Casassus, who receives the "gold star" this year for her tireless efforts on the Opera, the freelance seminar, the Canard Enchainé event and one she has already lined up for next year.

• • Maria-Vincenza Aloisi for keeping the organization professional and moving forward, and for her hospitality in hosting our committee meetings.

2. Secretary General’s report

Sara Miller-Llana listed the Association’s 20 new members in 2016. We lost 18, putting current total membership at 119.
Sara listed each event held this year. (For details, consult the website.)
3. Treasurer’s report

David read out John Keating’s report, which underscored the Association’s healthy finances.
At the date of the meeting, the current account balances stood at €1,114.75. With accounts payable of €1,375.70, there is a small deficit which will be erased with the renewal of memberships and the inflow of 2017 dues.
The Association’s reserve fund (Livret A) has a balance of €18,000, unchanged from 2015.
4. Proposal of new board

David proposed a slate that reflected a minor cabinet reshuffle due to the departure of John Keating and Scott Sayare.
The following committee was approved by unanimous vote:
President : David Pearson
Vice-President : Sara Miller Llana (Christian Science Monitor)
Vice-President : Barbara Casassus (The Lancet)
Secretary General : Nelson Graves (News-Decoder)
Treasurer : Rory Mulholland (The Telegraph)
Syndic : Eleanor Beardsley (National Public Radio)
Committee members :
Lisa Bryant (Voice of America)
Clare Byrne (Agence France Presse)
Jake Ciganeiro (freelance)
Elaine Cobbe (CBS)
Linda Hervieux (Freelance)
Shellie Karabell (Forbes.com)
Ben McPartland (The Local)
Harriet Welty Rochefort (Freelance)

5. Presentation of new statutes

David ran through the proposed changes to the statutes, which hadn't been substantially modified since after World War Two, when women were first admitted to the organization. The main proposed change is to make AAPA membership more accessible to Anglophone professionals in the journalistic sphere and to bring the statutes into line with current situation.
The proposed statutes were adopted unanimously.
6. Survey

Nelson Graves presented the results of the first survey of members in 14 years. A total of 69 members (58%) responded to the survey, and the results will be circulated to members.
Respondents expressed general satisfaction with the AAPA, especially the mix of types of events and the introduction of social activities, although several members called for more high-profile French politicians and business leaders, even if there were fewer total events.
Several news themes and workshops for the coming year were proposed by respondents.
The results of the survey will guide the committee in 2017 in terms of guests, recruitment and proposed events.
7. Discussion

There was widespread support for trying to attract more high-profile guests while offering a broad mix of corporate and cultural topics.
8. The meeting adjourned at 8 PM.
Nelson Graves
19 December 2016

Le Canard Enchainé Celebrates 100 Years of Needling the Establishment

PARIS—Drawing on his large stock of entertaining anecdotes, Erik Emptaz, the editor of Le Canard Enchainé, looked back over the French satirical weekly’s 100 years of existence when he met the AAPA on Dec. 7.

A solid turnout at the Bonne Bière heard Emptaz comment on a vast range of subjects, including the paper’s independence from advertisers and big business shareholders, the recent surprises of Brexit, the US presidential election, and François Fillon as the right/centre candidate for next year’s French presidential election.

Emptaz, who joined the Canard in 1978 and became editor in 1994, said that for the moment Fillon’s chances of winning are very good in view of the disarray of the French left. The paper, which is still published only in print form, reports on serious issues without ever taking itself seriously, he says.

It does not try to provoke when it conducts interviews, and its targets do not usually bear grudges because the paper attacks the facts, not the people behind them. Although leaning to the left rather than the right of the political spectrum, above all it criticises the government in power.

The paper employs 30 full-time journalists plus a number of freelances, and has a weekly paid readership of about 400,000, Mr. Emptaz said. But few of the major scandals it unearths create such an international stir as President François Hollande’s 10,000-euro-month hairdresser, he told us. That story was picked by media all over the world.

The paper makes provisions for lawsuits, but wins most of its libel cases on appeal. Bouygues SA sued it for 9 million euros for alleging the contractor had rigged the tender to build the new defence ministry at Balard in south-western Paris. The paper won in the end and only demanded legal costs and a symbolic euro in compensation.

One of Emptaz’ many anecdotes came from his pre-Canard days at the defunct daily Le Matin de Paris, when he and two colleagues decided to confess to Catholic priests in different parts of France that they had indulged in adultery, homosexuality and masturbation.

They were surprised to learn that their punishments for the same ‘sin’ varied according to the region. They were all ex-communicated from the Catholic church for breaching confessional secrecy. But it turned out that all they had to do if they wished to be readmitted to the fold was to … confess.

All that and much more are contained in the book published earlier this year by Editions du Seuil, entitled Le Canard Enchainé—100 ans and now in its second print run.

-Barbara Casassus (with thanks to Lara Marlowe for sharing her notes)

France’s State of Emergency Has Huge Economic, Social Costs

It cannot enforce its recommendations, but the French government’s human rights advisory body has been vocal and sometimes effective in criticizing such hot-button subjects as France’s ongoing state of emergency, the fate of migrants, and the right of Muslim women to wear head-to-toe covering burkinis on public beaches, its head says.
For Christine Lazerges, a professor of penal law at Sorbonne University and president of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), the state of emergency has produced enormous economic and social costs.

While the rights body did not object to the original decree proclaimed by President Francois Hollande after last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, “the state of law has been bi-passed” in its many extensions, Lazerges said during a Nov. 15 meeting with AAPA members.

“I’m not trying to say that during the period we’re living through, that we do nothing against terrorism — obviously not,” she said, answering a question about police searches. “But we must not put social cohesion in peril just to find a bit of cannabis or heroine.”

Founded in 1947, the CNCDH is made up of 64 members, ranging from unions to environmental and rights groups such as Amnesty International and Secours Catholique.

Based in a government building across from the National Assembly that also houses France’s sports ministry and other state bodies, the CNCDH oversees France’s adherence to international agreements, produces reports on issues like housing, immigration, drug use and identity controls, and offers opinions on various government measures.

It also has access to key government members that sometimes allows it to be quietly effective, Lazerges says.

As a case in point, she describes a meeting earlier this year with interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve (now France’s prime minister) which she believes helped reverse plans to close the Grande-Synthe migrant camp near Calais.

When it comes to the state of emergency -- which the government now wants to extend through next year's elections -- the CNCDH has criticized the methods and effectiveness of tactics like police searches and house arrests.

“A family that’s been targeted in a police search wants to do only one thing,” Lazerges said. “To move out, because it feels stigmatized — certainly not to appear before an administrative court asking for reparations and compensation for the damage that was done.”

On the burkini, the CNCDH has opposed efforts by some mayors to ban the Muslim swimwear on public beaches. France’s 1905 law, separating church and state, means “everyone can wear a cassock, including a priest,” Lazerges said.

She also expressed concern about the broader fallout in Europe of the US presidential elections.

“I fear a ‘Trump effect,’” in France’s own presidential campaign, Lazerges said, suggesting Republican Donald Trump’s shock victory will feed extremist sentiments among some voters who feel abandoned by mainstream parties.

“What happened in the United States is, in my view, dramatic for Europe that is already doing badly,” she added. “It exonerates the far right.”

-Lisa Bryant