Welcome to PROVENCE TODAY, a blog about life and politics in France.
In our search for the ideal place to retire, my husband and I settled in Aix-en-Provence in 1998 and have never stopped learning about this fascinating country that has become our permanent home. While this blog deals with the socio-political aspects of France, my book "Taking Root in Provence" focuses on the pleasures and paradoxes of daily life in sunny Provence.
The departure of French actor Gérard Depardieu for
tax-friendlier Belgium has had an unexpected aftermath. Among the fellow-actors
and politicians who openly criticized the actor's move was Prime Minister
Jean-Marc Ayrault (yes, he again), who called Depardieu's behavior
"pathetic". In response, a furious Depardieu applied for Belgian
citizenship and wrote Ayrault an open letter published in LeJournal
du Dimanche that says: I am surrendering my French passport and
social security because France rewards success, talent, creativity and
entrepreneurship with punitive taxes. [...] I may not deserve admiration but I deserve respect, he continues, and as for being called pathetic, he tells Ayrault:
"Who are you to judge me like that?"
No reaction from Ayrault, but François Hollande
told a reporter: "I don't like to single out individuals but would prefer
to praise those who have the sense of solidarity and responsibility to remain
when their country is in difficulty". He also would like to see more tax
equality between neighboring European countries. Several ministers responded in
the same vein, calling French citizenship an honor that comes with rights and
obligations, including the duty to pay taxes. Even President Putin weighed in, offering Gérard Depardieu a Russian passport
anytime he wants it.
There is a clear divide between the Left and the
Right (UMP) on the issue of increased taxes on the rich. The UMP sees it as an
invitation to tax exile and a threat to foreign investment in France, while the
socialists adhere to the philosophy of solidarity and partnership through good
times and bad.
It can be said that the French have a peculiar
relationship to money. Being rich is not admired here as it might be in the US,
where a businessman who amassed a fortune by his wits and hard work deserves
the big house and the status in society that his wealth bestows on him. It is
neither admired nor condemned that the rich would use all the means available
to them to avoid paying taxes. Like maximizing profit, it is seen as a business
practice rather than anti-social behavior.
COPE - FILLON
After a month-long bitter fight following the
contested November election, rivals François Copé, current UMP party leader,
and François Fillon, fellow contender and former Prime Minister, have agreed to hold new elections for UMP party leader in September 2013. It
is assumed that both men will again be seeking the party leadership in the
fall, but Fillon has not yet confirmed his candidacy. New rules are being
worked out for the proper oversight and total transparency of this next
election and a new management team has been formed with representatives of both
contenders. As soon as this new management team is installed in January, Fillon
will dissolve his breakaway RUMP faction and reunite the UMP party in the
A week after he settled a civil court case in New
York, French judges in the appeals court of Douai rejected former IMF Director Strauss-Kahn's claim for dismissal of the charges against him in the Carlton
Affair. He stands accused of aggravated pimping, but he has denied knowing that
some of the women he cavorted with were prostitutes. His lawyers called the
judges biased and say they are trying to "criminalize lust". They
will appeal and promised to go to the supreme court, if necessary.
Is it a publicity stunt? An election
gimmick? Hard to tell with Silvio Berlusconi whose recently announced
candidacy for the next election for prime minister was met with a yawn. The
financial markets did not react at all, and a majority of Italians seem to
think that he has little chance of winning in February, especially now that Mario Monte has declared himself willing to step in if called upon.
So how does Berlusconi get the spotlight back on
himself? By announcing on a popular Italian television station (owned by him)
that he has a new fiancée. Yes, fiancée. This time it's serious, he says, as he
describes 28-year-old Francesca Pascale as extremely beautiful, both inside and
out. Born in Naples where she headed a Berlusconi fan club, she met her idol
several years ago, and as their relationship deepened has been taking lessons
in speech, composure and other useful attributes for a role in public life.
Berlusconi (76) has always had a strong female
following but has been losing part of that constituency as a result of his
vaunted sexual exploits and bunga-bunga parties, which he now says he regrets.
Without his traditional female support his chances at being elected are weakened
and a new fiancée and possible marriage may help him reclaim his lost fan base.
Could this May-December marriage make the difference? Berlusconi seems to think
And so we have come to the second
anniversary of my blog. I thank you for having read this far and hope you will
continue to read, share, and participate in the future.