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French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is presenting intelligence to MPs which he says shows Syria used chemical weapons.

The dossier is said to show that Syria has large chemical stockpiles and was behind a chemical attack which the US says killed more than 1,400 people.

France and the US are both pushing for punitive military action against the Syrian regime. The UK parliament has voted to stay out of such a raid.

Damascus denies the attack, blaming rebel forces for the use of chemicals.

However, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said he is personally convinced that a chemical attack took place and that the government of President Bashar al-Assad was responsible.

There must be “a firm international response” to deter any future use of such weapons, he said, or else it would send a “dangerous signal to dictators all over the world”.

French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault is presenting intelligence to MPs which shows Syria used chemical weapons

French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault is presenting intelligence to MPs which shows Syria used chemical weapons

But he added that he did envisage NATO having a role in such action, saying he would expect any military response to be “a very short, measured, targeted operation” and that the alliance’s resources would not be needed.

Meanwhile fighting has continued across Syria, in a conflict which has already left an estimated 100,000 people dead since 2011. On Monday, activists said 20 rebel fighters were killed in an army ambush in Adra, north-east of Damascus, AFP news agency reports.


The alleged chemical attack took place in the Gouta, an eastern area of the capital on 21 August. The US says 426 children were among the more than 1,400 people killed.

The US administration has already presented its case that the Assad regime was behind the attack, and now Jean-Marc Ayrault will present France’s own intelligence dossier to parliamentary leaders.

“We are going to give the MPs everything we have – classified until now – to enable every one of them to take on board the reality of the unacceptable attack,” he said on Monday.

French MPs are due to debate the issue at an extraordinary session of parliament on Wednesday.

President Francois Hollande is constitutionally able to order an attack without parliamentary approval, but there is growing pressure for a vote on Syria, as happened in the UK and has been promised in the US.

US lawmakers are due to reconvene next week, and White House officials have said that when it comes to a vote, they believe there will be enough support for the president.

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday samples from hair and blood gathered after the August 21 attack had tested positive for “signatures of sarin”, and that he was confident Congress would give its approval for strikes, “because they understand the stakes”.

However, some lawmakers have expressed doubts about President Barack Obama’s plan for a “limited, narrow” military operation, questioning its purpose and effectiveness.

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Tax policy rarely makes headlines in France, but the row between Gerard Depardieu and the government has given the issue unusual prominence in recent weeks.

Gerard Depardieu’s opposition to plans for a new 75% rate of income tax prompted him to announce last month that he was leaving the country. When Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called the move “shabby”, the actor said he would tear up his French passport.

The row took a new twist last week, when Gerard Depardieu applied for Russian citizenship, professing his love for a “great democracy”. Russian President Vladimir Putin gave him his new passport in person at the weekend.

The very public row between a larger-than-life personality and the Socialist government has put the issue of tax exiles to the fore.

But over the years many sportsmen, entertainers and economic leaders have quietly chosen to leave France for a variety of reasons.

Switzerland – the adoptive homes of celebrities from the world over – appears to be the destination of choice for prominent French exiles.

Tax policy rarely makes headlines in France, but the row between Gerard Depardieu and the government has given the issue unusual prominence in recent weeks

Tax policy rarely makes headlines in France, but the row between Gerard Depardieu and the government has given the issue unusual prominence in recent weeks

Singer Charles Aznavour – who had public rows over taxes with French authorities in 1970s – has lived there for four decades.

Actor Alain Delon set up a luxury goods company in his name in Geneva in 1978 and acquired Swiss citizenship in 1999.

Singer Johnny Hallyday moved to the ski resort of Gstaad in 2006. Media reports suggest he is paying much less in tax in Switzerland than he would in France at the moment – let alone if he had to face a 75% rate over 1 million euros in earnings.

World rally champion Sebastien Loeb became a Swiss resident in 2003. Three years ago he gave the following reason for the move: “French taxes are huge and the career of a sportsman does not last forever.”

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France’s top male tennis player, has resided in Switzerland since 2008, although he has not cited lower taxes as a reason for his decision.

Other past and present French tennis stars who have become Swiss residents include Guy Forget, Amelie Mauresmo, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, Fabrice Santoro, Gael Montfils, Cedric Pioline, Henri Leconte, and Marion Bartoli.

French-speaking southern Belgium is favored by some. Gerard Depardieu announced he was buying a house there last month. The Meunier family, which controls Carrefour, a supermarket chain, lives just across the border from France.

Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury goods group LVMH and France’s richest man, applied for Belgian citizenship in September – although he denied that this was for tax reasons, and said he would continue to pay taxes in France.

The actor Christian Clavier, Gerard Depardieu’s fellow star in the Asterix film franchise, moved to London last year. His agent described the move as temporary and not motivated by taxes.

France’s constitutional council has struck down a top income tax rate of 75% introduced by Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Raising taxes for those earning more than 1 million euros has been a flagship policy for Francois Hollande.

The policy angered France’s business community and prompted some wealthy citizens to say they would emigrate.

Francois Hollande’s government said it would rework the tax, due to take effect in 2013, to meet the council’s complaints.

In its ruling on Saturday, the Constitutional Council said the new tax rate “failed to recognize equality before public burdens” because, unlike other forms of income tax, it was to be applied to individuals rather than households.

For example, that meant a household in which one person earned more than 1 million euros would pay the tax, but a household in which two people earned 900,000 euros each would not have to pay.

France's constitutional council has struck down a top income tax rate of 75 percent introduced by Socialist President Francois Hollande

France’s constitutional council has struck down a top income tax rate of 75 percent introduced by Socialist President Francois Hollande

The council also rejected new methods for calculating the tax.

But Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government would press ahead with the new tax rate.

“The government will propose a new system that conforms with the principles laid down by the decision of the Constitutional Council,” he said.

The new rate was seen as largely symbolic since it would have only applied to some 1,500 people for a temporary period of two years.

But along with other tax rises, it has still been the subject of fierce debate in France.

French actor Gerard Depardieu recently announced he was moving to Belgium to avoid taxes, sparking a furious reaction from some on the left.

There was also speculation that people employed in high-income jobs like banking and finance would move elsewhere, including to London.

Francoise Hollande campaigned against the austerity policies used in many European countries affected by economic crisis, favoring higher taxes rather than spending cuts to bring down the deficit.

The 75% rate for high earners was included in the government’s 2013 budget, approved by parliament in September.

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Catherine Deneuve has defended fellow movie star Gerard Depardieu over his move to Belgium.

In an open letter Catherine Deneuve voiced fury that another actor, Philippe Torreton, had attacked Gerard Depardieu for leaving France “with a load of dosh”.

Catherine Deneuve said “he [Gerard Depardieu] is a great actor and you’re just expressing your resentment”. She starred with Gerard Depardieu in several classic French films.

Gerard Depardieu has criticized the Socialist government for its new 75% wealth tax.

Next year, the top rate of income tax in France is due to become 75% on earnings above 1 million euros ($1.3 million). Belgium’s highest tax rate is currently 50%.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has condemned Gerard Depardieu’s decision as “shabby”.

Catherine Deneuve has defended fellow movie star Gerard Depardieu over his move to Belgium

Catherine Deneuve has defended fellow movie star Gerard Depardieu over his move to Belgium

In her letter, headlined “Monsieur Torreton…” in the left-wing daily Liberation, Catherine Deneuve accused Philippe Torreton of “pettiness”.

“To take aim at his physique! His talent! This <<mess>>you speak of – what right do you have, what democratic motive do you claim as grounds for your dirty condemnation?”

Gerard Depardieu, 63, announced earlier this month that he was moving just over the French border to the small Belgian town of Nechin.

Catherine Deneuve starred with him in some landmarks of French cinema, including The Last Metro and, more recently, the Franco-Belgian comedy, Potiche.

On Wednesday another star of French cinema, Brigitte Bardot, also defended Gerard Depardieu, saying he was the victim of “unfair vilification”.

“Even if he is a fan of bullfighting, that does not prevent him being an exceptional actor who represents France with a unique fame and popularity,” said Brigitte Bardot, a campaigner for animal rights.

On Thursday the row spread to Russia where President Vladimir Putin addressed the actor’s move abroad during his marathon annual news conference.

Vladimir Putin told a big live audience: “I’m sure the French authorities did not want to offend Mr. Depardieu. But if he’d like to have a Russian passport, consider it settled.”

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Gerard Depardieu announces he is handing back his French passport after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault criticized him for moving to Belgium to avoid taxes.

In a letter to a newspaper, Gerard Depardieu, 63, lambasted the French government for punishing “success, creation and talent”.

Last week Gerard Depardieu announced he was moving to the small Belgian town of Nechin just over the French border.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the decision as “shabby”.

Next year, the top rate of income tax in France is due to become 75% on earnings above 1m euros. It is currently 50% in Belgium.

“I am not asking to be approved of, but I could at least be respected. All of those who have left France have not been insulted as I have been,” Gerard Depardieu said in the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche.

 

Gerard Depardieu announces he is handing back his French passport after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault criticized him for moving to Belgium to avoid taxes

Gerard Depardieu announces he is handing back his French passport after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault criticized him for moving to Belgium to avoid taxes

 

Gerard Depardieu accused the government of Socialist President Francois Hollande of driving France’s most talented figures out of the country.

“I am leaving because you consider that success, creation, talent, anything different, must be punished,” he said.

Depardieu said that during his long career he had paid 145 million euros to the French taxman.

“At no time have I failed in my duties. The historic films in which I took part bear witness to my love of France and its history,” he said.

Referring to Jean-Marc Ayrault, Gerard Depardieu asked: “Who are you to judge me in this way?”

The prime minister had suggested that Gerard Depardieu’s move to the town of Nechin, just over the border from the French city of Lille, was unpatriotic at a time of cutbacks.

“I find this quite shabby. All that just to avoid paying tax,” he said on France 2 TV channel.

“Paying a tax is an act of solidarity, a patriotic act.”

Belgium is an attractive option for wealthy French people.

Three months ago France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, announced plans to relocate to Belgium although he denied it was for tax reasons.

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French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has described the decision of Gerard Depardieu to move to Belgium to avoid higher taxes as “shabby”.

Jean-Marc Ayrault suggested that Gerard Depardieu’s move to the small town of Nechin, just over the border from the French city of Lille, was unpatriotic at a time of cutbacks.

Nechin’s mayor revealed this week that Gerard Depardieu, 63, had taken up home there.

Some of France’s wealthiest citizens are feeling victimized by the Socialist government.

There is a general disgruntlement in business circles over the tax rates. Luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault made headlines three months ago when he announced plans to relocate to Belgium, denying it was for tax reasons.

However, Gerard Depardieu’s departure is seen as less damaging to the government as his political views are known to be on the right and he is regarded as a rather grumpy, temperamental character.

Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France applies to individuals with assets above 1.3 million euros ($1.7 million), starting at a rate of 0.25%. Nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault suggested that Gerard Depardieu's move to Belgium, just over the border from the French city of Lille, was unpatriotic at a time of cutbacks

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault suggested that Gerard Depardieu’s move to Belgium, just over the border from the French city of Lille, was unpatriotic at a time of cutbacks

Next year, the top rate of income tax in France is due to become 75% on earnings above 1 million euros. It is currently 50% in Belgium.

Speaking on the France 2 TV channel, Jean-Marc Ayrault said: “I find this quite shabby… All that just to avoid paying tax.”

Gerard Depardieu was a “great star” whom “everyone loves as an artiste”, he added.

However, according to the prime minister: “Paying a tax is an act of solidarity, a patriotic act.”

French conservative opposition politician Jean-Francois Cope said the departure of Gerard Depardieu was “distressing for the country and its image”.

“You don’t see leading business figures or huge stars moving out of Belgium, Britain, Germany or Italy,” he added.

Gerard Depardieu is celebrated for such cinema roles as Cyrano de Bergerac and Obelix in the Asterix series, and can command 2 million euros per film.

The mayor of Nechin, Daniel Senesael, said the actor had other reasons for moving to his area, which is already home to some 2,800 French citizens including the Mulliez family, owners of French hypermarket chain Auchan and the Decathlon sports stores.

“I think he wanted to enjoy the atmosphere in Belgium, our identity, the rural, bucolic setting,” he told RTL radio.

However, it is quite obvious that the main reason for the move is for tax reasons.

It appears Gerard Depardieu’s new home is an old customs officer’s house, showing just how close it is to the border.

France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that 9 out of 10 citizens will not see their income taxes rise in the new budget.

He has confirmed that there is to be a new 75% tax rate for people earning more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million) a year.

Jean-Marc Ayrault has not yet detailed how much taxes will rise for the rest of the top 10%.

It is one of the key policies in what he called “a courageous, responsible budget – a budget of conquest”.

France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that 9 out of 10 citizens will not see their income taxes rise in the new budget

France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that 9 out of 10 citizens will not see their income taxes rise in the new budget

The government’s priorities were young people, training and cutting 10 billion euros from its spending, he said. This would demand an effort but would be fair, he added.

Official figures on Friday showed that French public debt had hit 91% of GDP between April and June this year.

It was 89.3% at the end of March, which was still well above the eurozone limit of 60%.

Jean-Marc Ayrault pointed out that debt had grown by 30% of GDP in the past five years and that the debt threatened future generations.

He also said that the budget would encourage small and medium businesses and that taking risks would also be encouraged.

In its first budget, the Socialist government repeated its promise to cut the annual deficit to the eurozone limit of 3% of GDP next year.

The deficit this year is expected to be 83.6 billion euros, which is 4.5% of GDP.

Jean-Marc Ayrault said that France was strong when it set itself ambitious targets.

But some analysts said that the targets were too ambitious because they assumed too much growth for the coming years.

They said that tax increases and spending cuts would make it difficult to achieve the 0.8% growth in 2013 and 2.0% growth in 2014 that are predicted by the budget.

 

France’s President Francois Hollande and his partner Valerie Trierweiler are living “separate lives” and could even announce their break-up over summer, GALA Magazine has revealed.

The prediction comes after Valerie Trierweiler, the partner of Francois Hollande, was attacked for sending a Twitter message supporting a rival of Segolene Royale, the mother of his four children, in parliamentary elections last month.

The controversial Twitter message was posted in June, less than a month after Francois Hollande was elected to president, causing a national outcry in France.

Now GALA Magazine has revealed that friends of the presidential couple believe they could now be set to end their seven-year relationship.

The magazine said: “Relations between them have become so tense that there is talk of them splitting up.

“These days they hardly see each other and the President is said to be thinking about leaving his partner, announcing the news over the summer before the government returns to work in the autumn.”

President Francois Hollande and his partner Valerie Trierweiler are living “separate lives” and could even announce their break-up over summer

President Francois Hollande and his partner Valerie Trierweiler are living “separate lives” and could even announce their break-up over summer

Francois Hollande was said to be “furious” at his girlfriend’s online antics and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault broke with protocol and told Valerie Trierweiler she should “know her place”.

Thomas Hollande, the eldest son of President Hollande and Segolene Royale, also scorned Valerie Trierweiler, confirming that he never wanted to see her again after she destroyed president’s “Mr. Normal” image.

Valerie Trierweiler, dubbed the Rottweiler, was initially defiant but apologized for her tweet two weeks after it was sent in June.

One friend of the First Lady told Le Parisien newspaper: “She knows she made a mistake.

“She did not appreciate the consequences that her tweet would have on the authority of the head of state, on the socialist party, on her children and those of Francois Hollande.”

Valerie Trierweiler also told French TV that: “I will count to 10 before tweeting.”

Francois Hollande has already publicly expressed his disapproval of the row between his current and former lovers during a televised Bastille Day address to the nation on July 14.

The President said: “I am for a clear distinction between public and private life.

“I believe private matters should be regulated in private and I have asked those close to me to respect this.”

President Francois Hollande also left the divorced mother-of-three at home in Paris when he travelled to London for meetings with both Prime Minister David Cameron and the Queen earlier this month.

Francois Hollande and Segolene Royal lived together for 28 years before the President left her for Valerie Trierweiler in 2005.

News magazine L’Express wrote of Valerie Trierweiler last month: “For her, Segolene Royal remains the object of profound and irrational jealousy that complicates political relations.

“It is almost impossible to even speak about the woman in front of her, even from a purely political angle.

“It’s stronger than she is.”

 

Newly elected French President Francois Hollande celebrated his first-ever National Day (known outside of France as Bastille Day) as head of state on Saturday with usual pomp, military parade and flight show.

At 10:00 a.m. local time, Francois Hollande presided the military parade down the Champs Elysees Avenue, which involved some 4,950 soldiers, 368 armored vehicles, 241 horses and 98 jets and helicopters.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hailed a “national unity,” adding that the Bastille Day represented “an opportunity for the French to come together around the values of France.”

The president’s girlfriend Valerie Trierweiler, who had been keeping a low profile after tweeting her support for a rival of Francois Hollande’s ex-companion Segolene Royal in legislative elections last month, made her first public appearance on Saturday.

French President Francois Hollande celebrated his first-ever National Day

French President Francois Hollande celebrated his first-ever National Day

The two-hour parade was closed by a paratroop air show near the Concorde Square. After the parade, Francois Hollande was scheduled to join injured soldiers in Afghanistan to lunch.

Francois Hollande promised to withdraw French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, two years ahead of the alliance’s plan.

However, the president said France would continue to support Afghanistan in civilian fields including health, education, culture and agriculture and also assist its defense and interior ministries in training.

“This July 14th is the last one of our combat units in Kapisa to pass in Afghanistan. Two thousand soldiers will return to their homes at the end of the year,” the president said when addressing a group of ministers and military figures on the eve of the National Day.

“It is an act of sovereignty that France has posed freely. I took this decision, in harmony with our allies, and with the agreement of the Afghan authorities,” he noted.

Francois Hollande also unveiled a new white paper on defense and national security, the fourth document of its kind for the country, which aims to “define our defense strategy and capabilities of our forces for the next 15 years,” he said.

“The objective is to ensure the long term performance, efficiency and balance of our forces,” he stressed.

In a televised interview later in the afternoon, the head of state will review his first two months of presidency, which has been overshadowed by eurozone crisis and jumping unemployment rate following a wave of job cuts in the country’s leading companies.

Wet summer weather is unlikely to dampen the enthusiasm of Parisians and visitors who turned out in large numbers to witness the annual celebration.

Gardens of the Elysee Palace will be open to visitors throughout the afternoon. Huge crowds are expected to enjoy fireworks display centered on the Eiffel Tower and across the country.

Bastille Day marks July 14, 1789, when French citizens stormed the Bastille prison in Paris, which helped spark the French Revolution.