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France

Yearbook 2009

France. At the beginning of the year, the government presented a plan to support the crisis-hit French automotive industry; Renault and Peugeot-Citroën would receive five-year loans of EUR 3 billion each at favorable interest rates. France was also the first major economy to impose strict limits on bonus payments to banks and other financial institutions.

2009 France

According to countryaah, many French people were nevertheless dissatisfied with the government's efforts to counter the crisis. In January, hundreds of thousands took part in a one-day strike that became the most widespread manifestation since President Nicolas Sarkozy took office in May 2007. Unions were unusually united in the demands on household spending and consumption and stopping public sector austerity. Several similar actions with massive participation were held during the spring.

2009 FranceDespite widespread protests against Sarkozy and the right-wing government, his party, the Union for a People's Movement (UMP), received strong support in the June European elections. One reason was continued internal strife in the largest opposition party. The Socialist Party was shaken during the year by accusations of gross electoral fraud during the bitter power struggle in connection with the party leadership election in late 2008, when Martine Aubry defeated Ségolène Royal by just 42 votes. During the year, the socialists also faced a new challenger when the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) was formed by old communists, opponents of globalization and other groups on the far left.

In June, Sarkozy gave a historic speech, when, after a constitutional change, he became the first president since the 19th century to speak before Parliament's two chambers. Sarkozy announced that he did not intend to pursue austerity policies in order to overcome the budget deficit and also not agree to tax increases. He also stormed against the use of burqa, the variant of Muslim headscarf that also conceals his entire face.

In July, 25 people were convicted of involvement in the kidnapping and three weeks of torture that led to the death of a young Jewish man in 2006. Among those involved were members of a Muslim gang who called themselves the "Barbarians." The leader was sentenced to life imprisonment and the others received between six months and 18 years in prison.

A bill on file sharing sparked extensive debate during the year. According to a first variant, however, which was rejected by the Constitutional Council, complaints by copyright holders about illegal downloading of film, music or computer games could lead to a closed Internet connection. A modified version adopted by Parliament in September meant the creation of a new authority that could issue two warnings to network pirates and then ask a court to decide on the suspension. The law was considered one of the stricter in the world in terms of file sharing.

The "trial of the century" began in September against former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who was accused of slandering the party mate and the former rival of the Sarkozy presidential post. The case concerned the so-called Clearstream business, a staggering tavern that began in 2004 when a judge received anonymous information that several leading politicians - including Sarkozy - had secret bank accounts used for bribery in arms deals. The information turned out to be false and later charges were filed against de Villepin, who was accused of deliberately spreading the false information. The trial ended in October; they were expected after New Year.

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