France to examine laws curbing Sunday shopping
Some 20,000 Roma migrants from Romania and Bulgaria live in hundreds of squalid make-shift camps on the outskirts of French cities. Tensions with local communities have made Roma migration a contentious issue ahead of municipal elections next year. Romanian and Bulgarian citizens currently have the right to travel with a passport throughout the Schengen zone, which removes border controls among most EU countries as well as non-members such as Switzerland and Norway. Temporary restrictions that imposed passport checks were put in place when the two countries joined the EU in 2007, and are due to be lifted in January. But each EU country has the right to veto the admission of a member state into the Schengen zone and a vote is expected before the end of the year. Germany said in March that it too opposed the entry of the two countries into the zone. Fabius said France was concerned about the ability of Romanian and Bulgarian authorities to ensure border security. “People coming from outside Europe could enter Romania and Bulgaria and then freely enter the rest of Europe,” Fabius told France Inter radio. “There’s a problem there, we must be sure that Bulgaria and Romania have the means to verify that. “For the moment, it strikes me that those conditions have not been met,” he said. Last week, Interior Minister Manuel Valls caused uproar in the left-wing governing coalition by saying most immigrant Roma could not be integrated into society and should go home.
France against Romania, Bulgaria joining Schengen zone
Insurgents launched an attack on the Malian army in the rebel bastion of Kidal on Monday, in fresh violence since the breakdown of peace talks. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which is fighting for autonomy in northern Mali, ambushed soldiers at a bank, the scene of a fierce firefight on Sunday night, a senior Malian army officer told AFP. Keita met French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday. Before arriving in France he attended a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York. The security situation in Mali has worsened in his absence. Four suicide bombers blew up their car at a military barracks in the desert city of Timbuktu on Saturday, killing two civilians, an attack claimed by the north African group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. On Monday, dozens of disgruntled soldiers involved in Mali’s 2012 coup fired guns in the air at a protest, wounding and taking hostage a close aide of mutiny leader Amadou Sanogo, military sources said. The soldiers, based in the garrison town of Kati, near the capital Bamako, are unhappy at not having been promoted alongside colleagues also involved in ousting then-president Amadou Toumani Toure in March last year. There was confusion over whether Colonel Habib Diallo had been released, with some soldiers inside the camp saying he had been rushed to hospital for treatment on a bullet wound while others said he remained a hostage. Sanogo led a group of fellow mid-level officers in overthrowing Toure on March 22 last year, upending what had been considered one of west Africa’s flagship democracies. The mutiny precipitated the fall of northern Mali to Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda but a military intervention by French and African troops in January chased the rebels from the region’s main cities.
“The government notes that Sunday rest is an essential principle in terms of protecting workers and social cohesion” while recognizing that “the existence of Sunday work is a reality,” his office said in a noncommittal statement. The current debate stems from a 2009 move by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right government that eased back curbs on Sunday store openings. The efforts faced political opposition and resulted in a mish-mash of legal waivers, special-zone exemptions and other loopholes. Most French consumers are used to the country’s Sunday rhythm: Shopping is restricted to tourist areas or owner-operated stores. Restaurants are exempt, but even supermarkets only open a half-day with some exceptions. France, the world’s most visited country, gets 7 percent of its gross domestic product from tourism. But France ranks only third in terms of tourist spending, and French tourism boosters say that is directly attributable to Sunday store closings. Europe is far from uniform on the issue. Many British stores open on Sundays. In Germany Europe’s economic engine a 57-year-old law requires stores to close at 2 p.m. on Saturday until Monday, though some exemptions apply like at train or gasoline stations. Berlin allows stores to open 10 Sundays a year. In Spain, the Madrid area has peeled back Sunday-closing restrictions in recent years, aiming to boost job creation and commerce to help lift the country out of economic crisis.