An accident in a nuclear reactor in the south of France went unreported in the European press even though the incident raised questions concerning the safety of nuclear energy plants such as the ones France has promised to construct in Libya. The incident occurred the first week in July just as Nicolas Sarkozy assumed the role of president of the European Union. The plant malfunction led to 30,000 litres of a solution containing 12% enriched uranium to overflow from a reservoir into the nearby Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers. Evangelia Petit, admitted the concentration of uranium in the two rivers was now 1,000 times higher than normal but she downplayed the consequences of the accident insisting the risk posed to humans was “slight.”
However, local authorities apparently did not accept her verdict that things were not that bad because there was uranium in the rivers. Inhabitants of nearby towns and villages have been banned from fishing, swimming, drawing well water or using water from the polluted rivers for irrigation purposes. The area is noted for its grapes which are used in making several brands of wines.
The Green Party blog of Malta expressed concern that France was going to construct nuclear energy plants in nearby Libya. There is fear an accident in a nuclear plant to be built on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea might result in extensive pollution to a water body which is essential to the lives of millions.
There is no question great improvements have been made in safety of nuclear plants, but the world has yet to reach a point in which the presence of nuclear plants doesn’t also cause a risk to local populations.
France is enjoying a renewed love affair with the trolley as several cities from Nantes to Marseilles are constructing high-tech streetcar lines as important new components of urban redevelopment. A bright yellow with black stripes tram now runs through Mulhouse at eight minute intervals like a streak of light. Mayor Michel Samuel Weis says, “we wanted a tram that called attention to itself as a symbol of economic vitality, environmental awareness and civic improvement–transportation as an integrated cultural concept.” In order to install the new network which also connects outlying municipalities, streets, sidewalks and bike paths had to be thoroughly overhauled and the strips of land on which the tracks run have been given fresh green turf.
The tram lines have been constructed to be people friendly with station platforms that come up to the height of the tram door so a m other can simply wheel out the baby carriage. The French government hopes the trams will help deal with automobile gridlock by offering a relaxed and comfortable way to get around a city. The tram is also able to connect poorer areas of a city and other localities with the city’s center enabling poorer people access to all aspects of modern urban life.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, confirmed that his government had been in contact with Hamas officials. His representative in talking with Hamas is a retired ambassador who has told the media of his contacts. “It would be difficult to deny it(talks with Hamas) since the man who is in touch with them has spoken.” Kouchner emphasized, that “having contacts is necessary. We had some before the invasion(takeover of Gaza)” by Israel forces. The French Foreign Minister pointed out the obvious, “they are not relations, they are contacts. We have to be able to speak to each other if we want to play a role, if we want our emissaries to go to Gaza.”
France’s former ambassador, Yves Aubin de La Messuziere, told Le Figaro, Hamas officials had repeated to him their offer of a long term accomodation with the Jewish state if Israel agrees to the 1967 borders. Hamas officials told him, “they were prepared to stop suicide attacks and what surprised me was that the Hamas leaders recognize the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas.”
If a nation does not accept the necessity of discussing issues with an enemy how will it ever be able to change policies in order to reach an agreement?
An interesting case was brought before the Supreme Court of India by the Singh Legal Foundation which asked it to accept jurisdiction over the decision by France to ban Sikhs from wearing the turben. The Court was sympathetic to the issue raised by the Sikh group, but noted: “We can only protect the fundamental rights of the citizens within the boundary of India. Fundamental rights cannot be protected in foreign lands.” The Singh Foundation argued the French ban violated the rights of Sikhs and it was the duty of the government of India to intervene. However, the Supreme Court noted that Sikhs could seek the assistance of the International Court of Justice or the European Court.
We increasingly live in times when a decision in one country impacts the lives of those living in other nations. The Supreme Court of India is correct on one point, international courts must assume responsibility for violation of human rights within an individual nation.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon while on trip to Cyprus stated that his nation opposes the entry of Turkey into the European Union. He used the occasion for his talks with Cyprus President Demitris Christoflas to make clear his nation is against Turkey’s entry into the EU because it has “occupation troops” in Cyprus which is an EU member. His comment is among the first times in which the French government has publicly bluntly stated that it is against Turkey becoming a member of the European Union.
During the past few months, French President Sarkozy has floated many ideas such as formation of a Mediterranean Union in which Turkey could play a leading role and has dodged clearly explaining his reasons for opposing Turkey’s membership application. Not many believe Fillon’s reason that opposition is based on the situation in Cyprus. It most probably stems from the large number of Muslims in France and fear that Turkey’s membership would result in even more Muslims coming to France.