France Weighs an Anti-Terrorism Bill as Insecurity Widens a Political Fracture

PARIS — The French government, responding to several attacks over the past seven months, presented a new anti-terrorism bill on Wednesday that would allow intense algorithmic surveillance of phone and internet communications and tighten restrictions on convicted terrorists emerging from prison.

Prepared before the latest terrorist attack — the fatal stabbing five days ago of a police employee by a radicalized Tunisian immigrant — the bill assumed greater urgency in a country where feelings of insecurity have spread.

“There have been nine attacks in a row that we could not detect through current means,” Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, told France Inter radio. “We continue to be blind, doing surveillance on normal phone lines that nobody uses any longer.”

The draft bill, prepared by Mr. Darmanin, came in a political and social climate envenomed by Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, who applauded a letter published this month by 20 retired generals that described France as being in a state of “disintegration” and warned of a possible coup in thinly veiled terms.

Ms. Parly said on Twitter, alluding to the far right leader’s candidacy in the presidential election next year.

She continued: “The politicization of the armed forces suggested by Ms. Le Pen would weaken our military and therefore France itself. The armed forces are not there to campaign but to defend France and protect the French.”

The defense minister said the retired officers involved could be disciplined, and checks were being conducted to verify whether any active-service military personnel were involved.

The letter, published on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup by generals opposed to France’s granting independence to Algeria, amounted to a distillation of the extreme right’s conviction that France is being torn apart by the kind of violence that last week killed the police officer, Stéphanie Monfermé. Her assailant’s position of having been in France illegally for a decade before regularizing his status only fueled the right’s ire.

The retired generals alluded to the “suburban hordes” — a derogatory reference to the mainly Muslim immigrants gathered in aging tower-block developments around major French cities — who they said were detaching segments of the nation “to transform them into territories subject to dogmas opposed to our Constitution.”

One such dogma, they made clear, was “Islamism” and another rampant “racialism” — a word used often in France to denounce the importation from the United States of forms of identity politics that see issues through the prism of race.

Ms. Le Pen has been engaged in what French commentators call a “banalization” operation aimed at making her look more mainstream. Her outburst clearly did not help this effort. An attempted pivot in a radio interview, in which she said that all problems should be solved peacefully, betrayed her unease.

Mr. Darmanin’s draft bill would, if approved by Parliament, pave the way for increased use of computer algorithms that allow the automatic processing of data from phones and web addresses to detect potential terror threats. This use, patchy and experimental until now, would be enshrined in law, and intelligence services would be able to keep the data for research purposes for up to two months.

Laurent Nuñez, France’s national intelligence and counterterrorism coordinator, told France Inter that the technique would apply to communications with people living in sensitive areas, such as Syria, where strongholds of jihadist terrorists remain.

“An algorithm tomorrow will not be able to detect the content of this communication,” Mr. Nuñez said, by way of example. But it would be able “to detect that an individual in France has come into contact with an individual in northwestern Syria.”

Intelligence services could then ask for permission to further investigate the case.

Mr. Darmanin, responding to concerns that civil liberties will be gravely infringed, said that several layers of authorization would be required before tapping the conversations of people detected as suspect by the algorithms.

Concern about infractions of civil liberties in the fight against terrorism have been growing for some time. Arthur Messaud, a lawyer for an association that defends personal online rights and freedom, told France Inter the scope of the new measures was unclear. For example, would all instant messaging be monitored?

The draft bill would also allow the government to monitor terrorists who have completed their prison terms by requiring them to live in certain areas, limiting their movements and barring them from going anywhere — like a sports stadium — that presents “a particular terrorism risk.”

Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

View Source

France’s Outspoken Student Union Positions Itself at the Vanguard of Change

PARIS — A powerful government minister recently condemned it as an organization whose activities are racist and could lead to “fascism.” Lawmakers accused it of promoting “separatism” and of aligning with “Islamo-leftism” before demanding its dissolution.

France’s 114-year-old university student union, Unef, has a long history of drawing the ire of the political establishment — most notably over the years when it lobbied for the independence of the country’s most important colony, Algeria, or took to the streets against employment contracts for youths.

But the recent harsh attacks zeroed in on something that resonates just as deeply in a France struggling to adapt to social change: its practice of limiting some meetings to racial minorities to discuss discrimination.

In recent days, the controversy over Unef — its French acronym standing for the National Union of Students of France — spilled into a third week, melding with larger explosive debates roiling the country.

endorsed banning the group and others that organize restricted meetings, attaching a “Unef amendment” to President Emmanuel Macron’s law against Islamism, a political ideology the government blames for inspiring recent terrorist attacks. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Macron’s party, still needs to ratify the bill, expected to be one of the defining pieces of legislation of his presidency.

French Academy or literary prize juries, are structured in ways that stifle change.

The union’s transformation has reflected widespread changes among French youths who have much more relaxed attitudes toward gender, race, sexual orientation and, as recent polls have shown, religion and France’s strict secularism, known as laïcité.

Unef’s change — some hope and others fear — may portend larger social change.

“We scare people because we represent the future,’’ said Mélanie Luce, 24, Unef’s president and the daughter of a Black woman from Guadeloupe and a Jewish man from southern France.

In an organization dominated by white men until just a few years ago, Unef’s current leadership shows a diversity rarely seen in France. Ms. Luce is only its fifth female president and the first who is not white. Its four other top leaders include two white men, a woman whose parents converted to Islam, and a Muslim man whose parents immigrated from Tunisia.

interview about Unef’s practice of holding meetings limited to racial minorities.

threats.

In a subsequent radio interview of his own, the national education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, agreed with the host’s characterization of the restricted meetings as racist.

“People who claim to be progressive and who, in claiming to be progressive, distinguish people by the color of their skin are leading us to things that resemble fascism,” Mr. Blanquer said.

Mr. Blanquer has led the government’s broader pushback against what he and conservative intellectuals describe as the threat from progressive American ideas on race, gender and postcolonialism.

France’s culture wars have heated up as Mr. Macron shifts to the right to fend off a looming challenge from the far right before elections next year. His government recently announced that it would investigate universities for “Islamo-leftist” tendencies that “corrupt society.”

interview with a French newspaper.

Mr. Blanquer declined interview requests, as did Frédérique Vidal, the minister of higher education.

Aurore Bergé, a lawmaker from Mr. Macron’s party, said that Unef’s actions lead to identity politics that, instead of uniting people in a common cause, excludes all but “those who suffer from discrimination.”

“We’re driving out the others as if they don’t have the right of expression,” said Ms. Bergé, who recently unsuccessfully submitted an amendment that would have barred Muslim minors from wearing the veil in public.

Unef’s current top leaders say that in focusing on discrimination, they are fighting for France’s ideals of liberty, equality and human rights.

They view the recent attacks as rear-guard moves by an establishment that refuses to squarely face deep-rooted discrimination in France, cannot come to terms with the growing diversity of its society, and brandishes universalism to silence new ideas and voices, out of fear.

youth employment contract in 2006. Back then, the union was more concerned with issues like tuition and access to jobs, said Mr. Julliard, the first openly gay president of the union.

Mr. Julliard said that the union’s restricted meetings and its opposition to the Aeschylus play left him uncomfortable, but that young people were now “much more sensitive, in the good sense of the word,” to all forms of discrimination.

“We have to let each generation lead its battles and respect the way it does it, though it doesn’t prevent me from having an opinion,” he said.

William Martinet, a former president, said that the focus on gender eventually led to an examination of racism. While Unef’s top leaders tended to be economically comfortable white men from France’s “grandes écoles,” or prestigious universities, many of its grass-roots activists were of working-class, immigrant and nonwhite backgrounds.

Maryam Pougetoux, now one of the union’s two vice presidents.

“I don’t think that if I’d arrived 10 years earlier, I would have been felt as welcome as in 2017,” Ms. Pougetoux said.

But the reception was far different on the outside.

Last fall, when a hijab-wearing Ms. Pougetoux appeared in the National Assembly to testify on the Covid epidemic’s impact on students, four lawmakers, including one from Mr. Macron’s party, walked out in protest.

The wearing of the Muslim veil has fueled divisions in France for more than a generation. But for Unef, the issue was now settled.

Its leaders had long considered the veil a symbol of female oppression. Now they saw it simply as a choice left to women.

“To really defend the condition of women,” said Adrien Liénard, the other vice president, “is, in fact, giving them the right to do what they want.”

View Source

Russia Trumpets Coronavirus Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V to a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

View Source

Russia Trumpets Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V from a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

View Source

France Eases Declassification Rules, Opening Up Secret Algerian War Archives

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday announced that the declassification of secret archives more than 50 years old would be accelerated, a move that will facilitate access to documents related to the Algerian War — a controversial chapter of France’s history that authorities have long been reluctant to face.

A statement from the Élysée Palace said that starting Wednesday a new rule would “significantly shorten the time required for the declassification procedure” in order to “encourage respect for historical truth.”

Mr. Macron has recently taken a series of steps to lift the veil on France’s colonial history in Algeria, a lasting trauma that continues to shape modern France. The change announced Tuesday was intended to respond to growing complaints from historians and archivists about strict government instructions for declassifying archives.

2011 government requirement that every document classified “secret” or “top secret” be formally declassified before being made public. That contradicts a 2008 law that calls for the immediate release of secret documents 50 years after they were produced.

The 2011 instruction had been loosely enforced, or even ignored, by archivists in recent years. But the General Secretariat for Defense and National Security, a powerful unit inside the prime minister’s office, started enforcing the rules last year.

Tens of thousands of once-public documents were subsequently resealed, impeding historical research and reimposing secrecy on information that had been previously revealed.

Robert O. Paxton, an American historian who revealed French authorities’ collaboration with Nazi Germany, had challenged the 2011 requirement before France’s supreme court.

Ms. Branche, who is leading the legal fight, said the group would keep up its challenge despite Mr. Macron’s announcement on Tuesday.

It is unclear what motivated the effort to enforce the declassification policy last year. But Mr. Macron’s desire to pull back the curtain on the Algerian War has ruffled some feathers in the military, which oversees most archives relating to defense matters.

Fabrice Riceputi, a historian of the Algerian War, said that the declassification policy had led to some absurd situations.

2008 law.

In fact, the report was anything but secret, as it had been first revealed in a 1962 book and then cited in several historical studies in the 1990s.

report on the Algerian War that advised putting an end to the page-by-page declassification process but also returning “as soon as possible” to declassifying any secret document more than 50 years old, as required by the 2008 law.

In its statement, the Élysée Palace said that the government would try to reconcile the 2011 instruction and the 2008 law through legislation by this summer.

“It is a question of coordination between different legal regimes,” Mr. Ricard said in a recent interview, as he carefully flipped the pages of a (declassified) archive file on Maurice Audin, a mathematician who was tortured to death by the French Army in Algeria in 1957.

Documents on Mr. Audin are part of about 100 files released in 2019 and 2020 after Mr. Macron called for the opening of all archives dealing with people who disappeared during the war.

official acknowledgment last week that France had “tortured and murdered” a leading Algerian independence fighter in 1957 was much criticized by the French right.

But nearly 60 years after the end of the war, the issue of France’s colonial past has perhaps never been so pressing, underlying a racial awakening by immigrants in the country and fueling heated debates on the country’s model of integration.

website listing hundreds of names of people who went missing during the war, based on archival research he was able to do before the new instructions were enforced.

Within weeks, he said, he had received a torrent of testimonies from Algerian families, enabling him to document more than 300 cases.

“It wouldn’t stop,” he said.

View Source

In Reconciliation Act, Macron Acknowledges Truth of Algerian Lawyer’s Death

PARIS — Emmanuel Macron, the first French president born after the brutal Algerian war of independence, has taken a further step toward reconciliation through truth by declaring that a leading Algerian lawyer and nationalist did not die by suicide in 1957, as France had long claimed, but was tortured and killed by French soldiers.

Ali Boumendjel, a prominent wartime defender of Algerians imprisoned by the French, was captured on Feb. 5, 1957, during the Battle of Algiers and held in secret for 43 days.

Speaking “in the name of France,” Mr. Macron said Mr. Boumendjel “did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then assassinated.”

For decades, and despite persistent pressure from the lawyer’s late widow, Malika Boumendjel, France clung to the story that the death was a suicide. It did so even after the French army general, Paul Aussaresses, admitted in a book published in 2001 that he had killed Mr. Boumendjel by defenestration through a sixth-floor window.

report commissioned by Mr. Macron on the legacy of colonization and a war for independence between the two countries. Written by Benjamin Stora, a prominent French historian, and made public in January, it called for a Memories and Truth Commission, now established, to shed light on the conflict’s grim history and to heal wounds.

the widespread use of torture by French forces, and specifically its use against Maurice Audin, a member of the Algerian Communist Party who was also killed by French soldiers in 1957.

Mr. Macron, who is facing a presidential election 14 months from now and knows how explosive the Algerian issue still is on the right of the political spectrum, has insisted that there will be “no repentance nor apologies.” The French ambassador to Algeria, François Gouyette, said in an interview published this week that reconciliation must be achieved through a spirit of “neither denial nor repentance.”

Jean Castex, Mr. Macron’s prime minister, said last November that French “self-flagellation” around the theme of colonization was regrettable. He called for the country to assume its history and find in it a source of pride.

The 60th anniversary of the end of the war will be marked in March next year, one month before the first round of the presidential election. Mr. Macron is determined to advance his quest for Franco-Algerian reconciliation before then, in part to head off the anti-immigrant challenge of Marine Le Pen.

A perennial candidate, Ms. Le Pen has been working hard to appeal to the moderate center-right by dropping some of her more extreme positions, like exiting the European Union and the euro. Her National Rally party, formerly the National Front, exploited resentments over the loss of Algeria to build its support after its founding almost a half-century ago.

“No crime, no atrocity committed by anyone during the Algerian War, can be excused or hidden,” Mr. Macron said in his statement. “They must be viewed with courage and lucidity, in the absolute respect of all those whose life and destiny they destroyed.”

View Source