At midnight France is shutting down all restaurants, cafes, cinemas, theatres and “non-essential” retail shops, as the coronavirus continues to spread, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and similar public services will remain open. The restrictions are entering force from March 15 onwards till further notice.
The transport system will also maintain functioning, however the Prime Minister called citizens to limit their travel to absolutely necessary. He also underlined that French failed to show “discipline” in respecting the previous warnings to restrain from public gatherings, including family celebrations.
A baker has created coronavirus-themed Easter eggs, hoping to bring positivity to people as Covid-19 hits France.
French chocolatier Jean-Francois Pre found inspirtion in the novel virus 3D model.The ironic creator has sold dozens to customers in western France’s Finistere region over the last week – and he does it, he says, because “it makes them smile in these difficult times.”
An unprecedented law enforcement operation involving five countries has resulted in the takedown of one of the most active networks of cargo thieves operating across Europe. Composed of over 100 members, this organised crime group is believed to have committed over 150 acts of cargo theft for a total estimated damage worth in excess of €10 million. (Image: illustration).
The coordinated actions took place under the umbrella of a joint investigation, code-named ‘ARROW’, coordinated by Europol at the international level.
The latest phase of Operation ARROW has resulted in the arrest today in Romania of 37 members of this highly professional criminal syndicate. 73 house searches were carried out in the early hours of the morning across the country by the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) and the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) with the support of Europol on-the-ground.
These arrests this week in Romania follow those in other European countries of other members of the same criminal group. 10 suspects were arrested in France earlier this year by the French National Gendarmerie as part of a parallel action. A further 10 suspects were arrested in Spain, 6 in the Netherlands and 5 in Sweden. European arrests warrants have been issued for the remaining members at large.
The arrested individuals, who are originally from Romania, are suspected of carrying out thefts from moving lorries, even as the drivers continued to drive – obvious to the crimes – at high speed on motorways.
Executing such thefts requires a high degree of sophistication. One car would start to drive slowly in front of the lorry while two other cars held up the other traffic. A fourth car would drive up close behind the lorry. One of the criminals would climb out of the car’s sunroof onto the bonnet and break open the lock on the lorry with an angle grinder. The valuable cargo would then either be transferred to their vehicle, or thrown on the side of the road to be picked up later. The driver of the lorry and other road-users were often completely unaware of what was going on.
Involved from the very onset of the investigation in December 2016, Europol brought together the different police forces involved to help them connect the dots between their own national investigations and provided analytical support before and during the action days.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he would agree North Macedonia and Albania to begin talks on joining the European Union if the bloc’s executive gave them a positive review next month.
Macron’s comments at the Munich Security Conference ended his opposition to the two Balkan countries’ engagement into talks towards EU membership and reassure other European leaders that France still backs expanding the bloc to new members.
“We are waiting for the (European Commission) report in March … depending on that, if the results are positive and confidence is established, then we should be in a position to open the negotiations,” Macron announced the conference.
Macron had refused to approve the start of so-called accession negotiations at a summit in October, saying the process of admitting new members needed to change. One French minister called the accession process an “endless soap opera“.
Concerned by Chinese and Russian influence in the six states that aspire to join the bloc – Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and North Macedonia – Germany and the European Commission said Macron was shortsighted to block them.
The announcement of President Macron provocked a wave of vivid reactions from entire political specturm: from laudit of European Liberals as Guy Verhofstad to condemnation by French Conservatives as Nicolas Bay, who used social media to express his indignation: “NO to MAFIA STATE!”
“While #Macron put aside all negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia two months ago, it turns around and is about to lift the opposition of France! NO TO MAFIA STATES and ISLAMISTS STRONGHOLD!” – Member of European Parliament Bay wrote on his Twitter microblog.
Britain’s exit from the European Union was made possible by the “lies uttered” during the June 2016 referendum campaign but also because Europe has not changed enough, Emmanuel Macron said on January 31, this Brexit must constitute “a historic alarm signal” for the EU. (Image: archive).
“This departure is a shock, it is a historic alarm signal which must resound in each of our countries”, declared the president of the Republic in a televised speech diffused less than six hours before the effective exit of the Great Brittany from the EU at midnight (23:00 GMT).
“We must remember at all times what lies can lead to in our democracies,” he continued.
“This Brexit is possible, has been possible and will come into effect in a few hours because we have too often made Europe a scapegoat for our own difficulties, because also we have not changed our Europe enough. We need Europe more than ever “, said Emmanuel Macron.
“I am aware that Europe can only continue to move forward if we reform it in depth, to make it more sovereign, more democratic, closer to our fellow citizens and therefore also simpler in its daily life and that we succeed in rebuilding a clearer European project for all of you. ”
The French Border Guard together with the French National Police (Police nationale) and the Dutch Royal Marechaussee (Koninklijke Marechaussee), supported by Europol and Eurojust, dismantled a large criminal network involved in migrant smuggling.
On the action day, law enforcement authorities arrested 23 suspected members of the criminal network (19 in France and 4 in the Netherlands), carried out five searches and seized firearms and vehicles. Irregular migrants discovered during the searches were brought to safety.
The criminal network is suspected of having facilitated the transportation of around 10 000 Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi-Kurdish and Syrian migrants from the French areas of Le Mans and Poitiers to the United Kingdom. The migrants were transported in life-threatening conditions, concealed in refrigerated – often-overcrowded – lorries (up to 20 migrants in a lorry).
The migrants paid up to €7 000 for the dangerous journey. The payments were collected via an undercover hawala banking system run by a suspect established in the Netherlands.
In total, the criminal gang is suspected to have gained around €70 million in profit from their illegal activities.
Europol supported this high-priority case by organising two operational meetings, facilitating the information exchange and providing tailored analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed two experts on-the-spot, one in France and one in the Netherlands, to cross-check operational information in real-time. This case was also developed as part of EMPACT JOT Dunqett operational action.
Image: Europol courtesy
The flags of France are at half-mast outside NATO Headquarters to honour the fallen French soldiers in Mali.
Thirteen French soldiers were killed in Mali when their helicopters collided at low altitude as they swooped in at nightfall to support ground forces engaged in combat with Islamist militants.
A Tiger attack helicopter crashed into a Cougar military transport mid-air as it manoeuvred to engage the militants, who were fleeing on motorbikes and in pick-up trucks.
The two aircraft collapsed not far from each other, killing everyone on board including six commandos and an officer.
It is the heaviest toll in a single combat operation since 1986 when a French sea surveillance plane crashed into a mountain in northern Djibouti with the loss of 19 soldiers.
Estonia is one of the Allies of France, expressing it profound condolences. It is also
about to commit 160 military personnel to international operations, along with 234 service members to readiness units, next year. This includes a continued contribution to the French-led anti-insurgency Operation Barkhane, in the West African country of Mali, for which 95 personnel will be assigned. The Barkhane contingent will increase from 50 to 95 troops, and special operations forces will be deployed.