Paris Renames Metro Stations To Honour World Cup Stars

Six Paris metro stations were temporarily renamed in honour of France’s World Cup-winning champions after their 4-2 rollercoaster victory against Croatia.

Among the changes, station Victor Hugo became “Victor Hugo Lloris”, named after the team’s captain and goalkeeper, whose second-half mistake gave Croatia faint hopes of a late comeback.

The metro stop at Bercy has become “Bercy les Bleus”, a play on words to thank the team. The station Avron has taken the name “Nous Avron Gagne”, a play on the French to mean “We have won”.

Charles de Gaulle-Etoile was turned into “On a 2 Etoiles”, meaning “We have two stars” — referring to the country’s first World Cup win on home soil in 1998 and last night’s victory in Russia.

Notre-Dame des Champs has become “Notre Didier Deschamps”, while Champs-Elysees- Clemenceau has been changed to “Deschamps Elysees-Clemenceau” — both stations pay tribute to the team’s coach Didier Deschamps, who was also a midfielder in the 1998 side.

The changes represent “winks” to the team, Paris transport operator RATP said Monday.

It said the squad will use an open top double-decker electric bus to greet fans between the Place de l’Etoile, site of the Arc de Triomphe, and the Elysee Palace.

The players are expected to land at Roissy Airport on Monday afternoon and will be taken directly to the celebrations before being received by President Emmanuel Macron.

AFP

France to Embark on Victory Parade Following Triumph

The World Cup-winning French team is travelling home on Monday for a victory parade on the Champs Elysees following their triumph in Moscow that sparked wild celebrations nationwide.

France overcame a determined Croatia team to win 4-2 in Sunday’s final, with teenager Kylian Mbappe applying the coup de grace and cementing his place as a new global superstar at the age of just 19.

Millions of fans in France celebrated into the night, honking car horns and flying the tricolour flag while the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe were lit up in the national colours of blue, white and red.

The Champs Elysees, the gathering point for all national celebrations, was being cleaned up after Sunday night’s mass party and will be used for a parade by the team on an electric open-top bus on Monday from around 1500 GMT.

Many commentators focused on the outpouring of patriotism and sense of national unity created by the multiracial French team, many of whose stars including Mbappe and Paul Pogba hail from deprived and often overlooked areas of Paris.

People on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris celebrated France’s World Cup victory
Laurent Joffrin, editor of the leftwing Liberation newspaper, said they had lived up to the ideal of “the republic that we love: united and diverse, patriotic and open, national without being nationalist”.

“Endless happiness,” trumpeted the headline in France’s L’Equipe sports newspaper, while the Journal du Dimanche weekly rushed out a special edition in Paris hailing a team which has ascended “To the Stars”.

– ‘Champions of the world’ –

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin caresses the World Cup trophy
In Paris, the metro system temporarily renamed six of its stations in honour of the key players, with the Victor Hugo stop — named after the famed 19th-century writer — becoming Victor Hugo Lloris after the team’s captain and goalkeeper.

Two stations were rebaptised in tribute to coach Didier Deschamps, who captained the national side to victory on home soil in 1998.

Alongside Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer, he has become only the third man to win the World Cup both as a player and coach.

Deschamps, who was soaked in champagne by his overjoyed players in a chaotic press conference, said afterwards that the win was “just as big and just as beautiful” as his 1998 triumph.

“There are two things that matter — one is that these 23 players are now together for life, whatever happens, and also that from now on they will not be the same again, because they are world champions,” he said.

“To be champions of the world as professional footballers, there is nothing better.”

France defender Raphael Varane cradles the World Cup trophy
French President Emmanuel Macron, who attended the game at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, is set to host the players at a reception at the presidential palace along with 1,000 children later Monday.

The 40-year-old centrist had an eventful evening in Moscow where he was pictured wildly celebrating each of the goals, was drenched in a downpour during the trophy presentation and then became a social media sensation.

The latter was down to French defender Benjamin Mendy, who posted a video of the former investment banker attempting to “dab” in the players’ changing room — a form of celebration imported from American football and rap.

– ‘Extraordinary soccer’ –

The Eiffel Tower showed the two years when France won the World Cup, 20 years apart
Macron will be relieved that an evening of joyous and occasionally chaotic celebrations back home passed off without any major incident following a string of terror attacks in France since 2015 that have claimed nearly 250 lives.

There were 292 people arrested nationwide and isolated clashes between police and rowdy crowds in Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

Several French supporters were involved in fatal accidents, including a man who threw himself into a shallow canal in the city of Annecy.

For Croatia, a country of just four million people, the loss was bitter but their fans took solace in the best run in the nation’s history, which featured a stunning win against Argentina and a semi-final victory against England.

“Thank you, heroes! – You gave us everything!” read the Sportske Novosti front page. “‘Vatreni’ (the “Fiery Ones” in Croatian), you are the biggest, you are our pride, your names will remain written in gold forever!” the newspaper said.

Croatia playmaker Luka Modric was voted best player of the tournament, Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois was named the best goalkeeper and Harry Kane of England won the Golden Boot as top-scorer with six goals.

US President Donald Trump tweeted congratulations to France for their “extraordinary soccer” and also praised Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for his hosting of the tournament, which he described as “one of the best ever”.

Putin said Russia could be “proud” of its organisation of the event, adding that foreign visitors holding World Cup fan ID cards could have visa-free entry for the rest of 2018.

(AFP)

World Cup Finale: France Wins World Cup

France won the World Cup for the second time in spectacular style on Sunday as a 4-2 victory in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades ended battling outsiders Croatia’s dreams of a first title.

After an early own goal by Mario Mandzukic France’s big guns delivered on the biggest stage of all as Antoine Griezmann – with a penalty awarded after a VAR review – Paul Pogba and teenage tyro Kylian Mbappe all hit the target.

Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic replied for Croatia, who ended beaten but unbowed after making much of the running in their first appearance in the final.

It was the highest-scoring decider since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the highest in normal time since Brazil defeated Sweden 5-2 60 years ago.

There were as many goals in 90-action-packed Moscow minutes as in the last four finals combined, and three of those went to extra time.

The game featured the first final own goal and the first VAR-decided spot-kick – one that Croatia were furious about and that was arguably the turning point of the game.

But the only statistic France will really care about is that the result makes them world champions for the second time following their triumph on home soil in 1998.

Having lost the 2006 final on penalties to Italy, it also meant there was no repeat of two years ago when they were beaten in the European Championship final by Portugal in Paris.

The win means Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 side, becomes the third man to lift the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.

“How marvellous,” Deschamps said having been carried shoulder high around the pitch by his players in a post-match downpour. “It’s a young team who are on the top of the world. Some are champions at the age of 19.

“We did not play a huge game but we showed mental quality – and we scored four goals.

“It hurt so much to lose the Euro two years ago, but it made us learn too and we worked so hard for 55 days here.”

OWN GOAL

Croatia started full of energy but went behind in the 18th minute when a Griezmann free kick skidded in off the head of Mandzukic, who had scored the extra-time winner against England in the semifinal.

That meant it was the fourth successive knockout game in which Croatia conceded first but again they found a way back as Perisic, who got the equaliser against England, smashed in a low shot 10 minutes later.

But then came the moment which will keep the VAR debate at the top of the sport’s agenda.

Perisic flapped an arm at a corner and after Argentine referee Nestor Pitana conducted a protracted VAR review he awarded the 28th penalty of the tournament, another record.

Ignoring more Croatian protests, Griezmann stroked the ball home in the 38th minute for his fourth goal of Russia 2018.

That made it the highest-scoring first half since 1974, when West Germany led the Netherlands 2-1 – also the final score – but this time there was much more to come.

Croatia were on top again after the break but France held out and went 3-1 up on the hour as Mbappe and Griezmann combined to set up Pogba on the edge of the box.

The midfielder’s right-footed shot was blocked but he quickly and coolly curved the rebound in with his left.

Six minutes later Lucas Hernandez tore down the left to set up Mbappe to drill home a low shot as the 19-year-old young player of the tournament claimed his fourth goal in Russia and became the first teenager to score in a final since Pele in 1958.

After three successive extra-time knockout games the chances of Croatia coming back again looked impossible but they were thrown a lifeline by Lloris, who tried to dribble round Mandzukic only for the striker to block the ball and send it into the unguarded net.

Croatia, beaten by the French in the semifinals in their first World Cup appearance in 1998, continued to press but their energy was sapped and France safely held out.

Croatia’s shirtless fans rightly saluted their players as torrential rain lashed down on the presentation ceremony and coach Zlatko Dalic had few regrets.

“We are sad but proud at the same time,” he said. “We played well but the penalty knocked the wind out of us and after that it was very difficult.

“The French did not surprise us, we let in two soft goals coupled with an own goal and a penalty. We wanted to win the World Cup so much but that’s football.”

France Passes Law Against Sexual Offences

Since sexual offences have been a hot topic in France after an outpouring of tales of sexual harassment and violence in the MeToo movement, France has approved tougher law measures against sexual offences.

However, leftist lawmakers and feminist groups were unhappy that the law did not set a minimum age below which sexual intercourse would be assumed to be rape.

There has also been anger over a case where media reported that prosecutors had initially declined to charge a man with the rape of an 11-year-old girl on the grounds that she had consented.

“He was at first charged with sexual abuse of a minor, but later placed under investigation for rape,’’ public broadcaster FranceInfo reported.

The new law, which now goes to the Senate for approval, widens the circumstances in which intercourse with a child under 15 could be considered to be rape.

It also doubles the penalty for any sexual intercourse with a child under 15 from five to ten years.

The government said a legal opinion from a state body that assesses new laws meant the law could not declare that any intercourse with a child under 15 should be considered rape.

However, left-wing lawmakers said the government could still have gone further with its text.

The new law, which was passed by 115 votes to 29 in the National Assembly and now goes to the Senate for approval, also provides for the possibility of on-the-spot fines for street harassment.

France Urges United Nation’s Top Court To Dump Equatorial Guinea Case

France on Monday urged the UN’s top court to throw out a case brought against it in a bitter diplomatic row with oil-rich Equatorial Guinea over French accusations of top-level corruption.

“France has not accepted the jurisdiction of this court under any title whatsoever to entertain those facts on which Equatorial Guinea seeks the court to rule,” the French representative Francois Alabrune told the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Malabo has accused Paris of violating the diplomatic immunity of its vice president, Teodorin Obiang, after he was prosecuted by a French court on charges of embezzling 150 million euros ($180 million) of public funds to finance his jet-set lifestyle.

Obiang, 48, the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, was tried in absentia and sentenced in October to a three-year suspended sentence for corruption.

The top official from the small central African state was also given a suspended fine of 30 million euros ($35 million) for money laundering, corruption and abuse. His lawyer has said he will appeal.

But Equatorial Guinea has also lodged a complaint with the ICJ in The Hague, the UN’s top court set up to resolve disputes between countries.

Four days of hearings opened Monday, with France setting out its reasons why it believed the ICJ is not competent to hear the case.

Equatorial Guinea contends however that not only was the Vienna Convention conferring diplomatic immunity on Obiang broken, but French officials also failed to uphold the diplomatic status of a building it maintains is Malabo’s embassy in Paris.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa longest-serving president and has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1979. He extended his rule in April 2016 when he was re-elected with 93.7 percent of the vote.

He appointed his son as vice president in June 2016 — two years after the first charges were first brought in France.

In 2012, French authorities swooped on the Obiang family’s six-storey mansion on the Avenue Foch — one of the most upmarket addresses in Paris — seizing it along with a fleet of luxury cars including two Bugatti Veyrons and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Police also took away vanloads of valuables, including paintings, a $4.2-million clock and fine wines worth thousands of euros per bottle.

The UN judges in The Hague in 2016 urged France to ensure the protection of the diplomatic mission in Paris, but sidestepped Malabo’s request to order Obiang’s trial to be halted.

Relations between the two countries have furthered deteriorated after Malabo’s foreign minister, Agapito Mba Mokuy, said an attempted coup in December had been hatched on French soil, although he said the French authorities had “nothing to do with” it.

AFP

 

Buhari Leaves For France For One Planet Summit

President Muhammadu Buhari will participate alongside over 50 world leaders in the One Planet Summit in Paris, France on Tuesday, 12 December. He will leave for Paris on Monday and return Thursday.

The summit, jointly organised by the United Nations, the World Bank Group, and the French Government in partnership with non-governmental organisations concerned about reversing the negative effects of climate change, like Bloomberg Philanthropies, holds at the eco-friendly La Seine Musicale, situated on the picturesque Seguin Island in western Paris.

The main focus of the summit, with the theme, “Climate Change Financing,” according to the organisers, will be to innovatively pool public and private finance “to support and accelerate our common efforts to fight climate change.”

While recognising that all countries are affected by the effects of climate change under “One Planet” but some are more vulnerable, the summit seeks for tangible collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Before heading for the Summit venue, the Nigerian leader will attend a lunch hosted by President Emmanuel Macron of France for Heads of State and Governments at the Elysee Palace.

President Buhari and other world leaders and participants will make presentations under four sub-themes namely: Scaling-up Finance for Climate Action; Greening Finance for Sustainable Business; Accelerating Local and Regional Climate Action; and Strengthening Policies for Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

While signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the sidelines of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 22, 2016, President Buhari had said it “demonstrated Nigeria’s commitment to global efforts to reverse the effects of the negative trend.”

He followed that significant step by signing the Instrument of Ratification of the Paris Agreement on March 28, 2017 at the State House, Abuja, making Nigeria the 146th party to the Paris Treaty. It became binding on the country effective June 15, 2017, one month after the submission of the Ratification instrument to the United Nations on May 16, 2017 by Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Bande.

The participation of Nigeria’s delegation at the One Planet Summit will reinforce the country’s commitment to realising the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

The President, who will depart for Paris on Monday, accompanied by the governors of Adamawa, Kano and Ondo States, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Environment, will return to Abuja on Thursday.

Grenade Attack Greets Macron’s First Africa Tour

A grenade which was thrown at French troops shortly before President Emmanuel Macron touched down for the start of his first Africa tour has left at least three civilians injured.

The visit was marred by an attempted attack on French troops in the capital Ouagadougou just hours before Macron’s arrival.

The French president is embarking on a three-day trip of western Africa aimed at boosting France’s regional influence, stemming the continent’s migrant exodus and bolstering the fight against violent Islamist militancy in the Sahel.

“Two hooded individuals on a motorcycle threw a grenade towards a French army vehicle” as it made its way to a barracks housing French Special Forces, a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Three residents were wounded, one seriously, in the attack which took place at 8:00 pm (2000 GMT), the source added.

“The attackers’ target was the French army vehicle, which was not hit,” the source said.

An AFP reporter at the scene of the attack witnessed a small hole in the tarmac where the grenade detonated and a damaged civilian vehicle.

Macron flew into Ouagadougou three hours later for a trip that will take in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast — two former French colonies that deposed strongmen leaders in recent years — as well as to Ghana.

His advisors say his primary message will be to stress a partnership of equals with Africa, based on education and entrepreneurship.

But regional security concerns will also dominate. European leaders are desperate to find ways to stem the flow of African migrants across the Mediterranean without leaving them to the mercy of traffickers in transit countries like Libya, where they face torture, rape, and — as a CNN report showed recently — being sold into slavery.

And Macron will also be seeking international backing for a new, five-nation African counter-terrorism force, which France hopes to see eventually take over the fight against jihadist groups in the Sahel region.

 

FG Uncovers IPOB’s Slush Account In Paris

The federal government has located a slush account in Paris to which some Nigerians have made huge deposits in support of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

It was learnt that the French government promised to take action as soon as the IPOB’s slush account was known to it.

A top security source, Sahara Reporters report spoke in confidence, said: “Intelligence gathering has led to the discovery of an account in Paris into which some Nigerians in the Diaspora remit funds to support IPOB.”

“From the said account, funds were being drawn for the activities of IPOB at home and abroad. The relevant security agencies did a thorough job and provided incontrovertible evidence on the basis of which the government proscribed the terrorist organisation.”

“These Nigerians in the Diaspora are using France as a clearing house.”

“Investigations also confirmed inflows into the account from Holland, Hungary, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Turkey, Singapore and other parts of Europe.”

“In fact, a football tournament was recently organised in Senegal to raise funds for IPOB.”

“As a matter of fact, the account is being used to get money from a lot of people in the Diaspora.”

“What many Nigerians did not know is that the Minister of Information and Culture was talking on the basis of a credible intelligence report.”

“With cooperation by the international community, especially relevant countries, we will soon get the list of all the people remitting funds into the account in Paris.”

“IPOB members are becoming desperate in the last 72 hours. About two days ago, some members of the terrorist group breezed into our Embassy in Hong Kong under the pretence of renewing their passports but ended up staging a protest.”

“The IPOB members also demonstrated at our embassy in Spain a few days ago.”

France Moves To Unite Libya

France will host talks on Tuesday between Fayez al-Serraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, a powerful military commander in the divided country’s east who has so far rejected his authority.

According to a statement, during the talks, President Emmanuel Macron aims to show France’s support for UN-backed efforts to stabilise the country.

“The talks would be based on the involvement of all the different factions in Libya,” Macron’s office said.

Haftar and Seraj held talks in Abu Dhabi in May, their first in more than a year and a half, about a UN-mediated deal that Western powers hope will end the factional fighting that has dominated Libya since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Citing unidentified sources, Saudi-owned al-Hayat said the meeting sought to build on diplomatic efforts by the United Arab Emirates, the UN and neighbouring Egypt.

Macron said on July 13 there would be concrete diplomatic initiatives on resolving the conflict soon.

He wants France to play a bigger role in coaxing Libya’s factions to end the turmoil that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

The meeting comes at a time when Haftar has gained ground militarily with Egyptian and United Arab Emirates support, and Western states say Haftar must be part of any solution to the conflict in the oil-producing North African state.

French officials fear Islamic State militants, who were driven from the coastal city of Sirte in 2016, and other jihadists could try to exploit the power vacuum in Libya to regroup after losing substantial ground in Syria and Iraq, and see this a window to push the sides closer together.

The UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord has sat in Tripoli for more than a year but has struggled to reach an agreement with eastern factions, including Haftar.

Libya’s neighbours and regional powers have often differed on how to help.

Egypt and the UAE are closer to Haftar and his anti-Islamist militant campaign while Seraj is loosely supported by militias in the west of the vast country that include Islamist groups backed by Turkey and Qatar.

Paris sees its close ties with the leaders of the UAE and Egypt as giving it some leeway in getting all sides on board, especially with the United States showing little interest in getting involved.

Diplomats said a rough plan could see Paris working to refine the UN accord by setting up a presidential council that would include Haftar, Seraj and a third actor from the east with Haftar heading up the Libyan National Army.

This would then be rubber-stamped by the UN Security Council and pave the way for national elections.

Officials in Haftar’s Libyan National Army and Seraj’s government did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation.

France’s foreign ministry and Macron’s office said they had no information on the subject.

President Macron Names Cabinet Three Days After Inauguration

Newly inaugurated President Emmanuel Macron of France on Wednesday constituted his government, with close supporters taking key ministries but a centre-right politician appointed as economy minister.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, who served as defence minister under Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande, was named minister for Europe and foreign affairs under Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

Gerard Collomb, the socialist mayor of Lyon, takes on the key portfolio of interior minister, responsible for internal security as France remains under a state of emergency after deadly terrorist attacks over the past two years.

The Economy Ministry goes to Bruno Le Maire, a former economy minister who like Philippe comes from the centre-right Les Republicains party.

The president’s loyalist Sylvie Goulard, a liberal member of the European Parliament, was appointed minister of the armies, responsible for defence.

Francois Bayrou, head of the centrist Democratic Movement who rallied to Macron during the first round of the presidential election, was appointed justice minister.

Elysee Palace secretary general Alexis Kohler concluded the announcement by saying that Macron would hold his first government meeting on Thursday.

The meeting normally takes place on Wednesday but Macron and Philippe put back the ministerial appointments by a day, saying they wished to have extra ethics and tax compliance checks carried out on the prospective ministers first.

DPA/NAN

Macron Takes Office as French President

Emmanuel Macron becomes France’s youngest ever president on Sunday, taking over from Socialist Francois Hollande in a solemn ceremony.

Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, arrived at the Elysee Palace in central Paris in a motorcade and walked down the red carpet under light rain to be greeted by Hollande for his inauguration.

The new president’s wife Brigitte, a 64-year-old who was his high school drama teacher, arrived separately for the ceremony wearing a light blue Louis Vuitton outfit.

A week after his victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a tumultuous election, Macron will have a private meeting with Hollande at which he will be given the codes to launch France’s nuclear weapons.
He will then attend a ceremony in front of hundreds of politicians and invited guests at which the official election results will be read out.

At the end of the formalities, a 21-gun salute is to ring out from the Invalides military hospital on the other side of the River Seine.

Macron will then be driven to the Arc de Triomphe to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

The new president faces a host of daunting challenges including tackling stubbornly high unemployment, fighting Islamist-inspired violence and uniting a deeply divided country.

Socialist Hollande’s five years in power were plagued by a sluggish economy and bloody terror attacks that killed more than 230 people and he leaves office after a single term.

The 64-year-old launched Macron’s political career, plucking him from the world of investment banking to be an advisor and then his economy minister.

“I am not handing over power to a political opponent, it’s far simpler,” Hollande said on Thursday.

Security was tight with around 1,500 police officers deployed near the presidential palace and the nearby Champs Elysees avenue and surrounding roads were blocked off.

After a formal lunch, Macron will visit Paris’s town hall, a traditional stop for any new French president in his “host” city.

– PM named, then Berlin –

Macron’s first week will be busy. On Monday, he is expected to reveal the closely-guarded name of his prime minister, before flying to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It is virtually a rite of passage for French leaders to make their first European trip to meet the leader of the other half of the so-called “motor” of the EU.

Pro-EU Macron wants to push for closer cooperation to help the bloc overcome the imminent departure of Britain, another of its most powerful members.

He intends to press for the creation of a parliament and budget for the eurozone.

AFP