France. In January, an era in French history ended.
Countryaah.com, François Mitterrand, longtime socialist leader and president
between 1981 and 1995, died after many years of cancer.
However, his situation was kept secret only a few years ago.
In retrospect, both his political advisers and his doctors
have been criticized for this, as it is considered that they
thereby endangered the country. At the beginning of the
year, Mitterrand's successor to the presidential post,
Jacques Chirac, faced intense domestic and international
criticism for the continuing nuclear weapons tests at the Mururoatollen in the Pacific. Before the first French head
of state visit to the US in 12 years, the trial series was
stopped prematurely. Future tests will be carried out in
special laboratories in France. The French government also
announced that the nuclear missiles based in southeastern
France should be scrapped. The defense must be reorganized.
Many bases both in France and abroad must be closed down.
Cooperation with NATO is to be developed, but a re-entry as
a member requires that NATO be restructured and European
members given greater influence. The defense industry will
lose weight and the military service system will be
abolished until 2001.
The measures in the defense field will further
deteriorate the state of the labor market. Unemployment was
around 12% throughout the year, and no improvement could be
seen. The government's severe budget cuts led to fewer jobs
in the public sector, which in turn led to extensive
strikes. The message that it was intended to freeze the
salaries of the government employees was met by the unions
in October with a major strike that almost paralyzed large
parts of the country. In recent years, the cost of welfare
policy has gone astray, and in 1996 the government was
forced to take drastic measures as economic growth was lower
than expected. In order to get the economy organized, the
state-owned companies (eg France Télécom, Renault and the
insurance company Assurances Générales de France) continue
However, the growing social unrest has other causes as
well. Bomb attacks and other acts of terrorism have killed
dozens of people. Corsica has been at the center of
political violence since the local independence movement has
stepped up its fight against the French authorities. Basques
and militant Islamic groups have also contributed to the
tense situation of police and military patrolling in subways
and railway stations. The attacks have also given new
impetus to anti-immigrant organizations, for example.
National front under the leadership of the disputed
politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, and forced the government to
tighten immigration policy.
In foreign policy, the consolidation of relations between
France and Germany and the marking of these states' leading
role in the EU have been at the center. President Chirac
also sought to strengthen France's international standing
through political outreach directed to the Arab world as
well as to other states in Africa and Asia. During his visit
to the Middle East, the president caused a stir by refusing
to speak in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, but shortly
thereafter became the first foreign head of state to speak
in the Palestinian parliament.