The 14 Words

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

No mosques or EU flags: France’s far-right mayors get down to business

National Front leader Marine Le Pen with Mayor Steeve Briois

The 11 far-right National Front mayors elected in France’s recent municipal elections have begun implementing controversial policies, including rejecting projects for new mosques and cancelling commemorations of the abolition of slavery.

A month after their victory in French municipal elections, the 11 far-right National Front mayors have implemented their first policies – and some of them have already caused quite a stir.

In the southwestern city of Béziers, Robert Ménard has established a curfew for minors under 13, who will need to be accompanied by an adult if they wish to be out from 11pm to 6am during the weekends and school holidays of the summer months (June 15 – September 15).

In the northern city of Villers-Cotterêts, meanwhile, one of Franck Briffaut’s first decisions was to cancel a planned commemoration of the abolition of slavery on May 10. It will be the first time since 2007 that the ceremony will not take place in the town, where the biracial General Dumas (the father of Alexandre Dumas, famous author of “The Three Musketeers”) – born a slave in the former French colony of Saint-Domingue – died in 1806.

Briffaut told the news agency Agence France-Presse that he saw the commemoration as 

“part of a permanent and systematic process of making France feel guilty, while slavery still exists elsewhere in the world, unfortunately”.
Elsewhere in northern France, in the city of Hénin-Beaumont, the administration of newly elected mayor Steeve Briois cut a 300-euro annual subsidy for the Human Rights League, a French NGO dedicated to the defence of civil rights throughout France. Briois has also declared that the group will no longer be able to occupy their local headquarters rent-free, as was the case before. The organisation had openly opposed Briois’s candidacy, but the mayor has said his decision was made because the benefits afforded the Human Rights League in Hénin-Beaumont were “illegal”.

Building of new Muslim prayer facilities cancelled

The association’s branch in Mantes-la-Ville, in north-central France, may also see a reduction in municipal subsidies. The town’s mayor, Cyril Nauth, has also opposed the construction of a new prayer room for Muslims, which had been planned last autumn by the formerly Socialist mayor. Nauth has called the initial plan for a new prayer room a ploy to win the “Muslim vote”.

The new mayor of the southern city of Fréjus, David Rachline, also opposed plans to build a new mosque when he was campaigning, and has promised a referendum on the matter. In keeping with the generally anti-EU views of his party, Rachline has also removed the European Union flag from the front of the city hall building.

The majority of the new far-right French mayors have decided to increase their own salaries, as well as those of their deputies. The move is controversial, given the widespread budgetary difficulties many French cities are facing.

But Philippe de la Grange, mayor of the southeastern city of Luc, defended the decision, telling reporters: 
“The deputies still earn less than a foreigner who comes to retire in France without ever having worked there.”
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