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Sarko’s Tough Times in Gray Paree

Unlucky 13th of November…tomorrow marks the second round of transport strikes in France…at least, not starting until 8 p.m. that evening and predicted to last at least through November 15th.

The workers are so unhappy with the new retirement reforms by President Nicolas Sarkozy (increasing 37.5 years of work to 40 years before earning a full pension) that they’re wanting us all to suffer the consequences. Both SNCF (national rail company) and RATP (Métros and buses) will be affected (although rumor has it that the Métro will not be disturbed until the 14th), and the utilities are threatening to join in the rebellious fun along with students who want to make the universities “more autonomous in their admissions, governance and funding.”

Sarkozy and the rest of France is in for a roller-coaster ride, but he promises to hang tough to fulfill his campaign promises to structurally change the labor and educational systems. It’s a test: is the country that voted him in to make these very changes willing to bite the bullet or not? A poll in Le Figaro on November 9th showed he had 69% of the people’s support.

Get braced for the potential problems. “Vélib” rentals bikes may be harder to come by, but at least the close to 20,000 on the streets makes a difference! Luckily I live more central city than I did in 1995 when the massive transport strikes lasted three solid weeks. I’ll never forget it thanks to the permanent damage it did to my feet. An important less to be learned: if you walk great distances, don’t wear soft-soled shoes that over-exercise them. Also, if you’re in need of transportation to the airport (as I do this Friday for a Thanksgiving trip to New York), schedule one of the shuttle services to avoid any problems taking the RER or catching a taxi.

Sarkozy is tough on immigration, too. The bill allowing DNA testing for immigrants recently passed, and along with it, the bill requires language and cultural testing for immigrants who want to join their families in France. The DNA tests are meant primarily to verify family ties to French residents for those who lack family records. Deportation quotas are in effect — hoping to deport 25,000 illegal immigrants and enabling the expulsion of immigrants who “did not make sufficient efforts to integrate in French society and seek work.” Immigrants are now required to sign a pledge to learn French and to abide by French law.

One of our Parler Parlor Conversation Group members, who is a Mathematics Teacher at the American School of Paris, says renewal of her “Carte de Séjour” (long stay visa) depends on proof of 200 hours of French instruction, so she is feverishly taking classes and practicing speaking French in order to satisfy the requirements. In a Web search to support her fears, I f

ound nothing, not even at the official Web site describing the requirements for application to all the various types of visas.

To all you Americans, Canadians, Australians or New Zealanders who may have overstayed your 90-day tourist visa waiver period, I wouldn’t worry too much about a Sarkozy thug jerking you out of bed in the middle of the night to toss you on to a flight home…remember a few important things:

1. You’re supporting the French economy by spending money you earned outside of France in France.
2. You have your own private health care and are not taking advantage of the French social security system.
3. They don’t even know you’re here…that is unless you commit some horrendous crime and make the Most Wanted List.

A la prochaine…  

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Join us next Tuesday afternoon November 13th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. BEFORE THE STRIKE BEGINS at Parler Paris Après Midi to meet and get to know other readers. See /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.

P.P.S. Parler Parlor will meet Tuesday evening as always, in spite of the strikes, but unfortunately, Wednesday we are cancelling. Saturday is on as normal. Hope you can make it! Visit http://www.parlerparlor.com for more information.

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