Officials announced this month that the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France is to have a 2.5m-high (8 ft) wall of reinforced glass built around it as protection against terror attacks. The wall will be designed to stop individuals or vehicles from storming the site.
The Paris mayor’soffice has disclosed that th wall will replace metal fences, which were put up for the Euro 2016 football tournament. The project, if it is approved, is expected to cost about 20 million euros (US $21 million) and work on it should begin later this year. The project will also involve reorganizing pathways around the tower.
The French capital has been on high alert since attacks by jihadists in November 2015 left 130 people dead. Last July, 86 people were killed when a lorry ploughed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice.
According to the assistant mayor for tourism, Jean-Francois Martins, the Eiffel Tower, which is one of France’s most famous landmarks, attracts more than six million visitors each year. He disclosed that the terror threat remains high in Paris and the most vulnerable sites, led by the Eiffel Tower, must be the object of special security measures. He went on to say that itwill replace the metal grids to the north and south with glass panels, which will allow Parisians and visitors a very pleasant view of the monument, adding we have three aims to improve the look, make access easier and strengthen the protection of visitors and staff.
News of the glass wall project comes after earlier this month a man wielding two machetes attacked soldiers at Paris’s Louvre Museum. President Francois Hollande has since stated that there is little doubt that the incident was a terrorist act.
According to an opinion poll that was published on 6 February, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron are set to make it through to the presidential election’s second round in May, with Macron comfortably winning the runoff.
The IFOP rolling poll of voting intentions indicated Le Pen garnering 25.5 percent of the vote in the 23 April first round of voting, up 1.5 percent since 1 February, with Macron getting 20.5 percent, up 0.5 percent over the same period. Conservative candidate Francois Fillon, who is in the midst of a political scandal, placed third with 18.5 percent, down from 21 percent. Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon has also lost momentum since his nomination in a primary vote and was not seen gathering 15.5 percent of the votes, down from 18 percent on 1 February.
On Monday, Fillon vowed to fight on for the presidency despite a damaging scandal involving taxpayer-funding payments to his wife for work, which a newspaper alleges she did not do. Speaking at a news conference in Paris, Mr Fillon, 62, apologised for what he said was his error of judgement regarding the employment of family members. While he disclosed that his wife’s work as parliamentary assistant over fifteen years had been genuine and legal, he noted that the campaign of “unfounded allegations” against him and his family would not make him abandon his bid for the presidency as the nominee of the centre-right. He stated, “there is no plan B,” dismissing reports that other centre-right candidates were being lined up to replace him, and adding “I am the only candidate who can bring about a national recovery. I am the candidate of the Right and I am here to win.” He announced that he would launch a new phase of his campaign from Tuesday. Mr Fillon, a former prime minister, called the news conference after members of his own party, The Republicans, urged him to quit the race to give the party time to find a replacement candidate. He will hop that his apology and denial of wrongdoing rally the party and voters behind him. Prior to the scandal surfacing in a weekly satirical newspaper nearly two weeks ago, opinion polls had shown Mr Fillon to be the clear favourite to win the election over Le Pen. Since then, his approval ratings have plummeted and he is now seen as failing to reach the second round of voting in May.
The stakes are high for France’s Right, which is battling to return to power after five years of Socialist rule under President Francois Hollande.
Last Friday (3 February), another attempted terrorist attack took place in Paris, when French soldiers shot and critically wounded a man who attacked them with a machete at the Louvre while shouting “Allah Akbar”. Reportedly, a group of four soldiers guarding the entrance of the Louvre shopping centre had refused him to entry with two backpacks. When the troops stopped him, he launched the attack, wounding one of the soldiers. Hundreds of visitors were inside the museum after the incident and were evacuated. According to the police, the man has been identified as Abdullah Reda Refaei al-Hamamy, a 29-year-old with Egyptian identity paper who arrived in France last month.
After initially refusing to talk, the man, who remains under arrest in hospital, has confirmed his identity. Agence France-Presse has reported that Hamamay had visited Turkey in 2015 and 2016. Afterwards, he entered in France on 26 January on a flight from Dubai and stayed at an apartment costing € 1,700 (£ 1,470) a week near the Champs Elysees that had been reserved last June, months before he applied for a tourist visa in October.
The man’s father, a retired Egyptian police general, said his son had never shown any signals of radicalisation. He said his son is a sale manager and also justified his stay in Paris as a business trip. According to his family, Hamamy was expected to go back to the Emirates soon, as he has a wife and a seven-months old son and they have accused French authorities of seeking to justify their shooting with false allegations.
No group has claimed the attempted attack so far, and no link to extremism was found during a search of the apartment. Moreover, after few days, Hamamy has broken the silence about his intentions, claiming that he acted of his own will and intended only to damage works of art at the gallery as a symbolic attack on France.
However, investigators do not fully believe his statements after they found out a series of tweets posted in Arabic few minutes be fore the assault was launched. In those posts, in which he exalted Allah and the creation of an Islamic State, he does not refer to ISIS by its Arabic acronym, Daesh, but used the phrase “Dawlat al-Islam”, which is commonly used to refer to the group’s territories by its supporters.
Egyptian officials, who are collaborating with French authorities, have declared that local security agencies are gathering information to help establish if he was a member of any militant groups or had been radicalised in the past. In the meantime, President Francois Holland has labelled the act as “clearly an act of terrorism” and prosecutors in Paris said they would ask judges to file preliminary charges of “attempted terrorist murder” and “terrorist criminal conspiracy”.
Since 2012 the country has struggled against Islamic terrorism, which has already caused 250 victims. A French mayor and member of the French National Assembly, Jaques Myard, has blamed the Schengen agreement, which allows traveling throughout much of the EU without border-controls. According to Mayard, France is in a dark place, as it has to face to threats: the threat of terrorists coming from abroad, and an internal threat, because of its large Muslims community. He reiterated that, although not all Muslims of course are radicals, over 10,000 of those could be radicalised across France. In those conditions it is impossible to really prevent anything, since it is impossible to have 100 per cent security everywhere. The only possible thing for citizens to do, Mayard added, is to be vigilant and always on guard, alerting the police every time they see something suspicious.
On Sunday 29 January, France’s Socialists picked left-winger Benois Hamon as their candidate for president, however it is unlikely that them over will help them with the election. It could however boost the campaign of popular independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.
With 60 percent of the votes in the Socialists’ primary counted, the ex-education minister had won 58.65 percent against his rival Manuel Valls, a former prime minister who is closer to the centre ground and who embraces pro-business policies. The Socialists, which have been weakened and divided after the deeply unpopular presidency of Francois Hollande, have been given next to no chance of getting beyond the first round of the election in April. However by choosing the 49-year-old Hamon on Valls, they have given Macron a big group of middle-ground voters to aim at and a better chance of beating his close rivals on the right and far-right.
Sunday’s results have also shown the deep fractures in the Socialist camp. It takes the party back to the traditional pro-worker roots, which got Hollande elected in 2012 and it rejects the U-turn that he made mid-way through his mandate – the as-yet unsuccessful bid to jump-start growth and jobs by forcing through business-friendly reforms. Analysts are now warning that if Hamon fails to make an impact on the campaign, where the Socialist candidate trails behind four others in opinion polls, it could lead to the party having very little say for the next five years or even lead to tis breaking-up.
The Socialist primary effectively provided the last candidate for the election and the battle lines are now sharply drawn in the race for the two-stage election, which will be held on 23 April and 7 May. Conservative Francois Fillon, the Republicans’ candidate, and far-right leader Marine Le pen are still seen by opinion polls as being able to meet in the May runoff. However Fillon’s campaign has been thrown of track by a press report accusing him of employing his wife as a parliamentary assistant on a big salary without doing any work. He has denied the charges. Opinion polls have also shown that the campaign of Mr Macron is also gathering momentum, with analysts noting that he could still upset the balance. Th centrist former economy ministers says that he wants to bridge the Left and the Right and has shunned any party patronage. Political campaigners have indicated that the Socialists’ choice of Hamon, a traditional left-winger, will only favor Macron’s campaign, noting that supporters of the business-friendly policies, who like Macron has steered centrist policies, are likely to give their vote now to the popular former banker.
Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called on Monday 23 January for a big turnout in the second round of the Socialist primaries after a first round vote on 22 January made left-wing rival Benoit Hamon frontrunner to represent the party in this year’s presidential election.
Late on Sunday, Valls said on RTL Radio “ to all those voters who believe in the Left, do not despair, mobilise.” Late on Sunday, he stated that the choice between Hamon and himself was one of “certain defeat and possible victory” in the presidential election.
Hamon, 48, is a traditional left-winger who was dismissed from the government by President Francois Hollande in 2014 for criticising his economic policies. According to partial results, Hamon won about 36 percent of the vote to Vall’s 31. The former education minister also secured the backing of Arnaud Montebourg, another left-winger, who came in third with 18 percent and was therefore eliminated along with four other candidates. The outcome of next Sunday’s head-to-head vote however remains uncertain.
Opinion polls show that no Socialist candidate is likely to win the presidency, indicating that conservative Francois Fillon is the favourite to win, with Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front (FN) coming in second place. Polls however also show that a victory for Hamon in next Sunday’s (29 January) Socialist primaries second round runoff against Valls could expose the centre ground to which Valls hopes to appeal, and thereby boosting the presidential prospects of independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.