Covid-19 in France: How to prevent a mental health crisis?



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Amid fear, anxiety, sleep deprivation, anger and isolation, it’s certainly no surprise that cases of depression have more than doubled in France during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. With authorities warning of a “third, mental health wave” of the pandemic, the country’s psychiatric services are left to pick up the pieces. But historic underfunding and enduring social stigma only complicate matters further. To find out more, we speak to French psychiatrist Marion Leboyer.



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France selects first oaks to be used in rebuilding Notre-Dame cathedral’s roof



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The first oak trees to be used in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris were selected on Friday from a forest west of the capital.

A total of 1,000 oaks are due to be cut down by the end of March to rebuild the spire and roof of the cathedral, which was ravaged by fire in April 2019.

Oaks from every region of France are being used to rebuild the cherished national monument – around half from state land and the rest from private donations.

The ministers of agriculture and culture attended a ceremony to select the official first tree, a 20-metre (65 feet) oak in the forest of Berce near Le Mans, some 200 kilometres from Paris.

“This is a project that concerns the whole of France,” said General Jean-Louis Georgelin, who chairs the body in charge of restoring Notre-Dame.

“It will ensure the security of the cathedral for eight centuries, ten centuries.”

The trees will be cut up and stored for 12 to 18 months to prepare them for use in the reconstruction phase which is set to begin in autumn 2022, allowing for a planned reopening of the cathedral in April 2024.

(AFP)



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France, EU back Italy’s decision to block Covid-19 vaccine shipment to Australia



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Europe’s vaccine solidarity got a boost on Friday after France said it could emulate Italy’s move to block coronavirus vaccine exports outside the European Union if that’s what is needed to enforce the bloc’s own contracts with drugs manufacturers.

The European Union defended the Italian authorities’ decision to stop a large shipment of doses destined for Australia as part of a longstanding feud with drug manufacturer AstraZeneca, and Germany.

The EU’s executive arm said the decision was not targeting Australia but that it had been taken to ensure that AstraZeneca delivers the number of doses it committed to dispatching to EU countries.

“The fact is that the European Union is a major exporter of vaccine doses,” said EU Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer.

Faced with dose shortages during the early stages of the vaccine campaign, the EU announced in early January an export control mechanism halting deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines outside the bloc in a bid to force companies to respect their contractual obligations to the bloc first.

Since the mechanism entered into force on January 30, the Commission said that 174 authorisations of vaccine exports to 30 different countries outside the EU have been approved.

The EU has been particularly angry with AstraZeneca because it is delivering far fewer doses to the bloc than it had promised. Of the initial order for 80 million doses to the EU in the first quarter, the company will be struggling to deliver just half that quantity.

There were rumours that AstraZeneca was siphoning off from EU production plants to other nations, but CEO Pascal Soriot insisted that any shortfall was to be blamed on technical production issues only.

The EU has vaccinated only 8 percent of its population compared to over 30 percent, for example, in the United Kingdom. Australia is still very much at the start of its vaccination drive.

“We believe that this vaccine is an important element of our portfolio and we therefore are expecting the delivery of the agreed doses,” Mamer said. “We are working with the companies in order to ensure that they deliver the doses that are foreseen for the European Union. For all those companies that are doing that, there are no problem with exports.”

Signs of division in the EU

As serum supplies remain scarce in the 27-nation region amid delays in deliveries and production issues, European nations have shown signs of divisions recently. Several countries have expressed their frustration over the slow rollout of doses and are looking for extra supply of vaccines outside of the joint procurement set up by the EU.

But Italy’s decision to block the shipment of more than 250,000 AstraZeneca doses destined for Australia closed ranks between member states. French health minister Olivier Véran said he “understood” the Italian’s government decision and indicated France “could do the same”.

“Believe me, the more doses I have, the happier I am as health minister,” Véran said in an interview with BFMTV channel, adding that France and its European partners are determined to have their contracts with drug makers enforced.

Italy’s objections centered both on the general shortage of supplies in the EU and on “the delays in the supply of vaccines by AstraZeneca to the EU and Italy”, a foreign ministry statement said.

Italy said it had informed the company on Tuesday. AstraZeneca refused to comment. 

Highlighting the EU’s role in the vaccine research, development and production, the German government also justified the export restriction.

“In general, vaccine exports aren’t stopped as long as the contracts with the EU are abided by,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. “A lot of vaccines go from the EU to third countries, while nothing or almost nothing is exported from the United States and Great Britain.”

Earlier, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that in general terms, it was right for the EU to ensure that vaccine makers followed through on promised deliveries. But he also said that it was important for EU-wide coordination on export restrictions.

The EU thought it had prepared soundly for the rollout of vaccines to its 450 million people. It has signed deals for six different vaccines. In total, it has ordered up to 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and sealed agreements with other companies for more than two billion shots.

But only 33 million doses have been given so far, and only 11 million Europeans have been fully vaccinated. Despite the current difficulties, the EU’s goal remains to vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population in the bloc by the end of summer.

The Italian government’s move marked the first use of the export control system and it has frustrated the Australian government, which is seeking assurances from the EU’s executive arm that future shipments of vaccines will not be blocked.

“The world is in uncharted territory at present. It’s unsurprising that some countries would tear up the rule book,” Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News Australia on Friday. Birmingham acknowledged, however, that Australia had received 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week, and “that will see our current distribution plan work”.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)



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Covid-19 pandemic accelerates ‘uberisation’ of drug market in France



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In France, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced drug dealers to find new ways of selling their wares. As a result, more and more narcotics are being promoted on social media and delivered to people’s homes at the click of a button, making ordering drugs as easy as ordering a pizza. The French police drugs squad is catching up though, developing new tools to track down traffickers online. FRANCE 24’s Jade Lévin, Georges Yazbeck and Emerald Maxwell bring us this report.



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Five questions raised by Nicolas Sarkozy’s conviction



On March 1, Nicolas Sarkozy became the first former president of the Fifth Republic to be sentenced to prison for corruption and influence peddling in the so-called “eavesdropping” affair. The unprecedented verdict, though, doesn’t end the saga. Sarkozy has undertaken a media tour to “denounce a profound injustice”.

Is the ‘eavesdropping affair’ now over?

Sarkozy, who has always stated that he has never committed “the slightest corrupt act”, announced that he intends to appeal his conviction, as did his longtime lawyer, Thierry Herzog, and the ex-magistrate Gilbert Azibert, both of whom were convicted alongside him. A second trial is likely to take place in 2022. “This verdict … does not put an end to this case,” Jean Petaux, a political scientist at Sciences Po Bordeaux, told FRANCE 24.

If Sarkozy does not win his appeal, he can still appeal to the Court of Cassation, the highest French court, whose function is to verify the correct application of the law. He could also turn to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) because his defence is partly based on the question of the legality of wiretaps, which are at the core of the allegations against Sarkozy and Herzog.

“Perhaps this fight will need to go before the European Court of Human Rights,” Sarkozy told Le Figaro newspaper. “It would be painful for me to have to condemn my own country, but I am ready to do so, because that would be the price of democracy.”

Will Sarkozy go to prison?

For now, the appeal postpones the sentence. Yet it seems equally unlikely that Sarkozy will do jail time in the long term, since he was eligible to serve his sentence under house arrest and with electronic surveillance. In fact even those restrictions could be relaxed at a judge’s discretion.

Sarkozy’s age, 66, and his position as a former president were mitigating factors for the court, which also said that it was unlikely – even impossible  that he would repeat his crimes.

Does this conviction compromise Nicolas Sarkozy’s possible presidential ambitions for 2022? 

He is not barred from running but, as the 2022 presidential election approaches, “his name regularly returns to the lips of leaders and voters on the right in search of a natural candidate,” said Petaux. “But the man’s legal troubles are not over.” 

An appeal may take several months. And after the “eavesdropping” trial, Sarkozy faces two more trials over campaign funding. “The political agenda is not the judicial agenda, so we can assume that he will not be acquitted of all charges by 2022,” Petaux said.

What’s more, the sentence tarnishes Sarkozy’s image. “It is becoming extremely heavy baggage,” political scientist Pascal Perrineau told AFP. Though it may be true that in politics one is never dead, “for 2022 he is deeply affected,” he added.

But does the former tenant of the Élysée Palace really want to return to the forefront of the political scene anyway? It seems not, if we’re to take him at his word. Sarkozy “has always said that the political page has indeed been turned”, Bruno Cautrès, a CNRS researcher at the Cevipof, told FRANCE24.

Could this first verdict influence the outcome of the other cases that will soon head to court?

Sarkozy has another trial beginning on March 17, over the the so-called Bygmalion affair, concerning the financing of his 2012 presidential campaign. He is also charged in a case concerning suspicions over Libyan financing of his presidential 2007 campaign.

While a different court will hear the Bygmalion case, it will be difficult to disregard the conviction that was handed down two weeks earlier. Many observers agree that Sarkozy may well use his conviction to cry judicial harassment.

And Sarkozy’s defence has essentially taken a hit. While Herzog is free to keep practicing law despite his conviction, thanks to the pending appeal, he won’t be arguing his client’s case from a position of strength.

Why is the case causing controversy around the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office? 

During the heated trial, Sarkozy’s lawyers continually hammered the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), calling the case “garbage” and demanding the cancellation of the entire procedure, which was based on what they called “illegal” wiretaps of conversations between a lawyer and his client.

In response, national prosecutor Jean-François Bohnert made a personal appearance on December 8 in support of the charges and, more broadly, the institution, assuring that this trial was not a matter of “institutional vengeance […] against a former president of the Republic”.

Created in 2013 by then-President François Hollande, the PNF has been the subject of fierce controversy since its start, particularly in regard to its investigative methods. Several elected officials on the right have called for its abolition.

“The French people know little or nothing about the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office and this type of case allows it to gain visibility,” Cautrès said. “For the past 15 years, France has been committed to making progress in matters relating to the ethics of public and political life. The country was lagging behind its European neighbours in this respect, and the damage is now being repaired.”

Elected officials on the right do not see the institution in the same light, and consider Sarkozy’s conviction as further proof of its bias. Among Republicans, the conviction reawakens bitter memories of 2017, when François Fillon was eliminated in the first round of the presidential election after the PNF opened an investigation into a fake jobs scandal involving his wife, Penelope.

“There will be a before and after this Sarkozy affair that I still link very strongly to the Fillon affair,” said Les Républicans Senator Valérie Boyer. “Without the PNF, I don’t think Emmanuel Macron would be President of the Republic.”

This article was translated from the original in French.



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France acquits ex-PM Balladur in Karachi corruption trial, convicts ex-defence minister



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A French court on Thursday acquitted former prime minister Edouard Balladur on corruption charges after he was accused of using kickbacks from an arms deal but handed a suspended jail term to his former defence minister.

The verdict by the Law Court of the Republic (CJR), which sits to try serving and former ministers for alleged violations committed in office, came just days after ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted for corruption.

Balladur, 91, had been accused of funnelling illicit commissions from arms deals to his unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1995.

His former defence minister Francois Leotard, 78, was however convicted of complicity in the misuse of assets and handed a suspended two-year prison term and a fine of 100,000 euros ($120,000).

Neither was present in court for the verdict.

Balladur and Leotard, both right-wingers, were charged in 2017 with “complicity in the misuse of corporate assets” over the sale of submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Saudi Arabia between 1993 and 1995.

The verdicts came hot on the heels of a corruption conviction for former president Sarkozy on Monday which stunned France and has led to a debate about the extent of political corruption.

That judgement meant that both of the last heads of states from France’s right-wing party now called The Republicans (LR) — Jacques Chirac and Sarkozy — have criminal convictions.

Sarkozy has vowed to appeal and clear his name.

Swiss cash

The allegations against Balladur and Leotard came to light during an investigation into a 2002 bombing in Karachi, Pakistan, that targeted a bus transporting French engineers.

Fifteen people were killed in the attack, including 11 engineers working on the submarine contract, with the Al-Qaeda terror network initially suspected of carrying out the assault.

But the focus shifted and French investigators began to consider whether the bombing had been carried out as revenge for a halt in commission payments for the arms deals.

Balladur lost his 1995 presidential bid to rival Chirac who allegedly cut off the payments negotiated by the previous government.

Leotard was accused of having created an “opaque network” of intermediaries who took commissions on contracts signed with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and then paid back some of the money with illicit cash transfers.

Prosecutors alleged that the commissions totalled 550 million francs, or 117 million euros in today’s money, some of which was funnelled back to Balladur’s campaign.

At the centre of the case was a deposit of 10.25 million francs in cash made into Balladur’s campaign account three days after his electoral defeat in 1995.

Balladur claimed the money came from donations from supporters and merchandise sales, but prosecutors linked the money to cash withdrawals in Switzerland made by a Lebanese-French intermediary who took commissions on the arms deals.

Ziad Takieddine, long active in French right-wing circles, fled to Lebanon last June after a Paris court sentenced him and another middleman, Abdul Rahman El-Assir, to five years in prison over their role in the “Karachi” kickbacks.

Three others were also convicted but have announced appeals.

“I have a completely free conscience,” Balladur told the court during his interrogation.

Takieddine has also made — and retracted — claims that he delivered suitcases stuffed with cash from Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi to Sarkozy’s chief of staff to help with the ex-president’s 2007 presidential campaign.

Those claims are the subject of a separate investigation into Sarkozy.

Combative Sarkozy

On Monday, the 66-year-old ex-president was found to have formed a “corruption pact” with his lawyer Thierry Herzog to convince a judge to obtain and share information about yet another inquiry into his campaign financing.

Sarkozy, who has been dogged with investigations since leaving office in 2007, denies the charges and has vowed to clear his name with an appeal.

In two interviews Wednesday, he lambasted the verdict and said he was mulling filing a complaint with Europe’s top rights court.

“I never betrayed the trust of the French people,” France’s president from 2007 to 2012 told TF1 channel in a primetime interview on Wednesday evening.

(AFP)



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Sentenced for corruption, Sarkozy goes on media offensive


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France’s former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday vowed to “go all the way” to clear his name, two days after being handed a three-year sentence for corruption following a trial he portrayed as a travesty of justice.

A Paris court ruled that the 66-year-old right-winger had formed a “corruption pact” with his lawyer Thierry Herzog to convince a judge to obtain and share information about an inquiry into the financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign.

Sarkozy, who in December became France’s first modern head of state to appear in the dock, has announced plans to appeal.

In two interviews Wednesday he lambasted the verdict and said he was mulling filing a complaint with Europe’s top rights court.

“I never betrayed the trust of the French people,” France’s president from 2007 to 2012 told TF1 channel in a primetime interview, noting that the French court had convicted him of corruption despite concluding that “not a cent” had changed hands and that no favours had been granted.

With three other legal cases pending against him, Monday’s conviction deals a blow to any hope Sarkozy has of making another political comeback after a failed bid to win a presidential nomination in 2016.

>> Explainer: After guilty verdict, Sarkozy faces more trials and tribulations

Sarkozy, a polarising presence who is a hate figure for many on the left but remains popular on the right, told TF1 he had “turned the page” on his political career.

Despite being given a three-year jail term Sarkozy is not expected to serve time: two of the three years were suspended by the court with the remaining year set to be served at home with an electronic bracelet.

 ‘Painful for me’

Handing down the sentence, the court said Sarkozy’s crime was “particularly serious having been committed by a former president who was the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary”.

In an interview with Le Figaro daily Sarkozy, a trained lawyer, said the ruling was “riddled with inconsistencies” and was based on “a bunch of circumstantial evidence”.

“Perhaps it will be necessary to take this battle to the (Strasbourg-based) European Court of Human Rights,” he said.

“It would be painful for me to have my own country condemned, but I am ready because that would be the price of democracy.”

The judgement is far from marking the end of Sarkozy’s legal woes.

On March 17, the ex-president is scheduled to face a second trial over accusations of fraudulently overspending in his failed 2012 re-election bid.

In a strongly-worded editorial, the newspaper Le Monde urged Sarkozy to put an end to his confrontation with the French legal system and stop whipping up the anger of his supporters towards judges.

“Today, he is reaping what he has sowed and must consider the advisability of continuing this populist excess, which has not only become a trap for him but a risk for the country,” it said.

But Le Parisien newspaper voiced sympathy for Sarkozy in an editorial by its director condemning the “relentless intransigence” of the judiciary towards the ex-politician.

Staff at the newspaper distanced themselves from the editorial.

‘Play politics’

Right-wing allies of Sarkozy have rushed to his defence, portraying him as the victim of a witch hunt by France’s national financial prosecutors.

“When some judges start to play politics, the role of lawmakers is to strongly denounce it,” Guillaume Peltier, the deputy leader of right-wing opposition party The Republicans, told LCI television.

>> Sarkozy conviction triggers right-wing backlash against ‘judges’ republic’

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, a former member of Sarkozy’s Republicans party who was poached by President Emmanuel Macron, also expressed support for the defendant.

“I know he’s an honest man,” Darmanin declared.

Before his conviction, Sarkozy’s name had been floated as the ideal candidate to unite the right against Macron in 2022 presidential polls.

In 2016 he was beaten to the presidential nomination of the Republicans by his former prime minister Francois Fillon, who later crashed out of the race after being charged with fraud. 

Sarkozy has also been charged over allegations he received millions of euros from the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi for his 2007 election campaign.

And in January, prosecutors opened another probe into alleged influence-peddling by Sarkozy over his advisory activities in Russia.   

(AFP)



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What is behind the increase in gang violence in France?



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France has been alarmed over recent weeks by a spate of killings of young people in gang violence in the Paris region during the school holidays. Experts say that the role of social media and the economic effects of the Covid-19 crisis are major factors behind this phenomenon.

The most recent killing to shake France was that of Aymane, 15, who was shot in the troubled Seine-Saint-Denis suburbs outside Paris on February 26. He was the third teenager in less than a week to have died in gang violence in the Paris suburbs – with the alleged perpetrators, two brothers aged 17 and 27, charged on March 1.

This came just a few days after two 14-year-olds, a boy and a girl, were killed in the suburban county of Essonne to the other side of Paris. They were stabbed to death in two different brawls between young people from rival gangs.

“It’s not surprising that the most serious problems take place during the school holidays, because during this time they have to go without the forms of social support they usually rely on, such as sport clubs and youth centres,” Yazid Kherfi, a former robber who turned away from crime and has worked in youth crime prevention since 2012, told FRANCE 24.

‘Fear of reprisals’

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and the 6pm to 6am curfew that France has instituted to try to deal with it, “in these neighbourhoods there aren’t any places open at night,” Kherfi continued. “Right now I can’t go and meet young people at risk of turning to violence because of Covid-19 restrictions.”

In response to this spate of killings, the French interior, justice and education ministers convened on March 1 to officially put the government on alert against this phenomenon.

Gang warfare among young people is on the rise, interior ministry statistics show: France recorded some 357 incidents in 2020 compared to 288 the previous year. The interior ministry has identified 74 gangs throughout the country – including 46 in the Paris region.

These figures likely represent an underestimation of the scale of the problem, Thomas Sauvadet, a sociologist and author of a study on youth gang warfare, Le Capital Guerrier (“Our Warlike Capital”), told FRANCE 24: “The police only record the most serious incidents, while many victims shy away from filing complaints out of fear of reprisals.”

Sauvadet added that “about 10 percent of young men under 30 living in underprivileged areas in the Paris region belong to a gang”, according to statistics he collated. “These gangs are largely composed of young people who have known each other from an early age, sometimes from seven to 10 years old. Then they tend to have difficulties at school in adolescence, sometimes with family issues that they seek to flee – and often professional difficulties follow that. So these young people band together to form gangs and find themselves in a state of conflict with those around them, including social workers.”

“These young people come together in these gangs and they feel like it gives them a sense of identity as well as protecting them,” Kherfi added. “They often suffer from quite bad economic insecurity, because they tend to come from relatively poor families. But there is also a sense of physical insecurity, because social media make it much easier to relay threats.”

“People can hurl abuse at each other much more easily through the virtual network of social media,” Kherfi continued. “And the virtual violence of these insults can end up turning into actual physical violence when those involved meet face-to-face.”

Sauvadet agreed with this observation – adding that social networks have encouraged gang violence by making it easier to organise.

‘We need 10 times the current budget’

The French government is taking the role of social media seriously. It wants to use local networks of borough councils, the police and schools to monitor social networks to stop them being used as platforms engendering gang violence – one of several measures put forward by the interior and justice ministries.

But Sauvadet argued that this will not be enough, because social media accelerated a cultural phenomenon that had already taken root. “Powered by American popular culture, gang culture has become mainstream,” he said, adding that it has been trivialised by US rappers and influencers, and “has even been taken over by multinationals, such as a famous sports brand, which used a kind of gang aesthetic to sell a clothing line to young people”.

Several other factors have also contributed to the increase in gang violence, notably the emergence of mass youth unemployment starting in the 1980s. “There are plenty of people in their twenties who still live with their parents, and many of them have been stuck in gangs since they were teenagers amid economic precarity,” Sauvadet said. “They become the network heads who influence those beneath them in the hierarchy, serving as role models for teenagers who turn to violence.”

A lack of social workers dedicated to preventing gang violence is another big problem, Kherfi and Sauvadet agreed. 

“When you’ve got three working in a place where 5,000 people live, that’s seen as a luxury,” Sauvadet said. “We’d need 10 times the current budget for it to be effective.”

Even so, “social workers cannot by themselves solve all of society’s problems”, Sauvadet said. “We’ve also got to look ay the economic roots of drug consumption and trafficking, youth unemployment and housing problems.”

The government’s plan to fight gangs is scheduled to come into force on May 1. It includes measures focusing on beefing up policing as well as policies aimed at tackling the causes of gang violence – notably by increasing monitoring of truancy.

This article has been translated from the original in French.



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Indigenous groups sue French supermarket chain Casino over Amazon deforestation



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Indigenous people from Brazil and Colombia sued retailer Casino in a French court on Wednesday over the selling of beef linked to land grabbing and deforestation in the Amazon, campaigners involved in the lawsuit said.

It is the first time a French supermarket chain has been taken to court over deforestation and the loss of land and livelihood under a 2017 law in France that demands its companies avoid human rights and environmental violations in their supply chains.

Casino, which controls Brazil’s largest food retailer, Grupo Pao de Acucar (GPA) and through that also Colombian retailer Almacenes Exito, said it actively fought against deforestation by cattle ranchers in Brazil and Colombia.

The lawsuit alleges Casino regularly bought beef from three slaughterhouses owned by a major Brazilian meatpacker.

Those slaughterhouses sourced cattle from nearly 600 suppliers responsible for at least 50,000 hectares — an area five times the size of Paris — of deforestation between 2008 and 2020, according to the lawsuit.

“The demand for beef by Casino and Pão de Açúcar brings deforestation and land grabbing and violence,” Luis Eloy Terena of COIAB, a body coordinating indigenous groups in the Brazilian Amazon, said in a statement.

Casino said GPA applied a rigorous policy of controlling the origin of beef delivered by its suppliers, adding Brazilian beef was not sold in its French stores.

GPA told Reuters that since 2016 it had established criteria that its suppliers must comply with. They included “zero Amazon deforestation, no slave-like labour conditions, no child labour and no invasions of indigenous land or conservation areas.” Ranchers must hold land ownership documents, it added.

Brazil is Casino’s second largest market after France.

Financial groups face pressure to protect Amazon

The Amazon plays a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

An area of the Amazon rainforest the size of Israel was felled last year, campaign groups say, and cattle ranching is a leading driver of habitat loss, as population growth and the expanding middle classes of developing nations fuel the consumption of meat and dairy.

>> Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon reaches 12-year high under Bolsonaro

Sebastian Mabile, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Casino and its subsidiary had failed in their obligations to scrutinise their supply chains.

“We want them to pay approximately 3 million euros to the organisations that represent indigenous peoples and ensure that their activities do not entail deforestation,” Mabile told a press conference.

Companies are under growing pressure from national legislation and campaigners to protect the Amazon.

French bank BNP Paribas in February pledged to only finance companies producing beef or soybeans in Latin America that adopt a strategy of zero deforestation by 2025.

In January, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and Dutch lender ING announced they were to stop financing the trade in crude oil from Ecuador. Indigenous leaders said the banks’ money made them complicit in the destruction of rainforest by Ecuador’s oil industry.

Plaintiffs to the lawsuit include French and U.S. campaign groups. 

(REUTERS)



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