How Macron is waging his secret wars

INVESTIGATION – Since his election, the President has launched increasingly offensive military operations and authorizes serial “neutralizations”. Our collaborator Vincent Nouzille investigated this top secret facet of presidential action.

By Vincent Nouzille

Emmanuel Macron, May 14, 2019, during the tribute ceremony to the two special forces soldiers who died on May 10 during an operation in Burkina Faso.
Emmanuel Macron, May 14, 2019, during the tribute ceremony to the two special forces soldiers who died on May 10 during an operation in Burkina Faso. Jacques Witt / SIPA

It was a summery, but chilling defense council. On August 11, 2020, from Fort Brégançon, President Emmanuel Macron meets by videoconference with his Prime Minister Jean Castex, the royal ministers, the chief of staff of the armed forces and the bosses of the intelligence services. The agenda is serious, mourning the murder, on August 9, of eight people, two Nigerians and six French members of the NGO Acted, in the Kouré reserve, near Niamey, in Niger. A real massacre committed by men arriving on motorcycles.

Until now, this area still seemed protected from repeated attacks by jihadist groups who have spread their guerrillas in several countries of the Sahel. The 5,100 French soldiers of Operation Barkhane have increased for six months the lightning operations aimed at weakening the two main rival nebulae, the GSIM (Support Group for Islam and Muslims), linked to al-Qaida, and the EIGS (Islamic State in the Great Sahara), affiliated with Daesh, in particular

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Belgium relaxes the rules and bets on the support of the population

While national figures show an acceleration in contamination since the start of the school year, the Belgian authorities are adopting a strategy that goes against the French turn of the screw.

From October 1, wearing a mask outside in the Brussels region will only be compulsory in high-traffic areas.
From October 1, wearing a mask outside in the Brussels region will only be compulsory in high-traffic areas. YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

Correspondent in Brussels

In Belgium too, the authorities have often groped about the virus. But, at 1is October, it is a turn of one hundred and eighty degrees which awaits the population. Against the grain of the French turn of the screw.

While national figures show an acceleration of contaminations since the start of the school year and even more in recent days, while the country has since Wednesday been classified “red” by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, against “dark orange »Previously, Belgium will considerably relax anti-coronavirus measures. Including in Brussels and Antwerp, particularly affected. The Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmès, moreover set the tone, Wednesday, during her press conference: “The virus is still there, but life must go on!”

The objective of the Belgian authorities is to increase adherence to the rules and to make the population more responsible. “The current measures are so strict that less and less

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Holiday in Corona times: do consulates help despite travel warning?

IIn spring 2020, the largest repatriation campaign in the history of the Federal Republic took place: 240,000 Germans were brought back to Germany from abroad due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The federal government made it clear that there shouldn’t be a second time. In emergencies, however, travelers can of course still count on consular help.

But what exactly does this mean for individual travelers who, unlike package tourists, are not taken care of by an operator?

Stranded in Panama because of Corona

First of all, a real case: Ronja Kötzer was stuck in one of the last open hostels in Panama City for seven days in mid-March, five days of which in complete uncertainty. The 23-year-old student from Passau actually wanted to travel to Peru after her internship abroad.

But then came the news of the worried mother, the border closure, armed patrols and the curfew. In the end, it was clear to Kötzer: “I have to go back to Germany.”

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First, Kötzer signed the Federal Foreign Office’s crisis prevention list. Since the site was completely overloaded, it took four days for the registry to work. Meanwhile, the German searched intensively for return flights – most of them had either already been canceled or cost around 2,000 euros.

Then she heard about the return campaign. There should be two planes, the first for high-risk patients and doctors. Finally, on March 27, the embassy received the email: there would be a return flight to Frankfurt in two days.

Consular help even in the event of a travel warning

The example shows: Foreign missions such as embassies and consulates help if there are unrest or disasters in the country of residence. As with Ronja Kötzer, the representation can provide support when you leave the country. And: Germans can register for short-term stays via the Elefand crisis prevention list so that the embassy can contact them in an emergency.

Strand in Panama

If you unintentionally get stuck abroad, you can no longer necessarily enjoy dream beaches like here in Panama

Those: Getty Images / Andrea Comi

Foreign missions often also help travelers in other cases – for example when vacationers have been robbed and therefore have neither money nor passports. Then they issue replacement passports, for example. You can also put in contact with local lawyers, doctors and translators. Financial advance payments are only possible in exceptional cases. All of this applied before Corona and continues to apply.

The Foreign Office (AA) assures that the worldwide network of diplomatic missions is still available “to provide consular support to German citizens in emergencies and to find pragmatic solutions for a return to Germany if necessary”. This applies regardless of the existence of a travel warning.

Vacationers have no general right to help

However, it always applies that the consular help is help for self-help. So you have to try to help yourself or with the support of family and friends first.

A direct right of the individual to the granting of consular help is not regulated in the Consular Act, explains lawyer Vladimir Stamenkovic from Essen. Whether and how consular assistance is provided is at the discretion of the consular officer.

According to the Federal Foreign Office, the type of support depends on the circumstances and possibilities in the individual case. The spectrum ranges from general advice to specific practical support. Financial support is only available under strictly defined conditions.

In principle, the following applies: The German diplomatic missions can generally help, but it depends on the individual case.

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In order to protect against corona, the stewardess wears protective clothing on the plane

As a rule, however, individual travelers cannot count on support in rebooking their return trip. Here vacationers are left to fend for themselves, says Robert Bartel, legal advisor at the Brandenburg Consumer Center.

Although it is usually more expensive, a flexible ticket can be a solution. This means that you have the option of leaving earlier or later spontaneously, if the circumstances on site or an infection require it. In any case, many airlines are currently offering free rebooking options.

When the Federal Foreign Office warns of a trip

Travel warnings are an urgent appeal by the Federal Foreign Office to refrain from traveling – but not a travel ban. Vacationers decide on their own responsibility whether they should go on a trip or not. The diplomatic mission does not refuse to help just because there is a travel warning.

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For a holiday in Mallorca you just have to accept a little more hardship.  Here is a scene from Magaluf

Lawyer Stamenkovic emphasizes, however, that there is no entitlement to certain protective measures. The competent authority could even accept significant violations of the rights of a citizen abroad to protect the general public. “This can be justified in particular if a citizen ignores a travel warning and accepts the risk of Sars-Cov-2 infection.”

A travel warning can also have other legal effects: For example, the international travel health insurance usually does not pay. If there is an evacuation, as with Ronja Kötzer, a travel warning can, according to Stamenkovic, influence the amount of the return costs, which the German state interprets beforehand.

Insurance only helps with illness

The German diplomatic mission abroad cannot disregard laws and regulations in the country of travel. If a holidaymaker becomes infected with Corona on site or if there is even a suspicion, the country’s authorities decide which measures are to be taken, as reported by the Federal Foreign Office.

As in Germany, the authorities can order quarantine measures. These must also be followed by travelers. As a rule, it is not possible to return home during this period – and the federal government cannot bring back infected people.

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Corona test center at Cologne Bonn Airport.  Anyone who is noticed here first has to be quarantined

A travel health insurance abroad reimburses the costs of medical treatment abroad in the case of Corona and pays for the return transport to Germany – unless there is a clause in the contract that excludes pandemics. That’s it!

The insurance does not apply to travel restrictions and travel warnings. A travel interruption insurance does not cover costs if there are suddenly official restrictions on site. And travel insurers generally do not reimburse the costs of a repatriation to Germany organized by the state.

Ronja Kötzer is also still waiting for the bill for the return flight from Panama. “My originally planned return flight from Peru would have cost 280 euros,” says the student. She now reckons with significantly higher costs of several hundred euros. Communication was often difficult and there was great uncertainty, she said. “But in the end everything worked out.”

Federal Foreign Office prepares invoices for return campaign

Travelers who were brought back to Germany by the Foreign Office during the Corona crisis should soon receive their bills. According to the Consular Act, those affected should share in the costs of the charter flights, as the Foreign Office explained.


dissidents start a party abroad

Opposition figures, based in North America and Europe, want to “establish democracy” in Riyadh.

“We are launching this party at a critical time to save our country, establish a democratic future and meet the aspirations of our people”, Explique Yahya Assiri (
here in 2019 in Istanbul), defender of human rights and secretary general of the National Assembly Party.
Serhat Cagdas / Anadolu Agency via AFP

It is a challenge to the authority of the young Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman. While the latter, de facto ruler of the Saudi kingdom due to the great age of his father, King Salman, strives to silence any dissonant voice inside Arabia, a group of dissidents in exile have created the first opposition party. The announcement on Wednesday coincided with the celebration of the 90e anniversary of the founding of the kingdom, an absolute monarchy that tolerates no political opposition. “The National Assembly Party aims to establish democracy as a form of government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, said the dissidents in a statement.

The new formation is led by London-based human rights defender Yahya Assiri, and includes academic Madawi al-Rashid, researcher Saïd Ben Nasser al-Ghmadi, activist Ahmed al-Mshikhs, Abdallah al-Awda, son of an imprisoned preacher, living in the United States, and Oman Abdel Aziz,

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the life of an Afghan refugee family in Lesbos fits in a cart

SEEN FROM ELSEWHERE – The middle-class Yussefi family ended up taking refuge on the Greek island after risking everything during a trip to Iran.


A woman observes a new temporary camp for migrants and refugees on the island of Lesvos, Greece, September 22, 2020.
A woman observes a new temporary camp for migrants and refugees on the island of Lesvos, Greece, September 22, 2020. YARA NARDI / REUTERS

Par Cristian Segura (El País)

Afghan hospitality is not lost, even when the hosts are a homeless family. On the Greek island of Lesbos, Masomeh Etemadi and Ismaël Yussefi ask their guests to sit with them on a tarp which they use as a meeting space; they also offer them water and food distributed to them by NGOs active in the region. They strive to maintain their dignity and good manners although they only have one room in a hut built with a few reeds and cloth tied to two olive trees, on a rubbish-covered embankment.

The country followed Etemadi and Yussefi for four days the week after the fire that destroyed Moria refugee camp. They had planted their meager things on the side of the road to the burned-out camp and, waiting to see what the future held in store for them, whether it was another calamity or a sign of hope, they chatted with their visitors and compatriots, always

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massive destruction of mosques in Xinjiang

China has destroyed or damaged thousands of mosques in the sensitive region of Xinjiang (northwest), according to a report released Friday, September 25 by an Australian research institute and funded by the US State Department.

About 16,000 mosques have been destroyed or damaged in recent years in the predominantly Muslim region, says the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy (ASPI), a research firm created by the Australian government, in a detailed report. The researchers say they relied on satellite photos and important “extrapolations»: After analyzing 533 mosques (out of 24,000 officially in Xinjiang according to the Chinese authorities), they made calculations according to statistical models.

Most of the destruction has taken place in the past three years and 8,500 mosques have been completely destroyed, the report says. Some others have seen their domes and minarets removed, according to researchers, who estimate the number of mosques still standing in Xinjiang at 15,500. The study was funded by the US State Department, ASPI said. Washington is strongly opposed to Beijing on many issues and has been at the forefront in recent months in denouncing Chinese policy in Xinjiang.

SEE ALSO – Why the World Lets China Persecute Uyghurs

Long hit by bloody attacks attributed to members of the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, this immense semi-desert territory is the subject of a firm security takeover in the name of the fight against terrorism. Over a million people, mainly Muslims, were interned there in “camps», Accuse human rights organizations. China says it is “vocational training centers», Intended to help the population to find a job and thus move away from religious extremism.

The Chinese authorities regularly claim to want “siniser” religions. This campaign, carried out in the name of greater control of cults, also aims to fight Islamist movements catalyzing separatist sentiment in Xinjiang.

«This report is all rumor and slanderWang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, responded at a regular press briefing, denouncing “lack of credibility“From the research firm and”its funding from abroad». «Total number of mosques per Muslim capita in Xinjiang is higher than in many Muslim countries”He said.

ASPI released another report on Thursday accusing China of strengthening its network of “detention centers” In the region.


The pressure falls around Greece in the Macron-Erdogan face-to-face

DECRYPTION – The appeasement in the Eastern Mediterranean does not resolve the other disputes between France and Turkey.

Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2018, in Istanbul.  During their telephone interview concerning the tensions in the Mediterranean, the two heads of state put forward “their arguments” and “their willingness to exchange regularly and open other subjects in common”.
Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2018, in Istanbul. During their telephone interview concerning the tensions in the Mediterranean, the two heads of state argued “Their arguments” and “Their willingness to exchange regularly and open up other subjects in common”. MURAD SEZER / REUTERS

This is the first sign of de-escalation since the summer. After weeks of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey have opted for appeasement and say they are ready for negotiations, which should take place soon in Istanbul. This de-escalation measure came on the eve of a European Council, finally postponed because of Covid, which was to put the issue of sanctions against Turkey on the table. It was facilitated by the mediation of Angela Merkel, who spoke on the phone with the Turkish president on Tuesday evening. And by Emmanuel Macron, who also spoke at length, over an hour, to Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Between Paris and Ankara, relations were at their lowest since France showed its support for Greece by deploying warships in the eastern Mediterranean. But the interview, they say at the Élysée, was “constructive”, «without tensions». «Everyone has made their own arguments” but with “the desire to exchange regularly and open

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The Figaro Letter of September 23, 2020

This morning: the EU wants new rules to manage the flow of migrants, Édouard Philippe is thinking of a return, should Verlaine and Rimbaud enter the Pantheon together?

La Lettre du Figaro, your information meeting every morning.
Letter from Figaro, your information meeting every morning. Le Figaro

Hello dear readers,

We knew about “European solidarity” (well, we have vaguely heard of it but we have seen it little). We have learned to discover “compulsory solidarity”. This is “à la carte solidarity”! This invented expression designates the new rule regarding the reception of migrants desired by Brussels: “You (the Member States) do not want to welcome refugees? Very well! You will have to go to the cash desk or take them back yourself to their country of origin ”. For some leaders, the transit of the pill promises to be complicated. To the point of derailing the scheme drawn up by the European Commission?

The advice of the day comes from Emmanuel Macron: “Faced with the virus: 1. Wash your hands. 2. Wear your mask. 3. Keep your distance. ”

Have a nice day,

Ronan Planchon, journalist at Figaro

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Migrants: Europeans want to change the rules

A family of refugees from the Moria camp, destroyed on September 9, goes to a new temporary accommodation on the island of Lesbos on Tuesday. Y. NARDI/REUTERS

Failing full optimism, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson deserves credit

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Mahmoud Dicko, the Salafist imam at the bedside of Mali

STORY – In his country in crisis, the religious of Bamako has the favors of the street and is listened to by politicians, soldiers and diplomats.

Imam Mahmoud Dicko arrives to deliver a speech at a ceremony in memory of Malians killed by security forces during protests against Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on August 28 in Bamako.
Imam Mahmoud Dicko arrives to deliver a speech at a ceremony in memory of Malians killed by security forces during protests against Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on August 28 in Bamako. ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

Special envoy to Bamako

The white faux leather sofa, pierced with large and equally fake diamonds, is the only vaguely luxurious pageantry in Imam Mahmoud Dicko’s living room. In front of this small dark room stretches out a large courtyard covered with poor concrete, as there are thousands of in Bamako. It is full of women coming and going with a bowl in hand. The men, far from being all bearded, wait in a tin covered courtyard, waiting for the hour of prayer or a hypothetical meeting. This most banal decor in no way detracts from the power of the imam. The religious, gray goatee and clever smile, is undoubtedly one of the most influential men in Mali. And no one ignores the words from his mosque in Badalabougou. “He displays a modesty which brings him closer to average Malians and opposes him to a political class considered rich and corrupt”, underlines a diplomat.

The August 18 coup, where a handful of soldiers overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta

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