The machine gun attack on the capital’s famous Champs-Elysées boulevard has left one policeman dead, two others seriously wounded and another person injured. The attacker was also killed, and ISIS has claimed responsibility.
France has been braced for the possibility of an attack during the country’s long election campaign. Yesterday, as the details of the assault emerged, presidential candidates paid tribute to the victims, and the security forces in particular.
What we know so far
- Isis claimed responsibility for the attack through its media agency Amaq, saying the attacker was a “fighter” known as “the Belgian”. The group offered no evidence for the claim and it was not confirmed by the French authorities.
- The events took place around 9pm, when the man, using an automatic weapon, opened fire at a police van. The assailant was killed when police returned fire.
- The Paris prosecutor, François Molins, has said that the attacker was known to authorities, but has refused to name him. His home was raided by police on Thursday evening. Investigations are also underway to work out if the man had an accomplice.
- François Hollande, France’s president, spoke to the nation yesterday evening and said that he is “convinced that the leads in the investigation are terror-related”.
A shaken election campaign
The attack comes as the French prepare to go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of voting in a bitterly contested presidential election campaign.
France’s has been the target of wave of Islamic terror plots over the last two years, and issues of security and national identity have been major themes of the election, in which far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is one of the frontrunners.
Details of the shooting emerged as the 11 candidates took part in a pre-election interview on French state TV, with each taking it in turns to field questions for 15 minutes from reporters.
The event had been intended as a last majority opportunity to convince voters ahead of Sunday’s poll, but ended up being effectively taken over by the news from the Champs-Elysées, with the candidates expressing solidarity with the victims and emphasising their policies for keeping France safe.
Inevitable questions now arise of how the attack could play into the campaign. Three of the frontrunners, Emmanuel Macron, François Fillon and Marine Le Pen announced that they had cancelled their campaign appearances for Friday, the last official day of campaigning.
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Bureaucracy can be a weapon. Any EU citizen seeking permanent residence in the UK has to wade through an 85 page form, accounting for each trip out of Britain and – if they were a student – demonstrating that they had comprehensive health insurance and did not just rely on the NHS.
Errors are punished: Britain’s brand of “computer says no” bureaucracy has resulted in hurtful letters threatening deportation being sent in error to people who have lived in the country for decades.
These hurdles – and individual horror stories – have been noted in Brussels and are swiftly becoming a point of friction during Brexit negotiations.
Michel Barnier is aiming sky high with his negotiating demands on citizen rights (our annotated version of the Commission’s non paper on the negotiations is here). In beefed up Brexit guidelines, the EU27 also said:
Guarantees of migrant rights “must be comprehensive, effective, enforceable and non-discriminatory”, the document states. “Citizens should be able to exercise their rights through smooth and simple administrative procedures.”
Several diplomats involved in negotiations said the call for “simple administrative procedures” was a direct reference to unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that will make it harder for EU citizens to exercise their rights in Britain. “We’ve all seen that 85-page form,” said one senior EU diplomat.
It might seem a touch hypocritical. Registering in countries such as Germany or Belgium is not always a delight. But charges of double standards do not matter, as the Greek bailout talks demonstrated.
The irony of Greece almost being booted out of the eurozone in 2015 for refusing to countenance reforms such as looser Sunday trading rules was not lost on the hacks covering the summit in Brussels on a Sunday who struggled to find anywhere open to eat.
“Bureaucratic persecution” – how one top EU diplomatic termed it – will not be tolerated during Brexit talks. The issue of reciprocal rights was always going to be technically tricky. Excessive paperwork makes it politically poisonous, too.
A bureaucratic novella For a reminder on what applying for residency is like, read this piece.
“I come from a country that very much has its level of bureaucracy, but this is tops,” said Marek, a Polish expatriate who declined to use his real name because of concerns about his immigration status. “You see a form like this, you see this list of documentation, and it’s nothing but hostile.”
Elsewhere in Europe
Big Willy Style Martin Schulz is trying to ape former German chancellor Willy Brandt, according to Charlemagne at the Economist.
There are indeed similarities. Like Brandt in 1969, Mr Schulz leads an SPD that is tired of being the junior partner in a grand coalition, yet struggling, at a time of economic boom, to usurp a long-dominant CDU/CSU. Like Brandt, a one-time mayor of isolated West Berlin, the former European Parliament president is an outsider in German federal politics. And like Brandt he is blunt, approachable, emotional, idealistically European in outlook and palpably hungry for power.
Corbyn the populist Jeremy Corbyn made a play for the will of people mantle.
In his first major speech since the election was called, he told supporters it was the party’s “historic duty to make sure the people prevail” in the face of a rigged system. “We will no longer allow those at the top to leach off those who bust their guts on zero hours contracts or those forced to make sacrifices to pay their mortgage or their rent,” he said.
Brexit chill begins “Brussels is starting systematically to shut out British groups from multibillion-euro contracts and urging companies to decamp to one of the 27 remaining EU members as it prepares for Brexit.” Full story. The document carried a reminder that Britain will lose access to crucial crime and asylum databases unless there is some agreement. Likewise, companies need to sort out data transfer arrangements soon: transferring personal data from the EU to a third country – which Britain will soon be – requires special permissions.
Frontpage National A fascinating piece on the Front National’s media strategy and a demonstration that sunlight is not always the best disinfectant. Read the whole thing here.
[Jean-Marie Le Pen] understood that if the Front National was to grow, it would require exposure in the press, positive or not. In 1982, though the party had won no elections of any note and counted only a few thousand registered members, he wrote to president François Mitterrand to complain that the media was denying him attention. Calculating that any rise in Le Pen’s fortunes would mean a corresponding fall in those of the parties of the traditional right, Mitterrand, a Socialist, directed the country’s three state television channels to give the FN more airtime.