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Paris presents ‘manifesto of beauty’ to spruce up French capital

Paris city authorities have unveiled a 'manifesto for beauty' containing plans to spruce up the City of Lights where an online campaign highlighting ugliness and filth has piled pressure on mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Paris presents 'manifesto of beauty' to spruce up French capital
Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said that several recent initiatives from the Socialist-Green alliance that runs the capital would be scrapped, including allowing Parisians to plant their own gardens on public space.

Under a 2015 scheme, locals were invited to apply for licences to plant flowers around the feet of trees in the street — at the cost of the traditional cast-iron covers that are a much-loved part of the Parisian landscape.

Many amateur gardens have since turned into rubbish-strewn eyesores covered in dog faeces, with Gregoire conceding they were “not satisfactory from an aesthetic point of view” and posed “major upkeep problems.”

A zero-tolerance approach to dumping rubbish in public will be taken, Gregoire promised, while efforts to combat tagging and illegal posters will also be stepped up.

Unsightly temporary yellow road markings for new cycling lanes will also be removed, in line with a previous pledge, while recent concrete barriers will be replaced with “more discreet” versions.

The #saccageparis (trashed Paris) social media hashtag went viral in the first half of 2021, with residents posting photos of piled up rubbish, rotting benches, abandoned scooters, or badly maintained planted areas in the street.

OPINION: The real ‘trashing’ of Paris is not cycle lanes and benches but gentrification

Much of the anger was directed at city hall for replacing or neglecting Paris’s unique architectural heritage, including its street furniture bequeathed from the middle of the 19th century under Napoleon III.

Though the mayor’s office initially denounced the hashtag as a “smear campaign”, city authorities have been spurred into action.

Gregoire already laid out eight measures aimed at improving the city’s looks in July last year.

He conceded on Tuesday that the campaign “had also been useful in the way that it forced us to question ourselves and react”, although he said sometimes the same photos were reproduced, exaggerating the extent of the problems.

Hidalgo is running for president as the candidate for the Socialist party but is struggling to make an impact on voters. She is currently polling around three percent. The presidential election will be held in April.

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POLITICS

French Mediterranean resort’s far-right mayor bans burkinis

The far-right mayor of a resort on the Mediterranean coast of France has banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis in any of the town's swimming pools or beaches - despite previous court rulings saying that this is illegal.

French Mediterranean resort's far-right mayor bans burkinis

Three days after the southeastern city of Grenoble voted to allow swimmers to wear the full-cover swimsuit, the mayor of Fréjus – a member of Marine Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National party – announced that he had decided to outlaw it.

“I learned with amazement of the authorisation given by the mayor of Grenoble to authorise the burkini in the swimming pools of its commune,” David Rachline wrote in a press release. 

READ ALSO OPINION: If France is to belong in a multicultural world it must accept its Muslim women

In fact, Grenoble updated its rules for municipal swimming pools to allow all bathers to wear any swimsuit – including burkinis – that protected them from the sun. It also permits women to swim topless if they wish and men to wear swim shorts instead of Speedos.

No-one seems to have had an issue with the swim shorts or the topless rule, but the addition of the ‘burkini’ to the list of accepted swimwear caused a major stir, with many lining up to condemn the move – including France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who ordered the local Préfet to review the decision, and later announced that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

READ ALSO French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

Rachline has pre-empted any decision from the government by acting unilaterally, trotting out the familiar refrain from the right that the decision in Grenoble goes against the “fundamental republican principle of secularism”.

“The express authorisation of the burkini is neither more nor less than an electoral provocation with a communitarian spring, implemented by the radical left,” he said.

“I see a culpable complacency with radical Islamism, for electoral purposes and in defiance of national cohesion.

“In order for things to be clearly stated, I have decided, as mayor of Fréjus, guarantor of public hygiene and safety, to modify the corresponding decrees to explicitly specify the ban on the burkini.”

His ban extends to both the town’s municipal swimming pools and its beaches, and he’s not the first southern mayor to attempt to ban burkinis on beaches.

In 2016, Cannes mayor David Lisnard issued an anti-burkini order on the beaches of his town.

The decision, which had also been taken in municipalities such as Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes), was overturned after an opinion from the Conseil d’Etat, one of France’s highest legal authorities. 

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