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DRIVING

The plan to make getting a French drivers’ licence quicker and cheaper

A bill aiming to make the process of obtaining a French driver's licence more affordable and smooth is making its way through France's parliament. Here is how it could impact would-be drivers in France.

The plan to make getting a French drivers' licence quicker and cheaper
(Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP)

French lawmakers are looking to make it less expensive to get a driver’s licence, in a bill that gained unanimous support during a vote on Monday in the country’s Assemblée Nationale. 

Originally tabled by Sacha Houilié, a member of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, the initiative is intended to improve the slow and notoriously expensive process of getting a licence in France.

Here’s what the bill proposes;

One youth, one licence

This online platform would be managed by the French government, and it would help future drivers be able to locate financial aid that might help them pay for their driving test.

As things stand currently, getting a driver’s licence in France is a lengthy, and expensive process – particularly as many people have to take the test more than once, and thus wait a significant amount of time in between test dates.

On average, the average candidate for a French driver’s licence pays about €1,800 for the whole process, including lessons and the theory and practical tests.

READ MORE: Four years and €1,800: What foreigners should know about the French driving test?

Allowing CPF budgets to fund licences

The proposed text would allow for one’s personal training account (CPF) to help fund all types of licenses, including motorcycles and small cars. Currently, only the B licenses – for standard cars – are able to do so.

In 2021, CPF budgets helped to finance 322,000 driver’s licences in France – about 28 percent of the licences issued that year. This would help extend it even further.

READ MORE: How to claim the cost of language or driving lessons from the French government

Contracted test examiners

With the goal of being able to offer more testing slots, the bill would extend the authorisation that exists in some parts of France for contracted workers to be authorised as test examiners for the practical (road test) aspect of the French driver’s licence to be nationwide. This would allegedly help to make the process faster, particularly for those who need to take the test more than once.

Houlié, the député who brought the bill forward, said that this will not be “outsourcing” the role of test examiners, but some members of the French political left have contested this part of the bill. This is not “outsourcing”, Mr. Houlié assures us in the face of inspectors’ concerns. The left has protested against the use of contract workers.

What about foreigners in France?

If you’re a foreign national living in France, you may need to exchange your licence for a French one.

If you’re lucky, the country that issued your licence will have an agreement with France, so then the process is a simple swap.

If you’re unlucky, there is no agreement in place and then you will need to take a French driving test in order to legally drive in France – even if you have many years of driving experience.

Full details on the swap process here.

This particularly affects Americans in France, as only some US states have agreements with France.

The European Union has proposed legislation that would create a list of countries that have ‘comparable’ driving standards to the EU, and allow people who have a licence from those countries to simply swap their licence for a local one, whichever EU country they live in.

Essentially, this could allow Americans from any state to simply swap their licence, rather than having to go through the testing process again. 

READ MORE: Americans in France: What you need to know about proposed changes to EU driving licence rules

Unfortunately, the plan will likely take many months, potentially years, to come into fruition. 

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ELECTIONS

Anti-Semitism fears stalk Jewish voters’ choice in France

Left-leaning Jewish associations and individual voters in France are struggling to make a choice ahead of snap parliamentary polls, with the far right expected to make massive gains and the hard left mired in allegations of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism fears stalk Jewish voters' choice in France

For Jewish collective Golem, “the far right is the main danger threatening Jews and French society,” its spokesman Lorenzo Leschi told AFP.

But “there is obviously a big anti-Semitism problem at La France Insoumise” (LFI), the hard-left outfit whose ambivalent response to Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel left it temporarily shunned by other left parties, he added.

Three major blocs are competing for votes in the two-round ballot on June 30th and July 7th: the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) of Marine Le Pen, President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp, and the left Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) alliance, of which LFI is the largest member.

It was “a total disgrace” for France’s traditional left party of government, the much-weakened Parti Socialiste (PS), to ally with LFI, which “makes hatred of Jews its electoral stock in trade,” the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (Crif) charged.

Raphaël Glucksmann, who led the PS to an unexpectedly strong result at June 9th European elections, acknowledged to an anguished voter on a phone-in show last week that the alliance places “a very difficult choice before you” – while insisting the far-right “threat” was “infinitely too great” to renounce working with LFI.

LFI itself has always strenuously denied allegations of anti-Semitism, and the left alliance programme includes a condemnation of Hamas’s attacks and a plan to tackle Islamophobia and hatred of Jews.

The hard left’s campaign for June 9th European elections laid massive emphasis on stopping Israel’s campaign in Gaza, while its leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon claimed that France today suffered only “vestigial” anti-Semitism.

Such sorties angered many Jewish people in the face of a 300-percent year-on-year surge in anti-Semitic incidents in January-March in the wake of October 7th attack and Israel’s reprisal in Gaza.

This week, two teenagers from a Paris suburb were charged with the rape and abuse of a 12-year-old Jewish girl, acts apparently motivated by anti-Semitism.

Mélenchon – a leading candidate for prime minister should the left score a majority – posted on social media that he was “horrified” by the hate crime.

But the attack offered an opening for three-time presidential candidate Le Pen to blast “stigmatisation of Jews” by “the far left”.

Le Pen’s party was co-founded by a former member of the Nazi paramilitary Waffen-SS and long led by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who made repeated anti-Semitic remarks in public and is a convicted Holocaust denier.

Since she took over, sidelining her father and renaming the outfit, she has attempted to win over potential Jewish voters, including with vocal support for Israel.

Historian Serge Klarsfeld, who has spent decades researching the Holocaust in German-occupied France, stunned the community on Saturday by saying he would vote for the RN over the left alliance if forced to choose in the July 7th run-off.

“My life rotates around defending Jewish memory, defending persecuted Jews, defending Israel,” Klarsfeld said.

“I’m faced with a far left that’s in the grip of LFI, which reeks of anti-Semitism and violent anti-Zionism,” he added – traits Klarsfeld believes the RN has “shed”.

“Serge Klarsfeld is… worsening confusion and outdoing everyone in erasing history, which is part of the RN’s ideological programme,” philosopher Michele Cohen-Halimi, writer Francis Cohen and actor Leopold von Verschuer wrote in a joint op-ed in daily Le Monde on Thursday.

The RN itself and its rightwing allies withdrew support for two candidates on Wednesday who had made anti-Semitic posts on social networks.

The election is ‘totally weird’ said comedian and activist against anti-Semitism Emmanuel Revah told AFP.

He is leaning towards voting for LFI because “the most important thing is beating the RN”.

“It’s very difficult, I’m rationalising by telling myself I’d rather vote for a candidate or a party that’s just a little rather than completely anti-Semitic,” he added.

“We don’t have the choice, we’re voting for any candidate against the RN,” said Brigitte Stora, author of the book “Anti-Semitism: an intimate murder”.

Once the parliamentary polls are over, though, “we have to take Mélenchon and his little lieutenants out of the game,” she added.

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