France Urges Eu Action After Italy Shipwreck Disaster

France takes aim at Amazon to protect local bookshops

EDT October 3, 2013 Air France planes and an Alitalia aircraft are shown at Paris’ Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport. (Photo: Jack Guez, AFP/Getty Images) Tags Italy SHARE 23 CONNECT 58 TWEET 1 COMMENTEMAILMORE Could a merger between Air France-KLM and Alitalia be on the horizon? It sounds as though it’s at least a possibility, according to several reports out Tuesday (Oct. 1) . That comes as Alitalia which has history that is perhaps best known for a seemingly endless cycle of financial emergencies enters a new round of turbulence that has it looking for ways to raise cash. Alitalia’s deteriorating balance sheets have prompted speculation that partner Air France-KLM which already has a 25% stake in the carrier could come to the rescue. RELATED: A familiar place: Alitalia back to the financial brink As for the reports raising the possibility of a merger, one is one from Reuters . The news agency writes “Air France-KLM said on Tuesday it was open to merging with Alitalia in a move seen as the best solution for turning around the loss-making Italian airline.” Dow Jones Newswires ran a similar report , noting one key Alitalia shareholder views Air France-KLM “as a good candidate to take control of the carrier, (though) he said the ultimate decision lay with the (Italian) government.” “(Air France-KLM) is a good buyer,” Gilberto Benetton is quoted by Dow Jones as saying to reporters at the Milan exchange. However, Benetton says the Italian government would have to have a say and that Air France-KLM would have to detail what it would do with Alitalia in a merger. “If the government doesn’t sit at the table with Air France-KLM … the danger is that Italy as a country becomes a region,” he’s quoted as saying be Dow Jones . “This must be avoided at all costs.” Dow Jones writes Benetton’s family, whose holdings include the eponymous retail chain, is “among a group of Italian financiers and industrialists that came to the rescue of Alitalia five years ago to stop the airline from being bought by Air France-KLM, which nevertheless owns a 25% stake.” However, Air France-KLM CEO Alexandre de Juniac indicates any move his company may make regarding Alitalia will be deliberate. “Our conditions for helping Alitalia are very strict. If the conditions are met, I am ready to go ahead,” Air France-KLM chief executive de Juniac is quoted by Reuters as saying to the French newspaper Les Echos.

Sebastien Ogier celebrates world title by winning Rally France; Loeb’s last race ends in crash

“The Mediterranean cannot remain a huge open-air cemetery. Action must be taken,” Fabius told Europe 1 radio, i-Tele and newspaper Le Monde in a televised appearance. Fabius said President Francois Hollande wants the issue of border controls to be on the agenda for a European Council meeting of heads of state on October 24-25. Italy has also called for European leaders to address the issue at the summit. “It is very possible that the president will bring this issue to the agenda of the European Council,” Fabius said. “The heads of state must translate their outrage into action,” he said, calling for increased funding for European migration bodies and stronger border controls. Italy and France have already called for European interior ministers to hold talks on immigration at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday. Divers on Sunday resumed their search for bodies after the shipwreck disaster off the remote Italian island of Lampedusa. Over 120 bodies have so far been recovered from the boat that was carrying between 450 and 500 African asylum-seekers when it capsized Thursday off Lampedusa, the first entry point to Italy from north Africa. It is feared that the final death toll could be closer to 300, which would make the accident the worst ever Mediterranean refugee tragedy after a previous one in 1996, also off Italian shores, claimed 283 lives. Fabius said action needed to be taken to toughen penalties against people-smugglers and to boost the resources of Frontex, the European border control agency. Noting that Frontex has an annual budget of only 50-60 million euros ($68-$81 million), Fabius said: “This is nothing at all in the context of the European budget. “It really is an embarrassment. It is not enough to be outraged, we must back that up with resources,” he said. “Everyone recognises that Frontex is not the size that it should be.” cr/mm/txw

The law is part of France’s broader regulation of book prices and curbs on discounting, which was passed in 1981 by the Socialist government at the time to protect small bookshops from supermarket chains. In the past decade, online outlets have challenged physical bookstores, prompting French publishers to lobby for a change in the law to stop what they call Amazon’s “dumping” and “unfair competition”. According to a French parliamentary report, online book sales rose to 13.1 percent of total book sales in 2011 from 3.2 percent in 2003. The country is still home to more bookstores than most countries with 2,000-2,500 in a country of 65 million people, compared with 1,000 in Britain, which has roughly the same-sized population. “The (book pricing) law is part of our cultural heritage,” said conservative lawmaker Christian Kert who sponsored the bill. France’s lower chamber, with the support of the Socialist government, passed the law unanimously. It will now go to the Senate, which is expected to pass it by the end of the year. For its part, Amazon said the law would have the perverse effect of hurting sales of books from the back catalogue and from smaller publishing houses, which were often bought online. “All measures that aim to raise the price of books sold online will curb the ability of French people to buy cultural works and discriminates against those who buy online,” it said. The proposed law is only the latest example of France taking aim at U.S.-based Internet giants. Last week the country’s data protection watchdog moved closer to fining Google for the way it stores and tracks user information after the search engine ignored a three-month ultimatum to bring its practices in line with local law. France has called on the European Union to regulate global Internet companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook more aggressively, to counter their growing dominance of online commerce and services. It is pushing within the OECD and G20 organizations to tighten tax rules to make sure that Internet companies cannot avoid tax by locating their headquarters in low-cost EU countries. Amazon and Google are subject of ongoing tax audits in France.

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6, 2013, near Cleebourg eastern France. Both men were not injured. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)The Associated Press STRASBOURG, France Sebastien Ogier celebrated his world title by winning the Rally France on Sunday while nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb’s last race ended in a crash. Ogier took the overall lead by winning the three morning stages before containing his rivals in the three afternoon stages. The Frenchman clinched the world title on Thursday when Thierry Neuville of Belgium failed to win the power stage. Ogier finished the race 12.2 seconds ahead of Dani Sordo of Spain. Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland took third place, 19.5 seconds off the pace. Thierry Neuville of Belgium placed fourth, more than a minute behind Ogier. In the rain-soaked stage 15, Loeb’s Citroen DS3 slid wide on a corner and rolled before landing on its roof. The French driver was not injured in the crash.