Paris in the spring brings sentiments of romance to the hearts and minds of many. Spring is also the start of tourism season in the city of lights. However, Paris has experienced at least 99 problems and the current flood just happens to be one. The list of woes for the capital of France is growing quickly in a short time. It has been less than a year since the coordinated deadly terrorist attacks that took place throughout the city. The city’s turmoils continue in recent months. Paris has been rife with protests, attacks against police, strikes, and now the worst flood since 1910.
Before the waters of the Seine began to overtake the streets and monuments in parts of Paris, the streets had been flooded with protesters and labor strikers. Paris is the city of manifestations, the French word for protests. Since the 1700s, Parisians have taken to the streets to stand up against the wrongs they see in their politics. The French have had three successful revolutions where the people overthrew the established order. That revolutionary spirit lives on today. In the weeks before the June 2016 flood, protesters gave the city one of its 99 problems. Students, civil servants, teachers, and industrial workers, have immobilized schools, public transport, the airports, blocked the access to oil refineries, paused the output of the country’s nuclear plants and caused general disruption throughout the country and city.
A bill to loosen the country’s rigid labor laws is what has resulted in the discontent in the city. The bill makes it easier for companies to hire and fire employees as they choose. It also weakens the 35 hour work week rules. President François Hollande is desperate to fulfill his promise to lower France’s 10 percent unemployment rate. He has vowed not to run for re-election if he does not get more French working. The level of unemployment has increased during his four years in office and only recently showed a slight decline in the past two months.
Hollande’s logic behind the bill is that companies are not hiring because the laws make it too difficult to fire people adversely affecting the employment rate. The bill also allows businesses to have employees work up to 46 hours a week or even 60 hours in exceptional circumstances. Companies would be expected to give the employee the time back over the year to average to 35 hours a week. Unions are fiercely in opposal of the new bill.
These strikes potentially play into security concerns that plague Paris since the terrorist attacks in November of 2015. Workers have walked off of their job leaving railways, metros and ports affected throughout the country. Strikes have caused blackouts and protesters blocked train tracks for the Metro. Continued disruptions are planned as the 2016 European Championship soccer tournament begins June 10, 2016. The rains and general discontent are making outsiders planning to visit the city more hesitant. Herve Becam, vice president of France’s union of hoteliers, said that the strikes, weather and security concerns has damaged France’s image.
There has also been speculation that the terrorist who attacked the Brussels airport in March 2016 were initially planning an attack on the 2016 soccer tournament in Paris, according to “Townhall.com.” The French government plan to have 90,000 soldiers, police and security personnel deployed to guarantee safety during the tournament. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has requested more security to protect soccer fans, the final number of security personnel is still to be determined.
The record rains had contributed just one more issue to the 99 problems in Paris when the Seine swelled and flooded parts of the city, shutting down many popular attractions. Many cultural sights closed and have remained closed because as the flood waters continue to put priceless works at risk. The Louvre evacuated visitors in order move art from the basement as water from the Seine flooded the museum. Access to many areas around the Tour d’Eiffel remained blocked by water.
Despite the fact that Paris may be put upon at the moment with 99 problems, one of which just happens to be the current flood. Paris remains one of the most visited cities in France. Visitors have not been put off by the rains, the speculation around threats or the cultural civil unrest. Reports from visitors to the beautiful city remain confident and appreciative of the energy and culture that permeates and also fills the city’s streets.
Opinion by Gichele Cocrelle
Edited by DiMarkco Chandler
The Washington Post: Seine River Peaks in Paris. Top Museums staySshut for Days
Townhall.com: Floods, Strikes, Security: French Tourism Faces Challenges
CBC News: Madness and Nightmares: How Springtime in Paris Became the Season of Discontent
CNN: Why Are The French on Strike… Again?
Top and Featured Photo by Pouply Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
First Inset Photo Courtesy of Olivier Ortelpa’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License