Hollande’s Marseille Visit Draws Criticism

The Old Port of Marseille. Photo: Thomas Rosenau for Wikimedia Commons.

The Old Port of Marseille. Photo: Thomas Rosenau for Wikimedia Commons.

“At one moment, we must also face the wind… to be on all of the oceans, to be capable of taking the most adventurous course,” proclaimed President François Hollande to the people of Marseille at the inauguration of ship-owner CMA CGM’s largest container ship, the Jules Verne, on Tuesday, June 4.

With this metaphor for his political situation and the world’s economy he insisted, “We are on the same boat,” as he saluted the new “jewel” of the French sea merchant.

Hollande is visiting Marseille for the first time since his election for the inaugurations of both the cargo ship and the Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, or the MuCEM, which will open its doors to the public on Friday.

While Hollande meant to send a positive message to the people of Marseille, his speech and his presence were controversial.

While Hollande considers the visit a sign that the state will always support the “great metropolis” of Marseille, the city’s Socialist deputy Patrick Mennucci thinks otherwise. Mennucci, a candidate in the municipal primary elections of 2014, said the trip was “little help for Marseille.”

Union workers took advantage of the opportunity to protest. Around 100 workers from struggling businesses met on Tuesday in front of the port of Marseille to ask the government to change course. They intended to bring attention to the importance of regulation, and to let the government know that it must lend “an attentive and serious ear” to their concerns.

In a letter to the President, the left-wing CGT union expressed its concern that the Jules Verne would, despite increasing profits, increase risks and cause serious consequences if it were damaged. It also told the President that his presence at the launch was an endorsement of the company’s employment of foreign sailors in allegedly poor conditions and of the construction of boats outside the European Union.

The President intends to win the support of the Marseillais by 2014. Ironically, he arrived just one day following the launch of an investigation against Socialist Jean-Noël Guérini, and several days after Sylvie Andrieux was condemned to three years in prison.

Guérini is being charged with passive corruption, misuse of public funds, insider influence, and violation of liberty of access and the equality of candidates in the public markets, among other things. He has not yet stepped down from his position as General Council of the Bouches-du-Rhône or as senator.

Despite the negativity surrounding the visit, Hollande insisted on the positives. He expressed his determination for a conclusion of the debate on the metropolis of Aix-Marseille, and stressed the importance of tools for fighting youth unemployment.

As he left the Villa Méditerranée after the inauguration, the President said to Michel Vauzelle and Eugène Caselli, “I wanted to send a strong message to Marseille. Something positive.”

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  1. […] Hollande is visiting Marseille for the first time since his election for the inaugurations of both the cargo ship and the Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, or the MuCEM, which will open its doors to the public on Friday. While Hollande meant to send a positive message to the people of Marseille, his speech and his presence were controversial. His presence was criticized by PS deputy Mennucci, while 100 union workers organized a protest against their working conditions in the port of the city. Furthermore, local PS officials Sylvie Andrieux and Jean-Noël Guérini are in trouble with the law. […]

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