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It’s hard to believe that yet another year has passed in the life of Bonjour Paris and a substantially more dramatic one in the evolution of France. The country’s future is still in wait and see mode, but the atmosphere is very different.
After 52-year-old Conservative candidate Nicholas Sarkozy — a lawyer and the son of a Hungarian immigrant — was elected President of France on May 6 th, he vowed to make the country a major player in world politics. Formerly, Minister of Interior, he was known for his hard-lined policies. One of his mandates was to curb illegal immigration; 53.1 percent of the voters elected him in the largest voter turnout (85%) since 1981.
President Sarkozy is a strong advocate of the European Union. In his acceptance speech he vowed, "Tonight France is back in Europe." Ironically, French rejected the EU constitution in a 2005 referendum and yet cast their ballots for Mr. Sarkozy. Voters made it clear it was time for change.
Mr. Sarkozy is perceived as Pro-American. French Socialists compare him to Bush – opposed to the Gaullist tradition. Sarkozy infuriated former President Jacques Chirac, who voted against the war in Iraq War.
But the new President is the ultimate diplomat and has been lobbying for support from potential allies. During the meetings with President Bush, President Sarkozy was jockeying for the support of the US Congress. The majority of its members will be in office after America’s upcoming presidential elections.
This has been the year that France and all of the EU have felt the impact of the weak dollar versus the incredibly strong — and getting stronger every day — Euro. Many economists forecast a recession and no wonder. As the saying goes, "When the US sneezes, the rest of the world follows." But much to many people’s surprise, more Americans have spent time in France in the year 2006 than ever before. Government officials are predicting the number will be even higher in 2007.
While France has been making major changes, so is Bonjour Paris. Within the next few weeks, we’ll be debuting a new and much more dramatically interactive site. Naturally there will be initial glitches. But that’s always the way with the Internet, which has proven to be the greatest form of interactive communication and information exchange.
If only the French had believed us about the future of the World Wide Web when Bonjour Paris was inaugurated more than a dozen years ago and the Minitel was king. No matter how many marketing calls and power point presentations made, the French looked at us as if we were delusional thinking this Anglophone site could be a conduit for selling France to Americans and other English speakers throughout the world.
Bonjour Pairs is introducing pod casts, a substantially improved search engine, the ability for non-premium members to post comments plus an events’ column. The site will be easier to navigate, and there’s going to be an area where our readers will be able to post their own bios. Our goal is regain the close sense of community we had when "BP" was exclusively on AOL. Why? Because you — our contributors (each and everyone of you) — are the backbone of the site.
There are additional improvements on the agenda. Please, have patience. Rome (nor Paris) was made in a day. I fully expect to be hearing from you. Please write to [email protected] (or [email protected]) in the event I’m on the road). In fact, I want to hear from you when you have anything to say. If you need support or just need to discuss the next, big hot spot in Paris or Nice or the Alps.
The Provence house has been sold and I hope to travel with increasing frequency. You’ll be reading more about my recent trip to Asia, which engendered so many insights about France, as well as the rest of the world. Not that I’d ever consider leaving Paris. I’ll be spending more time in Washington, DC. This January 2nd marks the one-year anniversary of my granddaughter’s liver transplant, where my son was the living donor. The baby is a miracle and is doing all the things 18-month-old babies do, clearly with the help of her older sister. I’m so thankful for what the doctors have done to help give this child her life; what my son did to give her life; what she’s done to grab hold of this life and thrive in it; what her older sister has done to accommodate a life full of medical changes; and, maybe more than anything, what my son’s amazing wife has done to hold this strong family together and to keep everything clicking along so the family can be where they are now.
The Bonjour Paris team wishes our readers the best upcoming year ever, filled with trips to La Belle France, health, peace and happiness. Futurist Jerome C. Glenn, an innovator in the field and director of The Millennium Project states, "The more rapidly we’re able to understand the world as an entity, the increasingly sensitive we’ll become as individuals and possess greater chances for peace and success." The group’s 2007 holiday greeting was, " Humanity as-a-whole is winning," and should continue to do so as long as those of knowledge, intelligence, and good will — such as our readers – continue with kindness and compassion to improve the prospects of the future. The staff at Bonjour Paris, our General Director, Sarah Fox, and I wish our readers the same sentiments.
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