France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

April 16, 2009

Something fishy in Brussels; wrong lesson from French professors

All the marine fishermen of the principal ports in the north of France want is to be able to fish for cod and sole. Apparently, there’s plenty more cod and sole to be caught. But Brussels rules the high seas, and Brussels has determined that this year’s quota for cod and sole was reached in June. So since Tuesday, the fisherman have been blocking the ports of Dunkerque, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais, taking time out only to meet with fish minister Michel Barnier yesterday. The best Barnier could come up with is a promise of 4 million Euros in aid. There’s lots more cod and sole in the Atlantic, there’s no money in the federal coffers, and yet the government can only throw money at the problem because Brussels’s will must be followed.

Speaking of blockages: When I was 13 years old — in the French equivalent of college or what we used to call junior high school — I made the choice to join my teachers on strike. They didn’t ask me to do so; I volunteered. So I’m all for student solidarity with professors. But here in France, in the ongoing blockages of universities, professors and researchers haven’t given those students who don’t want to strike the choice. It’s not enough for them to walk out; they block the entrances of the universities to prevent those who might not agree with them, or maybe who just want to pursue their education, from choosing to keep going to class. (Unlike with the fishermen — who are facing an issue of SURVIVAL — the reasons for discontent of these educators and researchers are unclear. I gather they’re upset that the government wants the universities to be independent; and about some cut-backs.) Consequently, students who expected to graduate this year are looking at incompletes because they’ve missed too much class, sometimes months. And yet, appearing on France Culture’s morning program earlier this week, one of the leaders of this movement had the nerve to say that their militancy is “not of a blind extremism.”

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