France And The Multiculturalism Paradox

Playing ball in Marseille
Playing ball in Marseille
Alain Renaut


PARIS — Although the time for emotion and indignation about the recent terrorism in France is barely over, the moment for deeper reflection has arrived. What needs serious consideration, without prejudice or exaggeration, is the French way of dealing with cultural pluralism. The link between this subject and recent events is plain to see.

On the one hand, our so-called "republican" model for living together, which until recently some celebrated as superior to British and Dutch multiculturalism, didn't prevent terrorist violence from hitting us head on in 2015, as in 2013.

On the other hand, nothing forbids us from asking whether the manner in which we live together in this country is somehow defective, whether our culture is at all culpable for some people's commitment to blowing it up, in every sense of the term.

The question today is not to determine whether France has moved too far toward the model of multiculturalism but rather that there is no political leadership promoting a temperate multiculturalism.

A new credo?

No individual right or freedom to defend one's identity is recognized for the French citizen the way it is for other fundamental rights like freedom of opinion, belief or expression. France remains a country that took responsibility for placing, with a single language, a mark of cultural identity on an equal footing with the major principles of the Republic, which are government by the people for the people and the motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité."

According to French law, no form of multiculturalism exists in our country, although the multicultural character of the population is one of the accepted facts of our society. Even beyond the terrorism question, the conflict takes the form of a rapid increase in calls for justice by specific populations and communities demanding the rights that come with being diverse. Conflict is then bound to arise as an ideology seizes on the disorientation of a part of the French population to find among them more and more citizens with religious and cultural references that differ from their own.

It is of course out of the question for our society and those worthy of governing it to give in to the purely provocative mirage of mass expulsion, nor any program of forced assimilation. In either case, we would find ourselves confronted with both the resistance of reality and a dangerous political regime required to spearhead the battle.

Instead, we can hope that the cultural plurality inscribed at the heart of our existence will give rise, both in terms of ideas and policy, the creation of new rights and answers worthy of the questions they raise.

A whole other program is also conceivable, and would be politically practicable as soon as one party seized on it. In favor of new individual rights for all citizens regardless of culture or religion would be real possibilities to choose, know and respect the diversity of the human condition. We could imagine that part of the political right coalesces around a policy that continues to advocate more for assimilation, while part of the political left would defend the principle of multiculturalism tempered by a concern for its pitfalls.

Now is not the time for another abstract republican credo. Instead, we must hear the fading signals of those who have expressly told us they cannot continue to denounce violence if it comes at the price of consenting to a different form of violence: the erasing or negation of what makes them different.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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