Geopolitics

France's 'Imperialist' Arrogance In Clash With Mexico Over Frenchwoman's Fate

EDITORIAL: France’s “provincial and imperialist” response to Cassez affair.

Mexico City (LWY)
Mexico City (LWY)

France is at loggerheads with Mexico over the latter's refusal to release Frenchwoman Florence Cassez from a 60-year jail sentence for convictions in kidnappings, which she denies. French philosopher Chantal Delsol is astonished by France's egocentricity over the affair.

PARIS - It's difficult to know the exact degree of culpability of Florence Cassez, the young woman accused of being an accomplice in a series of abductions, kidnappings, and other crimes in Mexico. It is also impossible to truly comprehend the sense of disbelief and horror gripping Cassez, as well as her family, at the thought of a 60-year prison sentence, or in other words life imprisonment in a country where sentences are not as easily commuted as they are in France.

However, the organized hullabaloo surrounding this affair is appalling: the French threats to cancel its "Year of Mexico" cultural celebrations (which have prompted Mexico to withdraw from the event) and the whirlwind of public commentary. This dreadful spectacle reveals a French state of mind, which is at once provincial and imperialist.

It reveals a country that sees itself at the center of the world, with an inability to put itself in the place of others and understand that it does not have the authority to dictate to the rest of the world. We are a country among other countries, as respectable as them but no more or no less so; we have our laws and other countries have theirs', as well as customs and rites. It is not our laws, customs or rites which govern others.

The way in which our rulers and media have treated Mexico over this affair is a sign of a puerile and egocentric mentality. The Mexican justice system has been described as monstrous and corrupt. The persistent buzz that Mexican justice is unfair stems from the fact it has dared rule on a crime committed on its soil. As if we are the only country in the world with the ability to correctly pass judgement.

This is a strange reaction from a country that doesn't stop talking about the importance of respecting one another. The other is due our respect, it would seem, only if he or she thinks and acts like us. Mexico is a democratic country with a Constitution, laws and courts. It is not a cannibal-infested jungle, banana dictatorship or Stalinist totalitarian state. Is its sovereignty not legitimate? For the French, it would seem a country's sovereignty is only legitimate if it follows our line exclusively.

The notion of sovereignty, encompassing a nation's independence and ability to govern its own territory, was conceptualized by the 16th century French jurist and political philosopher French Jean Bodin. Much later it was desecrated by Joseph Goebbels when he declared in response to questions over his government's terrible actions: "A man's home is his castle." That period marked the start of a legitimate questioning of the unconditional pre-eminence of sovereignty and the beginning of a reflection on the right to intervene, first developed by the forefathers of international law, 16th century Spaniard Francisco de Vitoria and 17th century Dutchman Hugo Grotius, and reaffirmed after World War Two by anti-genocide lawyer Rafael Lemkin.

We cannot accept the behavior of a country purely on the basis that it has a sovereign right to act as it pleases. France, however, appears to have an idea of the right to intervene which is at once vast and rather subjective. It is permissible to challenge a country's sovereign rights when its government is committing atrocities. It is permissible to call a foreign government into question when it mistreats its population and commits crimes against humanity. But sovereignty should only be challenged for the most exceptional abuses of authority. It is childish to question the legitimate sovereignty of a government because it simply does not bend to one desire or another.

The ease of transcontinental travel and the appropriation of just about every possible space on the planet lead us to believe that wherever we go we are at home. But it takes more than a spirit of adventure and a rucksack to own the world. When our citizens travel, they need to respect the norms of the country they are visiting. You can't travel the world with the laws of your own country slung over your shoulder.

Travelling is a risky business, not just because your train may crash in an area where there is no emergency medical service, but above all because you have to adhere to the customs of your destination, from the quality of the food to the powers of the local justice system.

Young Western backpackers might consider themselves to be "world citizens', which put another way might be interpreted as being allowed to impose your law wherever you go. It would be better if these young travellers understood that they are guests in the country of people who do not resemble them and on whom they cannot impose their norms.

Those who are firmly convinced of Florence Cassez's innocence or the unfairness of her trial may well engage their conscience and courage to help her escape the lawlessness of the country in a move which could eventually end in failure. But, in this case, screaming about injustice simply signals our ridiculous pretensions to dictate our will onto the world.

Read the original article in French

Photo credit - (LWY)

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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