Is The French Presidential Campaign About To Tumble Out Of Control?

Op-Ed: The bloodshed in Toulouse is sure to affect France’s presidential campaign. Predictably, the far-right’s Marine Le Pen is already using the terrorist killings to stir anti-immigrant sentiment. It's a trap that Sarkozy and the other candida

Right-wing nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen (Wikipedia)
Right-wing nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen (Wikipedia)
Catherine Dubouloz

Looking solemn in front of the coffins of the three soldiers killed last week in Montauban and Toulouse, French President Nicolas Sarkozy invoked "the imperative need for national unity in the face of cold-blooded savagery." The words resonated in the courtyard of the 17th parachutist regiment. Next to the families and the soldiers, five presidential candidates were present. Some of them, like François Hollande, had suspended their campaigns. Others, like François Bayrou, didn't. Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, was also there.

"Under no circumstances should we give in to discrimination," Sarkozy said at the end of this speech. "France cannot be great unless it is united. We owe that to the victims."

That moment, laden with gravity, was not soiled by any obvious missteps on the part of either Sarkozy or his rivals. In the coming days and weeks, however, things are likely to become a lot trickier for the candidates. Now with the death Thursday of the presumed killer – an allegedly homegrown Salafist radical who is also suspected of shooting three children and a rabbi Monday in front of a Toulouse Jewish school – the race for the presidency will recommence in full force. Only this time the candidates are at much greater risk of committing blunders that could have unpredictable political consequences.

Marine Le Pen started to move her pawns on Wednesday, talking about "an underestimated risk of fundamentalism" and the "war" that had to be fought against "politico-religious fundamentalist groups." She seemed close to sounding off again on "Islamization," one of her favorite themes, which we have already seen in her criticism about the lack of labelling of halal meat. Le Pen's other big issues are immigration and crime.

The other candidates, therefore, have an even greater responsibility now to prevent the campaign from turning towards the stigmatization of one community, a community that is already frequently sidelined and discriminated against. They must stay focused instead on subjects that are important to France, like economic growth and employment.

For the time being, Nicolas Sarkozy is fulfilling his role as the country's leader. His chief rival, François Hollande, remains dignified. But with a month before the first round of elections, they are still at risk of making false steps could have serious consequences. Faced with this danger, there is only one defense: to elevate the tone of the debate.

Read more from Le Temps in French

Photo - Wikipedia

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How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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