What’s coming up? The week ahead in France

Christmas markets open, half-price railcard sale continues, Thalys train attack appeal, magistrates strike, France plays its first World Cup match and more

We look at what the week ahead has in store for people in France
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Appeal begins over attempted Amsterdam-Paris train attack

An appeal trial is beginning today (November 21) regarding an attempted terrorist attack on a Amsterdam-Paris Thalys train in 2015.

Ayoub El Khazzani, a Moroccan national, boarded the train in Brussels armed with a kalashnikov, a handgun, a Stanley knife and 300 rounds of ammunition.

El Khazzani opened fire and four people – including him – were injured, but he was prevented from killing those on board by the “heroic” intervention of a group of passengers including two holidaying American soldiers.

El Khazzani was initially condemned to life in prison for ‘attempted murder by terrorism’, but appealed the ruling. This appeal will be heard at Paris’ Cour d’assises spéciale.

Two other people involved in the planning of the attempted attack also intended to oppose their original sentences, but have since dropped their appeals.

During his first trial, El Khazzani said that he had hoped to “avenge” the civilians killed during the Syrian air strikes carried out by President Bachar Al-Assad and the Global Coalition.

He also said that he had abandoned the idea of killing the passengers on the train when someone smiled at him as he boarded and when he saw how people looked at each other in the carriage. However, this argument did not convince the court.

This trial is set to last until December 9.

SNCF railcard discount

National rail operator SNCF has announced a sale on its carte Avantage railcards, which until November 28 are priced at €24.50 as opposed to the usual €49.

This applies to the carte Avantage jeune, adulte and senior – whether they are being bought for the first time or renewed – and means that the card will likely pay for itself with the first journey.

A carte Avantage enables passengers to access 30% discounts on single journeys within France or Europe taken on weekends, in the week with a child or return journeys including an overnight stay on a weekend.

It also means a 60% discount for up to three accompanying children aged between four and 11 and capped fares for all second-class tickets.

Journeys taking less than an hour and a half will therefore cost no more than €39, those lasting less than three hours will be no more than €59 and longer trips will be capped at €79.

Read also: EU entry form fraud alert, railcard sale: 9 France travel updates

Social security bill in Parliament

The government’s budget de la Sécurité sociale pour 2023 will be read and debated once again in the Assemblée nationale today after being amended by senators.

The Senate’s amendments included raising the retirement age to 64 years. The new version of the bill was passed on its first reading, by 193 votes for to 102 against, and 46 abstentions.

Les Fêtes de Saint-Nicolas

This is the first full week of the Fêtes de Saint-Nicolas in Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle), six weeks of concerts, shows, Christmas markets and fairs, “taking place under the kind, wise and magical gaze of the patron saint of Lorraine.

Each weekend will see a series of Christmas-themed events, including appearances from Saint Nicholas himself, a video telling his story projected onto the town hall and a family running race this weekend.

The festival will last until January 3.

You can find out more about it on the official event website.

Mayors from across France meet in Paris

Tomorrow (November 22) will mark the beginning of the 104th congress of the Association des maires de France in Paris, which will last until Thursday.

More than 10,000 local elected officials are expected to attend the Parc des expositions at the Porte de Versailles.

The event gives local mayors the chance to discuss and debate on the issues affecting communes, including the provision of public services, decentralisation and the ecological transition.

Magistrates go on strike

The two main magistrate unions in France have called their members to strike tomorrow, one year after the publication of an open letter criticising their working conditions.

The justice budget has since been increased by 8%, but judges still say that they are having to work overtime, are suffering from general staff shortages and have a large backlog of cases to get through.

The government has promised to recruit 1,500 new magistrates by 2027, but this has been judged to be insufficient.

France’s first World Cup 2022 match

On Tuesday, France will play Australia in its first World Cup 2022 match in Qatar.

President Emmanuel Macron has said that he will visit Qatar if France reaches the semi-finals, and that “sport should not be politicised,” as criticism continues over the human rights and LGBT+ rights record of the host country.

Read more: Qatar 2022: President Macron says ‘sport should not be politicised’

France’s second match will be against Denmark, and will take place on Saturday (November 26).

Abortion, Smic, bullfighting: bills debated in Parliament

On Thursday (November 24), MPs will hear and debate a series of bills put forward by the far-left party, La France Insoumise (LFI).

This is because Thursday marks the LFI’s ‘niche parlementaire’, a 24-hour window each month in which opposition parties can be heard on as many bills as they can present in that time.

One of these bills, presented by LFI MP Aymeric Caron, a former high-profile journalist and a staunch ecologist, involves a ban on bullfighting in France.

Read more: French parliament to debate banning traditional corrida bullfighting

Read more: Majority of French MPs expected to back anti-bullfighting bill

Read more: French anti-bullfighting bill hits legal issues

Other proposed laws include an increase to the French minimum wage to €1,600 and the inclusion of the right to abortion in the Constitution.

Black Friday

This week also sees Black Friday on November 25, the Friday after the American Thanksgiving holiday, which traditionally starts the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Many brands from across the world, including France, will offer promotions and discounts on this day and over the weekend. Some shops may already have launched their Black Friday offers earlier in the month.

Strasbourg Christmas market opens

Also on Friday, Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market – one of the oldest and largest in Europe – will open.

Visitors will be able to wander round 300 different stalls, offering toys, food, drink, Christmas decorations and more.

You can find out more on the event website.

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