France, Mali Urge Vigilance Against ‘terror’ Threat

France against Romania, Bulgaria joining Schengen zone

“The Franco-African intervention put an end to the terrorist threat, but it could try to rebuild… we must remain vigilant,” the two leaders said in a joint statement released by Hollande’s office after the talks. The meeting between the two leaders came against a backdrop of deteriorating security in Mali, where a car bomb attack claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) killed two civilians and wounded several soldiers on Saturday, according to the army. Calm returned Tuesday to the rebel bastion of Kidal after fighting between the MNLA and the army, but tensions remained high, a military source from the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali told AFP. The MNLA, the main Tuareg group involved in peace talks between rebels and the government which broke down on Thursday, said three of its fighters had been wounded during a gun battle Sunday which lasted more than an hour. The clashes in Kidal came after Tuareg rebels pulled out of the talks, dealing a blow to hopes of a durable peace in the troubled west African nation. The MNLA took control of Kidal in February after a French-led military operation ousted Al-Qaeda-linked fighters who had piggybacked on a Tuareg rebellion to seize most of northern Mali. The Malian authorities reclaimed the city after signing a ceasefire deal with the MNLA but the situation has remained tense. While the MNLA remains a largely secular cause, Mali has suffered a series of attacks claimed by Islamist insurgents since France launched a military operation in January against Al-Qaeda-linked groups occupying the north of the country. Four suicide bombers blew up their car at a military barracks in the desert city of Timbuktu on Saturday, killing two civilians in an attack claimed by AQIM. A spokesman for the north African group raised “two of our brave suicide bombers”, whom he said had detonated “more than a ton of explosives”, according to the Mauritanian Alakhbar news agency. The spokesman said the explosion killed 16 soldiers and wounded many more, contradicting the army’s statement that four suicide bombers were in the car when it exploded and two passers-by were the only people killed. Dozens of disgruntled soldiers involved in Mali’s 2012 coup fired guns in the air at a protest on Monday, wounding and taking hostage a close aide of mutiny leader Amadou Sanogo, military sources said.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid PARIS | Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:46am EDT PARIS (Reuters) – France is not in favour of allowing Romania and Bulgaria into Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone for now due to concerns about border security, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday. “If there is not a change in conditions, we won’t be in favour,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said of a forthcoming European Union decision on whether to grant passport-free movement to these citizens beginning January 1, 2014. His comments came amid fierce debate within France’s ruling coalition over the treatment of the Roma population. Some 20,000 Roma migrants from Romania and Bulgaria live in hundreds of squalid make-shift camps on the outskirts of French cities. Tensions with local communities have made Roma migration a contentious issue ahead of municipal elections next year. Romanian and Bulgarian citizens currently have the right to travel with a passport throughout the Schengen zone, which removes border controls among most EU countries as well as non-members such as Switzerland and Norway. Temporary restrictions that imposed passport checks were put in place when the two countries joined the EU in 2007, and are due to be lifted in January. But each EU country has the right to veto the admission of a member state into the Schengen zone and a vote is expected before the end of the year. Germany said in March that it too opposed the entry of the two countries into the zone. Fabius said France was concerned about the ability of Romanian and Bulgarian authorities to ensure border security. “People coming from outside Europe could enter Romania and Bulgaria and then freely enter the rest of Europe,” Fabius told France Inter radio. “There’s a problem there, we must be sure that Bulgaria and Romania have the means to verify that.

Air France-KLM may help Alitalia under conditions: report

“Our conditions for helping Alitalia are very strict. If the conditions are met, I am ready to go ahead,” Air France-KLM Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac told French daily Les Echos on Tuesday, without giving more details on the terms he had in mind. Gilberto Benetton, who invests in Alitalia via motorway group Atlantia’s 8.9 percent stake in the airline, said earlier on Tuesday he would welcome Air France-KLM taking control of the group, but warned Italy’s interests should be protected first. Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, other ministers, banks and Alitalia’s management met on Tuesday to find a way of beefing up Alitalia’s finances to give it greater negotiating clout in its dealings with Air France-KLM. But the talks failed to reach any decision because of the uncertain political climate and another meeting was called for next week. There are worries that any Air France-KLM investment would clash with Italy’s ambition to make Rome a hub for intercontinental flights, and instead turn Alitalia into a regional player and trigger job cuts. But de Juniac’s comments signaled he did not doubt Alitalia’s ability to operate on long-haul routes – a strategy the group is betting on to revive its fortunes after its plans to become a strong regional player came unstuck in the face of tough competition and lower demand. “Air France-KLM-Alitalia, if one day we are united, could become a very great European brand. In such a scenario, we could supply (Alitalia’s) long-haul flights with passengers from Air France and KLM and they could do the same for us,” he said. De Juniac added that he could see Alitalia boosting its intercontinental routes where its own network might be weak. “Alitalia has strong points in Africa, Latin America and North America, where there is a strong Italian diaspora that can complement ours,” he told the paper. “Alitalia strengthens our commercial footprint pretty much everywhere. There are already many synergies.” NO CAPITAL INCREASE Analysts said Air France-KLM was unlikely to give up on Alitalia by letting it fail and opening Europe’s fourth-largest travel market to more competition. But Air France-KLM has set strict conditions on how the company should be restructured. Sources said last week that Air France had voted against a proposed capital increase at Alitalia of at least 100 million euros ($135 million).