Tracy McNicoll

Stories by Tracy McNicoll

  • High-School Protesters Add to Pressure on Sarkozy

    The French president's sinking popularity continues to be battered, with a new nationwide protest expected to send more than 1 million angry marchers into the streets this weekend. The protests target Sarkozy’s pension-reform plan and are now drawing high-school students, who won't retire until at least 2058.
  • New Books on Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Fascinate

    Michelle Obama may not think that her days at the White House are “hell.” But, for allegedly suggesting Obama had told her as much, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was on the hot seat after the September release of two new unauthorized biographies of the French first lady. The books, which catalog Bruni-Sarkozy’s indiscretions, grabbed headlines around the world and indicate how enduring—though ambivalent—our fascination is with France’s mercurial pop star turned première dame.
  • world-cup-south-africa-mexico-madiba-10

    Algeria, France's Other National Soccer Team

    The widely despised French national soccer team will slink home after disgracing itself at the World Cup. But there are so many French-born players on Algeria’s national team—eligible thanks to FIFA’s new dual-citizenship rules—that they are being called “the other French team.”
  • france-world-cup-soccer-hsmall

    Why Do the French Loathe Their Soccer Team?

    The French team nearly won the 2006 World Cup, and they’re still ranked in the top 10 teams worldwide. So why are French fans so dour about their team and their chances?
  • Jérôme-Kerviel-trial-hsmall

    Jérôme Kerviel's Trial Seems Insignificant Now

    Jérôme Kerviel, the rogue trader who lost billions for the French bank Société Générale, begins his trial today. The financial calamities we've witnessed since his crime make his $5.9 billion loss seem almost quaint.
  • France Girds Itself For Pension Reform

    As the debt-ridden Greek government remains mired in a fight to cut pension benefits and raise the retirement age, Europe’s next pension-reform battle is already looming to the west. French president Nicolas Sarkozy is bringing pension reform to the fore of his agenda—but the issue could end up being his Waterloo. It’s his most important battle, at the worst time, but it can’t wait.
  • France Girds Itself for Pension Reform

    As the debt-ridden Greek government remains mired in a fight to cut pension benefits and raise the retirement age, Europe's next pension-reform battle is already looming to the west. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is bringing pension reform to the fore of his agenda—but the issue could end up being his Waterloo. It's his most important battle, at the worst time, but it can't wait. Sarkozy's current approval ratings, about 30 percent, have never been lower, and midterm elections have galvanized his rivals. Meanwhile, France's powerful unions are intent on keeping the country's generous social safety nets in place, pointing to evidence that they helped cushion the French from the worldwide financial crisis. But the truth is that the economic downturn has accelerated France's pension crisis exponentially, and the French way of life is more unsustainable than ever. Scary scenarios outlined only three years ago forecasting a €24.8 billion pension...
  • france can't seal the deal

    When Fench president Nicolas ­Sarkozy dines with Barack Obama at the White House this week, expect the smiles to be strained. A pair of multibillion-dollar military-­procurement disputes have marred relations in recent weeks. When Northrop Grumman, in partnership with European aerospace firm EADS, charged favoritism for Boeing and withdrew its bid for a $35 billion Pentagon contract, Sarkozy accused the U.S. of "protectionism." Meanwhile, Sarkozy's recent decision to sell Mistral assault ships to Russia has made Washington and NATO allies nervous. Don't be surprised if it seems as though Paris is putting economics ahead of smooth relations with America. France is unusually reliant on big global contracts, thanks to an economy heavily dependent on a stable of world-class firms with tight historical links to the state. The president is expected to help these companies strike deals, meaning that setbacks aren't just economic--they're political. With France...
  • Sarkozy Refuses to Let Camus Rest in Peace

    When Albert Camus died in a 1960 car accident in Villeblevin, France, at the age of 46, he was buried in the scenic Provençal village of Lourmarin, where the celebrated novelist had bought a house with the money from his 1957 Nobel Prize. He was drawn to the region for its resemblance to his native Algeria, and his grave lies peacefully in the shade of a cypress tree, beneath a beating sun and buzzing cicadas. It would be, under most circumstances, an uncontroversial spot for a literary hero to rest in peace.Alas, not in France. Fifty years after his death, the author of The Stranger and The Rebel has been thrust to the center of a virulent and peculiarly French debate over politics and how best to honor the nation's cultural heroes—really, how best to honor its culture, period. In November, when President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed moving the writer's remains to the Pantheon, the grand Paris mausoleum dedicated to the country's greats, he opened a rift much deeper than Camus's grave....
  • NATO's Secretary-General on Reaching Out to Russia

    NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been on the job for only six months, but the former Danish prime minister will soon draft a road map for the alliance's next 10 years. He sat down with NEWSWEEK's Tracy McNicoll in his Brussels office last week to discuss his challenges and a new idea for engaging Russia. Excerpts: ...
  • Paris Seeks to Become Capital of Islamic Finance

    French politics might live uneasily with Islam--battling over burkas, sparring over veils--but French economists are keen to make Islamic finance a crisis buster in Paris. Finance minister Christine Lagarde is trying to attract Islamic banking, which has grown 10 to 15 percent a year since 2003 to become a global industry totaling more than $700 billion today. That's a smart move: the global economic meltdown has made Sharia-compatible finance especially attractive. Islamic banking eschews much of the risky behavior that brought conventional finance to its knees, including speculation; it also prohibits interest, helping to prevent debt spirals. And since it favors long-term investment in real estate and infrastructure, it could provide much-needed cash for France's economy. A 2008 report for lobbying group Paris Europlace argued France could become a global leader in the field, drawing $145 billion in capital by 2020 and challenging London's current dominance in the...
  • Aging Crisis Will Soon Hit Developing World

    Judging by headlines on the U.S.'s and Europe's retirement crisis, you'd think the specter of aging populations plagued only rich countries. But a top French demographer says that developing nations will actually be the hardest hit by the gray wave.  ...
  • Sarkozy Bullies French Banks Over Bonuses

    Why is French President Nicolas Sarkozy leading the charge against greedy bankers? Compared with their British and U.S. counterparts, French banks have been quite solid. They needed less state help, and their bonus pools are more like puddles next to those of say, Goldman Sachs. But Sarkozy has a curious problem: good economic news. France is among the first big nations to pull out of recession. Its stock market is on the mend, banks are rolling again, and jobless numbers are steady. So why isn't Sarkozy smiling? Because no one believes the good news will last. Experts think the full extent of layoffs announced this spring and summer, which sparked boss-nappings and threats to blow up factories, has yet to register. So to preempt autumn labor discontent, Sarkozy has gone after the banks. He strong-armed BNP Paribas into halving its ¤1 billion bonus pool, then persuaded major banks to stagger bonuses over three years. Renegade banks that break the rules will be barred from...
  • Christophe de Margerie on Total

    The French gas and oil major Total first struck oil near Kirkuk, in Iraq, in 1927, and in July, Total CEO Christophe de Margerie visited the country with French Prime Minister François Fillon and other French business leaders looking to renew commercial ties there. In his La Défense office outside Paris, de Margerie spoke with NEWSWEEK's Tracy McNicoll about France's return to Iraq, Total's interest in Iran, and the company's bad image back home. Excerpts: ...
  • Honey from Paris Is All the Buzz

    To make a pint and a half of honey, a honeybee treks from flower to flower to flower, almost a million times. That's about 25,000 honeybee air miles, or the distance around the world at the equator. Of course, a bee's world is concentrated in a ring around the hive—a radius of meadows, forests, or 40 city blocks. But on the immigrant-rich edges of Paris, a honeybee's rounds really are a trip around the world. Inner-city biodiversity is an echo of its people, of its history, and of globalization: seeds inadvertently traipsed over borders or in shipping containers, or on purpose through garden-center imports or stowaway seeds secreted home from a trip to the old country. Which is how Paris, and all its diverse residents, have found themselves in a most unlikely honey pot.Olivier Darné is an artist turned beekeeper from the often-troubled Seine-St-Denis district just north of Paris's beltway. He has put hives on roofs and even sidewalks throughout these quarters to collect what he...
  • France Back to Old Socialist Ways

    Oil giant total is France's biggest company, which means it's also its most hated. It ranked last in a recent poll of France's most popular companies. Its announcement in February that it made a record €13.9 billion ($19.8 billion) profit in 2008 sparked cries of obscenity and a national debate on what good deeds it should perform with its windfall. When it said it would cut 555 jobs at an obsolete French plant, critics howled. It didn't matter that there'd be no outright job losses, or that new investment promised 3,000 new jobs by 2012.As world leaders cast envious eyes to France's model during this crisis, the French, prone to profit-leery populism in the best of times, are digging in. Take the recent spate of "bossnappings." Laid-off workers at foreign firms including Sony, Caterpillar and 3M held execs hostage to score better severance packages. Pols chewed over whether to side with the workers, hardly sparing a thought for the bosses, let alone the fate of foreign investment....
  • Sarkozy's Turncoat Strategy

    Paging all turncoats: Nicolas Sarkozy is reshuffling his cabinet again. Over the past two years, the conservative French president has offered high-profile jobs to leading Socialists and other prominent lefties, and five of them now hold seats in his cabinet, including Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Minister of Immigration Eric Besson. While Sarko's base resents the lost patronage opportunities for fellow conservatives, he seems focused on the upside of what he calls his "ouverture" ("opening") strategy: to discredit and divide the opposition. Rumors are flying about who will defect next. Leading picks include a former Socialist education minister, the lefty head of Paris's Institute of Political Studies and a senator close to centrist leader François Bayrou—a sign that Sarkozy is expanding beyond the left to target other rivals for his 2012 reelection bid. Losing any of them would compromise their respective parties, which raises an interesting irony. Barack Obama has...
  • Economic Crisis Brings Sarkozy and Merkel Closer

    For all the destructive power of the economic crisis, there's one bridge it's rebuilding: Franco-German relations. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are making good on their promise to present a united front against the financial fallout. In a joint letter to the EU presidency last week, the leaders asserted that regulation and fiscal discipline would be their priorities, not new stimulus measures—a position at odds with the U.S. Meanwhile, Berlin gave Sarkozy the green light to cut the value-added tax on restaurant meals, after years of French pleading. The pair will cohost April's NATO summit, with Sarkozy describing his decision to rejoin the allied command as a "great element of the Franco-German friendship." "It's a courageous decision," Merkel gushed back. "We are delighted."The friendly transition has been relatively swift for two heads of state whose relations have often been strained. For the better part of two years, the chancellor has...
  • France Goes Postal

    The rise of an unlikely politician highlights the country's deep identity crisis.