Are France’s farmer strikes finally over? Plus, rising gas tariffs, concerns over Europe’s introduction of the new Entry and Exit System (EES) this year, and the best villages to live in France, according to the French. Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.
1. End of the farmer strikes
We’ve been reporting on the French farmer strikes in our last two New Digests, but while the protests continued over the weekend in other European countries, France’s farming unions have now called a halt to the strikes. The decision came after new promises from French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, including easing of regulations, an increase in aid, and increased protection against competition.
France’s Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, announced on Friday that the worst of the strikes were “behind us”, and as of yesterday (Monday), the majority of blockades had been lifted. However, there are still a few farmers vowing to continue the protests, so the roads might not be completely clear this week – keep an eye on the local news and traffic reports if travelling, just in case, especially around the Lyon area.
2. Concerns over delays due to the new EES
After several delays, the EU is set to introduce its new Entry and Exit System (EES) in October 2024, but concerns are being raised as transport operators prepare for the transition. Eurostar is the latest operator to voice concerns over delays due to the increased measures that will be put in place at border controls.
Although the EES is designed to make things easier in the long term (the electronic passport monitoring system would track visitors to the EU under the 90/180-day rule and eliminate the need for human passport checks and passport stamps), it means that all non-EU travellers travelling to the EU for the first time will need to have their biometric data captured (eye scans and fingerprints). When the new system comes into place, this means that all non-EU travellers (which, of course, includes all UK citizens travelling to France) will need to undergo these steps, adding extra time to border control procedures.
With some 11 million passengers each year crossing the UK-France border, travel operators are understandably concerned about the major delays that this could cause. Eurostar is not only warning that it may need to reduce services in the initial months to cope with the delays but also that “permanent delays” may be possible, and that the EU should look at having a backup plan in place if this is the case. There have also been reports of potential 14-hour delays at the Dover ferry port, which has already seen huge delays over busy travel weekends thanks to additional post-Brexit border requirements.
It’s not yet clear how EU border controls intend to mitigate these delays or whether there will be special procedures put in place to ease the transition for UK-France travellers. We’ll keep you updated when we know more.
3. Gas price hikes
Hot on the heels of the rising electricity prices this month, there’s more bad news for bill-payers in households across France. The CRE (the body in charge of regulating France’s electricity and gas markets) announced this weekend that gas tariffs are set to rise again in July 2024.
Prices are expected to increase by between 5.5% and 10.4%, which would work out at a predicted increase of €87.60 per year for households with gas heating or about €26.40 for those who only use gas for cooking or hot water.
4. The best villages to live in France
Two new studies have announced their top towns and villages to live in France, based on a variety of statistics. The website VilledeReve.fr – “Dream Town” – ranked more than 34,900 towns and villages across France, and the top five were:
- Villard-de-Lans, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
- Gérardmer, Grand Est
- Guérande, Loire-Atlantique
- Thônes, Haute-Savoie
- Embrun, Hautes-Alpes
The ranking is based on 19 categories, each scored out of 100, and including factors such as the cost of living, the distance from the nearest large city, availability of doctors and childcare, average internet speed, and more. You can also use the interactive map on the website to zoom in on your village (or perhaps one where you’re hoping to buy) and see how high they rank in all of the different categories.
Another website, VilleIdeale.fr – “Ideal Village” – also released its own ranking of French towns, this time based on the reviews of local residents. More than 8,110 towns have been ranked using some 84,610 reviews that rate the localities with marks out of 10 in nine different categories. The categories include sports and leisure, transport, healthcare, security, schools, and more.
The site announced its top three towns as:
1. Antony, Hauts-de-Seine
2. Aix-les-Bains, Savoie
3. Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, Val-de-Marne
You can also see the rankings of individual villages and see the top-ranked in each category over on the website.
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