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France Euro 2016: Hollande warns unions against disrupting tournament

image copyrightReuters
image captionTwin challenges for France's authorities: security and strike action

French President Francois Hollande has warned against attempts to disrupt Euro 2016 with strike action, as the football tournament gets under way.

France has been in the grip of industrial action, mainly over reforms to labour law.

Train drivers are threatening to strike on a line serving the Stade de France in St Denis just outside Paris, where France play Romania in the first match.

Meanwhile, a brawl in Marseille led to two England fans being arrested.

Tear gas was fired and police in riot gear were on the streets after the incident outside a pub shortly before midnight on Thursday. England play Russia in the city on Saturday.

'Just not normal'

Football fans arriving in Paris and several other cities this week have been greeted by the sight and smell of uncollected rubbish sacks as trade unionists blockade incinerators.

The country is also on high alert since the jihadist attacks on Paris in November - one of them at the Stade de France - and is recovering from flood damage in central and northern regions.

media captionSpecial forces have been conducting training exercises as part of preparations for Euro 2016, as sports editor Dan Roan reports

Mr Hollande said everyone had a duty to ensure that the competition was allowed to proceed without incident.

"I appeal to everyone's sense of responsibility because if the state must do its duty - and it will, it will take all the measures that are necessary," he said on Thursday.

"At the same time, it is also necessary that those who are taking part in actions, or who are organising them should also shoulder their responsibility... so that this great event can be a shared popular festival."

image captionTen stadiums will host Euro 2016 matches
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThousands attended a concert by DJ David Guetta on Thursday to mark Euro 2016

Transport Minister Alain Vidalies told Europe 1 radio that if the government had to "issue orders" for trains to be driven to get fans to the opening match, "we will do so".

"If requisitioning is required... we will do it," he said. "There will be no more negotiating."

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard appealed to the unions to think about the football fans.

"While there are times when strikes can take place, we are now on the eve of an event during which they are going to prevent some fans from getting to the stadium," he said. "It is unacceptable."

Strikers defiant

But train driver Berenger Cernon, secretary general of the CGT union at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, was unapologetic.

Euro 2016 security

image copyrightAFP
image captionSecurity has been stepped up for the month-long tournament in France
  • 90,000 police and other security officials to patrol fan zones and stadiums
  • Paris to have security force of at least 13,000 to patrol two zones and two stadiums
  • Seven million people expected to visit 10 French cities from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south
  • State of emergency in place after last November's jihadist attacks in Paris in which 130 people died
  • Officials deny a report that Paris prefect Michel Cadot asked for the Eiffel Tower fan zone to be shut

"It's not us who determine the calendar," he said.

"We did not decide that the Euro will take place on this date. There is a social movement going on now, the re-organisation [of labour] continues, the labour law continues.

"We want the negotiations on the collective agreements to be open for everybody. So yes, clearly this will disturb the Euro [tournament] and we will continue the strike."

He added that efforts were under way to try to resolve the situation although so far they only concerned the state rail company (SNCF).

media captionThe BBC's Ros Atkins reports: "France has work to do over the next month to make sure this is a safe and a successful 2016"

Nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste have gone uncollected in Paris, according to the authorities.

Zahier, a waiter in a restaurant in the Latin Quarter where rubbish spilled out of bins into the narrow, cobbled streets, told AFP news agency: "Customers are looking out at the dustbins, so obviously it's making them lose their appetite."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told BFM television on Friday that "all the garbage will be collected today".

Some 50 lorries were sent out overnight and 30 more are being dispatched on Friday.

Another problem is a planned four-day Air France pilots' strike, set to start on Saturday as many football fans fly in.

Talks broke down on Thursday but Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey said he expected that 70%-80% of flights would operate on Saturday.

Related Topics

  • France
  • Francois Hollande

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