French Plan For The Suburbs Runs Into Trouble

French plan for the suburbs runs into trouble

French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be at odds with his outspoken urban affairs minister over the release of a master plan

PARIS, January 9, 2008 – French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be at odds with his outspoken urban affairs minister on Wednesday over the release of a master plan to help struggling youth in high-immigrant suburbs.

The plan promised by Sarkozy during his election campaign was set to be unveiled on January 22 in the Lyon suburb of Vaulx-en-Velin, ostensibly addressing many of the ills that led to the explosion of violence in the 2005 suburban riots.

But Sarkozy on Tuesday said he planned to unroll his government's proposals for the poor suburbs at a later date, in early February, and perhaps not in Vaulx-en-Velin.

“This doesn't change anything for us,” said a press official for Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, a leftist and a well-known campaigner for women's rights who joined Sarkozy's government in May.

Amara, a woman of Algerian origin who grew up in a housing project, “will present an outline” of the plan as scheduled, said the official.

The urban affairs minister launched a nationwide consultation four months ago to collect proposals on how to improve life in the low-income “banlieues,” or suburbs, where descendants of African and Arab immigrants say they are
treated like outcasts in French society.

Le Monde newspaper quoted an adviser to the minister, Mohamed Abdi, as saying that Sarkozy's office had asked Amara to “beef up her proposals, in particular on jobs and discrimination.”

The report said the plan's recommendations had run into trouble during a protracted process of inter-ministerial review and that little financing was available to carry out the proposals.

An unnamed source said the finished product would bear little resemblance to the “Marshall Plan for the suburbs” that Sarkozy had promised during his campaign for office.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Sarkozy said the plan would be “extremely ambitious” and would focus on “people rather than places.”

France's suburbs remain tense since the 2005 riots, which largely pitted suburban youths of immigrant background against police.

The Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel witnessed a flareup in violence in November, before hundreds of police officers were dispatched to restore order.