Photo above: the river Rhône
at Tournon, south of Lyon
is a ratatouille
? And why are the régimes
spéciaux increasingly controversial ? Here are
the answers to these and other questions about French words or names
beginning with R.
un : the
expresion is most commonly used to refer to speed cameras on French
roads. There are two types of radars, les radars fixes,
stationary speed cameras, and les radars
which may be mobile, i.e. in police vehicles, or set up in a temporary
location beside the road. The presence of stationary speed cameras is
always indicated by a warning sign between a couple of hundred metres
and a few kilometres before the device. There is no advance warning for
mobile speed cameras. The multiplacation of speed cameras on French
roads since the mid 1990s has led to a dramatic fall in the number of
accidents and fatalities . Radar was also the
name of a chain of French hypermarkets in the 1980s.
Jean-Pierre (born 1948)
Prime minister of France,
2002-2005, during the second Chirac
presidency. Raffarin resigned in 2005 after the referendum in
which French voters rejected the European constitution.
the political determination of Sarkozy,
he nevertheless managed to initiate some much-needed reforms,
but was perceived as a hesitating prime minister.
Ship belonging to
Greenpeace, that was blown up and sunk in 1985, in Auckland Harbour,
in a covert operation by the French intelligence service. A
Greenpeace photographer was killed in the operation. It was revealed
many years later that this operation - which was described as an act of
international terrorism - had been personally authorized by President Mitterrand.
French involvement was suspected right from the start, as the Rainbow
Warrior was scheduled to protest against French nuclear testing at
Mururoa Atoll, in the southern Pacific.
the French denied all involvement, until the true story was uncovered
by a pair of investigative journalists fromBritain's Sunday Times
barrage de la / usine
marémotrice de la
: Pioneering project to create electricity from
power, the Rance tidal power station was opened in 1967. The
mouth of the River Rance, in northern Brittany,
has one of the greatest tidal variations anywhere in the
The dam is 750 metres long, and its peak power output rating is 240
Mw. It accounts for 60% of the electricity produced in Brittany - but
this figure is sure to fall fast with the development of more parcs
éoliens (wind farms)
in the area.
national - In English the National Rally or the National
movement - The new name of what was formerly the "Front National"
right-wing political party. See Front
National. In 2018 FN leader Marine Le Pen pledged
to rebrand the Front National, founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen,
as a more inclusive but equally right-wing political force. The new
movement's first test of strength came in the May 2019 European
Parliamentary elections, where it narrowly achieved first place with
23% of the vote, one point ahead of President Macron's LREM party. The
RN remains a populist movement of the far right, though it has
abandoned the former FN policy of taking France out of the EU, pledging
to reform the EU from within.
vegetable dish from the south of France, consisting of a mix of
tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini), aubergines (breadfruit) and onions,
stewed together with herbs and olive oil, and usually served hot.
However there is no precise recipe for ratatouille, and the contents
can vary from place to place, even day to day.
- A rich
soft pressed cheese made in the Alps; it has quite a strong flavour,
and a creamy texture.
- The chief
executive of an Académie,
or Local Education authority, in France.
- this word most commonly refers to the annual TV licence fee
paid in France.
This is included with general local taxes, but households only pay the
licence fee once (i.e. second homes and holiday cottages are exempt,
unless the owners do not have a principal residence elsewhere
in France). More generally, redevance simply means money that
is due, a standard fee.
des retraites - The overhaul of the French pension system,
a major financial reform that has been attempted, with only limited
success, since the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. Demographic
change means that France's generous state pension system, and also
private pension schemes, are finding it increasingly difficult to
balance the books. The state pension system, whereby those in work pay
for the pensions of those that have retired, has become unsustainable
as the ratio of working people to retired people keeps falling. Among
the major bones of contention in any reform of the retirement system
are the age at which people can retire, and the method of calculating
their pension rights. Unions have fought hard to keep privileges such
as the right to retire at 60 for some professions (or even at 55 in
certain cases), but this has meant increasing pension contributions by
those in work, and reduced pensions for retired people.
In 2017 President Macron announced plans to reform the
French retirement system from top to bottom, and this reform is likely
to define the success or the failure of his presidency. Macron has
vowed to put the state sector and the private sector on the same
footing with regard to age of retirement and pension rights, including
abolishing the notorious régimes spéciaux (see
below). The planned reform meets with general approval from the French
public, but is hotly contested by some unions, notably those whose
members benefit from particularly advantageous pension schemes, for
instant state railway employees.
spéciaux, les :
Special privileged terms of retirement and pension rights for certain
groups of employees, notably in the state sector. The most well-known
and talked-about of the régimes spéciaux arre the
pension terms for
employees of the former state electricity company EDF,
and of the French railways SNCF,
where many employees have acquired the right to retire at 50 with a
pension. Furthermore, pensions in these régimes
index-linked to wages in the company, not to inflation, and pensions
are generally calculated on the basis of the final salary. In the
private sector, pensions are calculated on the basis of average salary
over the best 25 years..
as acquis sociaux, have been achieved in the course
of the years as a result of the
strength of trade unions in these sectors. There is now consensus in
France that they need to be reformed, and in 2019 President Macron made
the suppression of these privileges one of the key measures in his
reform of the French retirement system.
: the largest administrative subdivisions of France. Since the start of
2016, the number of regions in France has been reduced from 22 to
13 including the island of
Corsica. There are four overseas regions, two (Guadeloupe and
Martinique) in the Caribbean, one (Guyane) in south America, and one
(La Réunion) in the Indian Ocean. Regions are made up of a
number of départements,
counties, and are generally smaller in the north than in the south.
They vary in number of departments from 4 in Brittany to 12 each in the
three big new combined regions of the south of France.
languages: Though French remains the
sole official language in French, regional authorities continue to
lobby for official recognition of France’s main regional
very diverse country, France has a large number of regional languages,
many of them used extensively in daily life. The main
regional languages are Occitanian
(the language of the Midi), Alsatian,
Corsican, Catalan, Basque
and Flemish. According to an INSEE survey
of 1999, 786,000 people in France
speak Occitanian, 545,000 speak Alsatian, 295,000 speak Breton, 133,000
speak Corsican, and 80,000 speak Basque. However, the proportion of
speakers of these languages is always far lower in younger generations,
and their survival as daily living languages is not assured –
or not these langauges acquire official status.
In 2008, the French Congress
ratified a change
in the Constitution, accepting that
regional languages are part of France’s heritage.
elections to designate councillors for French
councils. Regional councils have existed since the Law of
Decentralisation (devolution) in 1982. The first public elections to
choose regional councillors took place in 1986. Regional elections take
place every six years, the most recent having occurred in 2004.
: decentralisation, devolution of power frm the central government to
regional and departmental authorities. The process has been ongoing
since the Loi de
Décentralisation passed in 1982.
: see RIB below.
one of France's and Europe's major motor manufacturers. The company is
currently linked with the Japanese Nissan corporation, and owns the
Roumanian car manufacturer Dacia. From the end of the Second World War,
Renault was a state owned company, known as the Régie Renault.
was privatized in 1990.
généraux RG -
The name of the former French domestic intelligence agency, merged with
the former DST (Direction de la surveillance du territoire), a rival
intelligence agency, in early 2008, to form the new Direction centrale
du renseignement intérieur.
- The start of September, when activity starts up in France after the
summer break. Litterally "the return indoors (to work)". Originally
applying to education -
la rentrée des classes , i.e. back to school -
the word is now attached to politics
- la rentrée
- and to the workplace in general. In France, la
rentrée is to
all intents and purposes the start of the working year which runs from
September to August - unlike the fiscal and calendar years which start
on 1st January.
les . Known until 2015 as the UMP, Les Républicains
are the main traditional conservative political party in
founded as the Union
pour une Majorité Présidentielle, to
support the candidacy of Jacques chirac in the 2002 presidential
election, the name was later changed to Union pour un Mouvement Populaire.
In 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy was elected chairman of the party, a position
from which he was able to launch his successful bid for the
Parties in France
. After his successful presidential bid, Sarkozy relinquished
role as president of the UMP. Following a fractious period under the
secretary general, Jean-François Copé, the UMP
was renamed Les
Républicains after Sarkozy took over again following his
in the 2012 presidential election. With Hollande's government
plumbing depths of unpopularity in the polls, it looked as
Républicains were on a roll to surge to victory in the 2017
both presidential and parliamentary; but that was not to be.
Républicain presidential hopefull François Fillon
was the ustoppable
front-runner until becoming enmeshed in scandal following revelations
that he had abused his political positions and contacts to secure
handsomly paid but fictitious work for his wife, and lavishly
student internships for his children. Fillon refused to bow out of the
presidential race, and a significant proportion of
members continued to support him even when the former front-runner
plunged out of favour with the electorate. The elections for which nine
months previously the Républicains had seemed the
turned into a disaster, as Emmanuel Macron
and his new centre party LREM stormed to victory.
Following their drubbing in the polls and the loss of the majority of
their parliamentary seats, the Républicains regrouped under
leadership of the controversial right-wing party grandee Laurent
Wauquiez, who succeeded in alienating even more voters. In an
electoral alliance with the centre-right "les Centristes",the
Républicains lost 12 of their 20 seats in the European
parliamentary elections of 2019.
the fast cross-city underground rail network that is a vital element in
the Paris public transport system.
The first two main routes in the system were opened progressively in
the 1960s and 1970s. Today the RER has five lines. The building of the
RER was a great achievement, giving Parisian commuters a limited-stop
cross-city underground rapid-transit network that Londoners can only
(Restos du coeur) :
Food distribution charity, handing out food packages and hot meals to
the needy. The organisation was set up in 1985 under the inspiration of
the popular comedian Coluche (q.v.), and has since then developed to
become one of the biggest charities in France. The organisation is made
up of a national charity backed by 113 local organisations.
In 2006-07, the Restos
mobilized over 50,000 volunteers, distributed over 81 million
meals, provided overnight shelter for 7500 people, as well as
running a number of smaller social aid programmes.
La : French
overseas department (DOM) in the Indian ocean
Ferré de France
: the public agency that owns and manages the rail network in France,
created in 1997 the then national railway company, SNCF, was
split into two divisions. SNCF is now just the train operator. See map of the French rail network
the state regional television channel covering France's overseas
departments and territories.
One of the major rivers in France, and the largest French river flowing
into the Mediterranean. The Rhône rises in the canton of
Valais, in the
Swiss Alps, and flows through Lake Geneva, and the city of Geneva
itself, before entering France just south west of the city. It then
zigzags in a westerly direction through the Bugey area of France, as
far as the city of Lyon.
At Lyon, where the river is met by its biggest
tributary, the Saône, it turns due south, and flows down to
Mediterranean. The mouth of the Rhone is a delta in the area of the
short distance to the west of Marseilles.
length of the Rhone is 813 km. just over 500 miles. The river is
navigable - with canals in places - from the Mediterranean as far as
Lyon, and is a major shipping route. However the river flows
relatively fast through the steep valley to the south of Lyon, and
navigation is not always easy, notably when the river is in spate. The
lower valley of the Rhône is a famed wine producing area,
with a number
of AOC vineyards, most notably
the vineyards of Côtes du Rhone
of the French department, no. 69, whose capital is Lyon,
the second city in France, population 1.8 million.
of France, lying mostly between the Rhone and the Italian border, but
also extending to the west of the Rhône. Capital Lyon. Second
Grenoble. It is one of the more propserous regions in France.
: a document provided for customers by all banks, and indicating
details of a bank account, in a standard format. Creditors frequently
request a RIB before making a transfer in favour of a beneficiary. Most
RIBs these days also indicate IBAN (International Bank Account Number)
details as well.
French version of a Workfare policy, introduced by the Raffarin
government in 2004, whereby someone who was previously a long-term
unemployed can continue to obtain benefit after taking up part-time
employment. The system has been replaced by a new system called RSA,
Revenu de Solidarité Active.
Radio Monte Carlo
- in the age of state monoploies over broadcasting,
French listeners could tune into a number of stations that
not under government control because they were broadcast from just
outside France. For listeners in the south of France, RMC was the most
popular such station. Today it remains one of the main private radio
stations in France.
: Revenu minimum
Pronounced Air-em-ee. Welfare benefit paid to those, aged over 25, who
have no right to any other source of income (no unemployment benefit).
In 2007, there were about 1.3 million recipients of this benefit in
France. In January 2008, it was worth 448 Euros a month for a single
person. The RMI was replaced in July 2009 by the RSA.
(1930 - 2016) : Prime Minister of France from 1988 to 1991, in the
Mitterrand presidency. A Protestant socialist, Rocard founded the Parti
Socialiste Unifié in 1960, and stood for the presidency in
he joined the Socialist Party, and after François Mitterrand
reelected to the presidency for a second term, he appointed Rocard as
Prime Minister. Rocard represented a moderate socio-liberal tendency in
the Socialist Party.
the most famous French tennis club,
located in Paris.
The Roland Garros tournament, held at the end of May / start
June, is the French Open. It is one of the world's four Grand-Slam
tennis tournaments, withWimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.
The tennis stadium is named after Roland Garros, a pioneering French
aviator who died in 1918.
the most famous of France's many blue cheeses is a Mediterranean
classic, a blue cheese made from sheep's milk. The village of Roquefort
sur Soulzon is situated on the edge of the Causse
du Larzac, a few miles south west of Millau
the Aveyron department. Historically, Roquefort was made from the milk
of the sheep that grazed on the barren Causses; but nowadays, a lot of
the milk used to produce the cheese is shipped in from other parts, as
far away as Corsica. Nonetheless, to benefit from
geo-specific label, Roquefort cheese has to be made and matured in the
traditional region.….. (see Cheeses)
supporters of the monarchy, or supporters of the socialist
Royal - depending on the circumstances.
Socialist politician , former députée and former
minister, until 2014
Présidente of the Poitou-Charentes regional council.
Ségolène Royal was
the unsuccessful Socialist candidate in the 2007 French presidential
election, that was won by Nicolas Sarkozy. She obtained 47% of the vote
in the runoff. In 2007, she briefly managed to reunite a large part of
the factious Socialist party behind her candidacy, but failed to keep
up the momentum after defeat. In 2008, she was beaten by Martine Aubry
in the leadership contest for the Socialist Party. Only a handful of
votes separated the two contestants, and there was a recount. Many of
Royal's supporters refused to accept the final verdict, and
accusations of ballot rigging continued to be made well into 2009.
The former partner of François
Hollande, she was
drafted into his second government in 2014 to serve as Environment and
pour la République;
in the times of Jacques Chirac, the name of the mainstream
conservative (Gaullist) party, previously known as the UDR
,subsequently renamed the UMP and since 2015 as Les Républicains
Revenu de solidarité Active.
experimentally in 34 Departments in 2007, RSA is a type of workfare
programme designed to encourage people on low incomes back to work, by
allowing the cumulation of pay and benefits, to ensure that they are
better off when working than they would be if out of work. The idea is
strongly supported by President Sarkozy, and the
system was generalized throughout France in June 2009.
However, the project has caused tension among French conservatives, on
account of the proposal to finance the measure through an additional
tax of 1.1% on unearned income.
In the age of state monoploies over broadcasting, French
listeners could tune into a number of stations that were not under
government control because they were broadcast from just outside
France. For listeners north eastern France, RTL was one of two
popular stations; though thanks to the power of its transmitter in
Luxembourg, RTL could actually be picked almost throughout the country.
Today it is the most popular radio station in France.
With the introduction of the 35-hour working week in 2000, most
employees found themselves with a shortened working week. In many
cases, employers preferred to keep more or less the same working hours
as they had applied previously, but allow employees to build up extra
days of holiday by accumulation of the excess hours worked. These days
are known as journées
The system is now being phased out, as many employers are increasing
the working week following the Sarkozy government's liberalisation
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