NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION
with Madeleine McMullin
6 months suspended + fine for 40 hectares
On 18th July, A 35 year old man lit a barbecue on some family land that he, his sister and friends had cleared that morning and ended up setting fire to 40 hectares of land at Maureillas, as well as the A9 motorway. The fire was started by sparks flying from the BBQ and fanned by the wind. It took off at lightning speed and burnt the 40 ha in the space of an hour, despite the man and his friends trying to stop it, and then ringing the emergency services. It destroyed vineyards and a plot of commercial forestry, burnt road signs and anti-reptile nets on the motorway, cutting the traffic for hours. The man was sentenced to 6 months suspended sentence and to pay indemnities to the people whose land was destroyed. These were initially set at €50,000 but to be reviewed at a future hearing.
Latest developments in the battle against Occitanie
The fight has gone international with the New York Times putting an article about the opposition to the name Occitanie on its website and covering all of the controversy from the position of Manuel Valls, to the Al Chemist’s song. The subject was also covered on the French TV channel, T3 and on various types of media south of the border.
Meanwhile the demo on the 10th September attracted between 7000 & 8000 people according to the official statistics, 12000 according to the organisers, which is more than the 5000 for the demo against the name Septimanie in 2005, but less than the 10,000 to 15,000 that the organisers were hoping for.
Laurent Gauze, a Perpignan councillor and head of a local company, called for people to move on and fight more important battles. Saying that his family has been living in the region since 1730 and he understands the discontent, but feels that the area has been taken into account with the name Pyrénées Mediterranées. The department should be concentrating on getting the most they can out of the region in terms of help to develop economically, and creating the label “Pays catalan” as a mark of excellence that is recognised in France in the same way as “Pays basque” which also has no official recognition, as either a department or a region, but is familiar to everyone.
And on 23rd September, Carole Delga, the President of the new Region is launching the Public Office of the Catalan Language in an attempt to win back the hearts of Catalans. The office will try to diffuse the language, starting with the youngest inhabitants, and championing the Catalan culture in the same way as has been done for the Basques and the Occitans: the Office For Basque opened in 2004 and the Occitan Office in 2015. She also touched on the economic and development aid that the Region will be aiming at the department.
Wild boar take to the beach again
On Saturday 10th September, exactly a week after their first dip, a mother and her piglets re-joined holiday makers on the beach at Cerbère. The pigs came down from the woods and headed for the sea where they frolicked in the shallows, surrounded by people taking their photos and videoing them. This time they stayed for about 20 minutes before they headed back into the forest.
Trees keep breaking in Blvd Mercador, Perpignan
Worried inhabitants are questioning the tendency of the Goldenrain trees on the Blvd Mercador in Perpignan to shed branches and even fall over. So far all that has been damaged is cars, but people are worried that someone might be hit. According to the council, the trees are not rotten, but are being affected by buried cables and the digging of trenches to put down new cabling for fibre optic networks etc. An expert is currently examining the situation and will report back.
Agriculture Minister in Ille Sur Têt
Stéphane le Foll, Minister for Agriculture came to the Fête de la Rose in Ille sur Têt on Sunday 11th September. While he was there he promised that the government would help farmers suffering from the drought which has caused a 40% decrease in production and that they would look at innovative ways to irrigate in future. He refused to be drawn on the name for the Region, saying that it was nothing to do with him, that the debate was something that he was familiar with but whether or not the name was officially recognised, the Pays catalan existed and had a future. People should stop being hung up on the name and look further afield.
More rain in 24 hours than in all August
10.7mm of rain fell from the night of Tuesday to Wednesday (13th to 14th September) which was more than the 9.6mm for the whole of August. However the storms were a lot less violent than forecast with the brunt being felt by the departments of the Hérault and Gard.
Treaty of the Pyrenees or Treaty of Perpignan
A Moroccan who was arrested in Le Perthus and detained threatened with deportation was tried this week. The counsel for the defence pointed out that the border that was established in the Treaty of the Pyrenees signed by Cardinal Mazarin and Don Luis Mendez de Haro on 7/11/1659 was never put into place on the ground; the actual border was established by the Treaty of Perpignan on 12/11/1764 and is marked by 602 bornes. The bus stop where the man spent an hour and was arrested was actually just the Spanish side of the borne and so his arrest was illegal. Judges allowed the man was allowed to go free.
Wing mirror scam in Perpignan
A man who targeted elderly drivers and tricked them into thinking that they had broken his wing mirror and then called a friend who pretended to be his insurer was sentenced to 5 years in prison for repeatedly pulling the same scam all over France. He admitted picking on the elderly because it was easier to con them.
Public Housing Office found guilty on appeal
The court of appeal in Montpellier has confirmed the guilty verdict for the Office public de l’Habitat in the collapse of a block of flats in Perpignan in 2009. The Office, the architects and the contractor had all been found guilty of involuntary homicide in 2014. A 74 year old man died and his wife was badly injured when 23, rue de la Puis des Chaines collapsed a few weeks after the demolition of the building next door which belonged to the OPH. The architect received 6 months suspended sentence and a fine of €5000. The demolition contracting firm €5000 with the MD given a 1 year suspended sentence and barred from working in building for 5 years. The OPH was fined €105,000 in total. The appeal court took the fine from €100,000 to €40,000. The OPH is set to appeal again.
2 year sentence for incest
A girl whose father slept with her from the age of 11 ended up writing to the police to try to get it to end. She was anorexic and cutting herself, but her parents explained it by saying that she was a difficult child who slept with boys from a very young age. Even her mother refused to help her, as she did not want another scene with her unemployed and depressed husband. They both threatened to commit suicide if the girl left them. Eventually she went to live with her grandparents after writing to the police. Her father admitted the crime and that he should not have done it, but that she was very attractive. The girl is now in a foster home, and is doing extremely well in science. The father will spend 2 years in prison with an extra year suspended and will be on parole for 3 years. He will have to work and indemnify his daughter to the tune of €2500. She put in a letter to the tribunal that she wanted to avoid a trial, as she had not wanted to destroy the image of her father as a husband to his wife, and a father for her sister.