NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION
with Madeleine McMullin
Prison for man who beat a cat to death
A man stopped near the Chats d’Oc cat refuge in St Estève and enticed the cats to come to him, before grabbing one and kicking it and punching it then leaving it for dead. The cat died in agony after 2 days. The man and his car were caught on CCTV and he was quickly arrested. He confessed but said that he didn’t know what had come over him. When he realised what he’d done, he had chased after the cat to end its suffering. This was refuted by the civil parties to the case and by the tribunal who found him guilty. He has been sentenced to one year in prison plus 3 months suspended sentence with community service and psychiatric care and several thousand euros in damages for the cat refuge.
More cannabis found on A9
Customs stopped a Dutch lorry on 27th May and found 298kg of grass inside what was supposed to be a shipment of linseed and textiles. 3 days later Customs officers from Montpellier stopped an Italian truck with 376kg of resin and 106kg of grass.
Strengthening of controls on Spanish border
Security has been increased on the border with Spain since Sunday 5th June. According to the police union Alliance “the controls are in response to the need for state security and the fight against illegal immigration, as well as the security of delegations and support teams at airports in host towns and the security of the railway network”. Locally this will mean controls at the Le Boulou toll and at Le Perthus on the RD900, as well as 6 hours a day at Cerbère on the RD914, the Col de Banyuls, Coustouges on the RD3, the Col d’Ares on the RD115 and Las Illas on the RD13. The P-O brigade of the railway police will look after the safety and security of the railways.
Opposition to Linky grows
Every dwelling in the P-O is due to be equipped with a Linky electric metre by 2020, but opposition is growing to the devices. The main reason for opposing their installation is the effect on human health of the waves that they emit to communicate the metre readings. Opponents claim that they lead to headaches and neuromuscular problems and that the situation will get worse as more and more of them are installed. They are calling on the mayors of the communes to live up to their duty and come out against the installation. According to the opponents several have already stated their opposition: Ille Sur Têt, Canaveilles, Campôme, Latour Bas Elne and Dorres, but the mayor of Perpignan is not one of them. They are also asking consumers to use the refusal kits that are available on the internet.
Eco divers clean the sea
25 Eco Divers of 66 met at St Elmes beach in Banyuls sur Mer to clean it on Sunday 5th June. Canoeists, divers, snorkelers and people on foot all spent an hour collecting rubbish in 18.5o water. They collected several hundred tonnes including bottles, cans, cardboard boxes, tooth brushes, tyres, pallets, even gas bottles. The group is passionate about the sea and is trying to educate people into preserving the eco-system.
Opposition march against the Grand Domaine Skiable in Cerdagne
Between 300 and 400 people went on a walk from Balcère to La Jasse de Ganyades to protest against plans to open a large ski area in Cerdagne. The ex-mayor of Les Angles, Christian Blanc was there and summed up the general feeling by saying “Since this project was announced my friends have been asking me to make sure that they don’t try and achieve the impossible. But as I’ve not been able to make them see sense, some friends and I have decided to form this group”. The assembly took 3 decisions: to make a formal demand for the project to be abandoned, to appoint Christian Blanc and Antoine Glory as spokespeople and to give them the authority to take any decision necessary to stop the project from happening. They are worried about the effect of creating new ski slopes on nature and biodiversity in a national park and feel that the project is 30 years behind the times, especially now that the snow is disappearing.
Teenage girls save drowning woman
A woman was drowning in the lake in the park next to the Lycée Maillol in Perpignan when two 17 year olds jumped in and saved her, after which she was taken away by an ambulance to the hospital. It isn’t clear whether it was a suicide attempt or an accident, but the victim was deaf and dumb. Her husband was present but was unable to help her.
Joint exercise in TGV tunnel to Spain
Spanish and French firemen took part in a joint security exercise in the TGV tunnel under the border on Saturday night. The event is an annual one and is aimed at preparing for the various scenarios which could take place in the tunnel, such as a derailment, a fire, collapse of part of the tunnel etc. This time it was an accident where a freight train is leaking a dangerous product containing ammonia. The tunnel is 8.3km long and straddles the border which makes it essential to prepare for any such events.
Village school named after Nicolas Mas
The pupils of the school in Montesquieu des Albères chose to name it after Nicolas Mas. The ex-rugby player had 85 caps with the French team and who grew up in the village and went to the same school. A plaque was unveiled by Mas at the school in a ceremony followed by an aperitif.
5000 seasonal workers still needed in P-O (not including agriculture)
The reason for the vacancies at this late stage is that people who have been hired drop out because of the bad conditions in certain firms. So there is a move afoot to try to get employers to understand that they need to be clear about hours, salaries etc before they hire staff. There is also an increasing move among campsites towards employing more people on an annualised permanent contract, where the hours are varied according to the season. About 60% of the staff on most campsites are now hired on this basis, as it allows both employers and staff to be more certain about the future.
Rosée and Vedell – the first cross border geographic indicators
12 years of work have paid off, with Rosée & Vedell des Pyrénées Catalanes being declared the first cross-border geographic indicators. The term is applied to veal which has been raised under certain conditions in the Pyrenees in the Aude and P-O as well as across the border in Catalonia. The animals must be kept with their mothers who are moved to higher pastures between 1200 & 1400m every summer. They are fed entirely on their mothers’ milk and the grass and wild flowers in the pastures such as alpine clover, liquorice flowers, sainfoin and wild thyme. Rosée is so called because of the pink colour of the meat which is rich in Omega 3, and Vedell meat is instantly recognisable, tasty and perfumed. The calves are all born of Aubrac, Gasconne and Brune des Alpes cows. Rosée calves are killed at 6 – 8 months and Vedell at 8 – 12. The meat is available between June and December, but there are only around 300 calves killed each year.
Wolves still in the P-O
1 – 3 individuals, all of them male, were found during an annual winter survey around Porté, Angoustrine, Llo and Mantet. The number of wolves in the area has remained unchanged since 1999; always males who roam across a territory of around 300 km². The man who is in charge of wolves in the Federation of Catalan Nature Reserves in Prades did not really want to dwell on the numbers preferring to talk instead about ways of allowing shepherds and wolves to live alongside each other. The preferred method is the gradual reintroduction of the Patou or Pyrenean mountain dog. The Federation is there to help professional animal and bee keepers across the Pyrenees and is trying to educate them into using the dogs to guard flocks and herds during the day and to pen the animals at night. According to the representative, “wolves are social animals and we are on the path to cohabitation.”
Belle Epoque restaurant teams up with Optimiam against waste
Florence & Vincent, the owners of the Belle Epoque believe in recycling as much as possible. The restaurant in Perpignan which opened in December uses pallets as benches, tables are made from doors and more pallets, saucepans are vases. They have now joined up with Optimiam, another start-up, the aim of which is to help local businesses sell their excess food stocks before the sell-by date. They have put together a geo-targeted app which sends out promotional offers from 20% – 40% off dinner. Florence says that “quality is the watch word, as everything they do is home made from starters to desserts, but on the other hand, managing supplies is complicated. So we joined up with Optimiam to avoid wasting food, and it could be interesting as we are offering takeaways from €6.” A good initiative, especially because as many products as possible are sourced locally.
Argèles municipal police on strike indefinitely from Tuesday
The municipal police are protesting about a bonus for which they receive €125 whereas colleagues in other services get €250. The mayor is not happy as it thinks that the claim is unfounded and what is more was put out that they did not wait till after a meeting to discuss the subject at 2pm the same day. Most of the 25 officers in the town will be out. The police provide vital back up to the gendarmes especially in the summer months when they are on duty 24/7 for 3 months from 15th June.
Fabrique Spinoza organises a “happiness at work” day
Fabrique Spinoza is organising a happiness at work day at the university of Perpignan on 10th June. Virginie Erre is the smuggler of happiness at Fabrique Spinoza in the P-O. She is organising a day of conferences and workshops around the theme as according to her “a happy employee is 30% more productive”. The day is aimed at bosses, managers and HR directors and focusses on improving productivity by better management and improved working conditions. Fabrique Spinoza has put a questionnaire aimed at evaluating the happiness of Catalans at work on line. You can take part anonymously by going to https://www.sondageonline.com/s/bonheurautravail66. The results will be shared on 10th June.
Operator of TGV tunnel to go bankrupt
The tribunal in Girona will pass judgement on the bankruptcy of TP Ferro, the Spanish-French company which is a joint venture between the Spanish ACS and French Eiffage. The president of the company is lining everything up to allow them to claim state aid from the Spanish and French governments. The company suspended payments last summer and has to repay nearly €500 million in bank loans if it is to avoid bankruptcy. The owner is threatening that the company won’t be able to guarantee its services if it isn’t bailed out. 2 and a half years after the tunnel was opened, the Spanish transport minister has given her word that the line is not in danger. Spokespeople for the Madrid government say that the line will be requisitioned by the two countries. According to the newspaper, El Economista, at least 4 bilateral meetings have been held at ministerial level on the subject and they decided that the tunnel would be run by a company with mixed ownership if necessary. The line is not profitable as prices are high and the trip long when compared with the plane from Barcelona to Paris, or Paris to Barcelona. The line does not attract enough passengers and half of those that it does are using the train to commute between Figueres, Girona and Barcelona. The number of trains is therefore less than the 30 per day originally planned, currently standing at a maximum of 18 in summer. Even worse is the volume of freight trains which were seen as a priority by the EU. Only 24 trains a week use the tunnel, which is 3 times less than those that continue to go via Cerbère. TP Ferro is refusing to issue new share capital to try to pay its debts as it considers the French and Spanish governments in breach of contract for failing to provide the minimum guaranteed traffic that hasn’t materialised. They did try to reschedule the debt across 19 years with their creditors, but this move failed.
Yoga festival in Leucate on 18th June
The first yoga festival in the region will take place at Leucate from sunrise to sunset. The day kicks off at 6am with a yoga course to greet the sun on the cliff facing the sea. There will be many different courses throughout the day with different sorts of yoga and pilates. More information from 06 70 85 40 24 or 06 83 38 09 09