France in demand again as Central Africa crisis deepens

“We can do much better than we did here in Belgium but I think the best teams in the group are going through,” Iceland’s coach added. “Belgium were the best of all, they have at least two or three top-quality players. In the future we want to score more goals. Now we will see who we get in the draw, because in football anything can always happen.” France were left to count the cost of three successive stalemates, the last a 2-2 draw with the hosts in Tongeren. Francis Smerecki’s team took a fortunate early lead through Leander Dendoncker’s own goal but second-half strikes from Corentin Fiore and Theo Bongonda put Belgium in charge and an added-time equaliser from captain Adrien Rabiot was not enough for France. “I’m super satisfied,” Belgium coach Gert Verheyen told UEFA.com. “When you’re in a group with France you do not really expect to end up No1. I am really pleased with my team. We did what we had to do against Iceland and Northern Ireland; today it was more difficult but we reacted well in the second half and deserved a draw. I’m really happy, I never imagined we would get seven points in this group.” The home side had made sure of pole position with 2-0 victories in each of their opening fixtures. First a goal late in either half from Divock Origi and Bongonda saw off Northern Ireland on Thursday, before Origi again and Siebe Schrijvers clinched the points against Iceland on Saturday. France, beaten by Serbia in the 2013 final, had cause to regret late goals conceded in their first two matches.

Iceland spring surprise on France

Security Council votes in December on a resolution to strengthen a U.N. mission. Sources said it could increase the total French force to between 700-1,200. “It wouldn’t be an intervention in the classical sense of the word,” Fabius said. “We’re not going to send parachutists, but there needs to be a presence because the state has been completely unseated.” An African Union force soon to number 2,600 and composed of forces from neighboring states including Chad, Gabon, Congo Republic and Cameroon has deployed as part of the 3,600-strong U.N. mission known by the acronym MISCA. But beyond the capital and the main commercial corridor to Cameroon, the force has not had the military means or financial muscle to venture further afield. In addition, local officials and people resent its largest contingent, Chad, which many accuse of having interfered in its affairs and of being too lenient with ex-rebels. “If we lead an operation and the Chadians are involved it’s a fiasco. We need a clear MISCA mandate with France,” said a French-trained Central African Republic military official, who declined to be identified. As with the hospitals, resources are a problem.

The first increases begin in 2020. Economists say there are three problems with the proposal: It takes effect after most baby boomers will have retired, meaning it doesn’t address the cost of paying for their pensions. It still isn’t asking people to work long enough, especially since life expectancy is rising. And it ignores the special deals that allow some workers to retire early and account for two-thirds of the retirement system’s $27 billion deficit. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, and others have raised concerns about how the pension system will be paid for without further burdening French employers, which already pay the highest payroll taxes in the EU. Some economists say the problem with the “salami strategy” is that the reforms are always behind the curve. Jacob Kirkegaard, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, says the reform might have worked if it had been done 20 years ago. Now France needs much more. Among the world’s most developed countries, only Luxembourg has a lower effective retirement age, according to the OECD, an economic policy group. The issue of pensions is so sensitive that no one political party wants to make the painful changes that are needed. In other European countries with unsustainable retirement systems, such as Spain and Italy, the financial crisis has threatened to bankrupt the government, pushing politicians to act. France has been spared such turmoil and lacked the same incentives. “There is only one party in France and that is the status quo party,” said Kirkegaard. So in another few years, France is likely to apply another Band-Aid to its pensiosn system, he said.