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BERLIN, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The leaders of Germany and France agreed Tuesday to create a Eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency, and also to seek a European solution to migration issues.

The announcement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron came after a meeting in Berlin to coordinate the two major powers' positions on the future of the European Union ahead of next week's EU summit.

Though Merkel had been lukewarm on Macron's idea of a European budget, in a declaration adopted by both leaders following the meeting they said they had agreed upon a proposal to establish one aimed at "competitiveness and convergence."

"It could finance new investments and come in substitution of national spending," they said.

Merkel said the two also agreed to enhance the effectiveness of the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM, which was established in 2012 to provide eurozone nations access to financial assistance in the event of crisis.

"We are opening a new chapter," she said.

Macron said details were intentionally being kept general on the budget idea at the moment, so that other member nations would be able to have their voices heard. He said the idea is for the budget to be in place by 2021 as a "backstop to ensure financial stability."

On migration, Merkel's insistence on finding common European solutions to reducing migrant numbers and other issues has met stiff resistance in her own conservative bloc, leading to a showdown over the last week with her interior minister who has insisted some categories of migrants should be turned away at Germany's borders.

On Monday, a potential crisis was averted after Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and his Bavaria-only Christian Social Union agreed to give Merkel two weeks to make deals with other European countries on migrants - specifically after the upcoming EU summit.

In their joint declaration, the leaders cautioned that "if member states started to act unilaterally, this would end up in an overall increase of migration into Europe."

Merkel told reporters she was still convinced that Europe needed to work together to combat the causes of the refugee flow by helping improve conditions in the countries of origin while at the same time increasing security at Europe's outer borders and cracking down on smugglers.

"Our goal remains a European answer to these challenges," she said.

Macron agreed to the need for "a European response to the challenge of migration," saying Europe must have "more capacity" to monitor its external borders but also more "solidarity mechanisms both outside and inside our borders" faced with migrant arrivals.

Both leaders said they wanted to increase personnel at Frontex, Europe's border security agency.

"We want more sovereignty and unity," Macron said. "We're at a moment of truth in Europe."

PARIS, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - The French government has frozen the assets of controversial Swiss-Islamic scholar Hani Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna as part of the authorities' efforts to combat terrorist financing, Swiss Info reported.

According to the decree that was published on Sunday in the official French government bulletin and reported on Tuesday by the Lyon Capitale magazine, his assets have been frozen for six months.

This is within the framework of an article of the Monetary and Financial Code targeting “natural or legal persons, or any other entity that commits, attempts to commit, facilitates, finances, incites or participates in acts of terrorism”.

France deported Hani Ramadan to Switzerland in April, 2017. The French Interior Ministry said that Hani Ramadan had “in the past adopted behavior and made remarks posing a serious threat to public order on French soil”.

He has two months to contest the freezing of his assets, said the decree, made jointly by the economy, finance and interior ministries.

Ramadan’s name was one of 17 on list of foreign nationals sentenced for or suspected of having links to a terrorist organisation or of carrying out propaganda for such an organisation.

Hani Ramadan is the brother of Tarek, a controversial Islamic scholar who is held in custody in France for allegedly raping several women. He has formally contested the charges.

YEKATERINBURG, Russia, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The pre-tournament favorites at this World Cup have struggled so far. France is no exception - but at least it has a win. Les Bleus, who are seventh in the FIFA world rankings, got past Australia 2-1 in their opener despite a mostly lackluster effort from their trio of elite strikers.

France benefited from some good fortune. Its first goal came after a penalty called with the aid of video review. Then it scored again on a fluky goal that was found by goal-line technology to have crossed the line and was later determined to have been last touched by an Australian player.

France was one of only two teams ranked in FIFA's top seven to win its opening match. The other was Belgium.

A win Thursday night against Peru at Yekaterinburg Arena would put France in position to wrap up a second consecutive appearance in the round of 16.

The Peruvians held a 17-10 advantage in shots on goal but failed to capitalize on their chances during a 1-0 loss to Denmark . Peru's task could be even harder against Group C favorite France, which it will be facing for the first time in World Cup play.

The only previous meeting between the teams was a 1982 friendly that Peru won 1-0.

France's top attackers - Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele - were underwhelming against Australia.

France outshot its opponent 12-6. Griezmann had five of those attempts, Mbappe had one and Dembele played 70 minutes without a shot on goal. Griezmann's goal came after a penalty, the byproduct of a video assistant referee review of a foul on the sideline.

The other goal was initially credited to Paul Pogba before a panel of former coaches and players determined it actually came off a touch by Australia's Aziz Behich.

France can't count on such good fortune against a disciplined Peru defense, and coach Didier Deschamps didn't rule out tweaking his lineup.

"I will have 11 (players) against Peru," Deschamps said. "It may be the same, it may be different ones, but those three attacking players played as they should play. I have a good group. Each of them has his say among the 23 players."

One of the key questions for Peru will be how coach Ricardo Gareca uses the country's all-time leading scorer, Paolo Guerrero.

After having a doping ban lifted just before the start of the tournament, the 34-year-old striker came on as a substitute against Denmark and played well in about 30 minutes of action. He almost scored twice, the last time using his unique skill set to nearly create what would have been an equalizing goal.

It's the kind of effort that could prompt Gareca to return Guerrero to a starting role for this match, which will determine whether Peru has a chance of advancing to the second round for the first time since 1978.

Peru brought one of the largest contingents of fans to Russia. Tens of thousands are following the Incas during their first World Cup appearance in 36 years.

They were loud throughout Peru's opener at Mordovia Arena in Saransk, at times drowning out their Danish counterparts.

That support could be a factor in trying to rattle France's stars. Deschamps said the fans reminded him of Colombia's supporters during friendly in Paris that Colombia won 3-2.

"Thirty thousand Peruvians came to Moscow, so they are very excited and enthusiastic," Deschamps said. "We played Colombia in March and we saw that they are not only aggressive, but they have very good players."

KAZAN, Russia, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - A stodgy first performance against a gutsy Australia was enough to take France top of their group at the World Cup, but Didier Deschamps' side showed little to give tournament heavyweights like Brazil anything to worry about.

Les Bleus instead head into their next clash, against Peru in Ekaterinburg on Thursday, with lingering queries over their forward line's effectiveness, and with their rivals emboldened that they could upset the 1998 champions.

Deschamps has placed great stock in the team's young talents, rewarding Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele with starting roles in the front three with Antoine Griezmann at Kazan Arena.

Yet it took the experienced campaigner Olivier Giroud to break the deadlock as he came off the bench to feed Paul Pogba for his late winner.

The result aside, Bert van Marwijk's well-drilled Socceroos put in a heroic defensive effort to stifle their opponents at Kazan Arena.

“In a lot of moments they didn't know what to do any more,” the Dutchman stated bluntly, but correctly, of the French.

While Australia's Switzerland-based central defender Trent Sainsbury boosted his hopes of graduating to a higher European league, the 36th-ranked Socceroos lack anything that could be described as a world class backline.

How France will hope to crack open the more highly rated Group C rivals Peru and Denmark, let alone a German or Spanish stonewall, is sure to preoccupy their 1998 World Cup hero Deschamps in the coming days.

The 49-year-old has an embarrassment of riches in his playing squad, but the Socceroos result showed he has yet to determine how best to deploy them.

The loss of Djibril Sidibe was a blow, forcing Benjamin Pavard to play at right back after operating mostly as a central defender for Bundesliga side Stuttgart.

Pavard performed admirably, but there were problems further up the field.

While France looked dangerous going forward in the opening 15 minutes, once a nervous Australia had time to settle the picture changed.

From there, the midfield trio of Corentin Tolisso, N'Golo Kante and Pogba struggled to give good service to the forwards, all of whom showed impressive pace but little invention.

Although Pogba scored the winner, it was hardly a scintillating performance, and questions about his role in the side will remain.

Deschamps has gone to great lengths to accommodate him, including implementing a 4 -3-3 formation to give the Manchester United playmaker more latitude.

“It suits him very well because he has the freedom to go forward, which he would not be at liberty to do if we were playing with two defensive midfielders,” said Deschamps.

The manager suggested he would persist with the set-up and was defiant that his team had done everything asked of them, except produce more pace in their transitions forward.

 

PARIS, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Hindered by strikes and outdated equipment, French air traffic control is responsible for a third of aviation delays in Europe, Le Parisien said on Monday, citing a senate finance committee report.

Between 2004 and 2016, French air traffic controllers were on strike 254 days, while second-placed Greece only had 46 days of stoppages, Italy 37 and Germany four, according to the report seen by the daily.

“Every day of a strike in France has a much bigger impact on European traffic than (strikes) in other European countries”, the report’s author, senator Vincent Capo-Canellas, noted after six months of work including numerous field visits.

In addition to frequent industrial action France is also the champion for delays, linked to obsolescent equipment, the report said.

“Our country is responsible for 33 per cent of delays due to air traffic control in Europe,” Capo-Canellas said, representing 300 million euros in annual losses for airlines.

“In France, the control equipment is outdated,” and maintenance costs are high at 136 million euros a year, added Capo-Canellas.

“We are way behind our neighbours,” the senator complained, despite France having spent more than two billion euros to modernise air traffic control since 2011.

The report also noted that the 4,000 French air traffic controllers have to cope with a sharp increase in traffic each year.

They controlled more than 3.1 million flights in 2017, up four per cent from 2016 and 8.6 per cent from 2015.

SARANSK, Russia, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - Striker Paolo Guerrero played only for 30 minutes in Peru's 1-0 opening World Cup loss to Denmark, but his impressive form after a long doping ban already indicates he'll likely play a bigger role in his country's next match against France.

Coach Ricardo Gareca kept Guerrero on the bench at the start of the game in Saransk, which upset tens of thousands of fans who showed up at the 44,000-seater Mordovia Arena. He waited an hour, until after Peru had wasted several opportunities - including one from the penalty spot - to send on the team's all-time leading scorer.

A Guerrero header two minutes later forced Denmark's Kasper Schmeichel into a save. Three minutes later the 34-year-old Guerrero, who played only a handful of games this year, almost equalized for Peru with a clever backheel kick.

Overall, his presence gave Peru more structure in attack and had the other benefit for his team of drawing Denmark's defense, creating opportunities for Yoshimar Yotun in the middle.

"I saw him doing well. He adapted to the atmosphere of the game quickly," Gareca said in his post-match news conference.

Peru faces France on Thursday in a potentially decisive match in Pool C, and that puts Guerrero right into the frame to start.

"What we need now is to analyze the match against France and pick the best settings," Gareca said. "We need to digest this defeat and deal with France as quickly as possible."

Veteran Peru player Jefferson Farfan, who played up front on Saturday, suggested his close friend deserved to be in the starting lineup for the next game.

"We have to think of France, forget this match and start from scratch," Farfan said.
"Guerrero once more proved he is key for this group of players."

Guererro was Peru's top goal scorer in South American World Cup qualifying, netting five in the campaign. But he has played few games since FIFA's initial suspension in November.

He blamed his doping test failure on a tainted cup of tea at a Lima hotel.

The veteran striker didn't have any qualms about being kept on the bench for Peru's first match, saying he "respects the decision of the professor."

"Whenever he needs me, I will be ready. The next match will be tough, but we have the means to win it," Guererro said.

The victory gave Denmark a crucial advantage over Peru in Group C after France edged Australia 2-1 earlier in the day.

 

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