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These News & Views are scooped from around the world; What’s happening? What are people thinking? What would people like them to think?…and some of the amusing things that are going on today.

Click on the picture and you’ll be taken to the Mon Oc portfolio of 400+ articles.  Choose your article and you’ll be taken there, just one click away.  Read today’s scoops here and understand what’s happening.

The Cloud Quest

379_CloudQuest_Nov14This is an armchair treasure hunt following two people in the search for their rightful inheritance, and to know more of their own personal family histories.

It will take them and the reader across France (Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Canal du Midi and Poitou-Charentes), The UK and New Zealand.

It is set out over 12 downloadable chapters with puzzles, brainteasers and conundrums to be solved to get to each new chapter. In addition there are two family trees and their interrelationships to be reconstructed from clues given.

Deeply embedded within the story are two main thread puzzles, the solution of which will get participants the opportunity of gaining significant cash rewards.

The main prizes come from a pot accumulated from the very affordable enrolment fees. Members will be taken on a journey of discovery and intrigue.

This is an ideal chance for puzzle enthusiasts, quizzers and those who really relish problem solving, to get involved and take on the challenges presented.

You need travel no further than your own computer and no specialist knowledge is required.

To receive the first chapter FREE, and fully explanatory details go to the link below.

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European Court – Social Charges on Sale of French Property

UK residents who have in the past couple of years sold French property have been forced to pay French social charges at the rate of 15% on their gain, with some taper relief. These social charges have in many cases been more than the French capital Gains Tax and have been deducted by the notaire on completion. The French social charge cannot be deducted against UK capital gains tax (because it is not a “tax”) and so is a real and unwelcome cost for UK sellers.

Almost certain French social charge deduction illegal

A relevant case challenging France’s position is now before the European Court, Ministre de l’Economie et des finances v Gerard de Ruyter (Case C-623/13). The Advocate General, whose views the Court normally follows, has given his opinion 0n 21st October 2014, which is that France has acted illegally in making this charge on non-residents. It seems very likely the European Court when it makes its final decision shortly (before end 2014) will take this view as the Advocate General is very clear in his opinion. This should open the way for UK and other non-French sellers resident in the EU to claim back the social charge from the French Fisc.

Action now

We recommend that any UK sellers in this position should write now to both the notaire who dealt with their sale and to the tax agent whom notaires use to calculate the tax, saying that they are aware of the above case and the Advocate General’s opinion and ask for confirmation the deducted French Social charge will be refunded to them forthwith should the court decide they were deducted unlawfully together with interest. If you have any difficulty with this Sykes Anderson Perry Limited is able to assist.

November 2014

David Anderson Solicitor Advocate, Chartered Tax Adviser and barrister (unregistered)

Sykes Anderson Perry Limited,  9 Devonshire Square,  London EC2M 4YF

Telephone 020 3178 3770  david.anderson@saplaw.co

148_Sykes_Anderson_Property_Oct14

Your reading for November . . .

The Juno Letter

by L. W. Hewitt

Product Details

This is such a fascinating story for anyone interested in WWI and WWII, I just could not put it down.

When an unexpected parcel arrives for Lawrence Hewitt from Courseulles-sur-Mer in France, it contains letters, they are addressed to his Grandfather Andy. The letters, which were written during WWII had been discovered hidden in a small cottage in Normandy and are from Andy’s friend Antoine Bouchard, but they were never posted…

A friendship was forged in WWI between his grandfather, Private Andy Anderson and Antoine Bouchard, who although French was living in the Alsace region at the outbreak of the war and was forced to fight for Germany. Then, after WWI Andy returns home and becomes a chaplain and Antoine stays in France.

As Andy’s grandson reads the letters and researches what he finds, we are treated to an amazing insight into real life in France, between the wars and during WWII. The prejudices which existed and the secret underground work of the resistance.

However, love will find a way, and Antoine finds happiness marrying his lovely Marianne and they have a daughter, Ariéle, then their world is shattered as the cruelty of war impacts on their lives and they all find themselves faced with circumstances beyond their control.

Living in France as I do, near to Tours, which is featured in this book, the tributes are all around us to the brave young men of many nations who lost their lives, and, not too far away in Normandy are the Juno landings beaches, and Courseulles-sur-Mer so vital during D Day on the 6th June, 1944.

It is very hard for me, even now to remember that this is a work of fiction, the depth of research and attention to detail bring alive all too horrifically the very real dangers facing collaborators during the wars and the bravery of the resistance and allies working behind enemy lines.

The question is, what happens to Antoine, Marianne and Ariéle? To find out you will have to read the book or listen to the audiobook version.

This story is a tribute to the author, Lawrence Hewitt’s Grandfather Andy. Armed with his grandfather’s personal journals which he wrote as a soldier in the Great War, the author visited Paris in 2012 and followed in his footsteps. The journey he took and his visit to the Normandy landing beaches are the inspiration behind The Juno Letters.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon in Paperback http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Juno-Letters-L-Hewitt/dp/1500891916/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1413993171&sr=8-1

and Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/Juno-Letters-L-W-Hewitt-ebook/dp/B00KDRLJE6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413993171&sr=8-1&keywords=The+juno+letters

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The One of Us

by John Needham

Product Details

My first impression of this book was, what a strange title, however, having read it, there could be no more perfect one.

How could Julie have known, way back in 1984 when she left her native Ireland to live in Liverpool that her fancying Paul, at a nightclub, the consequences of that night, and the relationship which followed would change so many people’s lives, including her own?

Glyn and Sioned love their daughter Lowri, yet they yearn for another child. Jim and Maureen are trying to come to terms with Maureen’s inability to carry a baby to term. Two couples who, for two very different reasons, decide to adopt a baby, but each of their choices leave them inextricably tied in a way they could never imagine.

Life has a way of changing just when we think we are settled, and as a result, Glyn, Sioned, Lowri and little adopted Tomos find themselves moving back to their native Wales. Whilst Jim, Maureen and their little adopted son Wayne relocate to Northallerton in North Yorkshire.

This is the story of these two boys, each having very different childhoods, achievements, plans and dreams. As they grow into men, however, it is discovered that they have one thing in common, and in the end, does anything else matter?

I found this story un-put-down-able, it has a very unusual storyline, plenty of twists and turns, and a real surprise ending.

Those of us who love this author’s very humane way of writing are, yet again, treated to another beautifully written story. At the end of the book, as an added bonus, the author has included a couple of chapters of ‘Forebears’ one of his previously published novels, which also features one of the characters in this story.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon in Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Us-John-Needham-ebook/dp/B00OAAUOPW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413993392&sr=8-1&keywords=the+one+of+us+by+john+needham

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High Steaks

by Eleanor Boyle

Product Details

What a refreshing change!

We all know we would be healthier if we ate better, less meat, more chemical free, well here’s a brilliant insight into how to do just that. However this book is refreshing because it doesn’t suggest we all become vegan or vegetarian (not that there’s anything wrong with those choices), but it accepts that some people like to eat meat.

It looks very carefully, in depth, and with references to carefully researched material into how the livestock industry functions, its rules and regulations and how they have changed and are changing right now. It examines the effects the industry has, not only on environment and health, but other factors which probably one would never consider.

For a great many I am sure that much of the content of this book will be a real eye-opener, however, the authors intention is to educate rather than dictate.

Although it is no light weight listen to, and it does contain some very disturbing content for animal lovers, I thought this book contained numerous interesting facts and I would recommend to anyone who is really interested in what they are eating and the way it has been produced.

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon in Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/High-Steaks-Why-Less-Meat-ebook/dp/B0092XDVIO/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413993545&sr=1-2&keywords=high+steaks

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Resurrection: A Zombie Novel

by Michael J. Totten

Product Details

When a group of the last survivors of the most devastating virus the world has ever known get together they realise that they must find somewhere to live in safety.

But where? Humans, transformed into flesh eating zombies roam the earth, is anywhere safe, and will they survive?

This is a gripping zombie novel with a great storyline which has many twists and turns, not least of them being, what is the secret which lies behind the eight missing weeks of survivor Annie Starlings life?

As the story unfolds, the true personalities of the survivors begin to show, and with time come revelations and remembrance…

Reviewed by Susan Keefe

Available from Amazon in Paperback http://www.amazon.co.uk/Resurrection-Zombie-Michael-J-Totten/dp/0615964338/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1413993699&sr=1-2

and in Kindle format http://www.amazon.co.uk/Resurrection-Zombie-Michael-J-Totten-ebook/dp/B00IY1GV32/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413993699&sr=1-2&keywords=resurrection+a+zombie+novel

 

 

In the Garden – November . . .

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Viburnum plicatum mariesii

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Zanthoxylum simulans

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Myrtus communis

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Arbutus unedo

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Nandina domestica

October generally brings rain but the ground is still warm so November is the perfect time to plant most trees, shrubs and perennials. Your French neighbours will tell you that  “A la Sainte Catherine (the 25th November), tout bois prend racine”  Note that slightly tender plants such as bougainvillea or plumbago are best planted in the spring so that they can develop a strong root system before the winter.

When planting remember to dig a square hole about twice the depth and twice the width of the pot the plant came in (or root ball if you are planting a bare root plant), mix the excavated soil with some organic material (such as compost or terreau de plantation) and some sand or gravel to improve the soil  and use this  mix to backfill the planting hole.  First, unless the weather has been wet, fill the planting hole with water and let it drain away; meanwhile standing the plant in a bucket of water so that the root ball is moist.  Then half fill the planting hole with your soil/terreau/sand  mix and place the plant, fill around the sides with the soil/terreau mix and firm into place.  Keep an eye on the water requirements of your newly planted items.  For taller shrubs and trees you will probably need to stake the plant so that it isn’t rocked by the Languedoc winds.

To celebrate this planting season and because  it would be much better for young plants to spend the winter in the ground in your gardens rather than in small pots outside at the nursery – we will be offering a number of plants at sale prices at the end of November.  This will be on Saturday 15th November  There will be a guided tour of the garden at 11am looking at what is of interest during autumn and winter and talking about preparing for the winter and La Table d’Emilie (who provide such wonderful food at our June open weekend) will be offering refreshments and lunch, the meal will be at 15€ per head

 The meal is by reservation only (phone 04 68 78 70 10 or email  latabledemiliecaunes@gmail.com)

Gill Pound

A ballot for 9th November

The Catalan President, Artur Mas, has called off the planned referendum for 9th November. But he will be proceeding with a less formal popular consultation on the same day.

shutterstock_217328170Scotland obviously started a trend. No so popular with the Spanish who fear loosing The Basque and Catalan districts to separatists, and I am sure that in time France will have something to say with the regions in such close proximity. 

But this is how communities are identifying themselves. National boundaries don’t matter, it’s the community that wants to brand itself with it’s own regional characteristics which are often at odds with the country.

In Barcelona Mas told a press conference that his referendum couldn’t go ahead with his original decree to take the more prosperous northern region into independence. The Spanish government has shown fierce opposition and has vetoed the vote that was to emulate Scotland.

There will be a head on clash with Madrid on the 9th. There will be ballot boxes. There will be an opportunity to show solidarity for the concept of Catalonia deciding its future. Madrid will have to listen.

This is different from the 2009 consultation ballots that were held in Arenys de Munt. This is a regional initiative.

Watch this space . . .

How to pick up English TV in France . . . or anywhere else for that matter !

Living in France BANNERThough French television definitely has it merits, especially if you are still learning the language, one constant gripe we hear from English speakers living in France is that they miss the programming from back home!

Web based services such as BBC iPlayer, 4oD, or US websites such as Netflix impose frustrating country specific restrictions which block foreign users.

It isn’t just online television services which are affected either – the fact is, much of how you experience the internet depends on the country from which you access it. Who isn’t sick of being automatically directed to the French version of Google, when the information you want is probably easier to find via the English portal?

Luckily it is a problem that can be quickly and easily solved with the use of a piece of technology called a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The software tricks websites into acting as if you are accessing them from the country of your choice, by routing your internet connection through servers in that country. As an added bonus VPN’s encrypt your internet data, boosting your online security and privacy.

The software is cheap, easy to install, and runs in the background without you having to think about it.

Check out the My Private Network website for more information, get subscribed and welcome your favourite TV shows back!

70th Anniversary – Operation Dragoon

It seems fitting to recount events as they happened all over the weekend of the 14 to 17 August, a pretty historic Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 18.23.27one, encapsulating as it did the many events celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the landings in the South of France.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 18.22.37I attended the event held at La Motte on the 14th, where the Memorial is dedicated to those British and American paratroopers who landed the night of the 14/15th August 1944, at Les Mitans -all 9,000 of them – together with Andrew Buchanan, President, Royal British Legion, and Victor Walker, also of the RBL.  

We arrived there to find the Memorial site surrounded by the local Le Muy re-enactors, jeeps, flags, guns, lorries, all of the era, French Army corps, banners, and a small band who played the national anthems.   I have tried to collect all this together in a picture story that I can circulate via email, as well as in the back page of the magazine.

The ceremony was attended and addressed by Kader Arif, French Ministere dÁncien Combattants, and Lord Astor of Hever, House of Lords Spokesman on Defence.

What was most particularly touching was that it was also attended by five, yes five, Veterans of that initial parachute landing campaign. They were:

Alex Sutton (colour Sergeant 6th Bn Royal Welsh, Jim Knox, Private, A Coy 4 Para, Jim Chittenden, Corp. Pathfinder platoon, Peter Block, Private, Pathfinder platoon, and Brigadier Dick Hargreaves MC, who was the Company Commander of B Company of 4 Para, responsible for capturing and holding the bridge at le Muy, the vital strategic part of the landings, opening up the hinterland to the sea-borne landing forces.

I talked to Brigadier Hargreaves, still at 95 erect, over 6 ft, with strong memories, of how it was when they landed.image005

He told me, “We thought we were going to land in the sea, the land mist was so strong, white, it was a blanket, and then finally we dropped through”.

President Francois Hollande had at the last moment elected to cancel his previously arranged visit to the American Rhone Cemetery for the the 15th – this after months of organisation, Ministerial consultations, meetings, discussions on security – preferring instead to tread in the footsteps of Gen, Charles de Gaulle, in honoring the Algerian and other North African troops who had taken part in the capturing of Mont Faron and Toulon, and later from the French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle for a fleet review  in the rade of Toulon.

Charles Bremner, TIMES columnist dedicated his report of the Memorial events down in Toulon on the 15th to Dick Hargreaves.  He wrote,

“It was not exactly a piece of cake because we had casualties,” Major Hargreaves, now 95, said. “But compared with the fighting in Italy, which had been very severe with good German troops opposite us, it was a successful operation — one of the reasons it was not so talked about.”

Seventy years later, Major Hargreaves was among five surviving British veterans present when President Hollande paid tribute to the 450,000 allied and French troops who came ashore or dropped on to the Mediterranean coast between Cannes and Toulon.

Major Hargreaves recalled the “stiff fighting” required to reach his objective in the idyllic vine-covered hills of Provence after 40 per cent of the airborne troops were dropped by their US pilots on the wrong spot. “We took off from Rome at 1 am and rendezvoused at the drop zone at 6.20,” Major Hargreaves said. “We went up to capture the high ground overlooking Le Muy. The thing was to capture the bridge, to stop the Germans going down to muck up the landings on the beaches. We succeeded because they had very easy landings. Two American divisions and Two French divisions just walked ashore.”

Major Hargreaves’s men stopped the Germans blowing up the bridge, which was vital for allied forces to leave the coast in that area. Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 18.21.59The Nazi troops withdrew after a first day’s fighting in which about 1,000 allied personnel died, far fewer than the 10,000 killed on the D-Day beaches.

“I felt sorry for the poor dears,” Major Hargreaves said of the Germans they captured. “They had been fighting in Russia and had been sent to the south of France to recover. They last thing they wanted to do was get involved in any more fighting.”  Major Hargreaves won the Military Cross in Italy.

Andrew Buchanan, for the RBL, did some sterling work in getting Veteran John Collingwood, who had all those 70 years ago, taken part in Operation Dragoon, on, a Royal Navy minesweeper, in obtaining him a place  on the French Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, for the naval review in the Gulf of Toulon..

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 18.23.02Events continued with a wonderful occasion at the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan on the morning of the 16th, with a 6th  US Navy Fleet Band, and American and French dignitaries, all in attendance.

You can find a lot of this now up on the www.varvillagevoice.com website, as David Rowe managed to capture many of these moments in a video. Until then you can get it on this:

http://youtu.be/y867Erhp7JQ

The weekend came to a fun end with the Liberation Picnic at the home of VVV, attended by the 20 strong Independent Wind Ensemble, led by no less than US Army Superintendent Bruce Malone, from the Rhone American Cemetery, who despite his incredibly grueling schedule of the past weeks and months, came along to conduct a really fun programme.

Plus we had the very special visit or previous resident John Black, pipe major, who together with wife Helen came back to visit lots of friends, brought his bagpipes and entertained us in the interval, to some stirring pipe music. Around a hundred people came, picnicked, and just had a fun relaxing time, celebrating the end of summer, and also perhaps memories of what had happened in the past.

Anita Rieu-Sicart    Editor  anita@varvillagevoice.com

VAR VILLAGE VOICE

Monthly Subscription Print & Internet magazine about the Var

whatsoninthevar@varvillagevoice.com

www.varvillagevoice.com

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Finding, Buying & Improving a Period House – No.6

PLANNING PERMISSION – IS IT REQUIRED?

Your restoration and improvement project is likely to create new openings in exterior walls, increase the habitable area by extension or conversion of say attics and garages and provide a swimming pool. All of these will require consent or forms of some kind to be obtained or completed and in some circumstances the use of an architect will be compulsory.

The exact requirements and possibilities of what can and can not be done vary considerably from location to location and project to project, so I am only going to give you an overview to bear in mind when you are property searching and prompt questions you should ask. It is imperative that you should take expert local advice before contracting a purchase if it is dependant upon you being able to complete specific works of alteration, improvement or extension.

Planning and building control in France is very different from the UK; there is in most cases a presumption in favour unless it is forbidden by law or a local development plan. There is less concern about the arrangement of the interior and the appearance of the exterior. Many would argue this is why there are so many “monstrous carbuncles” to be found. Generally the prime concerns are the surface area, the maximum height and sometimes the exterior colour. A greater degree of control of appearance is exercised in conservation areas and on protected buildings and their neighbours.

IS SIZE IMPORTANT?

The most important thing to know about the property that you are considering is the maximum amount of permitted development on the land that it occupies. This will be expressed in square metres (m²) and is defined as the sum of the floor areas enclosed and covered under a ceiling height of at least 1.8 metres calculated within the bare interior walls. Notable exemptions from this calculation include “inhabitable” areas such as loggias with three open sides, garages and parking areas, basements and cellars, low ceiling height attics and “locales techniques” that house boilers and machinery.

There are many types of development plans, so find the one or ones that apply and determine the COS. This is the percentage of the land area that is allowed to be “surface de plancher” (floor area). The COS will be given as a decimal, so for example a COS of 0,2 (the decimal point is a comma in France) means 20%.

As an example if the property you are considering stands on 1 000 m², the COS is 0,2 and the existing floor area is 150 m² you would be allowed to create 50 m² more floor area by extension or conversion. There is a good chance that an increase will be possible as up to a few years ago the permitted development area was calculated in a different way. The new method often produces a figure that is 10% higher than before.

A Certificat d’Urbanism Opérationnel (CU) can be obtained which can clarify what is permitted upon a plot of land. It can (but does not always) confirm the density of permitted development, the location and size of permitted building, local architectural rules and services available such as water and drainage. It is usually valid for 18 months provided that circumstances have not changed, so always ensure that it is very recent. If you are buying a building plot or a barn for conversion, the notaire would normally ensure that there is a recent valid CU. It is not a good idea to accept a Certificat d’Information which is much less specific.

CAN I PUT IN A NEW WINDOW HERE?

National and local building laws will apply to new openings such as windows and to balconies and external staircases that over look neighbouring properties. There can be local variations, but as a guide the national rules state that if there is a neighbouring property within a direct view, there should be a minimum distance of 1.9 metres from a first floor or higher window and 2.6 metres from a ground floor window. If there is an oblique view, where you would have to turn your head the minimum distance is 0.6 metres. The distance is measured from the exterior of the new opening to the boundary of the neighbouring property and not the building thereon. If there is a public space between properties the measurement will include for example the width of the road.

These are opaque glass blocks, good for ground level as they are relatively strong.

These are opaque glass blocks, good for ground level as they are relatively strong.

There are exceptions where a “right of light” can be enjoyed, these include where neighbours agree to override the law (this should be notarised so it is binding on future owners), where a property has been divided and say the boundary of a building plot sold off is less than the minimum distance from an existing opening, when the opening has been in situ for at least 30 years (best to get proof before purchase in case the neighbour contests it in the future) and finally where the opening is opaque glass and the window does not open. In the latter case there are rules relating to size, height and quantity. Skylights are not exempt if they provide a view over a neighbouring property.

More about planning next month …….

JOHN MARSHALL – Chartered Valuation Surveyor § Building Pathologist

www.JohnMarshallSurveys.com

This article was originally published in French Property News.

 

Property_16_John_Marshall_NOV14

Communicating with Europeans worldwide

Some reflections on the best ways ahead

Europeans are living and working all over the world. Some for a short time, others for a longer period and many for ever.  Exact figures are not available. But a good guess – based on facts and calculations – is that about 80 mio. Europeans holding passports from one of the 28 EU member states are living in another country than the one they were born in. In our more and more globalised world this is a figure, which is increasing, not least for young Europeans. Of the 80 mio. altogether 14 mio. are living in another EU country than the one of their passport.

shutterstock_191102906As president for the pan-European organisation Europeans Throughout the World  (www.euromonde.eu) I am actively involved in working for all 80 mio. expatriats (expats). Among our main policies are: voting rights for all European expats; easier and more streamlined procedures around voting, incl. electronic registration and voting; possibility for dual citizenship for all expats; better consular protection of Europeans outside the EU;  more awareness of the value of mobility and of expats; and a special effort to address the needs of young European expatriats.

Our member organizations in most European countries are all working for and with their citizens abroad.  And our partner organisations and many individuals are using their networks for that purpose. As the European umbrella organization we do our best to make everybody work together and learn from best practices everywhere.  Working together is winning together, is our motto.  And we are in particular active on behalf of all to make Europe work better and harder for expats wherever they are.

So much about the background.

Now to the very important question:  How can we best communicate with 80 mio. citizens scattered all over the globe?

First of all, we must have a very clear and relevant message.  What do we offer of importance to all expats? How can they profit from our work? How can they contribute to our common efforts? And how can they – wherever they live – work better with other European expats in these matters?   It is evident that European citizens inside the EU have more fundamental rights wherever they are – due to the EU treaties.  But the large majority of EU citizens outside Europe have other important rights and possibilities.  They just have to know about them.

Another very important fact to make clear to everybody is that they can – if they want to – be very valuable “ambassadors” for their country of origin. Be it in business terms, culturally, linguistically and socially. Perhaps they haven’t thought about it. Perhaps they do not know how. And perhaps their country of birth is not realizing the potentials of this opportunity.

How to get that information across? And how to show and explain that it is a win-win situation for everybody, not least the expats themselves, if they invest some time and effort into knowing about and using the many possibilities coming from their European citizenship?

Organising expats in clubs and associations in the “old fashioned way” with annual membership fees and regular meetings, etc. belongs to a large extent to the past.  It will perhaps mobilize “the usual suspects” – not the large majority of expats.

I see the following ways ahead when communicating with the Europeans worldwide is concerned:

  1. Very focused and up-to-date social media  (LinkedIn and in particular Facebook – and also Twitter for back-up).  When resources are available they have to be in several languages. And a very active policy to encourage others to link up to our sites and to re-tweet our messages
  2. Video communication via a special expat channel on YouTube  with webinars, testimonials and small videos to explain new rights and developments (again in several languages)
  3. Cooperation with a widely seen multilingual TV station (such as EURONEWS) with a regular magazine for expats. This can be seen on TV and on their website.  And it will – in the case of EURONEWS – automatically appear in 14 languages.
  4. Cooperation with international radio stations of particular interest to expatriats in many languages
  5. Contact to editors and journalists in international and national newspapers interested in the issue of expats and their special challenges and potentials
  6. Close cooperation with organisations in direct contact with European expats such as chambers of commerce, cultural institutes and clubs and associations for expats
  7.  Development – also on European level – of expat Parliaments such as already used in countries like Sweden and Finland (informal regular meetings between expats from around the world and ministers and other political leaders).  Such expat Parliaments could in the future also be virtual expat parliaments using all the new tools of the internet.  Such events will become a very important source for spreading information and for interactivity with and between expats.
  8. Last, but not least governments, regional bodies and European institutions have an equally important role to play in this work.  The 80 mio. EU citizens abroad can almost be seen as one of the very biggest member states of the EU  (only Germany being bigger).  Needles to say that their potential importance and democratic rights have to be taken seriously – not only in words, but certainly also in deeds and actions.  Also in communication.  Some European countries are already doing well in this challenge. May they give a positive and convincing inspiration for all the others.

Niels Jørgen Thøgersen

President of Europeans Throughout the World   (www.euromonde.eu)

Honorary vice-president of the Club of Venice  niels@euromonde.eu  

355_Europeans_June

Expat Journalist writes to British expats world wide, encouraging them to take part, and get involved in the 2015 Election

Expat Journalist, Anita Rieu-Sicart, who publishes a small magazine catering to an expat readership in the Var, writes to encourage British expats world wide to take part in the upcoming British General Election.

Many British expats have lost their right to vote by the 15 year exclusion rule – if one is not resident in the UK for 15 years, one loses the right to vote – despite fact that they pay taxes, and contribute in many ways to the UK economy.

Letter to fellow expats – “I want my vote back”

Dear Fellow Expat,

I, like thousands of fellow British Expats, lost my right to vote by the 15 year exclusion rule. I have lived in the Var, South of France for the past 24 years; in retirement and for most of that time have been publishing a small magazine that circulates to English speaking Expats. As a British Citizen. I really resent losing my vote.  

The 2015 Election is coming up next May, only 7 months away, just over 200 days, in which we expats worldwide can also campaign, and add our weight, and very possibly achieve that vital tipping point. We can fight, we can join in, and we can take part. We can get involved! Don’t shrug off “Politics”,  politics dictates our pensions, tax allowances, and everything else. What is more we all care about the future for our children and grandchildren.

shutterstock_194688866Up until pretty recently, it was as if we Expats did not exist, unloved, unwanted, we thought, but behind the scenes all sorts of things were happening, as I have discovered.  Yes, we watched the Electoral Reform Debates in 2012, and 2013, and were incredibly disappointed in the opposition to our voting rights.

Despite this, numerous right minded MPs have been beavering away on our behalf to correct this injustice.  MPs like Geoffrey Clinton-Brown (Cotswold), now Chairman of the International Office,  has been leading the charge for years to restore our right to vote, negotiating, finagling as one has to, in the parliamentary system, and Sir Roger Gale, together with many like minded MPs, who think it disgraceful that our voting rights have been taken away.

MPs that recognise the value of expats who create exports, contribute to the UK GDP, and invest in the UK.

A Committee of Backbench MP’s has been beavering away, plus the Speakers Committee, and are all totally committed and intent on extending voting rights, and who in past year insisted on the Electoral Commission extending their efforts to recruit expat voters.

Well, all these chaps/chapesses -  the chaps in the white hats -  with the huge support of Conservatives Abroad, achieved recently a signal victory. Just this September, Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman, on behalf of the party truly nailed their colours to the mast, and stated, “Get us in in 2015, with a decent working majority, and we will repeal the 15 year rule” and trumpeted this to thousands of UK Citizens, home and abroad-  saying .

“Millions of British citizens live and work across the globe. Many have worked hard, contributed to Britain all their lives, and have close family living in Britain,”

“Being a British citizen is for life. It gives you the lifelong right to be protected by our military and Foreign Office, and to travel on a British passport. We believe it should also give you the lifelong right to vote.”

You can see where he is coming from. The Conservatives have to get a solid working majority in order to do this.  Up until now the repeal of the 15 year rule in the Electoral Reform debates has been consistently blocked by collusion from Labour/Liberal MPs. They seem to think all expats will vote the same way.   This is not necessarily true, and should in all truly democratic societies, be totally irrelevant, we should, as Citizens, have the right to vote anyway we wish.

It is particularly ironic that we of all people, who tend to regard ourselves as the Cradle of Democracy, have been denied our democratic voting rights. Virtually no other countries, certainly in the EU deny their citizens this right

So what can we do to help this campaign?   Actually quite a lot. You think it is impossible, it isn’t. When you realise how many thousands of us are spread around the globe, of course we can do something. There are at least 2.5 million of us, who still have the right to vote, but unfortunately only around 30,000 of those have so far registered.  Around another 2.5 million have lost the right to vote by the 15 year exclusion rule.   But we can all work together to reverse that ruling.

For a start all you expats who are not affected by the 15 year rule –but who have not yet registered to vote – did you realise that you can as from this past June just get on line and register, all you need is your National Insurance Number and/or your passport number, it takes maximum 3.5 minutes to do. And bingo you will be getting a postal ballot for the 2015 Election, without any need to re-register.  Also the postal times have been extended so that your postal ballot has plenty of time to reach the UK. Do it Now:  go to https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

And what can the rest of us vote less expats do, quite a lot actually.

For example you can use all your contacts, your family, children, grandchildren, we are now all so linked up, via internet, via shutterstock_205654936social media, we can achieve miracles.   Canvass all your expat friends, make sure they know about digital registration.

Just think how many of us live in Europe, especially pensioners. To give you some meaty figures, there are around 444,500 retired UK pensioners in the EU, 61,550 in France, 106,820 in Spain, etc. and we all pay and paid taxes to the UK,  we all paid into the UK systems all our working lives, otherwise, we would not be getting the pensions.

We can muster all our friends and contacts to support us.  A couple of years back , I met Oliver Colville, MP for Plymouth Devon Southport, because he comes down to holiday not far from where I live, and is trying to develop links between his constituency of Plymouth, and the town of Toulon, which have very natural affinities.

Oliver contested the Plymouth seat three times, and finally won it in 2010 – in 2001 he cut the Labour majority from 9,440, to 7,517, and in 2005, again to 4,109.   As he told me “”you only win marginal seats like mine by showing –total – commitment”” He canvassed, and campaigned, and is well regarded in Plymouth and around.   He has now a narrow majority of just over a thousand to defend, and you can help him defend it.

Go to his website, he is working to improve the rail infrastructure in his area, and you can help him do it.   You can network with all your friends and family who might have connections in that area.   Lots of you expats come from around Plymouth, and want to see it prosper.   Help him to defend his constituency, because he is one of the good guys, who will be voting to repeal the ridiculous 15 year rule.

And here’s another example – Douglas Hansen-Luke (see left)  is contesting the seat of Walsall North in 2015.  It has had the same incumbent for 35 years and not too much has happened there, the locals feel ignored and forgotten.

Douglas is a former expat, working in the Arabian Peninsula he helped establish and chaired the Gulf Tories.  With solid business experience from around the globe, now living in the Midlands, he has set up his own investment consultancy. Now he is flogging up and down the streets of Walsall North, establishing contacts, talking, and most importantly listening to people.  He says, “They are good people, they are tough, independent, and self-reliant.  Part of the Black Country, they had leather working small industries, and a lock making industry.  They could have again.”   He is working hard mentoring young people, getting them into apprentice ship schemes.    With your voter support he can overturn the small majority with just a 2% swing.  Expat votes and support can overturn the previous 990 vote majority.

We expats could deliver that constituency to him. I’ll bet there are loads of you out there from around Walsall and believe me, you can do something.   Network with your friends and families, use Facebook, talk about Douglas, and support him. Get your fellow expats to register online. And he in turn of course totally believes that British expats should have the right to vote.  Go to his website:

http://www.hansenluke.org.uk/

And he is not alone. Conservatives are targeting 40 or so marginal seats in 2015 – including Walsall North – they plan to win.  Another 4 candidates expats can support are: -Mary Robinson in CheadleAnna Soubry in BroxtoweFlick Drummond in Portsmouth South, and James Heappey in Wells. And Conservatives are defending 40 seats, like Oliver’s, with narrow margins.  And we expats can help!  Go to this website and find out who is standing in your old Constituency  http://www.conservatives.com/ourteam.aspx

One can argue the toss about political issues until the cows come home, but the important thing for us expats, is the right to vote.  We should have it.  What is more we should have better representation, and lawyer MP Dominic Grieve, former Attorney General, firmly believes we expats should have our own representatives, just as French expats have in their Senate!  Think about it.

Join in the fight, don’t feel frustrated, take part. If we all put our shoulder to the wheel – excuse the wildly mixed metaphors – we can shift mountains!

Sincerely,  Anita@varvillagevoice.com

 

 

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