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Sarkozy backs Greece

The president reportedly threatened to abandon the Euro if Germany failed to aid Greece. Volcanic ash still crimps France’s economy. Sarkozy supports a niqab ban, to be voted on this summer. And just before the World Cup, French soccer stars are investigated in a prostitution scandal.

 Top News: The volcanic ash cloud nightmare still haunts France, with a second major eruption that caused further airport disruptions in northern Europe and affected air traffic in southern France.

Because airports were shut down in Italy, Spain and Portugal, around a hundred flights from France to those countries were cancelled. There were also fears of dangerous particles above Paris and Brittany.

Even the prestigious Cannes Film Festival has been impacted, with flight disruptions making it more difficult for international participants to make it to the South of France — although some people blame the financial crisis and the absence of potential blockbusters in the selection for this year’s lower attendance.

Naturally, some businesses benefited from the ash crisis. Demand for trains and ferries has risen. The rail company Eurostar, which links Great Britain to Paris and the European continent, reported higher summer sales.

Another storm is hitting France, a political and religious one, with heated debates over the ban on full covering veils for Muslim women, also known as  burqa or niqab.

The French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been defending a bill to ban full-face covering veils for Muslim women, arguing that the veil is not compatible with France’s Republican values. The law is expected to be examined and voted by the Parliament in July, and may outlaw burqas in public spaces, such as public transports, and the streets.

Women wearing a burqa could face up to a $180 fine, and husbands who force their wives to wear the veil could face up to a year in prison and a $18,000 fine. The debate over the burqa  has prompted outrage among the Muslim population, which deems it yet another provocation and rejection of their community.

There are also fears that this could further damage France’s economy. Indeed, the country is famous throughout the world for its luxury stores, that rely on its wealthy clientele from the Middle East, some of whom wear full-covering veils.

But the ban is supported by many feminist movements, including “Ni Putes Ni Soumises” (or Neither Whores Nor Submissives), who argue that the veil is a sign of submission, and often imposed on women by males.

In a first of its kind, a woman has been fined for driving while wearing a burqa. Authorities later revealed that her husband is apparently living in a polygamous relationship with four women.

The debate has spread across Europe. The lower house of Belgium’s legislature has approved a ban on burqas in public spaces, and a woman in northern Italy has been fined $650 for wearing a full covering veil.

Money: Greece’s financial debacle has turned into a European crisis, affecting key members of the European Union such as France.

In a heated discussion with the eurozone leaders, French president Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly threatened to leave the European common currency, the euro, if Germany refused to support Greece.

Under the new plan to help Greece, Germany will carry a heavy burden, costing taxpayers around $150 billion. Because of Sarkozy’s insistance, the eurozone leaders finally reached an agreement to help Greece, but the consequences could be dramatic for Europe.

Politically, the crisis has stirred divisions and tensions within the European Union. Citizens of the zone have long blamed the new currency for price increases.

And economic perspectives are grim. The euro fell to its lowest point in more than a year against the U.S. dollar. And the coming austerity measures in Greece, France and other European countries could slow down economic growth, while other regions in the world are beginning to recover from the economic crisis.

Elsewhere: And finally with the Soccer World Cup just around the corner, the French squad got the kind of worldwide publicity no team would ever want.

Main players Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou have reportedly been quizzed by police over an illegal prostitution network investigation. Prostitution is legal in France, but the prostitute must be at least eighteen. Ribery reportedly admitted to sexual intercourse with a prostitute, but said he thought she was an adult.

The prostitute gave an interview to the British tabloid Daily Mail - an article illustrated with graphic pictures in pure British tabloid fashion. In the article, the prostitute says she earned around $30,000 a month.

If the French soccer player is convicted of having sex with a minor prostitute he could face a fine of $60,000 and up to three years in prison. But the investigation will be conducted after the World Cup. “The French (soccer) jersey is sacred and cannot be worn by someone who is under official investigation,” said Sports Minister Rama Yade on French television.