France Selling Ships _ And Maybe Arms _ To Mozambique In Unusual Deal

France against Romania, Bulgaria joining Schengen zone

More business news More business news The government of Mozambique one of the worlds poorest countries and a major recipient of European aid isnt spelling out how much exactly is being spent on the 30 trawlers and patrol boats, or who is putting up the money. And the driving force behind the deal is a Lebanese billionaire with holdings across the Middle East and Africa who once faced investigation for his past financial dealings in France. Shaking hands and smiling, French President Francois Hollande and Mozambique President Armando Guebuza formally launched the ship-building project Monday at a struggling shipyard in Cherbourg, on Frances Atlantic coast. Shipbuilder Constructions mecaniques de Normandie (CMN) says the contract will provide two years of work for around 400 French employees. Mozambique officials say the ships will help fight illegal trafficking and piracy, and protect offshore oil and gas drilling platforms. The patrol ships will need naval guns and other military equipment, and so there are also negotiations under way about buying the needed weaponry from France, Mozambique Deputy Foreign Minister Henrique Banze said. Yes there will be weapons purchases, he told The Associated Press by telephone. Its important not only to have ships. There will also be a need to make sure that they are protected. He would not give details, but said the money for the ship deal came from a loan from another country, but I cant say which one. Hollandes office said the contract with CMN is just part of a larger global deal with the holding company Privinvest, owned by Lebanese magnate Iskandar Safa. Hollandes office wouldnt comment on the possible weapons negotiations because the deal is not public. Safa, who played a prominent role in Mondays events in Cherbourg, declined to give details on the agreements involved. Safa, who helped negotiate the release of French hostages in Lebanon in 1988, faced a French arrest warrant for several years in the 2000s because of suspicions around his financial transactions with senior French officials. The case against him was dropped in 2009 by the French prosecutors for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, Mozambicans are asking how all these purchases are being financed.

Headquarters in New York September 26, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid PARIS | Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:46am EDT PARIS (Reuters) – France is not in favour of allowing Romania and Bulgaria into Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone for now due to concerns about border security, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday. “If there is not a change in conditions, we won’t be in favour,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said of a forthcoming European Union decision on whether to grant passport-free movement to these citizens beginning January 1, 2014. His comments came amid fierce debate within France’s ruling coalition over the treatment of the Roma population. Some 20,000 Roma migrants from Romania and Bulgaria live in hundreds of squalid make-shift camps on the outskirts of French cities. Tensions with local communities have made Roma migration a contentious issue ahead of municipal elections next year. Romanian and Bulgarian citizens currently have the right to travel with a passport throughout the Schengen zone, which removes border controls among most EU countries as well as non-members such as Switzerland and Norway. Temporary restrictions that imposed passport checks were put in place when the two countries joined the EU in 2007, and are due to be lifted in January. But each EU country has the right to veto the admission of a member state into the Schengen zone and a vote is expected before the end of the year. Germany said in March that it too opposed the entry of the two countries into the zone. Fabius said France was concerned about the ability of Romanian and Bulgarian authorities to ensure border security. “People coming from outside Europe could enter Romania and Bulgaria and then freely enter the rest of Europe,” Fabius told France Inter radio. “There’s a problem there, we must be sure that Bulgaria and Romania have the means to verify that. “For the moment, it strikes me that those conditions have not been met,” he said.