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If you have questions, cool ideas or just want to stay in the loop, please contact us via this form, or follow us on Twitter lafrenchtech. Moving to France? Legal notices. La French Tech. Bonjour, we are. Check out. See more. Check it out. I want to know more. How can I change my life completely in the next year or two? Changing your life completely is a huge step that requires a major effort. Nonetheless, the result is worth the struggle. Commit to this 7-step challenge and you will arrive at the desired destination already next year: Begin With The End In Mind. While making a decision to commit to something, take a moment to get it crystal clear what change you would like to experience and what kind of person you would like to become within the next year or two.

Imagine how you achieve your goal and try to design a blueprint of how you are going to move towards your desired destination. Then you will know exactly what steps to take. Declutter Your Life. Slow down and take some time to simplify your life. Get rid of the things that have always been holding you back. Get rid of the stuff that associates with the life you would like to change.

Stop comparing yourself with others and prioritize your goals. Clear your mind from the unnecessary thoughts and create more space in your life for new pure energy and massive wins. Master Your Mindset. Embrace the truth: Everything worth doing is going to be neither easy nor fast. It holds true for this challenge as well. Therefore, be ready to face tough obstacles and deal with the unexpected issues. Nonetheless, it doesn't mean you cannot succeed. It only means you need to be ready. Stop doubting your strengths. Make the goal to change your life completely your priority.

Become obsessed. And get down to work.

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Start Small. As to one, Mr Hussein shows no sign of blinking yet. In a television interview this week, he said he would prefer death to exile and repeated his claim to have no weapons of mass destruction. He may change his tune when he is sure the alternative is destruction in an American-led invasion, but the new outbreak of disunity in the Security Council can only have made him feel that he has more time to play with. If Iraq's president will not back down, can America's?

Not likely. America, Britain and Spain have now tabled a short second resolution saying that Iraq has failed to comply with Resolution Mr Bush hopes the simplicity of the resolution will make it hard for the doubters on the Security Council to stand in its way.

Having said this so many times, and mustered an invasion force on Iraq's borders, he cannot climb down now without harming both his own reputation and the credibility of America itself. What, then, about the third thing that might keep Saddam in power: the war-averting compromise put to the Security Council in a French memorandum and supported by Germany, Russia and China? This argues that the inspectors have only just started their work, are already making progress, and might still disarm Iraq peacefully if they have the time and resources. France says it accepts that the inspections must not go on indefinitely.

And in the meantime they see no reason why they should support the new resolution from America, Britain and Spain, which by stating the obvious—Iraq is in breach of —is plainly intended to pave the way for war. It is no wonder that the French approach has broad appeal. Iraq's peaceful disarmament is the outcome everybody, including the Americans and British, says they want. But the idea that this can be achieved simply by increasing the time and resources for inspections is surely an illusion.

Time and resources can make a difference to the outcome of the inspections only if you assume a that Saddam aims to hold on to his forbidden weapons and b that in spite of this, the inspectors will eventually be able to find them anyway. If Saddam did not intend to hold on to any of his weapons, he could simply have given the UN the full and accurate declaration of what he had, as Resolution required. Instead, as Hans Blix, the chief inspector, has testified, he submitted a declaration full of unanswered questions.

As to b , if Iraq does not tell the inspectors where its weapons are, how can any number of inspectors know where to find them? Even if they found some, how would they know when they had found the lot? You might think that only the credulous or an inspector would put as much faith as France's President Jacques Chirac now says he does in further inspections.

But then only the credulous take the fight over the inspectors at face value. In fact this has become a proxy for two other arguments. One is whether a war would be justified even if it became absolutely clear that Saddam had no intention of disarming peacefully. The other stretches beyond the question of Iraq and has to do with how the rest of world plans to accommodate itself to post-cold-war, post-September 11th American power.

On both issues, Mr Chirac can be forgiven for thinking that he is on a winning streak. On both he is probably riding for a fall. On whether a war might be justified at some stage, Mr Chirac has so far been able to enjoy having it both ways. He is the toast of the peaceniks for having proposed a way to avoid a war many of them will oppose in any circumstances. But as the leader of one of Europe's martial nations, he has not ruled out French participation in a war if it should become plain that Saddam will not submit in any other way.

This is fine work, while it lasts. But then? If the moment comes for France to throw in its lot with the war party, Mr Chirac will need a jolly good argument to explain his reversal to those who see him simply as the defender of the peace. As to American power, Mr Chirac has won glowing reviews as the man who is doing a fair job of taking the superpower down a peg or two. France would not be France if its president did not occasionally try to puncture the grandiosity of an America accused as ever of taking the acquiescence of smaller nations for granted.

But what if, now that he has picked this particular fight, Mr Chirac proceeds to lose it? This could now happen in very short order. America and Britain have given themselves only a couple of weeks to pass their new resolution. Should they fail—either because they cannot muster a majority or because another of the permanent five casts a veto—Mr Bush will almost certainly feel compelled to fulfil his promise to go to war anyway.

If the war goes badly, bringing disaster all round, Mr Chirac will be able to claim a barren sort of vindication. But if it goes even half-way towards achieving Mr Bush's vision of a democratic future for the Middle East see article , France will have absented itself from a history-changing intervention in a part of the world where it has long claimed a special influence.

It will also have demonstrated the impotence of the Security Council, the very institution from which the French and British derive so much standing by virtue of being veto-wielding members. Some will say that Mr Chirac is right to run this risk to defend the integrity of the Security Council against the bullying of the Americans. But if this was his aim, Iraq was precisely the wrong fight for him to pick. There is still time for Mr Chirac to reconsider. In both the world's interest and France's own, he should do so. One of these is the sudden collapse this week of a common western stand against the Iraqi dictator.

For this—and for the serious danger that this collapse poses to the health of the Atlantic alliance, the NATO alliance, the United Nations and the European Union—the West has only itself to blame. How did it all go so wrong? The answer is more complicated than it looks. Ostensibly, all that has happened is that some of the leading powers have fallen out over Iraq see article. George Bush and Tony Blair say that Mr Hussein has failed to take his last chance under Security Council Resolution to give up his weapons of mass destruction WMD and must now be disarmed and removed by force.

Instead of a swift move to war France , or instead of war Germany , they want to send in more arms inspectors. Russia's President Vladimir Putin is siding with the French and Germans, though his desire for American friendship may soon persuade him to peel away. If Iraq were the whole story, mending this rift might be simple. Diplomats are practised savers of faces. America has not yet finished its military preparations, so Mr Bush can easily afford to let the inspections run a bit longer if that would placate France and Germany.

Or Hans Blix, the chief inspector, may at some point tell the Security Council he was to report again on Friday, after The Economist went to press that inspectors, no matter how numerous, can achieve nothing more if they do not get the full co-operation that Iraq has so far withheld. Or Mr Blix's men might actually find something seriously incriminating on the ground, paving the way for a Franco-German conversion on the road to Baghdad.

But Iraq is not the whole story. To make sense of this rift it helps to think in three dimensions. One is geological: the tectonic shifting of attitudes in different bits of the world. The last is personal. If the West is at sixes and sevens this week it is because the earth moved, the institutions wobbled and a handful of politicians—notably France's Mr Chirac—reacted by taking all the wrong decisions.

Geology matters most. Generalisations are odious. But there exists a widening gulf of incomprehension between the people of America and the peoples of Europe. Since the felling of the twin towers, Americans have by and large come to think that the world is a dangerous place from which unexpected threats are liable to emerge unless the western powers take forceful and timely action to nip them in the bud. Iraq, say most Americans, poses just such a threat. Most Europeans think the opposite.

They say that September 11th has clouded the judgment of the superpower, which like Gulliver has embarked on a programme of blundering adventurism and must now be calmed or tied down by the good little people of Lilliput. Iraq, on this view, provides a perfect test of whether the little people can tether the giant. Institutions come second.

Since the melting away of the Soviet threat it was set up to guard against, NATO has been striving to find a new reason to stay together. The European Union is amending its rules and learning the changed politics of a club that is expanding from 15 to No formal change is under way at the UN. But the Security Council, designed to deal with the stalemate of the cold war, is now being tested by America to see whether it will help or hinder the superpower against the emerging threats of terrorism and weapons proliferation.

This is the fragile landscape over which assorted statesmen have chosen in recent days to clomp with their hobnailed boots. France's president is clomper-in-chief. Mr Chirac justifies blocking a second resolution on Iraq by arguing that it is a noble thing to avert a needless war. And so it is—if the war is needless and a credible alternative exists.

He seems chiefly interested in making sure that the point will be of France's choosing, not America's. This is not only a folie de grandeur , given that it will be American soldiers who will end up doing the fighting. It is also an unforgivable pose to have struck just when the threat of imminent military action might have extracted a last-minute change of heart from Mr Hussein. An inspector calls. And calls, and calls. Worse than this is the frivolous contention of France and others that increasing the number of inspectors is a serious way to disarm Iraq.

It might be a way to prevent the Americans from going to war, which is a different matter. But it is no way to implement the Security Council's oft-repeated instruction to Iraq to disarm itself. Mr Blix himself said in his first report to the Security Council that playing inspector hide-and-seek was not the way: under Resolution the inspectors' job is to accept and verify Iraq's surrender of its WMD paraphernalia. Far from surrendering any outlawed material, the Iraqis have denied that it exists. To those who say it is not worth war to strip Iraq of its mass-killing weapons, any ruse that prevents fighting looks welcome.

But Mr Chirac's campaign will probably not stop the war. And it has meanwhile inflicted collateral damage, not least on the very institutions in which Mr Chirac says he believes. These institutions had to change anyway to adjust to a changing world. But they did not have to change like this. One victim is the EU itself. For many decades France and Germany gave the EU its sense of direction. But as only two countries in an EU that will soon number 25, they should not have pretended to speak for the rest.

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A week ago another ten European countries joined this gang of eight. Mr Chirac wants Europe to be a counterweight to the Americans. History may judge that he did the opposite. America, to adapt an old saying, may have called a new Europe into existence to redress the balance of the old. A second victim is NATO. With Germany and Belgium, France has tried to stop the 16 other members from responding to a Turkish request for help ahead of any Iraqi war. Snapping this most basic pillar of the alliance's defence arrangements has outraged the new members from eastern Europe.

It can only strengthen the voices of those Americans who have long argued that Europeans will no longer fight for anything until they feel the blade at their throat—and that in matters of defence Americans must therefore depend upon themselves. If Mr Chirac persists in blocking the new Iraq resolution that America and Britain are now seeking, he may be able to add the weakening of the Security Council to this hat-trick of own goals.

He will not be able to stop the war: if Iraq does not disarm, the Americans will fight without such a resolution. For going it alone they will pay a price, no doubt, both during the war and in the rebuilding of Iraq that follows. But they will cite as justification both their own security and Iraq's dozen years of non-compliance with all the previous resolutions. The only thing France will have achieved is to ensure that this American president will not trust the Security Council again.

When Mr Bush took the Iraq issue to the council in September, the unilateralists in his own administration were aghast. They shut up when it passed a unanimous resolution warning Iraq of serious consequences if it failed to comply. Now the perverse Mr Chirac looks set to prove their original point.

This is such a moment. As protesters planned their marches in cities across Europe to oppose a war with Iraq, and as the United Nations Security Council awaited another report on Iraq's behaviour from Hans Blix, its chief weapons inspector, a huge international row still raged over what best to do. Dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is straining the transatlantic alliance, NATO and the European Union as few other issues have done.

Yet it started with an apparently unanimous resolve to press Iraq to disarm. How did the would-be disarmers end up at each other's throats? On the surface, the dispute is a practical one. All agree that Iraq must be parted from its weapons of mass destruction. Resolution , passed unanimously by the Security Council in November, proclaimed Iraq in material breach of the obligations to disarm imposed on it 12 years ago after the Gulf war. But that was already an uneasy compromise. It spanned those, including a number of President George Bush's senior advisers, who assumed Iraq could not be disarmed except by force; those, like Britain and now an increasing number of other European governments, who were ready to see force used if Iraq refused to disarm; those prepared to go along with the threat of force in the hope that Iraq would finally cave in or Mr Hussein would be dislodged from power without a shot fired; and those who went along with a tough resolution only because they did not want to see the UN 's credibility damaged by unilateral American action.

These last two groups overlap considerably and appear, for now, to include France, Germany, Russia and China. America and Britain argue that without immediate and full compliance, Iraq will be in further breach of its UN obligations, and force must be applied. But France and Germany, abetted by Russia and China, are digging their heels in.

Germany, not a veto-wielding member of the council but its current chairman, claims to have done a head-count and found that 11 of the 15 council members support extending inspections, rather than resorting to force. Plenty of diplomatic arm-twisting remains to be done before a decision is made on any further resolutions, and the White House declared on February 12th that it was busy discussing the wording of a new one. In order to pass, any resolution must win nine votes and no vetoes. And though Russia and China have aligned themselves with France and Germany for now, arguing that all peaceful solutions must be tried first, neither is as rock-solid as France and Germany might like.

What is more, say American officials, obvious logical flaws bedevil the French proposals. How, for example, might Iraq be made to disarm by peaceful means, when peaceful means have so patently failed over 12 years and 17 previous resolutions? Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, says such ideas are a fundamental misreading of Resolution The onus is on Iraq to disarm, not on the inspectors to catch him out; and if he maintains his refusal to co-operate, how will higher numbers help?

Mr Blix agreed this week that Iraq's non-readiness to disarm remained the nub of the problem. He summoned missile experts to try to determine whether recent Iraqi goings-on, including the importing of missile engines and the testing of missiles beyond permitted ranges, offended against Resolution They decided they did. Iraq has now handed him more documents about its chemical and biological efforts, though there is said to be nothing new in them, and has agreed at last to let U2 intelligence-gathering aircraft fly over Iraq, as Resolution demanded.

But although the inspectors welcome such signs of willingness on procedure, they still need active co-operation on substance: that is, full disclosure of all weapons, materials and documents. If Iraq fails to change on that score, Mr Blix's report is unlikely to get it off the hook. That has not stopped France and Germany claiming that inspections are having some effect.

Hence their argument, likely to be made again after Mr Blix presents his report on Friday, that with more time and more powers for the inspectors, even better progress could be made. All this could be seen as nothing more than an honest, if deep, disagreement among friends.

But the pitch of anger in this debate proves there is much more to it than that. France and Germany were incensed when, two weeks ago, Britain, Italy, Spain and a clutch of other European governments followed by ten more from eastern and south-eastern Europe affirmed their backing for America.

Since the EU had issued a joint, and more restrained, statement on Iraq only a few days earlier, this was seen as treachery in Paris and Berlin. Yet the move to support America was itself a response to events that seemed, to others, to be aimed at sabotaging the effort to put pressure on Iraq. In fact, both governments have genuine concerns about the course of American policy.

Unlike Germany, France has not ruled out the use of force entirely, but like Germany it worries about the effect of a conflict on the fragile Middle East, about the economic impact at home, and about hostility to a war among Muslims, 4m-5m of whom live in France. Until now, France has always relished facing down America more than Germany has. France and Germany both worry about America's claim to a right to pre-emptive action to deal with new threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately he leaked it to the press before consulting either the Bush administration or his other allies on its substance, or evidently his own foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, on the timing, thus causing maximum offence all round. He then further angered eastern European governments, who will soon be joining both NATO and the EU , by including the Russians whom many of them still distrust in his consultations in preference to them.

His mishandling of the French-German plan on inspections, combined with Germany's refusal, along with France and Belgium, to let NATO begin planning to defend Turkey in a war with Iraq see article , has brought down a barrage of criticism, both from his conservative opponents in the Bundestag and from virtually all sections of the German press.

Although the Germans largely oppose a war, they also, unlike the French, have long thought kindly of America, Germany's close ally and chief defender during the cold war. Mr Chirac faces no such pressures. On the contrary, he seems determined to press his argument with America to the hilt. He insists that the argument is really about ensuring that the UN retains the ultimate say over how to deal with Iraq.

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But that claim is starting to ring increasingly hollow. Having subscribed to a tough resolution that was meant to pile pressure on Iraq, Mr Chirac's attempts to vary the inspection regime and to shift the onus on to the inspectors releases some of that pressure and makes the Security Council look indecisive.

If France presses its opposition to the point of vetoing any effort to back up Resolution with force, then America will probably bypass the UN altogether, making it look feebler still. But Mr Chirac, who seems to have taken day-to-day control of France's diplomacy on the issue, appears to see this dispute as a personal mission to clip America's wings. He might have got away with that if the rest of Europe had rallied to his cause.

But most of it hasn't. As American officials have been quick to point out, Europeans are more divided among themselves than Europeans and Americans are. Those less inclined to believe in Mr Chirac's self-professed high-mindedness see France as merely a spoiler. They note that France and Russia both have considerable economic interests in Iraq. And both French and Russian companies have been striking oil deals with Mr Hussein's regime, although agreements cannot be implemented while Iraq remains under UN sanctions.

This week Iraq cancelled a production-sharing agreement with Lukoil, a Russian company, possibly in retaliation for earlier comments by President Vladimir Putin that Russia could yet toughen its stance if Iraq hampered the weapons inspectors. Other Europeans worry too that by raising the costs to America of operating multilaterally, the French and Germans are undercutting America's chief multilateraliser, the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and reinforcing the arguments of those in the Bush administration who have long held that operating through the UN , and even NATO , crimps America's freedom of action.

That hard-line camp, with Mr Rumsfeld at its head, feels pretty well vindicated now. The damage to European and European-American ties will not be quickly mended. Greece, which currently holds the presidency of the EU , has called an emergency heads-of-government summit next week, to try to bring Europe back to a common position on Iraq.

Unless Europeans can manage that, they will not be listened to, goes the argument. But there is little sign that the squabbling countries can be induced to agree. And America has made it clear that there are some European voices it is getting quite tired of hearing. Americans, she thought, had the right idea. They never seemed to get into a rut. They denied they were in a rut, but even if they were it was one of elegant and enviable proportions. Miss Giroud's weapon to give more pace to French life was language.

During her long life she worked in films, was a journalist and a government minister. The thread that linked these jobs was a way with words. For many French people she became an addiction, whether they agreed with her or not.

She edited two magazines entirely new to France, Elle and L'Express. Elle aimed to be provocative. A garter-belt that has not been washed in two years. That is the national average. In the years after the second world war many French people were feeling that the stain of the German occupation, and its accompanying collaboration by the Vichy government, had not been cleansed. Others argued passionately that France had to give up Vietnam and Algeria and abandon the dirty ways of colonialism.

Elle offered Frenchwomen a view of the world beyond the home. L'Express , France's first weekly news- magazine, was a challenge to xenophobic French. News magazines keep Americans informed. Try ours. The French did and they liked it. Perhaps they were moving out of their rut. She was later made culture minister. But although she came to be described as a feminist, she was never a campaigning American-style sister. Nor was she in the philosophical mould of Simone de Beauvoir.

Women bought most of the products consumed in the home, but were ignorant of how they were made or the economics of their marketing. In politics, especially, the fog was thick, and remains so. Nor did she approve of the jobs they were often given. She was released and her confiscated watch was returned to her by a helpful German. Miss Giroud shared the shame of those French who believed the government should have fought on in , but she had been sure that the Germans would be defeated.

She had little education to speak of. She left school at 14 and worked first in a shop, then as a typist, after her father, a journalist, died and her mother had no money. Or, it could be said, she gradually acquired a broad education through reading. Two of her heroines were Marie Curie, a pioneer in the study of radioactivity, and Alma Mahler, who gained rather more notorious fame as a result of her love affairs. Miss Giroud was to write biographies of both women. She preferred to say little about her own love life.

She was married briefly and had two children, a son who died in a skiing accident, and a daughter who survives her. She was writing a regular column, for a news magazine, up to a few days before her death. A recent article was about the conflict in Israel. She chides both sides, but characteristically avoids a rush to judgment. Governments of all hues were following the trail blazed by Margaret Thatcher in Britain after By shifting assets from public-sector control to the disciplines of private ownership and the capital markets, huge economic efficiencies could be unleashed—and, not incidentally, large sums of money could be raised for state coffers.

The effects were dramatic. By then, even the Socialist government in France had accepted privatisation though it quibbled about the label. The Jospin government presided over bigger sales than had its right-wing predecessors. Elsewhere in Europe, privatisation had also spread. Germany sold several assets, including successive tranches of Deutsche Telekom. Spain and Portugal have been eager privatisers: the former completed its sale of Iberia, the national flag carrier, last year. And privatisation has become not just a Europe-wide but a worldwide phenomenon.

It accounts for 30 of the 35 biggest share offerings ever seen. Today, however, the momentum in Europe has slowed. In several countries, including the Netherlands and Germany, planned privatisations of infrastructure—such as postal systems, airports and railways—have been postponed or cancelled. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi's government, which was expected to be an enthusiastic privatiser, has made almost no progress. It has been stymied by debate over the political fall-out from further sales. In France, the election of a strong right-wing majority in parliament could give new impetus to a programme that stalled two years ago, but there is still deep political concern that the whole policy may backfire.

The lack of activity is partly due to a subtle but noticeable shift in European attitudes to privatisation. The partial sale of the air-traffic-control system was also controversial. A symbolic moment was the British government's decision last October to place Railtrack, which owns the rail network, into bankruptcy—in effect, renationalising it. There is also the postponement of plans to privatise Britain's financially troubled Post Office, the last big and important state-owned industry in the country.

The question this raises in the rest of Europe is: if privatisation has found its limits in the country that pushed it furthest, should others be more leery of it in future? The rate at which state assets have been sold has certainly slowed since the late s. Paul Gibbs, an analyst with J. Morgan, uses a different methodology to calculate European privatisation receipts. He counts money actually raised in a given year, whether or not the underlying deal was announced earlier.

This slowdown was not primarily caused, as it has been in Britain, by governments running out of things to sell. It has three rather different reasons: first, weak stockmarkets; second, growing investor scepticism; and third, questions among investors and policymakers alike as to what constitutes true privatisation.

Weak stockmarkets have called into question the prospect for further sales, even though more deals are seen as a good way to restore public finances in countries such as France, Germany and Italy that have looming budget deficits. As arguments at last week's EU summit in Seville showed, these deficits are a growing threat to the EU 's stability and growth pact.

Privatisation proceeds are not supposed to count for stability-pact purposes, but there are ways round that prohibition. The bursting of the market bubble in telecoms and technology shares has hit privatisation prospects hard, because such issues were among the largest. Companies such as Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom are so big that they could not be sold in a single transaction.

Unloading new tranches of their shares was easy when prices were sky-high as they were until mid , but it is near-impossible now that those prices have crashed. The dilemma is illustrated by Enel, Italy's biggest electric utility. The government sold The company then went on an acquisition binge, paying high prices to buy into telecoms.

Last year, the government postponed the planned issue of a second tranche of shares that was due to raise billions of dollars. Until the share price recovers, the issue, itself a contributor to the price weakness, will remain on hold—and Enel will stay majority state-owned. Another change in stockmarkets has adversely affected partially floated companies. Many investors now favour indexation—ie, they buy shares in proportion to companies' weights in a stockmarket index. Over the past 18 months, however, compilers of most country and pan-European stockmarket indices have changed how they calculate the weightings of companies that are partially floated.

The only big European country that does not use the free-float method for its index is France. Retail investors have good reason to be more sceptical about shares in privatised companies, many of which have brought poor returns. The idea of aiming share offerings at individual investors, rather than at a few big institutions, was embraced enthusiastically in Europe. The Italian treasury, for instance, saw it as a way to by-pass the traditional system of opaque share placements by banks.

In Germany, the Deutsche Telekom sale in was seen as a big step towards developing an equity culture that might help to solve the country's looming pensions crisis. The trouble is that several of these flagship sales have now turned sour. Investors who bought shares in France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, for example, have been so burnt that they may not buy again for some time to come see chart 2.

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This raises the question of what governments can do to rebuild investor confidence. In the meantime, they might have to find alternative ways to reduce their stakes. The Italian government, for example, is considering convertible-bond issues that raise money and hold out the prospect of investors eventually converting their principal into shares. This might be one way to escape its Enel dilemma. In France, the newly elected right-wing government, with Jean-Pierre Raffarin as prime minister under President Jacques Chirac, has more privatisation options than most.

Mr Gibbs of J. Morgan says that the government will probably try to make a case for each potential candidate based on its business. Telecoms sales are ruled out by market conditions, but a sale of Air France could be predicated on the airline's turnaround in recent years. France is lucky because some of its biggest state-owned assets are utilities, now much favoured by investors. The state-owned electricity monopoly is one of Europe's biggest companies, worth some euro 60 billion and a prime candidate for a multi-tranche privatisation.

The problem with an initial offering is that it would have to be accompanied by a statement of intent on future sales, reducing the government's role in the business still further. Objections are based partly on the issue of EDF 's nuclear liabilities. The idea of strategic holdings partly explains why only a small minority of privatisation deals has involved the complete retreat of government from the business being sold. Strikingly, no fewer than 24 of Europe's biggest companies by market capitalisation have some shares owned by a government.

This suggests that privatisation is not always as clear-cut as it seems. Consider the question of management control.