Presentation of France’s 2022 foreign trade figures (07.02.23)

Source: Republic of France in English
The Republic of France has issued the following statement:

Olivier Becht, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, Economic Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, today presented France’s 2022 foreign trade figures.

The year 2022 saw a degraded global context, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, persistent tensions in supply chains, runaway commodity prices, rising inflation and higher interest rates. These factors have led to a slow-down in global trade.

France’s global trade has suffered in this context, seeing a degradation of the current account balance, leading to a deficit of -€53.5 billion, after a surplus of €9 billion in 2021. In 2022, the surpluses in services (+€50 billion) and income (+31 billion) no longer offset the trade deficit in goods. The latter stands at -€164 billion, a degradation of €78 billion in one year, almost entirely (86%) due to energy imports.

The situation is similar for our main European partners: those which posted surpluses have seen them fall drastically, while those with deficits have seen them worsen.

In the Minister Delegate’s words, “France is paying a heavy price for the energy bill”.

In 2022, energy import prices increased by 2.1 times compared to the previous year, due to increased cost of energy supplies and the euro’s depreciation against the dollar. The energy bill has therefore more than doubled. Gas imports increased by 248% to €59 billion, while crude oil rose by 99% to €33 billion and petroleum products by 60% to €38 billion.

The Minister Delegate did however identify positive signs in the 2022 figures:

  • The recovery of our trade in services sped up, producing a record surplus of €50 billion, following €36 billion in 2021, driven by tourism (+€14 billion) and the good performance of transport companies (+25 billion) and financial services (+€9 billion).
  • Strong growth of goods trade in value, now above pre-COVID-19 levels (+18% for exports and +29% for imports compared to 2021);
  • Agricultural products have posted one of the best performances (+37%)
  • Automobile exports have recovered to practically (97%) 2019 levels;
  • And France’s traditional export champions have all posted surpluses: aviation (+€23.5 billion); perfumes and cosmetics (€2 billion growth to +€15 billion); beverages (+€16 billion); and the pharmaceuticals sector (+3 billion).

Lastly, the Minister Delegate highlighted that the French economy has what it takes to get back on track:

  • A strong tissue of more than 144,400 exporting companies in the third quarter of 2022.
  • First place in Europe for foreign investment attractiveness in terms of project numbers for the third year running (1,222 projects identified, more than 50% of which in localities of less than 50,000 inhabitants).
  • Reindustrialization at work for 5 years and boosted by the France 2030 plan, offering businesses new international opportunities. The balance of factory openings in France has been positive since 2021.

Olivier Becht said: “We have the means to improve our trade balance by winning the battle of our exporting SMEs, by maintaining the attractiveness of our economy and by building on its reindustrialization. These structural efforts are essential. Above and beyond merely strengthening our foreign trade, what is at stake is our growth, our global influence and our resilience. We need to help French companies resist the upheaval we are seeing.”

More homebuyers now eligible for Local Authority Home Loan

Source: Government of Ireland

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, today announced significant improvements to the Local Authority Home Loan that will result in more people being eligible to apply for the State-backed mortgage. The prices of homes eligible for a Local Authority Home Loan and income limits of those eligible to apply for a loan are being increased. 

The Local Authority Home Loan was launched in January 2022 as part of Housing for All. It supports creditworthy borrowers who are unable to get finance from commercial banks to buy a home. It can be used for new, second hand or self-build homes. It means those on more moderate incomes are helped by the State to achieve homeownership, a key aim for this Government. 

The following changes to the Local Authority Home Loan will come into effect on 1st March 2023:

Increases to house price limits for all local authorities areas.

  • Increase from €320,000 to €360,000 – Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, South Dublin, Dublin City, Fingal, Wicklow, Kildare 
  • Increase from €310,00 to €330,000 – Galway City, Cork City, Louth, Meath, Galway County, Cork County 
  • Increase from €250,000 to €300,000 – Limerick, Waterford, Clare, Wexford, Westmeath, Kilkenny 
  • Increase from €250,000 to €275,000 – Offaly, Laois, Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal, Tipperary, Kerry, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Carlow 

Increased income limits for all applicants in each local authority area

  • Increase from €50,000 and €65,000 to €70,000 for all single applicants nationwide
  • Increase from €75,000 to €85,000 for all joint applicants nationwide     

Speaking after the announcement, Minister O’Brien said: 

“I am delighted to announce these improvements to the Local Authority Home Loan which will take effect from March 1st. Supporting home ownership is a key objective for this Government and the increase in eligible house prices coupled with the increase in income limits will mean more people can access the loan. 

“Importantly, building on changes made this time last year we are again increasing the income limit for single applicants so that those earning up to €70,000 who wish to purchase a home can avail of the State backed loan. The ‘Fresh Start Principle’ also applies whereby people who are divorced or separated and have no interest in the family home, or who have undergone insolvency proceedings, can also avail of the loan. 

“The changes reflect the reality of today’s housing market and we will continue to keep the Local Authority Home Loan under review to ensure it remains a genuine and relevant support for people who want to own their own home.”

Since February 2018 over 3,300 people have got on the property ladder through the Local Authority Home Loan and its predecessor the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.

Minister O’Brien, along with Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Pascal Donohoe TD, will sign the amendment regulations in the coming weeks. The changes will take effect on 01 March 2023. 


Further info:

A Local Authority Home Loan offers two fixed interest rate products:

  • 3.35% fixed for up to 25 years (APR 3.40%)*
  • 3.45% fixed for up to 30 years (APR 3.51%)*

More information on the Local Authority Home Loan can be found at: 

The maximum amounts that can be borrowed will be as follows:

  • In areas with a house price limit of €275,000, the borrowing limit will be €247,500
  • In areas with a house price limit of €300,000, the borrowing limit will be €270,000
  • In areas with a house price limit of €330,000, the borrowing limit will be €297,000 
  • In areas with a house price limit of €360,000, the borrowing limit will be €324,000. 

For more information on the number of local authority loans approved and amounts paid, at local authority area level, click below:

Drone Activity at Dublin Airport

Source: Government of Ireland

Published on 

Drone Activity at Dublin Airport

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD and Minister of State at the Department of Transport with responsibility for International and Road Transport and Logistics, Jack Chambers TD, received updates on reported drone sightings at Dublin Airport over the St Brigid’s Day weekend.  The Ministers are concerned at the impact on the travelling public of delayed and diverted flights while supporting the relevant state bodies in prioritising safety and security over all other concerns. 

The Ministers are convening a meeting this evening at which they will be briefed on recent incidents at Dublin Airport and ongoing efforts to address illegal use of drones in the vicinity of the airport. The Ministers will meet with representatives from Dublin Airport Authority, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Department of Justice and an Garda Siochana. The relevant authorities continue to investigate the incidents.

There are EU and national rules in place around the use of drones, including an exclusion zone of 5km around airports. The misuse of drones is an offence, and flying drones in controlled airspace or within 5km of an airport is a serious matter.


Minister O’Brien welcomes approval for scheme designed to deliver thousands of build-to-buy apartments

Source: Government of Ireland

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has welcomed the European Commission’s approval of Ireland’s State aid application for the Croí Cónaithe (Cities) Scheme. The scheme is a fund to support the building of 5,000 apartments for sale to owner-occupiers. 

Today, Ireland received notification from the Directorate General for Competition in the European Commission (DG Compet) that it has deemed the scheme compatible with the internal market. This decision enables The Housing Agency to conclude their first set of development agreements shortly and as a matter of priority.

The Croí Cónaithe (Cities) Scheme aims to bridge the current ‘Viability Gap’ in delivery – between the cost of building apartments and the market sale price (where the cost of building is greater). In May 2022, The Housing Agency invited Expressions of Interest from proposers with planning permission to build apartment developments in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Twenty-six proposals were submitted by 16 different proposing entities. 

Currently the agency is concluding appraisals of projects with a potential for up to 2,100 apartments. A second call under the scheme is expected to be announced in the coming months.

Welcoming the Commission’s decision, Minister O’Brien said: 

“The Croí Cónaithe (Cities) Scheme has had strong interest to date and I welcome today’s decision by the European Commission, which enables us to progress the first agreements for the delivery of apartments. I want to thank the Commission for their constructive engagement over the last year.

“Increasing supply is key to improving the housing market and this scheme will increase the supply of apartments for people to buy and live in within cities. It’s about giving people who wish to buy a home and live in cities greater choice and, in turn, ensuring our cities have vibrant and strong communities. My department and The Housing Agency will remain focused on progressing this scheme to increase supply.”

Bob Jordan, Chief Executive of The Housing Agency, which is managing the scheme on behalf of the department, said: 

“I welcome the decision of the European Commission and look forward to working on this important scheme which will deliver a much needed supply of apartments for home purchasers in our cities.”


Notes to Editor

In May 2022, Expressions of Interest (EoI) were invited from proposers with planning permission to build apartment developments in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. On receipt of applications in June 2022, the Housing Agency has been actively involved in the various appraisal stages. Stage 1 dealt with the eligibility of the proposals, stage 2 ranks the suitability of each proposals and finally stage 3 takes into consideration a detailed due diligence process potentially leading to contract.

It is expected that the Housing Agency will conclude their first set of development agreements shortly and as a matter of priority. Both the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government and the Housing Agency intend to work closely with the relevant Local Authorities in ensuring that supply is activated and more compact forms of apartment living come on stream. 

The Croí Cónaithe (Cities) scheme is devised to provide that the benefit of it accrues to the private individual purchaser/end user and not to the undertaking selling the apartment/developer.

Prime Minister Marin to attend European Council and visit Luxembourg

Source: Government of Finland
Prime Minister Sanna Marin will attend a special meeting of the European Council in Brussels on 9 and 10 February.
The meeting will focus on Ukraine, the economy and competitiveness, and migration.
After the meeting, the Prime Minister will visit Luxembourg.
The European Council is expected to continue the discussion on the EU’s economy and competitiveness at its March and June meetings.
In Luxembourg, Prime Minister Marin and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel will discuss topical EU matters and the bilateral relations between Finland and Luxembourg.
This will be Prime Minister Marin’s first visit to Luxembourg.
Inquiries: Jari Luoto, Director General, EU Affairs Department, tel.
+358 50 468 5949, Saara Pokki, Special Adviser (EU Affairs), tel.
+358 50 478 6363 and Rami Kurth, Communications Specialist (EU Affairs), tel.
+358 50 465 7963, Prime Minister’s Office

Finland to send emergency aid to victims of earthquake in Türkiye and Syria

Source: Government of Finland
Finland will be sending EUR 1 million in humanitarian assistance to Türkiye and Syria through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The support will be used to provide food, shelter, medical supplies and psychosocial support to people who lost their homes in the two countries.
The rescue effort was launched quickly following the devastating earthquake that struck southern Türkiye on Monday 6 February.
More than 5,000 people died and more than 20,000 were injured in Türkiye and Syria.
“The scale of human distress is immense in the region, and fear of aftershocks makes it worse.
Finland wants to help quickly those affected by the disaster.
Turkish and Syrian teams of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society are already helping people on the ground, for example by providing meals and emergency shelters, and Finland supports their work,” says Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari.
Finland’s support will be delivered to the region by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
IFRC has launched emergency appeals for EUR 70.
6 million to support affected people in Türkiye and Syria.
The collected funds will allow IFRC to provide food, shelter, medical supplies and psychosocial support, among other help, to people who lost their homes in the two countries.
Turkish and Syrian teams of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society are already helping people on the ground, and Finland supports their work.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs also supports the Finnish Red Cross on an annual basis to ensure its capacity to quickly mobilise response to disasters and crises.
The earthquake struck in a region that is politically fragmented and controlled by many different groups.
Moreover, 4.
1 million people in north-western Syria were already in need of humanitarian assistance.
Poor communication connections, unreliable electricity supply and collapsed road networks make it difficult to monitor the situation and deliver relief.
In addition to humanitarian assistance, Finland is sending experts to Türkiye to assist in rescue and relief work.
The experts will be deployed through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism: https://intermin.

ASIA/TURKEY – Antioch, the earthquake destroys mosques and churches. Catholic parish welcomes displaced people

Source: Agenzia Fides – MIL OSI

Headline: ASIA/TURKEY – Antioch, the earthquake destroys mosques and churches. Catholic parish welcomes displaced people

Antakya – “The situation in Antioch is dramatic. Entire buildings have collapsed, mosques and churches have been destroyed. There are dead, there are people buried under the rubble, and in many places no one has yet arrived to try to save them. It is freezing cold, there is no light, there is no water, bread ovens have been destroyed, shops are closed. The streets, filled with debris, are impassable even for rescue vehicles. I am told that at least half of the city is destroyed or has suffered serious damage, especially in the oldest part”. This is the dramatic testimony to Fides by Father Domenico Bertogli, 86, a Capuchin Friar from Modena, who from the late 1980s until 2022 served as parish priest to the Catholic community of Antakya, the ancient Antioch on the Orontes, now located in the southwestern Turkish province of Hatay. Antakya is less than 200 kilometers from Gaziantep, the closest urban area to the epicenter of the earthquake that has sowed death between Syria and Turkey. Father Dominic is now in Istanbul, but he is in daily contact with Father Francis, who succeeded him in Antakya as parish priest of the Catholic church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. “Our parish,” Father Bertogli tells Fides, “was not destroyed. It is a low building, and it withstood the shock of the tremors. Only the reception house suffered serious damage. But the mosque and minaret that were right next to the parish collapsed. Two major mosques in the city were also gutted, as well as the Orthodox church and the Protestant church.” Now, the small parish has opened its doors to accommodate displaced families living nearby: “They feel safer, because the parish has a garden that is an immediately accessible escape route, in case of new tremors. And the looming fear of further tremors also prevents people from facing the emergency with lucidity. There is a need for food, tents and blankets. There is a need for everything.”It was Father Dominic himself who had inaugurated the parish of Saints Peter and Paul so many years ago, in a city laden with memories associated with early apostolic preaching. He had established it by restoring two old crumbling houses in the old Jewish quarter, where presumably the dwellings of the city’s first Christians were also concentrated. Having finished the work, he had carved on the stone above the doorway the inscription Türk Katolik Kilisesi, “Turkish Catholic Church.”After the death and resurrection of Christ, the Apostle Peter arrived in Antioch on the Orontes, who stayed there for a long time. That is why the city was Sedes Petri before Rome. In Antioch, the Apostle Paul also confronted the Apostle Peter to nullify any claim to impose circumcision and other Jewish observances on the newly baptized from paganism. In Antioch, according to the Acts of the Apostles, those who follow and love Jesus were first called “Christians.”

ASIA/PHILIPPINES – In Mindanao the celebration of the Week for Interreligious Harmony: dialogue and good works, even in the face of the earthquake

Source: Agenzia Fides – MIL OSI

Headline: ASIA/PHILIPPINES – In Mindanao the celebration of the Week for Interreligious Harmony: dialogue and good works, even in the face of the earthquake

Zamboanga – “We celebrated with joy in Zamboanga and throughout the island of Mindanao the World Week of Interreligious Harmony, which is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 February. It was the United Nations General Assembly that wanted a worldwide celebration of interreligious harmony and every year here, in the southern Philippines, we try to give it the right emphasis. This year, the event of the earthquake on February 1st did not discourage us, but was an opportunity to experience fraternity concretely”, says to Fides Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions , initiator of the movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue “Silsilah” in the city of Zamboanga, on the island of Mindanao, in an area where there is a large Islamic community of about 6 million souls.Initiated in 2010 by King Abdullah II and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, the Week was born with the aim of promoting harmony among the citizens of the world, regardless of their faith. “It is a celebration of unity in diversity and of the interrelationship that exists, starting from the dignity of children of God, between people of different religions and communities”, underlines Fr. D’Ambra.During the Week, seminars, meetings, public demonstrations, marches and prayer vigils are organized to bring Muslim and Christian leaders and faithful to unite, “above all by recognizing two common coordinates: love of God and love of neighbor”, says the missionary.The focus of the Week, addressed to all people of good will, was “the power of kindness, charity, mercy.” “In several meetings we talked about how religion can enrich the lives of believers and how we can, together, make the world a better place. We encouraged everyone, Christians and Muslims, to follow the path of dialogue and good works to be done together, urging each other to be more involved in communities, starting at the grassroots and starting with children.” A good and recent example of collaboration was seen during the recent earthquake in Mindanao on February 1, at the beginning of the Week, especially in the Davao area, one of the island’s largest and most important cities. Christian and Muslim volunteers offered help to rescue workers and organized a chain of solidarity and shelter for the displaced. References were made in the Week to the serious religious conflicts that disturb humanity: the meeting, then, is also a call to remark that “the common values of love, faith, mercy and compassion overcome our differences and are vital for the humanity”, since “faith can never be an instrument to sow hatred or violence”. The ultimate goal of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrated in Zamboanga, Davao, Cotabato and other places in Mindanao, “is to promote peace and unity among people of all faiths, to believe in goodwill and to celebrate humanity, so that we can all be better people, open to dialogue, hospitality and fraternity,” adds Filipino priest Father Dan Dave Cainoy, a religious of the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, a native of Mindanao, who took part in the training initiatives promoted by “Silsilah” on Islamic-Christian dialogue. Father Cainoy hopes that “we can all always be active in promoting initiatives of meditation and prayer for dialogue and peace. “We want to celebrate, witness and tell the world that faith in God unites us. This Week has reminded us that despite our differences, in the face of the challenges of the present, we can be united by cultivating love and mercy in our hearts”.

AFRICA/MOROCCO – Appointment of archbishop of Tanger, Emilio Rocha Grande, O.F.M.

Source: Agenzia Fides – MIL OSI

Headline: AFRICA/MOROCCO – Appointment of archbishop of Tanger, Emilio Rocha Grande, O.F.M.

Vatican City – The Holy Father has appointed the Reverend Fr. Emilio Rocha Grande, O.F.M., until now apostolic administrator Sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of the archdiocese of Tanger, Morocco, as archbishop of the same archdiocese.Msgr. Emilio Rocha Grande, O.F.M., was born on 8 May 1958 in Madrid, Spain.He gave his solemn vows on 18 September 1982 in the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor and was ordained a priest on 16 February 1991.He studied at the Pontifical University Antonianum and was awarded a diploma in theology and in vocational formation, and a licentiate in ecclesiastical studies.He has held the following offices: teacher, guardian of the Conventi ; master of postulants and of the temporarily professed ; provincial definitor ; formator, assistant of the Franciscan Family, provincial vicar ; visitator general of the province of Cartagena, Murcia and of Santiago de Compostela .On 25 February 2022 he was appointed apostolic administrator Sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of the archdiocese of Tanger.

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN – “Fundamental decisions on war and peace are now in the hands of the South Sudanese”

Source: Agenzia Fides – MIL OSI

Headline: AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN – “Fundamental decisions on war and peace are now in the hands of the South Sudanese”

Juba – “Fundamental decisions on war or peace are now in the hands of the South Sudanese”, says to Fides Herena Balatti, Comboni missionary in Malakal, the day after the apostolic visit of Pope Francis in South Sudan.”Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields asserted in every way and on every occasion that it is up to the South Sudanese and in particular the political leaders to decide whether to continue on the path of violence or to embark on the path of peace,” the missionary stresses.The signs that came shortly before the visit of the three religious leaders were not encouraging. “Two days before their visit,” Sister Elena recalls, “27 people were massacred in Kajo-Keji in Central Equatoria State, south of the Federal capital Juba. A massacre denounced by the local Anglican bishop and then re-launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury Welby on his social channels. The three religious leaders reminded local politicians of this episode and urged them to work concretely to reach peace agreements.”Sister Elena also recalls that “in the diocese of Malakal, which covers about one-third of the country’s territory, UN organizations and some foreign embassies had issued an alert two days before the apostolic visit about the preparation of a violent clash between well-armed groups in Upper Nile State”. “The warning and the coincidental visit probably prevented the clash but at the moment the opposing groups are still on the ground facing each other, ready to fight,” says Sister Elena.Despite the peace agreements signed in 2018 in South Sudan, there are still some armed groups that have not joined, resulting in the persistence of areas of deep instability. The division of the population into 64 ethnic groups is said to be the cause of the civil war. “Yes the ethnic factor serves unscrupulous politicians as a mobilizing factor, to recruit people willing to fight for them,” says Sister Elena. “But it is the power-sharing struggles that are the main cause of instability in South Sudan. Moreover, the situation in South Sudan is becoming more and more similar to that in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Internal power struggles are superimposed by external interests aimed at seizing the resources of South Sudan: gold, oil, natural gas and the vast fertile lands that are coveted by several non-African states”. Sister Elena, who accompanied some 50 displaced people from Malakal to Juba for the meeting with Pope Francis, concludes by stressing that “the example set by the visit of the three Christian religious leaders must stimulate us. We have been invited to hope and to work together to build a better future”.