Update 2-eu And France Play Down Tensions Over Reforms

France sanctions Google for European privacy law violations

“France has made a huge effort to restore its public finances, and this draft budget law is characterised by responsibility and prudent policy making,” Olli Rehn, the EU’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner told a joint news conference with Moscovici, waving a copy of the French budget. Rehn made no mention of Hollande’s pension reform plans, which do not raise the country’s retirement age as the Commission has demanded. Germany also wants to see the euro zone’s second largest economy address overspending. Brussels says Paris is not taking radical enough action to combat rising labour costs, a falling share of international export markets and an industrial decline, threatening a shock to its economy that would resonate through the 17-nation euro zone. France’s economic well-being is central to the health of the currency area, but the country’s pride in its status as a leading member of the European Union means it resists taking advice from EU institutions. The pension reform, among the most closely watched measures undertaken by Hollande since he took office in May 2012, aims to fill a hole in the pension system that could reach almost 21 billion euros ($28 billion) by 2020. Though Hollande’s reform will lengthen the number of years worked, it does not change the legal retirement age of 62 years for a full pension, which is one of the lowest in Europe. “NO CONSTRAINTS” In the shadow of the pension reform, Moscovici presented France’s 2014 budget to parliament on Wednesday. He plans 15 billion euros in savings to reach a deficit of 3.6 percent of economic output, which should allow Paris to bring the budget deficit to below the EU’s 3 percent ceiling in 2015. Under EU rules, sharpened at the peak of the debt crisis in late 2011, euro zone countries can face fines if they fail to meet deficit targets and risk damaging investor confidence. Moscovici was also keen to convince Rehn, who has new powers to check countries’ budgets, that France’s planned budget savings and economic forecasts are in line with its commitments.

The enforcement follows an analysis led by European data protection authorities of a new privacy policy that Google enacted in 2012, France’s privacy watchdog, the Commission Nationale de L’Informatique et des Libertes , said Friday on its website. Google was ordered in June by the CNIL to comply with French data protection laws within three months. But Google had not changed its policies to comply with French laws by a deadline on Friday, because the company said that France’s data protection laws did not apply to users of certain Google services in France, the CNIL said. The company “has not implemented the requested changes,” the CNIL said. As a result, “the chair of the CNIL will now designate a rapporteur for the purpose of initiating a formal procedure for imposing sanctions, according to the provisions laid down in the French data protection law,” the watchdog said. Google could be fined a maximum of 150,000 ($202,562), or 300,000 for a second offense, and could in some circumstances be ordered to refrain from processing personal data in certain ways for three months. What bothers France The CNIL took issue with several areas of Google’s data policies, in particular how the company stores and uses people’s data. How Google informs users about data that it processes and obtains consent from users before storing tracking cookies were cited as areas of concern by the CNIL. In a statement, Google said that its privacy policy respects European law. “We have engaged fully with the CNIL throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward,” a spokeswoman said. Google is also embroiled with European authorities in an antitrust case for allegedly breaking competition rules. The company recently submitted proposals to avoid fines in that case.

Arrests made in Air France flight cocaine case

In a prepared statement, the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office said 17 people have been arrested in the drug trafficking case. The flight originated at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. An Air France executive in Venezuela, six airline employees, a security guard and a loading platform supervisor are among those arrested. Eight members of the Venezuelan national guard are also in custody and were scheduled to appear in front of a judge Wednesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing. On September 11, French authorities discovered 1.3 tons of pure cocaine stuffed inside 30 suitcases on the flight. The colorful bags did not match any of the passengers on board, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported. Coast Guard makes $20 million cocaine bust Huge drug bust off the coast of Florida Drug busts at sea: 4 tons of cocaine The street value of the stash is about 200 million euros, or $270 million. Woman busted in Spain for cocaine in breast implants Authorities worked with Spanish, British and Dutch police on the investigation, BFMTV said. This case “illustrates the importance of strengthening International cooperation in the fight against traffickers,” French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said. Suspected drug smugglers sail to jail In Venezuela, authorities promised a swift investigation as soon as the confiscation was announced in Paris. All 17 arrests were made in less than three days. Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told reporters in Venezuela that authorities think an organized crime group with Italian and British members is responsible for the shipment. “The suitcases were not taken into the plane through the regular baggage platforms at the airport. We’re investigating how the drug (shipment) got to the airport,” he said.