‘Historic day’ — French-German parliament meets

The French National Assembly is seen in this close-up photograph, framing the sign and golden clock on the facade and also the statue of a woman holding a golden sceptre which stands before the entraceImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption 50 deputies from Germany have travelled to France’s parliament for the joint session

France and Germany are holding their first joint parliamentary session as part of their commitment to forging closer ties.

The 50 deputies from each country are from almost all political parties, proportional to their numbers in the national parliaments.

The plan is to convene the new joint parliament twice a year in the future.

It follows the signing of the Treaty of Aachen, which aims to bolster Franco-German co-operation in Europe.

The new parliament’s purpose is to enforce that treaty, signed in January, and to monitor «affairs of common interest» – including foreign policy, security and defence.

The joint parliament will not be legally binding on the national parliaments of either country though.

Monday’s first session is mostly ceremonial and procedural, with the signing the agreement for the joint venture by parliamentary presidents Wolfgang Schäuble of the German Bundestag and Richard Ferrand of the French National Assembly.

Mr Ferrand tweeted a photo of the signing, calling it a «historic day».

Over time, there are plans for this joint parliament to be part of strengthening links between the national parliaments of both countries.

What is the treaty about?

The Treaty of Aachen was signed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this year.

At a time when one member of the European Union is leaving, and amid the rise of populism or right-wing politics in several member states, the pair spoke about the need to strengthen European values.

As well as common diplomatic goals, the two nations committed to joint defence and «a common military culture».

It commits both countries to agreeing a common position — and to issue joint statements — on major EU issues, rather than pursuing separate agendas. They will do the same at the United Nations.

But Italy’s interior minister has been a vocal opponent of what he calls the «Franco-German axis», and is widely expected to spearhead a Eurosceptic alliance in May’s European elections.

Even European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker issued a warning, at the signing of the treaty, that «strengthened co-operation in small formats is not an alternative to the co-operation of all of Europe.»

Caster Semenya: UN criticises ‘humiliating’ rule

South Africa’s Caster Semenya is a double Olympic champion in the 800m

Plans to classify female athletes by their testosterone levels «contravene international human rights» says the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Olympic 800m champion Semenya, 28, is challenging the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over its bid to restrict levels of testosterone in female runners.

The UN called the plans «unnecessary, humiliating and harmful».

The IAAF said the motion given to the UN contained «inaccurate statements».

Under the IAAF rules, female athletes with naturally high testosterone levels would have to race against men or change events unless they took medication to reduce those levels.

The regulations will apply to women in track events from 400m up to one mile and require that athletes have to keep their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount «for at least six months prior to competing».

The issue was discussed at the UN Human Rights Council’s 40th session in March, at which delegates asked for a detailed report to be put together for a future meeting.

In the meantime, the body put on record its «concerns» with the IAAF proposals.

The council said