PARIS -- President Jacques Chirac met yesterday with a group of successful young entrepreneurs from low-income neighborhoods where rioting broke out, targeting the roots of France's worst civic unrest in decades.
Many young people have complained that the three weeks of rioting stigmatized their neighborhoods as dangerous and squalid. Chirac was careful to paint a more positive picture as he met at the Elysee Palace with the winners of a contest for young entrepreneurs who started businesses in the suburbs.
The unrest broke out Oct. 27 in a housing project outside Paris after two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted while hiding from police in a power substation. It quickly spread through poor minority communities across France, fed by anger over often shoddy housing, lack of employment, and poor education.
Many of the rioters were the French-born children of North and West African immigrant families. The violence sparked intense debate over France's failure to integrate minorities and forced the government to confront problems of racism and poverty.
As the unrest has waned, Chirac has turned his attention to targeting the roots of the problems faced by people in the suburbs, including high unemployment and racial discrimination.
The conservative government has announced spending to improve housing, education, and employment. Chirac met this week with his key Cabinet ministers to lay the groundwork for a new program that would involve job and civic training for 50,000 underprivileged teens by 2007.