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French press review 14 April 2011

The early runners for next year's presidential election, the rising cost of living and changing the law on prostitution are just some of the stories making headlines in today's French newspapers.   


The green activist, Nicolas Hulot has announced his intention to run in the 2012 presidential race. Right-wing Le Figaro is delighted to announce that news, since the two or three per cent of votes which is the most Hulot will get in the first round, will come at the expense of other Left-wing contenders.

That's not something which can be said of Dominique de Villepin, former French prime minister under Jacques Chirac, who has just launched his project for the 2012 elections. Villepin promises to give every person a minimum income of 850 euros per month, which is fighting talk, but that would cost him, or more correctly, the state, the tidy sum of 30 billion euros per annum. Not too easy to find that kind of cash in these tough times. Easy-peasy, says the charming Dominique. You just whack an additional 3% on the tax bill of the better-off, and Bob's yer uncle.

Villepin is about as serious a contender as Hulot, since he has no real political machine, with supporters, crowd-gathers and bill-stickers, never having had to win an election in his life. And he doesn't have much cash to finance a campaign. But he may just nibble away the same percentage on the Right, that Green Nick Hulot will nibble on the Left. So that's fine.

Catholic La Croix looks at the wave of rebellion sweeping the Arab world, starting with the ousting of Tunisian president Ben Ali in January. In Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, to name just four, the scenario is different, but the underlying desire for more democracy and a fairer division of national wealth is the same. The Catholic daily warns that the Arab spring is still a work-in-progress, and that the outcome remains uncertain.

Libération looks at the debate on prostitution here in France, wondering if the proposal to make the clients the criminals is a good move. The real problem, says the Libé editorial, is that every previous attempt at legislation in this very difficult area has had no other practical effect than to push the women further into invisibility, thus exposing them to even greater risk of exploitation at the hands of pimps and other organisers, or violence at the hands of the clients.

Communist L'Humanité looks at how French companies use job-seekers as unpaid help. The paper follows two young French would-be workers, who trail from in-house training course to in-house training course, with no hope of a real job, no matter how seriously they take the whole business. A specialist interviewed by L'Huma says it's all good news for the share-holders, but it does nothing to help the 620,000 people under the age of 25 who have never had full-time jobs.

One man who is currently out of work is Raymond Domenech, the former French football coach. He, you will remember, left the job under a bit of a cloud after his side was unceremoniously dumped out of the South Africa World Cup. Now he's applied to the employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal, and demanding a round three million euros in compensation.

Popular daily Le Parisien asks the crucial question "Should the French be paid more?" Of course they should! Prices of heating, petrol, basic necessities and rent are all going up. Tension is building. Soon it will be the Spring strike season. Expect clashes.

At the other end of the social spectrum, Le Monde looks at the government decision to get rid of tax shields, devices intended to encourage the filthy rich to leave their money in France rather than hide it in Liechtenstein or the Bahamas, with the guarantee that they would not have to pay gazillions in tax. Le Monde says it's the end of one of the key symbols of the Sarkozy era. But, let's be honest, there's an election to be lost and won, and what politician worth the name is going to let old promises get in the way of new ones.

Le Figaro reports that it may soon become possible for small share-holders to buy a few square metres of space in New York's mythic Empire State building, one of Manhattan's most prestigious addresses. That's assuming that the current majority shareholders, the Malkin family, can convince their 3,400 partners that it's a good idea. With office space booming in value in New York, that may not be too difficult. But, even if you do become a shareholder, you'll still have to pay 20 bucks if you want a ticket to the top.

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