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French press review 22 December 2011

The row between France and Turkey over a century-old war crime, words of warning over the economic outlook for 2012, a call for people to remember the real message of Christmas and the discovery of new planets grab the headlines in the French press.


Le Monde gives pride of place to the dispute between France and Turkey over the Armenian genocide.

We talked about this story on Wednesday; French deputies will be talking about it later on Thursday, as they debate a law which would make it a criminal offence to deny the 1915 massacre of an estimated million and a half Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

If you've been wondering why a century-old war crime should be creating such a ruckus right now, with Ankara threatening commercial and diplomatic reprisals unless Paris drops the proposed law, you should know that thousands of descendants of Armenian refugees who fled the Ottoman oppresion are concentrated in and around the southern French city of Marseille, where they represent a very powerful political block.

The French Turkish community is much larger, but more widely dispersed.

The Armenian vote is crucial as presidential and legislative elections approach.

Both sides of the House are expected to vote in favour of the law, with the spin doctors arguing that the new legislation in no way stigmatises modern Turkey.

The rulers of modern Turkey certainly don't agree. You have to admit that, since said rulers deny the reality of the events of 1915, and publish history books which solidify that denial, the problem does have a serious contemporary edge.

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, probably wouldn't agree. He's quoted in Libération as saying that the proposed law is a piece of indescribable idiocy, which has launched a genocide competition between Paris and Ankara, with the sole aim of securing the French Armenian vote.

It makes neither intellectual, nor economic, nor political sense. "It's ridiculous," says Juppé, in case we haven't already understood.

Economic exchanges between France and Turkey last year amounted to 12 billion euros.

The front page of Le Figaro carries 12 ideas to get the French economy growing again.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Cut down on the red tape which slows down investment; make industry specific deals on working hours, and oblige the trade unions to accept them; more privatisation; an end to the policy of economic rigour . . . These are just some of the possible solutions proposed by experts and other spectators.

Business daily Les Echos is in anything but festive form, with a front-page headline warning that "European industry is getting ready for a storm".

The small print explains that most of the old continent's major industrial groups are expecting 2012 to be very rough indeed.

There are three main reasons for the prevailing pessimism: consumer demand is likely to diminish, credit will become rarer and more expensive, and the Euro might, finally, go down the pipe.

In anticipation, the big companies are cancelling expansion plans, freezing recruitment and reducing their stocks. So much for getting the economy growing again.

Catholic La Croix scrapes away at the glitter and tinsel of Christmas in an effort of to remind people of the real message of this winter holiday season.

No, it's not simply an excuse to run up a massive bill on your credit card, and stuff yourself with high-calorie food.

Rebirth, hope and humility are the key spiritual messages of the season, but they don't stand a chance against those desperate to cash in on the final spending frenzy of the year. Hope? Humility? Humbug!

On its inside pages, Le Monde looks at two new earth-like planets which have been discovered by NASA's Kepler satelite.

It's hard to understand why we should get excited about places that are 1,000 light years away, even if they turn out to be teeming with Armenian voters, or stinky rich investors avid for the Euro.

If you could travel at the very rapid rate of the Voyager probe, one thousand light years is still the equivalent of 19 million years in ordinary time.


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