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French weekly magazines review

This week, the French weeklies are infatuated, dominated and obsessed by three main topics: Shutting the European trade and industry borders as a way to counter the effects of globalisation. Nicolas Sarkozy’s so-called “Zorro complex”, or rather his capacity to steer the country through the financial turmoil in the coming months, and finally, this year's glamorous love story between a princess and a famous comedian!

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Let’s start with L’Express, which leads with a controversial cover story, “Should we shut our borders to contain the financial crisis?"

The provocative headline and the cover stories are the magazine’s contribution to the raging debate on the impact of globalisation on French jobs. The debate launched by Marine Le Pen, the president of the far-right Front National, has since been picked up by all the other presidential candidates.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

One of the articles features excerpts from a book called Inevitable Protectionism. According to its authors, it is only recently that the French “woke up” to the results of an unprecedented industrial crisis. In the last three years alone, almost 900 French industrial sites were shut down, causing the loss of 100,000 jobs. Manufacturing industry now represents one in four jobs, in comparison to one in two in 1974.

Three months before the presidential elections, the political elites, after singing the praises of globalisation for decades, are now deploring the “naivety” of France towards  international competitors.

It is not surprising, then, that the vast majority of the French electorate, from the far left to the far right, demand setting up customs protection at European borders. The article implies that any candidate who fails to satisfy the electorate’s desire for some
kind of protectionism, will pay dearly in the upcoming presidential polls.

The right-leaning Le Point dedicates its front cover to the French president’s "Zorro complex", the titleof a book by a French writer/scientist and former Socialist govt minister Claude Allègre.

Surprisingly, the French president decided to give an exclusive interview to the weekly and to react to the book, which he defines as “intelligent but harsh”.

“Being a kind of Zorro is both my strength and my weakness,” the French president confides to the journalist.

It’s worth noting that Sarkozy uses the interview to hint at his possible presidential candidacy. He uses the phrase “If I was a candidate”, adding that he “already has 10 strong measures to confront the current economic crisis” to propose.

I have a strong impression that, in fact, Sarkozy is already campaigning. During much of the interview he blasts the Socialist candidate François Hollande. He accuses him of lacking a true project for modernising the country. The president also defends what he considers to be his accomplishments in the last five years.

It is worth noting that after he has been in power for almost five years, featuring Sarkozy on its cover is a very profitable business.

The glossy Paris Match features a moving account of the nine month journey of a Tunisian migrant, Slah, from his native Tunisia to France.

After the fall of the Ben Ali’s regime, like thousands of his countrymen, this father of three decided to go to France in search of better life. The article and the photos give a chilling account of the dramatic sea crossing from Tunisia to Lampedusa, the joy of arriving in the hoped-for French Eldorado and the brutal reality of life with no legal papers, no work, crammed in a tiny room with other comrades in the adventure with no possible happy ending.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

The only happy part of this story is in fact the first picture - of Slah, laughing, holding his son tenderly in his arms on the same beach from which he embarked nine months ago.

You might have never heard about him but the French are hailing him as their very own Steve Jobs. Forbes magazine ranked him eighth on the French rich list. At 44, Xavier Niel has finally become a member of the establishment.

Le Nouvel Observateur dedicates its Man of the Week portrait to Niel's incredible success story. This week he launched a fourth French mobile operator. The article qualifies Niel as someone who’s “not only a creative equal of Steve Jobs but also as business-savvy as Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world”. Niel created his business empire of 5,000 employees and  two billion euros turnover from scratch.

The entrepreneur’s life story is even more astonishing as in his early days he spent a month in the infamous Santé prison for accepting cash investments for his peep-show business (he’s since sold it on).

Today, after having built a telecommunications empire, he’s completed his transition to the gentry by buying the respected French newspaper Le Monde which was on the brink of bankruptcy. As the weekly gently puts it, “The alley cat has become a fully trained house feline.”

And, to end this week’s French media review, the celebrity-obsessed Paris Match’s serves us a fairy tale. Her name is Charlotte, his name is Gad… She’s a 25-year-old Monaco princess… He is a 40-year-old French comedian, one of the best loved celebrities in France…. He has had three serious relationships, she’s only known one love story before him….

The article, written almost like a love poem, revels in the details of their fateful encounter. “Love encounters are a fruit of coincidence …it happened during a banal dinner at a mutual friend's house… Gad Elmaleh is at the table and his humour is irresistible…"

Since Gad now prefers acting in feature movies, he has to go back to Miami, where he’s working under the direction of Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg. And than comes the punch line: “While Hollywood is falling for Gad, he’s fallen head over heels for late princess of Monaco’s granddaughter."

Here’s the Paris Match exlusive: the 2012 glamourous couple are Charlotte and Gad!

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