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French press review 31 May 2012

Will the Irish vote for stability/austerity? Will François Hollande's election promises prove to costly? Why has the Pope lost his faith ... in journalists? And can the French president score a diplomatic coup over Syria?

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Catholic La Croix gives pride of place to the Irish, voting as we speak in a referendum on the European Stability Treaty.

It's being seen as a struggle between those who recommend a docile acceptance of the budgetary rigour being demanded by Brussels and those who say sod that for a game of marbles. If more hardship is the price we have to pay for more economic stability, say those Irish who are against the treaty, then that's too high a price.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

A "no" vote by the Irish won't prevent the ratification of the treaty but it will be a boost for anti-austerity movements elsewhere, especially in Greece and Spain.

A "no" would also be likely to complicate matters for the Irish when they next wheel the begging bowl to Brussels to ask for additional handouts.

Last-minute opinion polls suggested that supporters of a "yes" vote will narrowly out-distance the "nos".

The French have been getting a bit of a budgetary ticking-off from the European Commission.

The men who look after Europe's financial well-being are worried that the election promises made by President François Hollande are going to cost too much. France is supposed to get the national debt back down to three per cent of gross domestic product by the end of next year.

Brussels worries that an increase in the minimum wage, a return to retirement at 60 for some workers and the abandonment of plans to create a sort of social sales tax will make that three per cent target even more difficult to attain.

Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici says "no worries". The government will manage the three per cent as promised and they'll keep all the promises for which the French people chose Frank Hollande.

He would say that, wouldn't he? There's a parliamentary election here in France in two weeks' time.

The Pope is on the front page of Le Figaro, fighting back against the wave of scandals which have recently swept the Vatican headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

He says he has total faith in his personal staff but doesn't think much of journalists. We completely and gratuitously exaggerated the importance of the leaks, he says.

You'd imagine the Pope would know that no journalist worth the name would ever let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Le Figaro's front page editorial looks at the diplomatic dead end on Syria, suggesting that Russian president Vladimir Putin is the key player.

Putin fears that Western powers are using the various Arab revolutions to diminish Russian influence in the Mediterranean. The Russian leader is to meet Hollande tomorrow.

If Hollande can bring Putin around to seeing that long-term Russian interests would be best served by the departure of Bashar al-Assad, then the French president would mark his entry on the international diplomatic scene in real style.

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