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French press review 27 June 2012

There's not a lot to laugh about on this morning's front pages. The French economy is going backwards, unemployment figures are off the dial, purchasing power has never been weaker, the minimum wage has been increased but not by much, some members of the defeated French football team may face fines or even suspension after another pathetic series of on-field performances and some more muscular efforts in criticising referees, journalists, one another and the shape of the ball . . . it's all fairly grim.

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The one shaft of light is provided by the Myanmar opposition figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, currently on a three-day visit to Paris, at the end of a European tour which has seen her treated like a head of state.

She had dinner last night with the French president. While she was in Britain, she had time to visit the university city of Oxford, where she was a student in the 1980s. Aung San Suu Kyi was finally conferred with the doctorate awarded all of 19 years ago.

But back to the bad news . . .

Le Monde's front-page editorial says yesterday's tiny increase in the minimum wage is a distraction in the real debate on social inequality. Following yesterday's changes, those at the bottom of the French pay scale can expect an extra 20 euros per month from 1 July.

It's a long way short of the 600 euros increase demanded by communist daily L'Humanité yesterday, that vast boost to have been financed by further taxing the rich, the share-holders, big business.

But that's not the point, says Le Monde.

The real social inequality is in the amount of work, not the amount paid for working.

Yesterday's pay rise will have less than no effect on those who are illegally employed, on the holders of part-time or seasonal contracts, on the long-term unemployed.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Worse, it is estimated by the group of experts advising the government on employment and wages, that 20,000 unskilled jobs will be lost for every percentage point added to the minimum basic wage.

At a potential cost of nearly one and a half million jobs, that puts L'Humanité's proposition in a very different light.

Le Monde also looks at the departure of Nicole Bricq, sacked from her job as French ecology minister after only five weeks in the job.

According to the centrist daily, Bricq paid for her determination to force the oil company Shell to renegotiate contracts covering its operations off the coast of French Guiana.

Shell didn't appreciate the delay involved - the company is renting a floating exploration platform at one million euros per day - and so it appears to have pulled a few very important strings to ensure that Bricq got the boot.

If the sequence of events does turn out to be as depicted by Le Monde, it will be a sorry blow to the image of the new Socialist government as open, honest and anti-big-business.

A word of congratulations to our colleague Greg Burke, formerly the Fox News European correspondent. He's now going to be working for the Vatican, as a communications consultant, or press officer, as we used to call them.

It is clear that the Roman Church has had its problems trailed in the public prints lately, what with the cover-up of the activities of paedophile priests, unpopular papal pronouncements on Aids and homosexuality, in fact, sexuality in general, and the leaking of the pope's personal letters.

Greg Burke has thus been drafted into the God squad with a view to giving the Vatican a professional spin doctor, someone who can steer journalists away from the stuff that attracts the flies and safely direct their attention to, say, the papal gardens or the spledours of the Sistine ceilings.

Greg is clearly a realist. He doesn't expect things to change immediately. We're talking about the Vatican, after all. But he does hope that some of the shadowy men in skirts who run the church will eventually listen to what he has to say about what they have to say.

We wish him, and them, the best of luck.

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