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French press review 2 August 2012

President Hollande's first hundred days, the black economy and what to do about the  problems in the eurozone are all stories covered in today's French papers....

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Left-leaning Libération warns that September is going to be a tough month for French president, François Hollande. Libé says that the new Socialist government has managed to pass only one law since its installation . . . that was on sexual harrassment, and they were forced into it by a judicial vacuum in existing legislation . . . along with a trickle of decrees on tax changes and the ending of certain privileges. The hard work will have to be done in the autumn.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Libération compares the calm of the first 100 days of the Hollande presidency with the total frenzy which characterised the first three months of the Sarkozy regime. There was surely a need to mark a change of pace, says Libé, but let's not go asleep on the job. The crisis won't wait.

"There is no time to lose," said a government spokesman yesterday, as he left to start his holidays.

The front page of business daily Les Echos looks at the parallel or "black" economy here in France, following the publication of an official report suggesting that 7% of employers cheat the social security system (and their employees), either by failing to declare members of staff or by under-reporting the amount of work they actually do.

The worst offenders are restaurants, closely followed by your local food shop and your local hairdresser. The report did not concern itself with the building industry, well known for its shadowy practices and invisible armies.

The editorial in Les Echos is resolutely optimistic, saying that the report proves that the vast majorty of French businesses are honest.

Catholic La Croix asks a former head of the French government and a former Belgian Finance Minister how they think the current powers-that-be should go about trying to save the euro.

Later today, the governing council of the European Central Bank will meet with a view to planning what to do about Greece, Spain and, now, Italy. Give them loads more money will probably be the substance of any final decision, but that's only going to slow the blaze, not put out the fire.

What we need, says Philippe Maystadt, the former Belgian Finance Minister, is more cohesion between member states, more supervision.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

This is not to raise the spectre of a federal Europe, effectively governed from Brussels or Strasbourg; rather, it's a way of helping individual governments to toe the line in maintaining overall targets, and helping those who might have a bit of bother getting to the end of the month.

If that doesn't seem too different from the present system, it's because it isn't, except in the fine print and the gritty little details like the sanctions and other humiliations to be dished out to failing governments.

Former French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, who is a lawyer, not an economist, says the European Union's chief problem is lack of unity. The variations in wealth and productivity between, say, the fifty American states, or China's many provinces, are at least as great as those between Germany and Greece.

But the federal administration in Washington and the politburo in Beijing deal with those regional variations by judicious transfers and by loans which cost the same price for everybody. Los Angeles and Ohio are in the same boat; Berlin and Athens are not.

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