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French press review 29 April 2013

There's a lot about strained Franco-German relations on this morning's front pages.


"The Big Chill" is how right-wing Le Figaro estimates the temperature difference between Paris and Berlin, as the Socialists on this side of the Rhine are accused of calling the Germans "selfish" and "nflexible".

Terrible, trumpets Le Figaro. The bond of confidence between the lead partners in the European Union has been broken for months, and that is irresponsible. Nothing less than the future of Europe is at stake.

Le Monde's editorial is headlined, quite reasonably for a centrist publication not given to violent excess, "Don't shoot Angela Merkel".

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The German Chancellor can be doubly reassured: no one (to the best of our current knowledge) is planning to assassinate her. But if anyone is, Le Monde is categorically against the idea.

Some background? Quite a few French socialists are fed up to their surgically reimplanted hairlines with the German leader and her old-fashioned bank manager's attitudes. "Austerity ist gut, ja?" is how they understand economic policy in Berlin.

This is fine for those inside the motor economy of the European bandwagon. But hardship translates badly into Greek, Italian, Spanish, and, increasingly, French. "Misery," "poverty," "revolution," "social division," "mass unemployment," are just some of the offspring of the German policy, at least according to non-German politicians trying to explain to their electorates as to why things are so damn bad.

But slow down a minute, says Le Monde. It's too easy to blame the European Union, or poor plump anxious Angela, for local failures. The reflex is not just childish, warns the centrist daily, it is also dangerous.

First of all because such criticism plays into the hands of the Eurosceptics and their ultra-nationalist fellow travelers. Europe has enough to worry about without encouraging the loonies on the extreme right!

Secondly, we are reminded that the Franco-German axis is the keystone of the European mixed metaphor: if Paris and Berlin can't read from the same page of the hymnbook, then the entire monetary union is out of tune, off the beat and up the creek without a conductor.

So, remember, hardship is here to stay, but don't malign "die Mutter Merkel", especially since she has a date with destiny in the form of September elections. She'll hardly win that on a platform of more tax for Germans to pay the Greek debt.

Other front page stories this morning concern staff cuts in the French military establishment.

According to business daily Les Echos, the white paper on defence, to be presented to the president later today, is a blueprint for cutting 20,000 jobs. It is still going to cost 180 billion euros to defend France for the next five years.

This is possibly not the ideal moment to mention North Korea, as the main headline in catholic La Croix does.

Tomorrow sees the end of joint US-South Korean manoeuvres in the sea off the disputed frontline island of Yeonpyeong, but not the end of North Korean sabre-rattling. And they've got nuclear sabres, so it's no laughing matter.

La Croix is not alone in finding it difficult to understand the beligerent noises being made by the North under Kim Jong-Un, especially since his Chinese allies seem increasingly irritated by his fightin' talk.

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