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French press review 28 August 2013

Two main topics dominate the French press today: Syria and pension reform in France.

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Right-wing Le Figaro reports on President François Hollande’s speech at a meeting with ambassadors yesterday in Paris.

The president told the diplomats that France is ready to "punish" those responsible for a suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week, explains Le Figaro, calling it a "heinous decision to gas innocents".

An international response is emerging without the approval of the UN Security Council,  which would be impossible to obtain due to Russia's support for Bashar al-Assad's regime, explains the paper.

Hollande is scheduled to talk with leaders of the Syrian National Coalition today and discuss France’s possible intervention.

The paper publishes a map showing how the West might intervene in Syria, with the deployment of US war vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and possible access of British, American and French forces through northern Jordan.

Why a war?” asks left-wing Libération on its front page, as it questions the reasons behind the apparentlly inevitable Western intervention.

Although American, British and French forces are about to intervene against Assad, the outlines of this operation and the goals of the upcoming war remain unclear, says the paper.

For Hollande, the intervention is “punitive”, reports the daily, while Syria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Walid Mouallem declared his country will not hesitate to defend itself.

Libération raises an interesting, yet worrying fact. It says many people in Washington fear last week’s attack in Damascus could have been a trap set by the Assad regime to spark  Western intervention, which could lead to chaos that might end up benefiting the Syrian regime.

The other hot topic on everyone’s mind here in France is government's planned pension reform.

The French government, which has unveiled a much-anticipated reform of its deficit-hit pension system, raised the level and duration of contributions, which should only cover a third of the predicted pension deficit in 2020, says Le Figaro.

The government is anxious to avoid an outbreak of social conflict, such as that which accompanied previous reform efforts, but it has been handicapped by Hollande's promise not to raise the prevailing minimum retirement age of 62, as many other European countries have done, and as recommended by Brussels, explains the paper.
Instead, the government has opted for a “minimal reform”, says Le Figaro, choosing to increase employer contributions and taxes.

A “dangerous non-reform”, according to Pierre Gattaz, the head of the Medef, the largest union of employers in France.

Cannes 2013

Economic daily Les Echos draws a different conclusion to Le Figaro, saying that the government’s decision to increase employers' taxes will, in fact, rebalance the pension deficit by 2020.

The daily explains the implications of the new reform and offers a generally positive - although prudent - critique of the government’s plan

And finally tabloid Aujourd’hui en France carries a lighter story on the French cinema industry.

After a disappointing summer, the paper says French cinema is about to experience live a more productive and exciting autumn, with a few treasures in store.

The paper offers a selection of upcoming French movies, with a few dramas such as A place on earth, starring Belgian actor and comedian Benoit Poelvoorde, and the promising Grand Central, starring French actor Tahar Rahim, who has become an international star following his role as Malik El Djebena in the 2009 award-winning A Prophet by Jacques Audiard.

So, now that the days are getting shorter and the summer is coming to an end, readers should head to the cinema this weekend, says Aujourd'hui en France, and support the French movie industry.

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