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French press review 15 November 2013

A French priest is abducted in Cameroon. Unions take up the cudgels for Brittany. France's economy continues to flounder. Europe's far-right eurosceptics unite (some of them, anyway). And it's do or die for the French football team in Kiev tonight.

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We begin with the abduction of another French hostage in Africa.

The latest is a priest Reverend Father Georges Vandenbeusch kidnapped from his parish in the north of Cameroon. Another French priest working in the region confessed to the Catholic daily La Croix that they were fully aware of the risks of working in the diocese, where armed robbers and combatants linked to the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in Nigeria are active.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

He even admitted that they had refused to heed an appeal by the region’s governor to leave, arguing that they could not abandon their impoverished Christian communities surviving through their missionary work.

Aujourd’hui en France says Vandenbeusch also ignored a letter from the French foreign ministry urging him to leave. It points out that he was kidnapped near where the Moulin-Fournier family, who were freed nine months ago, were abducted.

The French government’s annus horribilis is nowhere close to being over. That’s the general impression you get reading this morning’s papers. Libération says the Socialist-led administration is being compelled not just to listen to tradespeople and farmers but teachers who have now entered the fray, shutting down schools on Thursday to protest at the introduction of a four-and-a-half-day school week in France starting in 2014.

The strike affected only 23 per cent of primary and nursery schools, according to the education ministry but the unions put the figure at 41 per cent, with 75 per cent of teachers in Paris reportedly clamouring for a repeal of the law.

L’Humanité says the government hasn’t seen anything yet as the unions in Brittany have called for a demonstration on 23 November to press for a social pact on the economic future of the region.

Libération says the government is in no mood to back down and is digging in for a fight over the tax hikes due to come into force on 1 January 2014.

Les Echos reports that the tense social atmosphere is being compounded by grim economic news, the relapse of growth marked by a 0.1 percent decline of economic performance.

All the engines of business activity in France have ground to a halt, notes the economic newspaper. It explains that while the eurozone has turned the page of recession, forecasts for growth in the third quarter will not be met, due to a slowing German economy and Spain struggling to emerge from recession.

In the wake of the French government’s political misfortunes, Le Monde believes the social upheavals and protests by the “bonnets rouges” (red hats) against the ecotax rekindles the clamour for regional identities in France.

For the paper, the monarchical ways of the fiftth French republic have undermined the role of parliament, isolated the head of state and contributed to paralysing the country.

Le Figaro observes that the French are tempted by the idea of a dissolution of parliament. It publishes a survey by the OpinionWay polling institute showing that 39 per cent of voters want a new parliament while 33 per cent of citizens favour the appointment of a new prime minister.

Le Monde investigates how the far-right Front National is extending its networks in Europe. According to the paper, FN leader Marine Le Pen has been multiplying contacts with other populist and radical right-wing parties across the EU, her eyes set on building a “Europhobic alliance” in the eurozone. Le Monde believes her objective is to create a powerful parliamentary group after European elections in May 2014.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Take us to Brazil, begs Aujourd’hui en France, as it sets the stage for France’s do-or-die showdown with Ukraine in Kiev tonight in the first leg of a two-match play-off for the upcoming 2014 Football World Cup . It is time to make us dream, pleads the paper.

For l’Equipe, it is the entire French nation that stands behind Didier Deschamps’ Bleus as they play what is certainly their most important game.

According to the sports daily, what is at stake tonight is the first half of the ticket to Brazil and a great opportunity to demonstrate to the fans that the team has rediscovered its conquering spirit.

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