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French Press Review 01 Jan 2014

The papers are divided between those which look backwards to the mess that was 2013 and those looking forward to the mess that will be 2014.

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Libération looks back, and sees a Budget Minister (Jérôme Cahuzac) who was preaching financial rigour to the French population, while quietly stashing away enough nuts to feed an army of squirrels in not-at-all-rigorous Swiss accounts. There was the dispute about the best way to organise the week's work in the nation's junior schools, the debate about prostitution, the war about same-sex marriage. The United States went briefly broke and had to close down. Silvio Berlusconi lost his job in the Italian Senate, Mo Morsi lost his job in the Egyptian presidency, Barack Obama lost a lot of friends and admirers. Bashir Al Assad went on killing Syrians with complete impunity, even with poison gas.

And the world lost Nelson Mandela.

So it can hardly get worse, can it?

Well, we now face a year of terrorism, taxation and trouncings in local elections.

The terrorism is, for the moment at least, centred on the southern Russian Caucasian region where, according to left wing Libération, twenty years of brutal repression by Moscow is now threatening to blow the lid off, just 500 kilometres and six weeks from the start of the Winter Olympics.

Value added tax is up from this morning, adding 5 per cent to our gas and electricity bills, pushing up hotel, restaurant and transport charges.

And the local elections, due in March, followed by European polls in late May, are likely to heap pressure on an already divided and little loved Socialist administration. That's according to right wing Le Figaro.

Mercifully, there'll also be the football World Cup (assuming the Brazilian hosts manage to get the pitch marked before the show kicks off in 162 days from now). That makes the front page of sports daily, L'Equipe

Communist paper L'Humanité offers French president François Hollande five pieces of advice as he embarks, like the rest of us, on the adventure of 2014.

First of all, the president is warned that the battle against unemployment is far from won, despite a few promising statistical indications. For L'Humanité, a continued belief in the value of austerity as a way out of the economoic crisis is simply killing job creation.

Secondly, the president has to sort out the tax system, especially since the parallel move to straighten out the social welfare budget is, inevitably, going to put more pressure on ordinary taxpayers.

Then the president has to change the French orientation in the European family. France, warns L'Humanité, can no longer afford slavishly to follow the line laid down by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

What about voting rights for foreigners? wonders the Communist paper. Promised by the candidate Hollande, the plan to give foreigners living in France for at least five years the right to vote in local polls seems to be lost in the political equivalent of the Bermuda triangle.

And what is the French military project in Africa? What is the relationship between Paris and the African Union? When will the former colonial power realise that Africans must be left to solve their own problems? And, with all that as distraction, the situations in Syria and Iran get worse.

 

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