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French press review 6 February 2014

Why are the Sochi Olympics so expensive? Can Hollande get his Responsibility Pact up and running before local elections? Should French towns change mayor more often? Why can't French people call for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in the Palestinian Territories?


Pride of place this morning goes to Russian President Vlad the Lad Putin. Tomorrow, Russia will host the opening of the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea port of Sochi, already the most costly games in history at 37 billion euros - the last summer games in Beijing were a snip at 26 billion - and arguably the most dangerous, since Sochi is just a bus ride from what Le Monde calls "the Caucasian minefield".

No one needs to be reminded of the Volgograd explosions last December. Nor of the decades-long Chechen war, technically over but still a source of regional tension. When you add Islamic independence movements in Karachay-Cherkessia, Ossetia and Dagestan, you begin to understand why the Russian organisers have deployed 100,000 military and police personnel to secure a sports event.

French President François Hollande gets the front page honours in business daily Les Echos. This is because he wants his famous Responsibility Pact with the business sector up and running by the end of next month.

Employers are to be given tax breaks if they take on more staff. Everyone agrees that the principle is a good one but the bosses and the government are less unanimous when it comes to the fine print . . . the captains of industry want flexibility, lower costs, fewer charges, a less rigid labour law, more profits. The government simply wants more employment and the president wants it now because there are local elections in France next month.

Speaking of which elections, left-leaning Libération looks at what it calls the frozen landscape of French local politics.

Voters in big cities just don't change mayor. Some of the candidates for reelection next month will be seeking a seventh five-year term, a situation which, says Libé, leads to the creation of corrupt cliques, stifles young political ambition and means there's no place for innovation and new blood. That's bad for democracy and very bad for the cities.

Catholic La Croix devotes its front page to the impact of the economic boycott in some Western countries of goods produced by Israeli companies in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Not only are sales figures affected, according to La Croix, but investors are also refusing to finance projects based in illegally occupied Palestinian territory.

Seven per cent of the Israeli population now lives in the occupied lands, a crucial voting bloc for the Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

In Holland and Norway, the movement against the expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land is already well established. The Norwegian central bank, for example, refuses to handle funds from Israeli companies based in the territories. France is the only European country where calling for a boycott of goods produced in the occupied zone is considered to be inciting hatred against a race or nation and is punishable by law.

La Croix notes that industrialists on both side of the divide have called for an urgent resolution of this conflict, since the Israeli economy can't afford a boycott, especially if the country remains completely cut off from the markets in neighbouring Arab countries.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid recently said that the failure of peace talks with the Palestinians would be a disaster for the Israeli economy.

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