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French press review 11 February 2014

Not for the first time, nor probably for the last, the question of immigration dominates the French front pages.


"The Swiss rejection of mass immigration shakes Europe," says the main headline in Le Monde.

"A warning ahead of European elections," is how Le Figaro sees the same story.

"The Swiss virus," is the strark front-page reaction of Libération to the outcome of Sunday's referendum, in which a tiny majority - just 19,000 voters - decided that Switzerland will now admit immigrants on a quota basis, paying particular attention to the requirements of Swiss employers.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

For once this debate is not primarily about refugees or illegals from Africa or Afghanistan. The Swiss want to limit the number of French, German and Italian nationals who cross the federation's borders on a daily basis to work there.

Says one disappointed voter on the internet: "my baker is Portuguese, the press kiosque is run by a Spaniard, the grocery by a Pakistani. The downstairs restaurant is Italian, upstairs it's Greek. The hairdresser is Chilean. Without them, my area would be different. And I'd still have long hair."

This is not a reaction to an oversupplied labour market. At less than four per cent out of work, the Swiss unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Europe. And those who voted to exclude immigrants are predominantly rural inhabitants of the east of the country, where there is virtually no immigrant population.

Libé sees this as yet another victory for the dark forces of the European far right, fearing that it will provide encouragement to the mainstream conservative UMP party here in France.

With the news just coming in that the London-based Barclays Bank is to increase bonuses to its staff, business daily Les Echos says the rest of us will have to settle for an average of 2.5 per cent of a wage boost this year. 

The good news is that the forecast for inflation has been revised downwards, so we won't need the extra money we won't be getting to keep up with price increases. The bad news is that French industrial output has taken a further step backward, losing nearly half a percentage point last year. Economic analysts expect a rebound this year but only of the order of one per cent.

To put those figures in perspective, French industrial production declined 16 per cent between 2007 and last year.

The government has 60 days to find 50 billion euros. That's the cheering headline in Aujourd'hui en France, a reference to the fact that the government is due to present the details of its giant savings scheme in two months' time.

State spending, social security and the money given by central to local government will all come under pressure.

Like secrets? Find out about the Hidden Paris

Catholic La Croix looks back to this day last year when Pope Benedict surprised the church and the world by announcing that he was stepping down from his job as top man in the Roman Church.

Benedict, now simple Joseph Ratzinger, is living in a small monastery in Rome, devoting his time to prayer, study and practicing the piano. He says he has no regrets about his decision.


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