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French press review 18 June 2014

You have to admire the nation's editors. We've been stuck for what seems like centuries with the same miserable stories - strikes on the trains, part-time entertainment workers threatening the summer festival season, a national debt more savage than Godzilla on a bad day - and the lads who produce the daily papers manage to package the misery each morning to make it seem like we're learning something new.


Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné gives pride of place to the rail strike with a headline referring to recent revelations that trains bought by the national operator are too big to fit in most existing stations: "Trains too wide, strike too long'" is the Canard's succinct summary.

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A cartoon in the same satirical paper has President François Hollande saying "We have to hold firm. These strikes are very unpopular." And an advisor sadly reminds him, "Not as unpopular as you."

Prime Minister Manuel Valls is playing the tough guy, launching yesterday's accelerated debate on the reform of the rail sector with a reminder of the gravity of the situation facing France and stressing the government's determination to put the necessary changes in place, whatever the disgruntled workforce has to say about them.

"The reform is essential and will take place," said the prime minister.

Valls is showing, according to Le Monde, slightly more flexibility on the questions which threaten to disrupt the summer festival season, since part-time workers in the sector don't want to have their special social security status changed. Valls insists that the system has to be sorted out but is not prepared to fight a war on two fronts. Especially since he has to soften up the left wing of his own Socialist Party in anticipation of the debate on reforming the social security budget.

On that very debate conservative daily Le Figaro has bad news for the government. The national financial council, which keeps an eye on income and expenditure, is worried that the French debt will soar through the 2,000-billion-euro ceiling in the course of this year.

The Figaro editorial is scathing, criticising François Hollande for his fairytales of a return to economic growth, that upturn that is always just around the corner, those debts that are under control, the gigantic savings we are going to start making, soon.

Unfortunately, says the conservative daily, none of these fictions will stand up to the harsh reality of the accounts. Where all this leaves a government promise to save 50 billion euros over the next two years is blatantly obvious to Le Figaro . . . the plan is unworkable unless the authorities have the courage to cut the number of civil servants, not a priority for this Socialist government.

Le Figaro manages to get its metaphors mixed at the end of the editorial, warning that France is heading straight for the wall but doing it at a snail's pace. So we should be all right.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Left-leaning Libération looks beyond current tribulations with a main story on French efforts to become more green. This is because Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal will today present her plans for the energy sector for the next 30 years.

Royal is supposed to usher in the third industrial revolution, the era of transition from carbon fuels and nuclear energy to a brave new world of solar power and wind farms. It all makes sense on paper, both for the economy and the globe, but it costs a lot to get started on the road to a brave new world.

Money, as Le Figaro happily reminds us, is something the government just doesn't have. That brave new world may have to be put on hold.

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