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French weekly magazines review 12 October 2014

The French government’s difficulties in funding the 2015 budget attract front-page attention from the weeklies. And Nicolas Sarkozy continues to fascinate them.

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Finance Minister Michel Sapin unveiled a 21-billion-euro budget last week, reassuring the nation that there will be no new taxes.

Le Canard Enchaîné mocks Sapin’s announcement that France is offering itself a two-year period of grace to meet the European Commission’s three per cent budget deficit target. The satirical weekly, says that France will be the only European country with a deficit higher in 2015 than in 2013.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The magazine says it is worthwhile drawing attention to the fact that the European Commission, which had placed France under watch, considers the budget a provocation. It also explains the mindset in Brussels: countries like Ireland, Greece and Spain, which had to swallow a bitter pill, would not understand that France is being given preferential treatment.

Le Canard compares the standoff between the EU and France to a football match - the score Brussels five billion-Paris nil. Five billion euros is the weekly’s projection of the cuts the EU expects France to make to meet its deficit engagements.

The 2015 budget is also a great source of inspiration for Le Figaro Magazine. The right-wing publication reports complaints from an “unexpected” source - Didier Migaud, the Socialist who heads the public finance authority, says the budget lacks honesty. According to Le Figaro Magazine, the diagnosis that the government’s reforms are insufficient and its spending cuts dubious and economic forecasts that are, to say the least, apocalyptic, have been made so often that everyone knows it by heart.

Le Figaro Magazine concludes it is not a budget but an impressionist painting.

Le Nouvel Observateur speaks up for the government in an editorial titled “Reforms? What reforms”?

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

In France, it argues, it is easier to talk about reforms than to implement them. According to the left-leaning magazine, it is unfair to talk about systematic shortcomings by the left because the conservatives don’t have a better record, especially ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is staging a comeback, promising to implement reforms he didn’t deliver during his time in office.

Le Nouvel Observateur mocks the opposition UMP’s flip-flopping on same-sex marriage, saying that the party is trapped between its most radical wing and public opinion, which considers the issue of gay marriage resolved once and for all.

Sarkozy’s political fortunes are once again debated in the magazines this week as his return continues to be dogged by allegations of graft. Three of his allies were charged on Saturday in connection with the "Bygmalion affair", a probe into the financing of his 2012 presidential campaign. The investigation concerns invoices for events staged by PR Company Bygmalion during the campaign that were allegedly addressed to the UMP rather than the campaign coffers so as to dodge campaign finance law.

Despite Sarkozy’s insistence that he knew nothing about the Bygmalion machine, Le Canard Enchaîné says it is ridiculous to imagine that the man on whose behalf Bygmalion system was erected would be kept in the dark about the shady dealings. The scandals have not stopped Sarkozy putting on his act at rallies around the country, the paper comments.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

France’s main conservative publications doubt sincerity of the cheerful front Sarkozy is struggling to put on at the meetings.

L’Express runs an exclusive interview with Bastien Millot one of the “Sarko boys” who mounted the Bygmalion system. Speaking for the first time after being placed under investigation, Millon gives his version of the campaign finance scandal story, noting that it is hard to imagine that Sarkozy was not aware of anything.

What if Sarkozy is finished?

That is the headline in left-leaning Marianne.

The magazine points out that he is cornered by graft scandals, manhandled by his rivals and shunned by a growing number of members of the UMP party. Despite extraordinary public relations and the media buzz about him, his return to politics seems on the verge of going belly up, it says.

Le Point seems to consider Sarkozy a man of the past. It has a photograph of a cheerful-looking ex-premier and Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé, splashed across its cover. Latest polls show Juppé beating Sarkozy hands down as the favourite candidate of 66 per cent of French voters. Le Point describes Juppé as Sarkozy’s nightmare come true and looks at his presidential prospects and how he is strategising for his “rendezvous with history”.
 

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