French press review 13 October 2014
French budgetary problems, vanishing North Korean leaders, and unemployment benefit are among the main French stories this morning . . .
The French budget for next year has not yet been officially submitted to Brussels for examination by the eurocrats, but Le Monde says Paris has already been warned by the president of the Eurogroup that the proposals simply don't come up to scratch.
France has already been granted a two-year extension on an earlier promise to get the budget deficit down to three per cent of what the nation can produce. The best the current proposals can achieve is 4.3 per cent, and even that will require a few minor miracles since the French figures are based on growth rates that look less and less likely to be reached.
Now, certain smaller eurozone countries, Ireland, Lithuania and Finland, for example, are getting annoyed that France is repeatedly let off the hook while they have been obliged to put their populations on a diet of low-fat austerity. How long Brussels can continue with its policy of one rule for the French and Italians, a different rule for everyone else, remains to be seen.
The central problem is not so much justice as avoiding recession. If Paris and Rome are put under too much pressure, their economies will start going backwards. And that will do nothing good for the eurozone as a whole. Of course, if key european economies don't abide by the rules governing the stability of the common currency, that's not going to help the value of the euro.
The French Finance Ministry and the European Commission are currently going over the books with a view to making the French mess look less like a catastrophe. They have until Wednesday to sort it all out.
The faceless gentlepersons at international ratings agency Standard & Poor's have announced that, despite all the turmoil, France can keep its "double-A" status for the moment, but with a warning that the outlook is not bright. France could soon face a further reduction in its debt status, which will make money more expensive to borrow, which will boost the deficit, and make the three per cent limit even more difficult to attain.
They have more serious problems in North Korea . . . the Leader of the Stalinist state, Kim Jung-un, has disappeared.
Le Monde reports that the 33-year-old was last seen in public on 3 September, has since missed a meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly and the celebration of the 69th anniversary of the ruling party, which basically means his own family, since Dad and Grandad were in charge before him.
The health of the Leader is of great national concern, especially since Dad, Kim Jung-il, was being described as officially in top form in 2008, when he was in reality in an irreversible coma following a stroke.
The current leader is certainly overweight and may suffer from diabetes or gout. He's known to have knee troubles, and may have hurt himself during summer military exercises. Officially, he has no health problems. They don't have coups in North Korea. He'll be back.
Conservative Le Figaro is delighted to report that a row over way France pays unemployment benefit has further divided the ruling socialist majority.
Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has been suggesting that proposed reforms of the system don't go far or deep enough. He wants the country to make sure that most of the money available is used to help people get back to work, not to keep them comfortably on the dole.
That might sound perfectly logical but, in the already seething ranks of French socialism, it's fightin' talk.
Libération says the besieged Syrian city of Kobani has effectively been abandoned by an international coalition incapable of countering the onslaught by Islamic State militants.
Part of the problem is that the Turkish government is unwilling to commit ground forces to a battle on behalf of kurds, already a thorn in Ankara's side.
Libé warns, however, that the Turks don't have a huge range of options: either they can fight Islamic State at the risk of terrorist attacks on Turkish soil, or they can allow Kobani become a city of martyrs and face the anger of the estimated 15 million kurds living in Turkey. That second option will also cost the Erdogan administration in terms of relations with traditional allies, Europe and the United States.