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French press review 29 October 2014

Financial trickery and violence are the unhappy options offered by this morning's French front pages.There are reports on the uproar in France caused by the death of an ecology protester at the weekend. And researchers may have finally found the missing 80 per cent of the universe.

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On the financial front, centrist Le Monde's main headline says "Paris buys time from Brussels without making any new savings".

Conservative paper Le Figaro says last-minute adjustments to the French budget mean that President François Hollande has narrowly escaped a humiliating rejection of his savings and spending plan for next year.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné says Brussels has decided to turn a blind eye to several purely fictitious elements in the French proposal to find an additional 3.6 billion euros to make the 2015 budget look less bad.

Of course, as Le Monde points out, the pulling of a 3.5-billion-euro rabbit out of Hollande's hat is not the end of the story, by any means. France still has to get the budget deficit down to about 3.0 per cent of what the country can produce in order to keep the eurozone’s stability pact stable.

That obligation has already been long-fingered by Paris on several occasions but they'll have to start making what Brussels calls "structural changes" some day soon or risk sanctions. The French problem is further complicated by the fact that, just before the French presented their budget to the commission, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had been wringing his hands about Italian financial difficulties, promising the same European authorities that he'd find an extra 4.5 billion euros to save Rome's budget for 2015 from being nominated for a fiction prize.

And where did the extra billions come from?

Thin air, according to Le Monde, tax income is going to be better next year and state borrowing is going to be cheaper.

Le Figaro's editorial says Brussels knows very well that it's all a put-up job but has nothing to gain from going to war with Paris. Not yet, anyway.

Le Figaro wonders how long the subterfuge can continue. And the right-wing paper ends by lamenting that the country is belaboured by crushing tax levels, is losing businesses daily and has major problems with unemployment and national depression. Hollande may be able to pull the wool over the eyes of the mandarins in Brussels, says Le Figaro, but there's no changing the tragic reality.

Interactive map of France

Violence has erupted during attempts by ecology protestors to prevent the building of a dam near the southern French town of Sivens. It is to provide irrigation to local maize farms but is criticised by opponents as costly, inappropriate and destructive to a unique wetland habitat.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, a young protester was killed at the weekend, all the current evidence suggesting that he died from injuries caused by the explosion of a police tear-gas grenade.

Left-leaning Libération recognises in an editorial that the police at the protest site have had to put up with a dangerous level of violence including the use by protesters of Molotov cocktails. The paper's editorial wonders at the wisdom of continuing to use explosive grenades for crowd control, especially since the safety of these devices has frequently been questioned in the past.

Worse, says Libération, has it taken the death of a young botanist to make all concerned realise that the project was a stupid waste of time and money from the very start?

Catholic La Croix looks at this and several other disputes about appropriate land use . . . there's the proposed airport near the western city of Nantes and the "Thousand Cow" farm project in northern France . . . suggesting that there's an ever-widening and dangerous gap between the citizen and the decision-maker.

Le Monde's science supplement reports the possibility that researchers have finally found the missing 80 per cent of the universe.

The mass of things like stars and planets accounts for only one fifth of the total mass of everything, the rest being "black matter", which has, up to now, remained either invisible or very well-hidden.

There is the possibility that teams have now found the missing four fifths lurking 250 million light years away. There's still some doubt about the findings, which involve yokes called "weakly interacting massive particles" or "Wimps" to their friends, and the scientific community is being typically cautious.

One chap interviewed by Le Monde says he's not sure about the light but he thinks we're near the end of the tunnel. Another says that if this discovery turns out to be a dud, we're going to have to rewrite nothing less than the laws of physics. That's fighting talk.

 

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