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French press review 18 November 2014

Both Le Monde and Le Figaro devote their top story to Maxime Hauchard, the 22-year-old Frenchman believed to have been involved in the recent decapitation of the American hostage, Peter Kassig, and 18 Syrian soldiers.


Born to a catholic family in a village south of the city of Rouen, Hauchard converted to islam when he was 17-years-old. According to Le Figaro, his radicalisation was entirely due to the influence of fundamentalist internet sites. Since then, he has maintained his own internet presence; promoting the experience of holy war, explaining the ease with which potential jihadists can cross the Turkish border into Syria, and saying that the personal objective of himself and his colleagues is martyrdom, "the greatest reward".

The conservative newspaper wonders whether Maxime Hauchard could be deprived of his French nationality. The answer is no, he can not. Article 25 of French civil law does allow for the withdrawal of nationality of someone implicated in terrorist acts, but the same article says this withdrawal can not be applied unless the person involved already has a second nationality. The law can not be used to produce stateless persons.

And, should he ever wish to return to France, Hauchard will have the legal right to do just that.

Nicolas Sarkozy is on the front page of Le Monde, following his weekend promise to reverse the law allowing homosexual couples to get married like everyone else.

Le Monde says his latest position has caused even deeper discontent and division in his own UMP camp, just weeks before the election of a new party president; an election which Sarko is favoutrite to win.

The centrist paper also points to a certain element of opportunism in the Sarkozy discourse on gay marriage, suggesting that he adjusts his principles depending on who he's talking to. When he was campaigning for election in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy said homosexual love deserved legal recognition and he was in favour of "civil union" for same sex couples. Once elected, he forgot. As president, he frequently called for matters of sexuality to be left in the private sphere. More recently, he has called for tighter controls on medically-assisted procreation and surrogate parenthood. Earlier this month he said his job was to unite French people and that he would therefore refuse to take any hardline position either for or against marriage for everybody. Until this weekend, before a conservative catholic audience, when he overcame his reticence and said he'd do away with the law.

This is going to be a decisive week for the Iranian nuclear program, demanded by Teheran as an economic necessity, feared by just about everybody else as a lit match in a gunpowder factory.

A final week of negotiations opens today in the Austrian capital, Vienna, with a grand compromise expected to be agreed over the next seven days. "One week to undo a decade of failures" is how Le Monde summarises the situation. And the centrist paper is not overly optimistic. Basically, the game comes down to an ending of western sanctions (which have deprived Iran of most of its oil revenue) in exchange for strict limits on the amount of enriched uranium Teheran can produce. But that was exactly the case ten years ago. The only thing that has really changed over the decade is that regional stability has further deteriorated, making a final agreement even more necessary.

Catholic newspaper La Croix gives pride of place to the debate about euthanasia. The parliamentary mission which has been looking at questions about ways of ending human life is due to present its report this week.

Click to see the infographic

In an editorial, the catholic daily accepts recent opinion poll findings which indicate that most French people would like to have the choice about the timing and conditions of their final moments. But La Croix goes on to say that the debate is not a simple decision for or against euthanasia.

The crucial question is much more complex than the simple right to die. The law has to ensure, insofar as it's possible, that everyone lives with dignity and dies in serenity. Not an easy task.

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