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French press review 26 November 2014

Racial anger in the United States, the Pope in Strasbourg and Nicolas Sarkozy on the front page of Le Figaro. That just about sums up this morning's French papers.


Le Monde focuses on US President Barack Obama's call for an acceptance of the Grand Jury verdict which exonerated the white police officer who killed a young black man in Ferguson, Missouri, in August. That court decision has sparked a wave of often violent protest across the United States.

How US elections work

Left-wing paper Libération implicity rejects the president's call for respect for the legal process on which American democracy is based, with a front-page headline reading "Injustice".

The dead man's parents called for a just form of justice, underlining the sense shared by many American blacks that not much has changed since the civil rights campaign led by Martin Luther King in the 1960s.

The front page of Communist Party paper L'Humanité annnounces that this case has brought America face to face with its racist demons. According to L'Humanité, a crime was indeed committed in Ferguson and yet another injustice has now been inflicted on the nation's Afro-American community. The grand jury decision, for L'Humanité, is a symptom of endemic racism, fed by an ongoing policy of segregation which is part of the very way state and federal institutions are structured.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church spoke yesterday to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, telling all and sundry that they needed to live up to the ideals on which those two organisations were founded. Europe can either rise to the challenges posed by a world ever more connected and globalised and contribute to the cultural development of humanity or it can selfishly close in upon itself and become a dust-filled museum, Pope Francis said.

He recognises that the problems posed by migration, poverty, unemployment, the isolation of the old are not simple. But European culture, with its deepest roots in the Christian tradition, is equipped to ensure the primacy of human dignity, he said.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy in on the front page of conservative paper Le Figaro, promising to reunite the divided family of the French right. Given the way his supporters treated family member Alain Juppé at a meeting in Bordeaux last weekend where they booed and whistled him for suggesting allying with centre parties, that has to be taken with a barrel of salt. Sarko says there will, indeed, be a right-wing primary to choose the UMP candidate for the next presidential election and he denies any fratricidal intentions with regard to Juppé or anyone else with the temerity to get in his way.

By the way, Le Figaro also talks to Hervé Mariton, one of the candidates who risks been flattened by Sarkozy in next Saturday's election of a new president for the UMP party. He's having none of this worthy guff about reuniting the family. Mariton says he fears that the promised presidential primary in 2016 will turn into a terrible public bloodbath and could spell the end of the UMP.

The economics supplement in today's Le Figaro looks at the financial situation of rival paper, Libération, suggesting that daily may have to sack some employees in order to stay afloat, since there have not been enough volunteers for redundancy.

Yesterday, says Figaro, Libération's employees voted unanimously to reject any effort to force out workers who do not want to leave.

There are currently 95 volunteers, which sounds fine given that management's savings plan called for 93 job losses among the current 250 employees. But the problem is that there are too many volunteers in some departments and not enough elsewhere.

The staff say it is up to management to retrain those who want to stay to do the jobs of those who are happy to leave.

Libération expects to launch a new format, more focused on analysis than on current news events, in March of next year.

French oil company Total will face trial over allegations that the company bribed officials in Iran to acquire oil and gas concessions.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The firm will be charged with "corruption of foreign public officials" in a case that dates back nearly 20 years.

The charges concern alleged bribes made to officials to secure rights to Iranian gas and oil fields in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Last year, the French firm was forced to pay US authorities 398 million dollars in fines over the same charges.

The United States Justice Department said that Total intermediaries paid Iranian officials to obtain the rights to develop several oil and gas fields.

Former Total chief executive Christophe de Margerie, who was the director of Total’s Middle East department at the time of the alleged bribes, was last month ordered to stand trial over the affair.

De Margerie died in a plane crash in Moscow just days later, putting an end to the legal procedure against him.

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