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French press review 27 November 2014

Is the polar bear doomed? And what about the European economy? How many stars do France’s prisons have? How Green is François Hollande? Will France give Russia its Mistrals?


We could be living in the last century of the polar bear, according to Le Monde. The centrist paper quotes a Canadian study which says polar bears are likely to be extinct by the year 2100 because the current pattern of ice-cap retreat is significantly reducing the capacity of the species to hunt for food.

The main story in Le Monde is not much happier, since it looks at if Europe might also be on the verge of extinction. As the US economy takes off, the old continent seems glued to the ground. According to the centrist daily, even the proposed plan to boost European industrial investment by more than 300 billion euros is a bit dubious, since the cash is going to have to come from the very same private investors who have, up to now, regarded Europe as a waste of time and money.

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Conservative daily Le Figaro is worried about the French prison population. Not about the appalling conditions under which France's 67,000 prisoners live under a system designed to hold about two-thirds of that number. The right-wing paper is worried that the crazy Socialists are about to free hundreds of axe-murderers and bank robbers in order to get the prison service running smoothly again. Le Figaro quotes a right-wing UMP deputy as saying, "The prisons are being run on a logic borrowed from the hotel industry."

Is the French president really Green? That's the question posed by the front page of left-leaning Libération. And the answer is ... yes and no. The paper is divided on whether François Hollande's position at the recent G20 meeting, characterised by an offer to do more than the neighbours and more quickly, was sincere and motivated by a concern for polar bears, or yet another political calculation by a man who needs all the friends he can get.

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One journalist says Hollande is helping the cause of ecology; another says it's all rhetoric.

Former ecology minister Delphine Batho, now one of the chief rebel Socialists, has no doubt whatsoever. She says there's a total mismatch between what the president says and what he does. According to Batho, Hollande has said that the Fessenheim nuclear reactor is closing … and that it is not; the ecotax is abolished … but only until the new regions are obliged to put it in place; shale gas is a no-no in France … but Paris finances the exploitation of bituminous sands in Canada; ecology has been one of the worst hit areas in government spending cuts … despite the claim by Hollande that it is a national priority.

It sounds like a bad joke about the way low-cost airlines allegedly treat their passengers but this story is absolutely true, and Le Monde's web site has a video to prove it.

Yesterday, at the Russian airport of Igarka, the temperature dropped to -52°C and froze the brakes of a Tupolev aircraft that was preparing to taxi to its take-off point. The little truck which normally pushes planes into position was unable to move the frozen monster, so 30 of the 70 passengers got off and provided the muscle power to get the aircraft moving. Thanks to their efforts, the flight arrived in Krasnoyarsk safely and practically on time.

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Staying with Russia, Le Monde looks at how the local press has been responding to the news that France has decided not to deliver the Mistral warships built under contract for the Kremlin.

The daily paper Kommersant quotes Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu as saying, more or less, we don't care, we don't need them, we didn't want them in the first place, now give us back the money.

Government paper Rossiskaia Gazeta says Moscow will have to go to an international tribunal to get its deposit back and may not get it all.

The business daily Vedomosti says it's a slap in the face for the Russian military machine and for those politicians who think everything and everybody can be bought.

Against critics who suggest that this will weigh on France's reputation as a commercial partner, says Vedomosti in an editorial, it is also impressive that Paris regards national frontiers and Ukrainian sovereignty as more important than cash.

The same paper warns that there could be commercial repercussions, like a Russian ban on French wines, Peugeot cars and even, shock, horror, the withdrawal of French tax exile Gérard Depardieu's Russian passport.


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