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French press review 8 December 2014


The main headline in Le Monde tells us that "Justice is on trial in the United States".

The centrist paper says that the recent series of killings of black suspects by white police officers . . . and subsequent court decisions in favour of the police . . . has provoked a huge out-pouring of anger, revealed the depth of America's racial divide, and provided an unwelcome challege for the first non-white US president.

Le Monde says the in-coming Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, faces a tough task once her nomination has been approved by the Senate. She is black, has worked in New York, and has already made a name for herself by prosecuting policemen accused of beating up a black man.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The crucial question seems to concern the way in which the so-called grand juries function in cases involving allegations of police misconduct. Says Le Monde, these juries meet in closed session and their deliberations remain secret. They are renowned for their clemency toward police suspects, with the district attorney choosing the witnesses and organising the hearings. But the same district attorney has close working links with the police.So there may be a structural problem in the way justice is being administered when it involves police suspects.

The same topic dominates the front page of catholic La Croix, where we are told that America has still not come to terms with its segregationist past.

The catholic daily warns against generalisation, before suggesting that the recent spate of judicial killings is symptomatic of a situation in which a large part of the American population no longer believes in either justice or the police.

And, says La Croix, the way these events are viewed are very different for different communities. White Americans don't associate the violence with skin colour, but with poverty, social inequality, exclusion, perhaps failing to see the links between those problems and skin colour. For many within the black population of the United States, there's a clear racist agenda at work, with African-Americans more likely to be stopped by the police, more harshly questioned, and more likely to be the victims of police violence.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The only positive point for La Croix is the fact that so many of the demonstrations we have seen in recent weeks in the US have seen black and white militants against the scourge of racism marching side by side. Fundamental change is, perhaps, needed, but it is certainly possible.

The front page of left-leaningLibération has the French president François Hollande on manoeuvres. The head of state and a group of his political allies are now talking openly about a bid to retain the presidency in the next election, in 2017. It's a brave move for a man whose personal unpopularity has plumbed new depths in the opinion polls. Especially since Hollande has himself linked any attermpt to win re-election to a dramatic improvement in the employment statistics.

Now, since the economic horizon looks darker than ever; Hollande is attempting to widen his circle of friends so that he can call on a bloc of socialist and green supporters if he decides to run.

Libé reminds us that Hollande started his campaign for election in 2012 with just 6 per cent support in the opinion polls, and he went on to win with 51 per cent of votes. He's a fighter, a believer, an optimist, and, if he loses, warns Libé, the entire left-wing establishment will go down the tubes with him. Which may explain why so many socialist heavyweights are coming over to the little-loved president's corner.

The main story in conservative Le Figaro tells us that "Angela Merkel wants France to reform". And not just France. Little Mutti would like to see Italy pulling up its economic socks too, both Paris and Rome needing to get back in line with the budgetary norms of the eurozone.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin has said in reply that French economic policy is divised for the good of France and not to satisfy any European ruler. Which is to forget French obligations under the single money system, but that's preferable to taking guff from the German gaffer.

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