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French press review 23 January 2015

Some French newspapers this morning continue the soul-searching and call for effective action in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings in which a total of 20 people died in Paris a little over two weeks ago. But they also look at Nigeria's Boko Haram and Greece's Syriza.


The centrist daily Le Monde leads with a story saying the government intends to put secularism - that's the belief that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element - at centre stage in French schools in an effort to "reinforce the values of the republic".

On its opinion pages Le Monde invites the views of academics.

One of them argues that "we can't have secularism without the teaching of rationality - that's to say logical thinking." Much of French thought is guided by logic. "Ce n'est pas logique" (that's not logical) is a phrase seldom far from people's lips. Jihadists rely on fundamentalist interpretations of religious texts, François Durpaire says.

To counter this French school must revive the teachings of Descartes, he argues. That's René Descartes - the 17th century philosopher, mathematician and writer - often regarded as the first thinker to emphasise the use of reason - and a man widely revered in France. Indeed, one measure of his importance here is that many French lycées are named after him. His best known statement is "I think, therefore I am."

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

Echoing the words of Prime Minister Manuel Valls earlier this week, a second academic, Nathalie Mons, argues that France must end what she calls "educational apartheid".

Ethnic segregation in schools, she says, increases all the risks to society. France must organise unsegregated school and put an end to what she calls "educational ghettos". Schools should be socially and ethnically mixed. Like French King Henri IV's - and US president Herbert Hoover's - promise of a chicken in every pot, that's easier said than done.

Looking further afield, in its front page editorial Le Monde worries about the widening Islamist insurgency in Nigeria. Once confined to the far north of the country, the armed insurrection by Boko Haram extremists has become an international problem.

Last week, observes Le Monde, Chad became involved in the conflict, deploying troops to northern Cameroon to try to halt the advance of the Islamist sect towards its border and that of neighbouring Niger. The paper quotes a Chadian diplomat as saying "Faced with the inactivity of the Nigerian army we cannot stand idly by. Boko Haram is at our door."

Several papers wonder what happens next in Greece and what it will mean for the rest of us in Europe.

"Greeks - between revolt and exhaustion" is the front page headline in the Catholic daily La Croix.

Worn out by five years of austerity, some 10 million Greeks will vote on Sunday in an election that could deliver power to the radical left party Syriza. The party promises to renegotiate the country's debt and reverse the austerity policies which have resulted in a fall in salaries of between 30 and 50 per cent, 26 per cent unemployment and widespread misery.

Not such a bad thing, is the view of the communist daily L'Humanité.

"With Syriza", the paper trumpets, "the Greek people could rekindle hope in Europe."

The latest 25 opinion polls put them in the lead, the L'Humanité reports. Whether the party will win an absolute majority in parliament is another question. A victory will have huge repercussions for the rest of Europe; says the paper's editorial. The hope is that a challenge to what the French far left and many in the ruling Socialist Party regard as misguided austerities policies will force a change in direction.

That may be wishful thinking. Stay tuned.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

Left-leaning Libération leads on the decision by European Central Bank president Mario Draghi to inject more than one trillion euros into the ailing eurozone economies in an attempt to stimulate growth.

Libé calls it an historic change of direction. The paper tells us that "there is at least one smart banker in Europe: Mario Draghi." Libé tells us it's been clear for several years that EU policies were leading to economic stagnation.

Monetary policy adopted by the United Kingdom and the United States has proved more effective, the paper says. That policy, known in impenetrable banker-speak as "quantitative easing", which being translated means "printing money", has revived growth in the "Anglo-Saxon" economies, Libé informs us. Draghi has convinced European leaders that we have need of it too. Though the paper warns of the need for prudence. The risk is that a tsunami of new money will fuel speculation and punish the less well-off.

The single word headline is "Late". Libé's view is better late than never.


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