French press review 30 January 2015
Issued on: Modified:
There are rich picking in the French newspapers this morning. Investigators look into the Charlie Hebdo killers’ mentor. Opinions are divided over Greece’s new leaders. A society photographer is in the dock in the long-running Bettencourt affair. And is McDonald’s heading for the dustbin of history ... and taking Barbie with it?
Le Monde leads with a story on an investigation into the supposed "mentor" of those responsible for the Charlie Hebdo slaughter and related killings in Paris earlier this month. He's the person experts in radical Islam first thought of when the identity of the killers was known.
It was under the auspices of one Djamel Beghal, a Franco-Algerian terrorist imprisoned in France, that one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, Chérif Kouachi, and kosher supermarket killer, Amedy Coulibaly, became aquainted in jail in 2006.
In 2013, Le Monde tells readers, a Paris magistrate described the pair as "the pupils" of Djamel Beghal. A veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan, Beghal has been imprisoned several times on terror-related offences, including an alleged plot to attack the American embassy in Paris and helping to arrange an attempted jail-break by another terrorist convicted of bombing on the RER underground railway in Paris in 1995.
Investigators are seeking to discover what role, if any, he played in the build-up to the Paris attacks. In the days following the killings, his prison cell was searched three times. Beghal brings people together, builds bridges between Islamists worldwide and spreads an extremist version of religion, Le Monde says. For 20 years Beghal has been identified as a menace, the paper laments in a two-page investigative piece. But the authorities have little hard evidence against him.
Other stories which warrant front-page teasers are about Syriza, the new ruling party in Greece, under the headline "First steps, first clashes". The story is about Greece's debt burden and the controversy about what to do about it. As ever, on its opinion pages, Le Monde gives space to differing points of view. On the one hand, the party leader Alexis Tsipras is a "demagogue" - a political agitator who appeals with crude oratory to the prejudice and passions of the mob. On the other, after the vote in Greece, European Union leaders must listen to the voice of the people. Which, some would say, would make a welcome change.
Plus there is the latest from the Bettencourt trial. The is the latest episode in a long-running soap opera and the climax of a seven-year saga that the French press have dubbed a "judicial Dallas”, a reference to the popular television drama about a
dysfunctional family of Texas oil barons. Ten people are accused of trying to defraud Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oréal heiress and France’s richest woman. Earlier this week, one of the accused, the billionaire’s former night nurse Alain Thurin, attempted suicide.
The latest in the dock, reports Le Monde, was François-Marie Banier, photographer, writer and the main defendant in the Bettencourt trial. He is accused of extracting a little over 450 million euros from his good friend Liliane. On Wednesday he repaid around 100 million. After nearly six hours in the dock, he emerged without much apparent damage. Unlike Dallas, this drama is unscripted. But, like Dallas, it promises to run and run.
The Catholic daily La Croix is worried about Greece’s crippling debts. While the new government announced measures to increase public spending, the question of erasing the debt bothers Europe. The paper wonders whether all or some of the debt could be written off. For the record Greece owes 320 billion euros. Some analysts says Yes. Some say No. A comment offered by Etienne Perrot, a Jesuit and an economist, declares that "Any debtor must show that it is able to repay." Which is pretty much what my bank manager says to me when I ask for a loan.
The communist daily L'Humanité continues to celebrate the election victory in Greece of the radical left party Syriza. The shock of their victory has divided Europe into two camps, the paper says. Those who want to continue the strict austerity measures that have crippled Greece and those who don't. The left - at least the genuine left, as L'Humanité sees it - wants an end to austerity. The paper is critical of France's Socialist President François Hollande, saying they don't see left-wing policies in the choices he has made. Essentially, Hollande's government has opted for austerity, cutting here, cutting there, in an effort to placate Brussels and Berlin. L'Humanité hopes events in Greece will deliver fresh hope and a new momentum to those opposed to the sackcloth and ashes and self-flagellation which, in their view, Europe has endured for too long already.
Last but not least, left-leaning Libération wonders if we're seeing "the end of the American dream".
Because the bosses of iconic US brands, Mattel, creators of the Barbie Doll, and McDonalds, purveyors of what some consider "junk food", have announced reduced sales and smaller profits. Evidence, says Libé, of the crisis facing multinationals that are becoming passé. One senses that Libé would not mourn their tumbling into the dustbin of history. But I wouldn't bet on it.