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French press review 25 February 2015

Greece is the big news this morning, with communist L'Humanité producing a special edition put together in Athens, while centrist Le Monde says the new Greek government has been forced to yield to Europe in the financial arm-wrestling over who pays what to whom and when.

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L'Humanité is in upbeat form, with a main headline celebrating "A people on the march". But the statistics are uncompromising: the Greek rate of inflation for last year is nearly -3.0 per cent, which is bleak in terms of economic growth and tax collection, already a difficult task for the Athens authorities.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The Greek unemployment rate at the end of last year was nearly 26 per cent, putting an impossible burden on state coffers which are already down to the boards.

The new government is trying to find a way to balance the demands of Europe and the diametrically opposed expectations of ordinary Greeks. It'll be a neat trick if they can pull it off.

Le Monde is anything but optimistic. The centrist daily suggests that the fact that Europe has accepted the Greek list of promised reforms does not mean that Athens is out of the woods. Far from it.

The 19 finance ministers of the eurozone have accepted the wish list as "a start" but they want more from Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza government. Basically, they want guarantees that the promises on paper will somehow get worked out in the real world, enabling the Greek economy to continue functioning, even if it looks like needing the life support provided by Europe, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for some time to come.

The crucial element in Athens's promises and everybody else's demands is the struggle against fraud and tax evasion, reckoned to be the main reasons the Greek economy is in such tatters. Le Monde unoptimistically reminds us that neither the Greek socialist party, Pasok, nor the conservatives of New Democracy had the political courage to attack endemic corruption when in government.

Athens has already agreed to stop cancelling privatisations, there's no start date or amount for the promised minimum wage, with the government reduced to promising better social protection, cheaper energy and access to food and housing for the poorest.

Tsipras clearly has it all to do.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Speaking of governments in trouble, right-wing Le Figaro is happy to point out that France’s ruling Socialists, already deeply riven and racked by the recent economic reform bill, now face even tougher times as Prime Minister Manual Valls and his team attempt to change French labour law. The prime minister is to present his outlines of a new law for social dialogue later today.

The trade unions and the bosses have been at one another's throats for the past four months, without the slimmest suggestion that they might be finding common ground. Now the divided forces of the left will have to reconcile union demands for social security with management demands for greater flexibility.

Le Figaro laments that, as was the case for the Macron law on finance, any changes to the labour landscape are likely to be watered down to the point of nonsense by Socialist shilly-shallying with the demands of its own “rebels”, who have the courage to criticise the government but are not prepared to vote against it. The result will be a revised labour law which will do nothing to make it easier to get a job, Le Figaro claims.

If the president and the prime minister were serious about the reforms they have undertaken, the paper, they'd have the courage to risk a dissolution of parliament.

But they aren't, so they won't.

Catholic La Croix looks at the ways the French authorities are trying to prevent the religious radicalisation of prisoners. It may be an almost impossible task but La Croix draws hope from the British experience which has used Muslim chaplains and psychological profiling to identify those at risk.

Libérationlooks at the way the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo killings are rebuilding their lives and their publication, due back on French newsstands this morning.
 

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