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French press review 10 March 2015

Death and taxation, those inescapable scourges of life after the Fall, dominate this morning's French front pages.


Death, because today sees the opening of the debate at the National Assembly on a law which would allow for the terminal sedation of the incurably ill.

Taxation, because the European finance ministers are later today expected to give France another two years to get its financial house in order - but in exchange for new promises from Paris and a fairly draconian system of supervision.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Le Figaro says more and more Europeans are becoming annoyed with French incapacity to balance the books and with Brussels' seemingly endless patience. The crucial problem is that the new plan will involve saving a further 30 billion euros over the next two years and that is not likely to do much to boost economic growth.

The paper's editorial is a conservative classic. It says that France's repeated attempts to pull the wool over everybody's eyes have failed and that the proud nation will henceforth have to submit to monthly visits from the little men from Brussels, chaps in grey suits who will come to count the centimes remaining in the national coffers and make sure that no government profligacy is allowed to drag France further from the straight and narrow path which is supposed to be followed by all in the eurozone.

The country is now - shock, horror! - being treated like the Greeks.

Le Figaro says it was inevitable and quotes Abe Lincoln to the effect that you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you can't fool all the people all the time.

When the people in question work for the European Central Bank, the scope for fooling them is sharply limited.

Le Figaro says it is unreasonable to complain about the interfering arrogance of the technocrats. France knowingly signed on to the treaties which regulate the single currency, contributing to the formulation of many of the rules which have now turned against the country.

France has too many civil servants and gives out too much free social welfare, it thinks. The watered-down economic reforms in the recent Macron law have done nothing to attack the underlying structural problems, Le Figaro believes. And so we have the inspectors in. It's a shame.

The law on the end of human life, to be debated later today in the French parliament, was framed by a team involving left-wingers and conservatives. There was an enormous amount of consultation, much public debate and a real desire to see the question examined with dignity and respect.

But that was then. Now, deputies on both the right and left of the political divide find themselves unable to support a law which President François Hollande hoped would pass in a spirit of consensus.

Some think the proposed law goes too far; others not far enough.

Is the right to be fatally sedated under certain conditions - when you are hopelessly ill, in chronic pain, for example - a step forward for patients' rights or simply another ethical dilemma which will make the everyday practise of medicine even more fraught with conflict and risk?

Le Monde publishes opinions, for and against, by doctors -  broadly against by a man who teaches medical ethics and very definitely against by Catholic, Jewish and Muslim clerics who jointly call for respect for the fundamental principle that thou shalt not kill.

Catholic La Croix simply hopes that the French parliament will find a fair and balanced solution to a difficult problem.

Left-leaning Libération offers an insight into the four weeks of negotiations between the new Greek government and the old European creditors, a month of heated debate which should save Athens, at least temporarily, from going belly-up and Europe, at least technically, from letting the world see that the eurozone is a financial minefield.

Greece is due to pay back 1.2 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund this very month and needs to find a further 4.3 billion to give to those who were brave enough to buy short-term government bonds. The Syriza government doesn't have the price of a soggy moussaka. So Alexis Tsipras and his mates are in a tight corner, with Brussels offering the next phase of the European save-the-Greeks fund, a cool 7.2 billion euros, in return for some signs of compliance from formerly feisty Alexis. How the mighty are fallen.

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