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French press review 1 April 2015

France's "taxation hell", corrupt cops, organ donations and the dangers of anti-terrorism are among the subjects in this morning's French papers.


Le Monde just can't get over last weekend's departmental elections.

This morning, the centrist paper gives pride of place to French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who cancelled a planned visit to Berlin so that he could meet Socialist deputies, traumatised by the party's latest electoral hammering.

Valls has promised to encourage investment, but is not going to be making any dramatic changes to economic policy. That has earned him a critical blast from ecologist MP Cécile Duflot, who thinks the prime minister is locked into an outdated mindset. Duflot's Green colleagues remain divided on the question of a return to government.

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Crucially, according to Le Monde, the massive advance of the right in the departmental elections marks the beginning of the end for what the centrist paper calls "municipal socialism", the way in which local problems are solved by local politicians. And this, suggests Le Monde, could very well lead to a general weakening of the Socialist Party itself, since its structure is dependent on, in the first place, the 10 per cent of councillor salaries which the central coffers normally receive and the broader net of relations which forms the grassroots of the party.

Conservative daily Le Figaro also gives the top of the front page to Valls and his admission that "taxation has smothered the French economy".

According to the right-wing paper, Valls now accepts that the government was slow to realise the damaging effects of excessive taxation on both businesses and the ordinary household. The prime minister hopes that the struggling Responsability Pact with business and the abolition of income tax for the lowest paid will soon begin to have a positive effect.

Says Le Figaro in an editorial headlined "April Fools," the Socialist government's inept effort to close the debt gap by wringing taxes out of businesses and workers already under huge pressure has done nothing but increase the deficit and force factory closures.

France is a "fiscal hell", one of the most heavily taxed nations on the planet, according to Le Figaro. According to the rankings published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, only the Danes pay more tax than the struggling French.

In a separate story, Le Figaro says the French tax authorities are, perhaps not surprisingly, the world champions in what the right-wing paper politely calls "fiscal creativity". Apart from run-of-the-mill taxes like VAT, income, housing and inheritance charges, the French also face such sly and frequently incomprehensible deductions as a tax on fizzy drinks, a tax on boat moorings, a tax on table-football, on footpaths (!) . . . no fewer than 44 new taxes over the past four years to bring the current total to 360 forms of direct and indirect taxation. A world record, laments Le Figaro, saying that the final impact is the strangulation of the national economy and a boost for those in the thriving parallel "black" system, who choose to pay cash and avoid the hassle.

Other front page topics this morning . . .

Left-wing Libération looks at corruption in the ranks of the police, suggesting that certain services, notably the anti-drugs unit, offer unlimited scope for criminality to those supposed to be the good guys.

Communist L'Humanité suggests that the anti-terrorism bill currently being considered by the French parliament is a threat to public and personal freedoms.

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The basic idea is to give the French security services the maximum access to phone links, computer accounts and any other forms of communication likely to be used by those planning terrorist attacks. No one has a word to say against that worthy motivation. However, warns L'Huma, once the legal wall protecting personal privacy has been breached to stop the terrorists, the breach remains open and could lead to a dangerous drift such as has been witnessed in the United States in the wake of the Patriot Act, passed by the Bush administration after 9/11, frequently misused since.

Catholic La Croix gives front-page prominence to the debate on organ donations, the practise of reusing the organs of accident victims to prolong the lives of the critically ill. The central question concerns the wishes of the bereaved familiy, frequently traumatised by their loss and not necessarily capable of making the most balanced decision.


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