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French press review 18 July 2015

The 'Grexit' is out of sight but not out of mind, as the German parliament green-lights a Greek bailout plan with "legitimate scepticism". Direct French investments in Britain leap by a record 12 per cent, and a fine documentary explores the evolution and impact of protest songs in modern history.


The Greek crisis comes under renewed scrutiny after EU hawk Germany green-lit the deal  119 lawmakers out of the Bundestag’s 631 voting against the rescue plan. Le Figaro says that while Chancellor Angela Merkel urged legislators to support the deal, it wasn’t with the most convincing language.

She actually referred to "legitimate scepticism" and called it a "last try" even as she urged lawmakers to back it, saying the alternative was "chaos and violence". Merkel’s heart, the conservative newspaper points out, is with hawks in her party who believe that it still might be better for Greece to exit the euro, at least for a five-year "time-out."

But Le Figaro’s lead article is a jibe at the controversial Micron law, sponsored by Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron on liberalising the economy, passed by parliament this week. That’s not enough to turn around the economy, says the paper.

It refers to a new breed of French entrepreneurs streaming across the British channel to settle in London as the clearest evidence that things are better on the other side.

Furthermore it argues that France has become the most important European contributor of direct investments in the United Kingdom, with a 12 per cent increase from last year.

According to the paper, they are being lured away by less red tape, the flexibility of the labour market and a lighter burden of social contributions on companies. It is not just the business school graduates trooping towards London but also young unqualified French workers, writes the conservative publication.

At such times of globalisation, it says, citizens know no frontiers and settle where the conditions are perfect to implement their projects. Le Figaro says it will take more than scrapping the “stupid and anti-economic” 75 per cent wealth tax slapped on wages exceeding one million euros per year to turn the economy around.

There is one domain where the French are in no mood to recognise British superiority. It’s the Davis Cup as the two nations clash in the quarter-finals at Queen’s club in London this weekend. The old rivals who are meeting for the first time in 23 years are level at 1-1 with the showdown expected to be decided by the doubles later Saturday. But France, nine-time winners, haven’t lost to Britain since 1978. This is while Great Britain hunts for their first semi-final place in 34 years.

This weekend’s issue of Libération carries an interesting feature on the evolution and impact of protests songs on our society. The article published under Libé’s “summer of peace” supplement reviews a thrilling new documentary looking back at landmark events of our era.

It goes back to Billy Holiday’s “Strange Fruits” of the 1930s, evoking the hanging and lynching of blacks; Joan Baez’s “We Shall Overcome” campaign for equal rights between whites and blacks; the Woodstock Festival grouping of “charismatic non-conformists” such as Bob Dylan with his theme song "Blowing in the Wind"; and the “Make Love Not War” chic hippy époque of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that galvanised the global campaign against the Vietnam War.

The documentary also explores the harvest of Bob Geldof and his Band Aid charity for the victims of famine in Ethiopia in 1985 and Michael Jackson’s “We're the World” appeal for a worldwide emergency assistance fund for children.

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