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French press review 28 July 2015

The French press is in an ideological war over unemployment figures. French farmers harden their protest over falling food prices, and a diplomatic war looms between Brussels and New Delhi as the European Union suspends the sale of 700 generic drugs made in India.

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The release of the French jobless figures by the national employment agency has unleashed a statistics war in which the belligerents appear unwilling to take prisoners. The public job search body announced on Monday that a number of registered job seekers in Category A, representing people without any activity, remained stable in June with a small increase of just 1,300 people. That is on a total number of 3.5 million unemployed in the mainland and 3.8 million including the overseas territories.

The agency also reported 18,000 less in Catergory B, for reduced activity workers. But as Liberation explains, Pole Emploi‘s new classification criteria has come under strong criticism from conservative circles, with some right-wing economist accusing the body of spin.

Le Figaro reports that the real figures are 5.7 million unemployed and not 3.8 million as stated in the Pole Emploi statistics. There can’t expect an uptick in job figures without a major reform of the labour market, argues the right-wing newspaper.

For the publication, while Rome relaxes labour laws, the UK making job contracts more flexible and Germany tracking down long-term job seekers, French President François Hollande and his aides are maintaining their game of prognosis. No surprise, it says, that France has become the dunce of the European class.

An MP for the opposition Les Republicains bluntly accuses the government of adding lies to bad results, vowing to sponsor a motion calling for a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate the real unemployment figures.

Libération voices strong concern at radicalisation of the French farmers furious over falling food prices. According to the left-leaning newspaper, despite the recent government offer a thousand farmers backed by hundreds of tractors set up checkpoints and searched lorries in Laval on Monday before rallying at a giant milk production complex.

For Libé, they are strangled by a model which has shown its limits. French products have fallen into a import-export trap, says L’Humanité. A member of the small farmers union, the Confederation Paysanne, tells the Communist party daily that the difficulty of promoting local farm produce has its roots in a system which in itself has global markets as its targets.

Le Monde warns that you can’t cheat or play around with quality in a domain as serious as health. This is after the European Medicines Agency banned the commercialisation in the EU zone of 700 generic drugs tested in India.

The medications, which include well-known painkiller tablets like ibuprofen, are currently sold by pharmaceutical giants including leading generic drugs giants such as Israel’s TEVA, the Swiss firm Sandoz and Mylan in the United States. The European Medecines Agency cited irregularities in the fabrication chain as well as shortcomings in quality control as the motive behind the ban.

Several European nations – including France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg -- did not wait for the EU to act, blocking sales in December or earlier this year.

India’s marketing strategy has been to bring down prices and production costs at the expense of quality comments, says Le Monde. As it found out, 64 per cent of India’s generic drug laboratories lack qualified personnel while 52 per cent of its pharmacists encounter difficulties in respecting the norms set by European and American quality control agencies.

Over the past two years, as the paper explains, the United States, which imports 40 per cent of its generic drugs from India, had ordered leading American drug factories such as Wockhardt to stop getting their supplies from India. This, according to Le Monde, was after the Food and Drug Administration tripled factory controls and reinforced its inspection teams in the country between 2009 and 2013.

It recalls the 2013 scandal in which Ranbaxy, one of the world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical laboratories, was found guilty by an American court of systematic falsification of quality control tests and slapped with a fine of 500 million dollars. EMA’s decision could spark a diplomatic crisis with India as New Delhi would not allow the reputation of its strategic pharmaceutical industry to be tarnished, according to Le Monde.

Several paper comment about the 600-million-euro takeover bid made by Altice boss Patrick Drahi for the NextRadioTV group, the mother company of BFM and RMC broadcasters, on Monday. Le Monde says the telecoms tycoon who already owns Numericable/SFR and the publications Libération and L’Express is looking to extend his business empire.

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