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French press review 3 September 2015


President François Hollande hands tough Labour Ministry to young Moroccan-born woman and angry tractor-riding farmers stage a massive blockade of Paris in their tug of war with the government over falling food prices. 


Myriam El Khomri's face is splashed across many of today's papers after her appointment to the Ministry of Labour on Wednesday.

Liberation welcomes the promotion of the former junior Minister in charge of Urban Development, with an expression familiar to lovers of French cuisine -- “La Surprise du Chef” or the surprise from the boss.

The Moroccan-born El Khomri is aged just 37 and becomes the youngest member of the cabinet and the first woman in 13 years to head the problem-laden ministry.

Picking a relatively inexperienced pair of hands to replace Francois Rebsamen is a risky gamble argues the left-leaning Liberation, as huge tasks lie ahead. It's now up to her to rein in the spiralling unemployment which has dogged President Hollande’s Presidency.

Despite her reputation as a hard and resolute worker Libération relays the pessimism of a leader of the Socialist back bench rebels, Christian Paul, who claims that her personality is not tough enough to deal with the structural economic problems.

"Myriam El Khomri inherits the dirty work" headlines daily l’Humanité. According to the Communist party daily she takes over a key post where none of her predecessors for more than 15 years have obtained results.

Le Figaro says the month-long wait for the cabinet reshuffle has become unbearable. It is needed to replace Rebsamen, who stepped down following his re-election as Mayor of his home town. The right-wing paper says the surprise appointment of Myriam El Khomri has opened an angle of attack for the conservative opposition, who accuses President Hollande of down-grading the strategic ministry by not appointed a political heavy weight to lead it.

Le Figaro quotes an unnamed minister complaining that “you can’t launch explosive reform projects such as unemployment, social dialogue and the labour code and yet appoint someone who knows nothing about them.

On its part, the Catholic daily La Croix says El Khomri deserves to be given a chance on the strength of her record at the office for Urban Development, where she created free urban trade zones and introduced the original concept of territorial entrepreneurs to fight endemic unemployment in the suburbs of Paris.

But what should have been Myriam El Khomri’s day has been stolen by angry French farmers who are expected to bring more than 1500 tractors to Paris in an attept to blockade the city this Thursday. The protest comes after months of unrest as farmers in the dairy and meat industries become increasingly desperate in the face of plummeting food prices, which they blame on foreign competition, supermarkets and distributors.

“The countryside is en route to vent its anger in Paris”, headlines conservative Le Figaro, obviously pleased that the campaign has become what it claims is “a millstone around the neck of President Hollande’s friend” Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Fall.

The paper reports the fears of police, who think the tractors could cause huge traffic jams in the city. The Interior ministry has deployed some 2500 policemen at Paris' main arteries to prevent the farmers from entering the boulevard périphérique, the ring road around Paris.

Libération wonders if this is really a protest by desperate farmers or whether they are being manipulated by the powerful National Federation of Industrial Farmers Union (FNSEA) representing 55.50 percent of the farm owners.

The paper spoke to some small farm owners who have refused to be part of the action by the FNSEA. One denounces the union’s push for increased productivity arguing that its members are closer to agro-business than to agriculture. Another says it is the EU in Brussels that liberalized agriculture and scrapped farm quotas, suggesting that the fight to reduce production costs ought to be taken there, not to Paris.










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