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French press review 4 September 2015


The French papers are unanimous in their choice of top subject this morning. Whether they call them "migrants" or "refugees", all Paris dailies give pride of place to the tragedy which has cost thousands of lives as people flee war and starvation in the hope of finding something better in Europe.


His name is Aylan Kurdi, he was three years old and he's on several French front pages this morning. Aylan drowned in the Mediterranean earlier this week, along with 10 other would-be refugees on their way to Europe.

The image of a little boy, face down, alone, on a Turkish beach, is tragic. We've seen many other such photos over the past few months but the fact that this victim was a child makes a huge emotional difference.

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Whether Ayral Kurdi's death will make any political difference remains to be seen.

Le Monde's editorial says the image will serve as an emblem of the unprecedented flood of migrants that no one in Europe wants to acknowledge.

The fact is, according to the centrist daily, that with Syria and Iraq imploding, neighbouring states like Jordan and Lebanon can no longer accommodate all those families forced to flee the fighting. They try to reach Europe, somewhere along the way ceasing to be refugees and turning into migrants. A plague, rather than people who have been forced from their homes.

Le Monde admits that the current crisis poses huge problems for a Europe already struggling with mass unemployment and barely sustainable debt. The old continent does have the resources to help; but it requires political will and courage to make those resources available.

L'Humanité publishes the same sad picture with a headline saying "Indignation is no longer enough".

The Communist Party paper says it is time Europe offered a dignified welcome to what it calls those "shipwrecked by war and global business", thus refusing to accept the impossible distinction between economic migrants and political refugees.

Catholic La Croix says French public opinion has never been more aware of the plight of the refugees, with many individuals showing their solidarity, either through offering food, clothing or French lessons. One man interviewed by the Catholic daily left the keys of his Toulouse home to a Congolese migrant while he went away on holidays. The group "Welcome" is asking families with a spare room to open their doors to those without a roof. The number of volunteers has doubled over the past three months, from 15 families to 30. It's a start.

Libération's headline is a stark call for action. The left-leaning daily also looks at the ways in which concerned citizens are trying to fill the vacuum left by dithering governments.

Right-wing Le Figaro says Europe's political leaders have finally woken up to the gravity of the situation and are now struggling to hammer out some kind of compromise on quotas.

Paris and Berlin agree that a quota system is the way ahead, but they still have to convince the other European Union members.

And the right-wing paper admits that neither walls nor quotas are the answer. The walls won't work, says Le Figaro's editorial, and what's the point of sending people who want to live in Germany to Spain or Portugal? There's to be yet another summit later this month. How many bodies will be washed up on Mediterranean shores in the interim?

On its inside pages, Libération looks to Burundi in the wake of the swearing-in of President Pierre Nkurunziza. After a brief period of calm, the divisions between those who support the president and those who feel his reelection was unconstitutional have again become extremely violent, with a least six people reported dead in clashes this week alone.

In its financial supplement, Le Monde notes that the top 40 companies quoted on the Paris Stock Exchange managed to make a combined profit of 39 billion euros in the first six months of this year, that's 27 per cent better than the previous half year. Not bad, considering there's a crisis.

Unfortunately, things are not getting any better at Flamanville on the northern French coast, where a nuclear power station is being built, somewhat slowly. The project is going to cost 10.5 billion euros, a long way from the original three-billion budget and it will be at least six years behind schedule.

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