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French press review 21 October 2015


Syria dominates this morning's French front pages one way or another. None of the news is good. China is to build a nuclear reactor in England. And Catholic La Croix looks at what the Volkswagen diesel pollution scandal is going to cost in economic, administrative and ecological terms. Lots.


Right-wing Le Figaro says the military rivalry between Moscow and Washington is now being played out on Syrian soil, with the two superpowers supporting various rivals in a battle of increasing technological complexity, thanks to the weapons being supplied by Russia and the US.

In an editorial headlined "The Proxy War", Le Figaro says the current situation is a repeat of the errors already made in Afghanistan and Libya and is only a short step from a dangerous broadening of the conflict.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Communist L'Humanité looks at the way vast amounts of the aid allocated by the European parliament to help migrants, the majority of them currently Syrian, are being swallowed up by the security effort to keep more migrants out.

If L'Humanité's figures are to be believed, of the 400 million euros which the budget commission proposes to make available to help deal with the refugee crisis, only 300,000 euros will go to the people helping asylum-seekers, while 300 million will be spent to impose European migration policy on countries near the conflict zone or those from which migrants finally embark in the direction of a Europe which doesn't want them.

Similarly, the budgets for Frontex and Europol, two of the European administrative weapons in the war against migration, will receive huge subsidies. Frontex used to have six million euros per year when it was formed in 2005. Now that sum is running at 115 million.

And left-leaning Libération publishes an appeal signed by 800 French musicians, writers and film-makers, calling on the Paris government to treat all refugees, especially those living in the "Jungle" near the channel port of Calais, with dignity.

The main story in Le Monde wonders if we should be worried that a Chinese consortium is going to build a nuclear reactor in England.

Probably not, at least not for the obvious reasons, is the broad answer.

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The centrist paper says that the construction will be supervised by the British nuclear safety watchdog, with additional pressure from the anti-nuclear camp, so there'll be no cutting corners on safety. Or quality. This will be the best of British! Thank you very much!

The real problem seems to be the fact that one of the two Chinese companies involved is virtually a branch of the army. Certain figures in the UK intelligence community have warned that the Chinese are capable of building a secret access to the computer system which will control the new reactor. Then, if there was to be a grave diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and Beijing, the Chinese could remotely shut down the reactor, depriving the shivering Brits of a major part of their electricity supply.

For security reasons, this kind of deal would be completely impossible in the United States, because of strict laws about who can own the nation's nukes.

But it is probably already too late to do anything about the real danger.

Le Monde reminds readers that France was a pioneer in the export of nuclear technology and expertise to China in the 1990s. Several major projects were completed on a partnership basis between Paris and Beijing. Now the Chinese know enough to be in a position to offer their own nuclear product to Argentina, Romania, Pakistan and South Africa. Without a bit of help from the French former partner.

Catholic La Croix looks at what the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal is going to change, both for the car industry and for those government agencies supposed to be monitoring the amount of pollution cause by motor traffic.

The bottom line for VW is likely to be around 17 billion euros, with untold effects on future sales. But the real changes will have to concern the way motor industry lobbyists use their positions as key economic players to influence crucial environmental policy. The motor industry currently spends 18 million euros each year in Brussels alone.

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