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French press review 18 November 2015


French attitudes to proposed changes to security legislation are broadly positive, according to an opinion poll. But the nation must not lose the economic war by over-spending on the battle against Islamic State. Libération joins the international press caravan to the disadvantaged Brussels suburb of Molenbeek.


The French are prepared to sacrifice a certain amount of freedom to pay for increased security, according to the main story in today's right-wing daily Le Figaro.

Eighty-four per cent of those questioned in an opinion poll carried out by Le Figaro say they would accept certain limitations on their personal liberty in order to guarantee greater public safety. Ninety-eight per cent of those questioned say they feel the risk of terrorist activity to be high, that's an increase even on the figures recorded in the wake of January's Charlie Hebdo killings, and nearly twice as many as admitted being concerned in 2012, before the French army went into action against fundamentalist fighters in Mali.

Le Figaro's editorial salutes the president's determination to take on more police officers, more border guards, more legal personnel, and to stop cutting army numbers. But, asks the same editorial, is the stability pact, the European debt-to-wealth ratio, to be sacrificed on the altar of security?

All these security boosts will cost money, an estimated one billion euros, and that's cash that Paris had promised Brussels it would save this year.

The European Commission is being, understandably, understanding. But Le Figaro says France must not lose the economic war because of its battle with terrorism. Because uncontroled public debt is, like terrorism, a threat to the very foundations of the nation.

Centrist Le Monde looks at what it calls President Hollande's sharp turn on security questions, this as the French leader promotes the adoption of security measures already proposed, in some cases, by the right-woing opposition, even by the far right Front National.

The main story in Catholic La Croix poses the rather un-Catholic question "How are we to eliminate Islamic State?"

Communist L'Humanité thinks it knows the answer to that question, saying the time has come for a major policy shift.

L'Humanité wants the United Nations to organise an international coalition to help those fighting the terrorists in Syria and Iraq. That, of course, begs so many questions as to be hardly useful. There already is an international coalition organising daily bombing runs against suspected terrorist targets. But not all members of that coalition have the same idea about who the enemy are. The UN could hardly be expected to ask member nations to deploy combat troops, yet most analysts agree that only a properly equipped ground war will really dent Islamic State.

The communist daily also wants an end to what it calls "diplomatic compromise" with states funding the terrorists. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are obviously in the front line, but again it will not be easy to find a common ground among the members of the so-called "international coalition" on what to do about these strategically crucial trading partners.

Left-leaning Libération looks to the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, apparently a crucial staging post for many islamic activists involved in recent attacks across Europe.

The paper wonders how a modest, former working-class area has become so crucial in terms of Europe's radical islamic fringe. Libération's editorial suggests that the answer is partly social... the economic crisis has created in Molenbeek a ghetto where jobs and opportunities are scarse and the work of the radical recruiters is therefore that much easier. That doesn't mean, says Libé, that we have to wait for better days economically before attacking the problem. Increased policing and the identification and expulsion of radical clerics are the immediate requirements.

And, lest we forget, Le Monde reports that eight Syrians and three Lebanese nationals have been arrested by Lebanese police investigating the suicide attacks which killed 44 people in a southern suburb of Beirut last Thursday.

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