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French press review

French press review 8 April 2016


The French papers continue to talk about the Panama Papers and their casualties. Meanwhile they call into question the motivation behind the French economy minister's new En Marche political movement, with one of them turning to the great philosophers for a possible answer.


As our newspaper colleagues continue to sift through the so-called Panama Papers revealing the dubious dealings of many of the rich and famous in their efforts to avoid paying tax, Le Monde's main headline says the shock waves are now been felt at the planetary level.

Iceland has already lost its Prime Minister because of the leaked documents, across-Channel David Cameron is under enormous pressure, so is the Argentinian president, a raft of sports stars and football club owners are being asked embarrassing questions.

Le Monde reports that the Panama Papers, for example, reveal the complex web of offshore circuits used to siphon off millions of euros from the Congolese oil industry, responsible for 75 per cent of the income of one of Africa's most corrupt states.

The centrist paper says the system is directly controlled by the family and close associates of President Dennis Sassou-Nguesso, who was re-elected for another five years last month.

The result is that, despite producing 290,000 barrels of oil per day last year, more than half of Congo's 4.4 million people live in abject poverty.

Just in case you haven't been following the Panama Papers scandal, a few figures put the afffair in perspective.

There are 11.5 million leaked documents to sift through, concerning 214,488 companies, trusts and foundations handled by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

One thousand French nationals are concerned, and 25 French businesses, most of them in the financial and property sectors, though Le Monde says there are names in petrol and communications as well.

No fewer than 511 banks are concerned as having direct links with Mossack Fonseca, and they're all big names.

The revelations concern 202 countries and 12 current or former heads of state, including the Saudi Arabian king and the Ukranian president. 143 political figures at ministerial level from fifty different countries are named. Hence the "global shock" headline.

The French economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, has been creating his own local shock waves, not through tax evasion but by starting a new political movement, which he has baptised "En marche!", roughly speaking "Let's get moving!" or "Full steam ahead!" in English.

Neither of the left nor of the right, the new movement takes ideas from both sides of the traditional political spectrum and is officially intended to broaden the political base of current president, François Hollande, before the 2017 elections.

Left-leaning daily Libération says the initiative is an ego-trip for a popular, young and energetic minister who has little to lose. But Libé wonders what the cross-party policy really amounts to . . . there's a lot of François Hollande in the mix, a lot of conservative mayor and right-wing presidential contender, Alain Juppé, and a lot of centrist François Bayrou.

Libé's editorial admits that there is a great need to reform the French left, but wonders if deserting the ship is the best way of saving it.

And the article ends with a quotation from the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, who spoke of "an infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere and which has no circumference." That, suggests the leftist paper, is where you end up if you dare to cross the hallowed line separating left from right.

Otherwise, Catholic La Croix looks at the difficulties caused on both sides of the political divide by the need for presidential primary elections. The basic idea is a good one says La Croix but it is damn hard to make it work in reality, and the desire to extend participation in democracy could lead to the Americanisation of the French presidential race.

Not to mention that those supposed to be leading us will spend most of their time and energy over the next twelve months trying to ensure their own futures, not ours.

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