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French press review 16 May 2016


Le Monde offers a supplement on the "war" being fought between Sunni and Shia in the Muslim world, a conflict which has destabilised huge areas of the Middle East and whose echos can be heard as far away as Nigeria. The centrist daily also turns over the twitching corpse of French socialism, wondering about its chances of survival. Right-wing Le Figaro says Europe is getting angry with Ankara on the refugee deal.


Today's Le Monde is a bumper edition, dated to cover everything that happened, is happening and will happen, yesterday, today and tomorrow. And all that for just 2.40 euros!

The centrist paper's main story looks at the conflict dividing the Muslim world, suggesting that the struggle between Sunni and Shia factions has never been so widespread or so savage.

It's not an easy division to understand, even if it does involve a clash between Arab culture and Persian speakers. Saudi Arabia versus Iran, in other words. It is pointed out, only half jokingly, that Arab is the language of the Koran, but they speak Persian in heaven.

Depending on where and when you ask the question, the clash is either a matter of religious interpretation, or a struggle for local dominion, or a clash between nomadic herders and farmers, or a division between anti-colonialists and pro-Westerners.

As Le Monde points out, the clash is of direct concern for the West because the chaos created allows the space in which terrorists operate. But the Sunni-Shia conflict is also destroying lives and communities in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and Nigeria, to name just a handful of countries.

Le Monde suggests that the globalisation of this factional conflict is now irreversible.

As ideas of national rebirth have faded in the wake of the broad failure of the Arab Spring revolutions, certain communities have fallen back on their religious identity, defining themselves in opposition to the other. And, in the case of many radical Sunnis, in opposition toWwestern civilisation in general.

What remains of the French left wing?

On France in particular, Le Monde wonders if it is still possible to save the left.

Having successively lost urban, regional, departmental and Senate elections, the ruling Socialist Party is now divided along several crucial lines, the political equivalent of a burnt-out star.

By signing last week's motion of no confidence in the government in the labour reform struggle, two dozen Socialist rebels have finally stood up to be counted. They are not going to go away before the party holds its summer think-in in August, a meeting likely to be dominated by efforts of rival factions and individuals to climb a little closer to the summit of power.

This, says Le Monde, is the worst crisis ever to face the French Socialist Party.

Turkey fails to meet European standards for visa deal

Right-wing Le Figaro says Europe is getting hot under its collective collar because Turkey is not playing the migrant game according to the rules agreed between Brussels and Ankara last March.

Only 400 of the 8,500 refugees who reached Greece since the March agreement have actually been sent back to Turkey.

The deal involved cash to finance holding camps and train border staff in Turkey, in exchange for visa-free European travel for Turkish nationals. But the travel clauses depended on Ankara changing its anti-terrorism legislation to meet European standards. The Turkish president has refused to enact the necessary laws and now Brussels is whimpering about blackmail.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Junker has warned that there'll be no visa deal if European conditions are not met. In Germany, critics of the chancellor Angela Merkel say the union is now completely dependent on Turkey in its efforts to resolve the migrant crisis.

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