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French press review 21 July 2016

Nice and Turkey are this morning's headline stories, with one Paris daily suggesting that the French interior minister lied about security arrangements in Nice on the night of the 14 July massacre.

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Under the headline "Failures and Lies", left-leaning daily Libération devotes its front page to an exclusive story alleging that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was lying when he said that the pedestrianised section of the Nice waterfront was closed off by the national police on the night of the14 July massacre.

In fact, says Libé, a single municipal police vehicle was positioned at the point where the waterfront was closed to vehicles, the units of the national police having been withdrawn at about 8.30pm on the night of the tragedy.

Cazeneuve has repeatedly said that several national police units blocked the road giving access to the Promenade des Anglais, forcing the truck driver to swerve onto the footpath. Libé's front-page picture, taken just before the drama unfolded shows no such vehicles, just two municipal policemen redirecting vehicles from behind crowd-control barriers.

There has already been an angry reaction from Cazeneuve, who issued a communiqué earlier this morning denouncing the work methods and motivations of the Libération journalists, accusing them of suggesting that there had been a conspiracy involving the minister himself, the regional police chief and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls with a view to concealing the truth.

Cazeneuve does not contest the version of the facts as presented by Libération, he stresses that he was always clear that national police units were placed inside the pedestrian area, nearly 400 metres from the first roadblock.

But Le Monde quotes the local police chief as saying that "national police units were blocking the point of entry to the pedestrianised zone", a claim which Libé has shown to be untrue.

The Libération editorial insists that it is important to understand why security so terribly failed in Nice, so that similar horrors can be prevented. And it also crucial that we know we can trust those responsible for our protection to tell the truth, no matter how terrible that may be.

Turkey drifts further away from Europe

Right-wing Le Figaro laments the drift of Turkey towards dictatorship.

Having survived last weekend's attempted coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to purge the army, judiciary and civil service. Nearly 10,000 people have been arrested, another 50,000 sacked from government posts and a three-month state of emergency has been declared.

Le Figaro's editorial is headlined "The cleaner," a reference to Erdogan's determination to use the failed takeover bid as an excuse to wipe out any vestige of political opposition.

Le Figaro says the authorities in Ankara have shown themselves to be incapable of establishing a truly secular state and have a dangerously unclear attitude to radical Islam. Media independence is a fiction and a hardline military answer has been chosen to the question of Kurdish demands for independence or autonomy.

The main headline in Catholic La Croix reads "Turkey drifts further from Europe," both in the sense that the "dictatorial line" of the Erdogan regime makes any discussion of future Turkish membership of the European Union worse than embarrassing and also in the sense that the current wave of political repression in Turkey puts further pressure on the little-liked deal under which Ankara has agreed to take care of the Syrian refugee problem by interning the refugees in camps financed by Brussels.

The fact is, says La Croix, that the Turkish authorities have not raised a finger to solve the migrant problem but the fear of being returned from Greece to a Turkish internment camp has put an awful lot of would-be refugees off the dangerous crossing of the Aegean: 57,000 people arrived on the Greek islands in February; that number was down to just 1,500 last month.

Europe fears that a Turkish refusal to continue accepting refugees returned from Greece would again open the floodgates. To ensure continued cooperation, the European Parliament is going to have to vote to give short-term visas to Turkish citizens, a decision which the current crackdown by Ankara will make unpalatable for many Europeans.

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