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French press review 1 December 2016

This morning's papers consider the reintroduction of military conscription in France, the country's massive indebtedness, likely rises in the cost of insurance and the conviction of three trades unionists involved in a dispute with the national carrier Air France.

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Let's take a break from the mud wrestling in the race for the French Presidency and look at what else is grabbing the attention of the French newspapers.

The centrist daily le Monde reports on the possibility that France might reintroduce military conscription 15 years after it was ditched.

Evidently, the move is included the the Socialist Party programme mapped out earlier this week by the Party's first secretary - Jean-Christophe Cambadélis.

"France is facing a heavy and lasting challenge" Cambadélis said "the means available to ensure the optimal protection of the citizens is insufficient, while the armed forces are struggling to recruit personnel for internal security missions ".

He considered "the conditions required by law to restore conscription seem to be in place for the first time in twenty years" and proposed the creation of what he called "a true national guard".

Le Monde says this return to military service, the practical details of which have not been detailed, raises several questions, notably what are the obstacles.

As François Fillon points out - Fillon you will recall is the conservative former Prime Minister tipped to win the Presidency next year - the current army, whose numbers have been revised downwards since 1996, is unable to accommodate and mentor hundreds of thousands of young people.

Financially, a return of conscription is an expensive operation; it would cost at least 3 billion euros a year, and up to 5 billion euros if housing is included.

What's more, making military service compulsory could compete with their other plans for training and employment.

There is also the risk of giving young people "a punitive vision of the Republic" with fines in case of refusal.

A prickly issue which may or may not resurface whether or not the Socialists are removed from office next year.

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Right wing le Figaro devotes its editorial to the cost of money.

Attention, turbulence in sight! the paper warns. The banquet of free money is about to end.

This concerns the French very closely, the paper says.

First of all individually, if they have a real estate project, for example.

But also collectively, because they live in a country with a chronic deficit of 70 billion a year and debts of 2,170 billion.

Trapped by its negligence, France borrows every year 200 billion on the markets to pay its administration and repay its debts.

This is a tremendous cost, more than 40 billion euros, for the payment of the interest only on the debt and far more than the 32 billion devoted to Defence.

This is why the debate on the restoration of public finances, at the heart of the program of François Fillon - him again - the first to dare to speak of "bankruptcy", arises so acutely.

Those who, among his future adversaries, would pretend to ignore it, would be guilty of great irresponsibility, says le Figaro.

*******

Under the headline "Happy New Year" (the French adore irony) left leaning Libération is asking why the cost of insurance is set to jump again next year.

Home insurance is likely to be 4 per cent more expensive. Car insurance 2,5 per cent more. Both well above inflation.

The excuse, says Libé, is an increase in the number of road accidents, floods earlier this, the terrorist attacks in France and the courts' generosity in compensation for damages.

There's always cheaper insurance, except that in the event of a claim they do not reimburse anything, said one industry apologist.

Happy New Year.

*******

The communist daily l'Humanité is angry about the conviction of three former Air France employees on trial for ripping company executives' shirts during a dispute over layoffs last year.

The trades unionists were given suspended prison sentences of three to four months over the attack in October that left one executive naked to the waist and another with his shirt and jacket in tatters.

The company said the sentences "enable us to close this sad episode", but lawyer Lilia Mhissen, acting on behalf of most of the defendants, said she would encourage them to appeal.

L'Humanité front page lede calls the judgement a "stitch-up" and headlines its editorial "Justice of the Powerful."

The judgement "criminalises union action" the paper says.

It is - the paper says - "disquieting."

 

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