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French press review 2 January 2017

Massive security ensures a relatively peaceful New Year's Eve here in France. What impact will the latest tragedy have on Turkey's struggling tourist sector? Who is the new man at the helm of the United Nations? And why do we celebrate Christmas Day on 25 December?


Right-wing Le Figaro looks back on a relatively calm New Year's Eve here in France.

At least 650 vehicles were burned out, a slight increase on last year. And 454 people were arrested. But, with 100,000 security forces on duty, the fact that no terrorist attacks were attempted has to be seen as strongly positive, especially against the stark background of the Turkish nightclub killings.

Le Figaro also looks at the potential impact of this latest attack on the Turkish tourism industry. With an average of 36 million tourists every year, Turkey is the sixth most visited country in the world.

However, according to the right-wing French daily, the recent succession of terrorist attacks, many clearly targeting foreigners, have lead to an overall decline of 37 percent by comparison with visitor numbers in 2015.

The tourist sector was expected to lose 12 billion euros last year, with huge repercussions for the national economy, with tourism normally accounting for six percent of gross domestic product and employing 16 percent of the active population.

Guterres takes over from Ban at UN

Libération asks who the new man at the head of the United Nations is and if he can do anything to save an institution in deep crisis.

Antonio Guterres is Portuguese, a socialist, Catholic, an engineer by training. He has 10 years' experience as head of the UN's refugee agency and has promised "global reform" of the body he takes over from Ban Ki-moon.

Le Monde says the new man at the helm has promised to make 2017 "a year of peace", calling for compassion and solidarity in everyday life, dialogue to bridge political differences, ceasefires to end armed conflicts, and a spirit of compromise at the negotiating table.

He was elected unanimously and will thus benefit from wide-ranging support.

But divisions on Syria, Yemen, South Sudan will not vanish overnight. And Donald Trump, who takes up the reins of power in Washington in two weeks, has made no secret of his dislike of an organisation which is 22 percent funded by the United States.

Says Libé, he comes to the job carrying huge hopes but Antonio Guterres will have his work cut out for him.

Euro is 15-years-old

Catholic La Croix celebrates the 15th birthday of the euro, Europe's single currency, attempting to sift the true from the merely invented in the popular imagination.

It is not true that a baguette of French bread cost two francs in 2001, just before the changeover which some political groups claim was used as a form of disguised profiteering by unscrupulous bakers. In fact, a 250gm baguette used to cost 4.40, that's 67 euro centimes. The same piece of bread now costs an average of 87 euro centimes, mainly due to inflation.

And 68 percent of French people questioned this autumn said they supported the idea of monetary union and a continental currency. That puts the French ahead of the Italians, with just 53 percent enthusiastic for the euro, but a long way behind the Irish, with 85 percent saying they favour the single european currency.

Christmas rush all a mistake

Now that all the fuss is over, Le Monde asks how we ever decided that 25 December was a good day on which to celebrate Christmas.

Apparently, in the first couple of centuries of the Christian era, Christmas Day was marked on, for example, 28 March, 19 April or even 6 January. It's thanks to a Roman monk, Denis the Little, and the then Pope, John I, that the birth of Christ was fixed forever in the depths of the northern winter.

But there's still the question of how long ago that famous birth took place.

Easy, you might think, since we are now entering the 2017th year of the Christian era.

But no. That turns out to be based on a series of ecclesiastical and other errors, well documented by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler. He calculated that Jesus was born on either 12 April, 3 October or 4 December, but in the year -7, meaning that we are really a lot older than we think and should be celebrating the year 2024.

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