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French Press Review 13 January 2018

Today's papers take a look at proposed changes to French housing law. What will happen on Monday when the new system for admission to the nation's third-level educational institutions starts working? And why did it take so long to get contaminated baby food off French supermarket shelves?


Le Monde gives the top story to the question of what will be changed by the government's plans to reform housing law.

The new bill is expected to be ready by the end of this month and is mainly directed at loosening current planning law and preventing malicious objections to building applications.

The legal relationships between private renters and property owners are gong to be simplified. And the way in which public housing is organised, especially the way accommodation is awarded to applicants, is to be clarified and streamlined.

The government has promised to consult those concerned by the changes as much as possible but has warned that several elements of the new law will be forced through by decree.

A new way of getting into French universities

Over at Le Figaro the main headline looks forward to Monday's launch of a new system for allocating French school-leavers to the nation's third-level institutions.

The basic idea is to ensure that no one who passes the final exam gets left on the sidelines but the new filtering system is also designed to keep underqualified students out of the faculties under greatest pressure.

We can expect technical and ideological problems, warns the right-wing daily.

The ideological difficulty is based on the idea that selection for university places is fundamentally unjust.

Theoretically, anyone who passes the baccalauréat exam can study anything they like at university. But what about medical courses, for example, where laboratory places are limited and the failure rate is already astronomical? Would it not be more egalitarian - and more sensible - to direct poorly qualified aspirants to other, less demanding, courses? The answer is obviously, yes, according to Le Figaro. But that's an implicit rejection of the republican ideal of equality.

So the government has opted for an opaque presentation of an even more opaque system, promising that the aim is to ensure "success". They would say that, wouldn't they?

In the brave new world that opens on Monday, French universities will not "select" students, they will "recruit" them. There will be no entry "requirements", only "expectations". And the old system is not being "reformed", it is being "transformed".

Le Figaro thinks that the transformed system has the advantage of common sense, allowing the universities to select those most likely to succeed and putting an end to a ridiculous system where students are chosen by the luck of the draw rather than on the basis of demonstrated ability.

But, wonders the conservative daily, will the new admission system do anything to improve French universities, already seen as occupying the lower strata of a very complex and competitive higher education system?

Food giant chokes on its own profit policy

Left-leaning Libération looks at the contaminated infant milk scandal centred on the giant food-processing company Lactalis.

Following the discovery that some milk products were contaminated with salmonella, Lactalis was yesterday forced by the government to recall the entire output of the site at the source of the contamination.

More than one month after the discovery of a potentially fatal problem, Libé says, the family-owned company, world leader in the dairy product sector with 250 factories in 47 countries, has a long history of concealing dirty secrets and has always been driven by the desire to maximise profits. Last year's turnover was more than 17 billion euros.

The left-leaning daily says the delay in taking proper preventive measures once the salmonella bacteria had been discovered was dictated by Lactalis's pursuit of maximum returns.

The problem could have an international dimension with suspect cases of salmonella in Greece and Spain now being linked to the same company's baby-food products.

Libé's editorial warns that the era of profit-driven carelessness is over in the food sector and that Lactalis faces a costly backlash from consumers, producers and politicians.

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