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French Press Review 19 January 2018

The end of the disputed airport at Nantes has left the Macron administration open to both praise and blame. And the 50-year saga ain't over yet. The first 17 years of this century have been the hottest in recorded history. And Donald Trump has been US president for one year.


Le Monde gives the front-page honours to Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the disputed site near the western French city of Nantes where a new regional airport was to have been built.

The saga has dragged on for the past 50 years, has zoomed in and out of focus under both Socialist and conservative administrations, and was finally killed off this week by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

It's a complex story. A majority of local people were in favour, as were most of their elected representatives. The project was declared "publicly useful" by the Fillon government in 2008.

And then a small group of protestors set up home on the site, claiming that the proposed airport was too big, too expensive and bad news for the local environment.

Nothing moved for a long time.

Finally this week, following what Le Monde calls a deep plunge into the murky waters of cost-benefit analysis, and following further talks with all and sundry, the government has decided to abandon the plan, instead working to enlarge and modernise the current airport at Nantes.

It's a bit of a setback for President Emanuel Macron, who promised to build the new airport during last year's election campaign.

Le Monde says his right-wing critics are delighted to have, finally, got their hands on a stick with which to beat the president. The conservatives say it's a shame to see a handful of protestors derail a project which would have been for the common good. Certain local politicians feel they have been hung out to dry by the administration in Paris.

The government has, according to its own version, shown courage, determination and reason. Unlike the frozen fossils in the preceeding political strata, this administration has had the guts to do something, not just let the sad mess drag on, it claims.

Seconds out, round two

Right-wing daily Le Figaro warns that getting the activists to roll up their tents and go home will not be easy, despite their victory.

The problem is that many of the occupants have already set up their own farms on the contested land. They will now have to show good faith, by paying their gas, water and eletricity bills, as well as the rent for the farmland they have freely used for several years.

The current occupants of the site have been told they'll have to go, and within the next few months, so that the land can be returned to regular farming. Which will be another day's work. We probably have not heard the last of Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

The heat is on, and on, and on

Last year was the second hottest on record, according to the World Weather Organisation. And the all-time winner, by a fraction of a degree, was 2015. In fact, the last three years have been the hottest since records began.

The surface of the globe is thus warmer by more than one degree overall and nearly half a degree hotter than the average for the past three decades.

Weather scientists point out that the real problem is not individual hot years but the sequence of warming global averages. Seventeen of the 18 hottest years in history were recorded in this 21st century.

What this all amounts to is a remarkable series of natural catastrophes, from torrential rains and flooding to unprecedented drought and forest fires. The total weather-related disaster bill for the United States alone was 257 billion euros in 2017.

Whatever about what's causing the problem, the global climate does seem to have gone off the rails.

One year older and deeper in . . .

Left-leaning Libération looks back over the first year of the Trump presidency in the United States. The front cover image is a fat fist, the middle finger rudely raised. It's not exactly class, but that, I suppose, is the point.

The only good news, according to Libé, is that the American left is beginning to wake up and react against the White House, organising resistance through collectives and small political parties.

Libération's editorial says the year has been marked by attempts to undermine the liberal heritage of Barack Obama, with the Muslim ban, the Mexican wall, the withdrawal from the Paris climate deal, from the Pacific free trade pact, from the Iranian nuclear agreement.

There are no clear grounds for impeachment, despite the howls of Trump's detractors. And the US economy is doing very nicely, thanks to presidential protectionism and the fact that the world seems to be emerging from the 2008 crash.

Which leaves this year's mid-mandate elections as the first real chance for those who fear and detest Trump to show that they still have a political voice.

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