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French press review 16 March 2018

More on the reform of the French rail sector. The race to be the next boss of the French Socialist Party is now a two-horse affair. Yet another French army officer publishes a book with his version of the truth about the involvement of Paris in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.


Le Figaro turns the spotlight on government efforts to reform the French rail sector.

The right-wing daily's editorial is headlined "The proper use of public money," and the article warns that the paying passengers may find themselves victimised by the selfish rail unions over the coming weeks. The unions' only interest is to defend the outdated status of their members. To further this aim, they are happy to take ordinary travellers hostage.

That's just the first paragraph. Then Le Figaro warms to its task. Nothing has changed in the past hundred years . . . steam trains have been replaced by a modern, digitally controlled fleet of machines, but the special status of rail workers remains untouched. And, wails Le Figaro, that very status makes a huge contribution to the 30 percent gap between the business performance of the French national rail company and its potential competitors.

The only reason the wheels of the sector continue to turn is because the government is prepared to pour billions of euros of public money into an edifice based on attitudes inherited from a by-gone era.

France, like every developed nation, has to pay to support its rail network. With that, Le Figaro has no dispute. But the current battle between the rail unions and the government is about wasting money to maintain an outdated employment structure.

And the winner is . . .

The race to be the next boss of the French Socialist Party is now a two-horse affair.

Last night, 45 percent of an estimated 35,000 party activists voted in favour of Olivier Faure and his program entitled "The road to rebirth".

Former minister and government spokesman, Stéphane Le Foll, came second and now faces a run-off vote, unless he decides to withdraw from the race in favour of Olivier Faure. Le Foll is to make a statement later this morning.

The two other candidates, representing the extreme left of the party and a centrist rainbow platform, were both eliminated.

At the last socialist congress, in 2015, there were 70,000 voters.

The end of the silence on France in Rwanda

Today sees the publication of yet another book by a French army officer on the extent to which Paris was involved in supporting a muderous Hutu regime in Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide.

According to Le Monde, the soldier, Guillaume Ancel, explains that the official version of a French humanitarian involvement simply does not stand up, and that the government of then president François Mitterrand was slow to distance itself from the regime which organised the masscare of 800,000 people in the space of three months.

Cantat and the case of perpetual punishment

Libération gives the front page to what the left-leaning newspaper calls "The Cantat Case".

Bertrand Cantat is the French rock singer who killed his girlfriend Marie Trintignant in a domestic dispute in 2004. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and has been free since 2011. But he has not been free to start working again as a solo musician.

He's back in the news because several summer music festivals at which he was scheduled to perform have been forced to take his name off the menu. The pressure has come from feminist groups and the family of the victim, Marie Trintignant. Cantat himself has now decided to withdraw from all events at which he was scheduled to appear this summer, but has insisted on his right to an eventual professional re-integration.

Libé offers the full range of opinion, from those who feel Cantat should simply give up all thought of ever returning to the stage, to those who feel he has served his time and is therefore free to do whatever he likes. With a detour among those who feel that the judges in the case, which was tried in Lithuania, where the tragic violence took place, let him off too easily and should thus be used as an opportunity to review European legal standards.

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