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French press review 25 August 2018

France tries and fails to curb the use of pesticides. Should we be happy about a resurgent right wing? And being a Catholic in today's secularised Ireland.


In centrist Le Monde, the story garnering the most clicks is headlined "Pesticides: why France consumes more and more."

"In France, the use of pesticides increased by 12 percent between 2014 and 2016," the paper reports. "However, since 2008 the government had set the goal of halving the use of pesticides within 10 years. Without success. Worse: not only is pesticide use not decreasing, but it continues to grow steadily. Why? The fault is largely due to the system of cooperatives set up at the end of World War II."

So now we know. For the record only two countries use greater quantities of pesticides than France. They are the United States and Japan.

Le Monde links readers to a related story it ran last month on a meeting of assorted ministers responsible for agriculture, the environment and health.

The goal was to breathe new life into what's known as the “Eco-Phyto Plan”, launched a decade ago in order to reduce the use of pesticides while maintaining high yield as well as high quality in agricultural production, if possible.

Evidently, it has not been possible. That today's story is top of le Monde's hit parade shows it's a matter of grave concern to many here in France.

Does the French right-wing think?

The front page editorial in conservative daily le Figaro is headlined "A right-wing which thinks?"

Don't lose sight of that question mark.

"The right-wing exists in France and it is beginnning to make its voice heard again," the paper tells us. "The erosion of power, the slowing of the economy, the problems of business have dispelled the illusions of the 'new world'."

That's the 'new world' promised by the administration of President Emmanuel Macron.

Politics as no more than a game of invective in which everyone - the good guy, the bad guy - plays his role - is poor for intelligence and dangerous for democracy, the paper says. The resurgence of an opposition is therefore good news.

"Beware, however, of optical illusions!" it cautions. "It is disappointment with Emmanuel Macron's policy not the hope aroused by the right."

"The right has all the ingredients to develop an alternative vision," it continues. "The time of lazy alternations is over. The great shake-up of the world will sweep away political gimmicks and communication strategies. What our time demands - and the right must hear it - is the return of politics."

As mentioned above, le Figaro is firmly on the right. So these soapbox declarations come as no surprise. Although given that Macron's party has an absolute majority in the National Assembly, talk of an effective challenge from the right seems like wishful thinking.

Pope Francis in Ireland

As you'd expect, Catholic daily la Croix gives extensive coverage to the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis.

It's the paper's front page lede and fills four inside pages. La Croix struggles for find the positives; speaking to what it calls "Those Irish families, Catholics despite everything."

"In a country shaken by scandals of abuse in the Church, many families hope that Pope Francis' visit will help them reaffirm their faith in a secularised society," the paper reports.

La Croix says the anger of victims of the Church is obvious and justified. "But it shouldn't obscure the fact that the institution is trying to change profoundly and to turn the page."

The paper notes that "90 per cent of Irish children and pre-adolescents are educated in Catholic schools. In spite of that, many of the country's youth feel alienated from the church and have strayed. One challenge is make the Church attractive to them."

Given the extent of the abuse scandal - in Ireland as elsewhere - and the Vatican's failure to vigorously address it - that, too, sounds like wishful thinking.

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