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French press review 4 September 2018

Decision time for Emmanuel Macron. Google under fire. The French and their tattoos. And how lobbyists "poison" French politics.


President Emmanuel Macron looms large in the French papers again, mostly for the wrong reasons.

Centrist daily Le Monde says he's under pressure to clarify his policies.

"Elected with the ambition of transforming the country, the president is going through the most delicate period since he took office," says the paper's front page lede.

Noting that his popularity is in free fall, Le Monde declares that this is "the week of crucial choices for Emmanuel Macron".

"Confronted with an unprecedented political crisis, following the unexpected resignation of the minister of ecological transition Nicolas Hulot, Emmanuel Macron [must decide] the extent of a government reshuffle."

It is a question of political logic but also the temperament of the head of state, Le Monde argues. "Macron does not want to add crisis to crisis by moving a lot of ministers, says someone close to him. He wants to protect people around him."

There's "realism also; upsetting the balance of the government could be beneficial if we had heavyweights. But that's not the case," the paper was told.

Still, at least member of Macron's ruling party describes it as "a golden opportunity . . . to fix what does not work".

No respite for Macron in the popular daily Le Parisien, either. "He must decide!" screams its front-page headline.

It seems that he has. In a related story the paper says "Emmanuel Macron has made his decision concerning the replacement of Nicolas Hulot. The name of the new minister will be known on Tuesday." Stay tuned.

Do you remember Quaero?

The front page of conservative daily Le Figaro confines itself to saying "Tax at source, reshuffle: Macron must decide."

Top billing goes to serach engine Google, which it calls "a hyperpower that raises concerns".

"Twenty years after its creation, more and more voices are rising against the ambitions and the financial strength of the California firm," the paper says.

Good news judgement by the paper. This morning, the French news agency reports that "Europe's biggest news agencies today accused Google and Facebook of 'plundering' news for free in a joint statement that called on the Internet giants to share more of their revenues with the media."

The CEOs of around 20 agencies including France's Agence France-Presse, Britain's Press Association and Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur called on the European Parliament to update EU copyright law to help address what they call a "grotesque imbalance".

Much in Le Figaro's story we knew already. For example "In July, the European Commission fined it 4.34 billion euros for anti-competitive practices

What's new, kind of, are what the paper calls "two hot issues waiting for the American giant." This week Google lawyers, alongside representatives of Facebook and Twitter, must testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about whether they did enough to thwart alleged Russian attempts to manipulate the 2016 US Presidential election.

Over here the European Parliament is investigating its advertising practises. "My mission is to protect European consumers," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said last month. Google "develops products that we all enjoy. [...] But its behaviour is illegal because it restricts competition, innovation and the choices we would all like to have."

In a related story Figaro wonders "Why has Europe failed to develop an alternative to Google?"

"Do you remember Quaero?," the paper asks. No! Never heard of it.

Launched in 2005, this Franco-German European project aimed to develop an online tool for businesses, scientists and the general public. In other words, to challenge Google. The project cost almost 200 million euros. It ended in 2013, leaving behind no search engine capable of competing with the California giant.

So what's gone wrong?

"Historically, the web industry first flourished in the United States, thanks to the financial support of its government and army;" the paper tells us. "Today there are 158 start-ups in the world of new technologies, not listed on the stock market, valued at more than one billion dollars. Sixty percent are American. Next are Asian companies, Chinese especially, with 25 percent, especially Chinese, and then there's Europe with 10 percent."

My word! We Europeans do seem to be lagging behind.

Tattoo epidemic

Catholic daily la Croix's front-page story is fairly odd. It is all about tattoos. The paper tells us that, according to a recent Ifop poll, around one in five people in France has a tattoo. The paper says it's a sign of change in our relationship with our bodies.

The paper's editorial is devoted to what it calls "The Hulot challenge," about which we've heard more than enough.

Macron and the lobbies

Communist daily L'Humanité looks in depth at what it calls "Conflict of interest, the latest worry for Emmanuel Macron."

The story is about what the paper regards as the pervasive and unwelcome influence of lobbyists on the Macron administration. Out of 298 ministerial advisers, 43 work as lobbyists, the paper says.

Its headline "When the lobbies poison politics" tells the story. On which, I imagine, there's much more to come.

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