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French press review 12 November 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron as the champion of world peace. Donald Trump doesn't show up. And, trades union bosses are accused of behaving like . . . bosses.


Like other French newspapers this morning Libération covers events in France and elsewhere marking the end of what we now know as the First World War.

But this morning's cover story of left-leaning paper is looking ahead rather than backwards.

Under the headline "Cyberattacks - The new cold war" the paper tells us "As the race for digital weapons accelerates, international negotiations are stalled. On the occasion of the Forum on Internet Governance this Monday Macron launches a call for a safer cyberspace."

Libé's editorial is headlined "Chimera" which in Greek mythology was a fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. In modern usage it means a thing which is hoped for but is illusory or impossible to achieve. Which doesn't bode well for the opinion piece which follows.

"It's no longer a sci-fi fantasy or a disaster movie, but an established and documented fact: modern-day War Games have the potential danger of a nuclear attack," Libé says. "After the attacks of recent years, no one can ignore the terrible consequences of a destabilisation, even a takeover, of strategic infrastructures - hospitals, big companies, transport, distribution of energy, water ... via Internet by groups or ill-intentioned states."

The worry is that the major powers disagree on everything (or almost)  that could give a framework to the governance of the global Internet, the paper says.

As for the Paris Forum on Internet governance, the goal to build an "open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful cyberspace" is like a chimera, Libération believes.

But it is precisely because it is the responsibility of States to think peace in a digital world that it is their duty to define the rules to achieve it.

Give peace a chance

Le Figaro comes at the story from a different direction.

It's front page lede is headlined "Macron - the advocate of peace."

Inside; the paper says the French President has emerged as the leader of the peace camp, not least with his comments yesterday which called for the rejection of strident nationalism and for the defence of multilateralism.

Still, the paper's editorial is critical. Since his election, the paper say, Macron has shown a talent for using symbols. Evidence his warm encounter with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Saturday Merkel became the first German leader since World War Two to visit the forest near the town of Compiègne in northern France. She and Macron unveiled a plaque to Franco-German reconciliation, laid a wreath and signed a book of remembrance in a replica railway carriage where the Armistice was signed in 1918. The original was also used by Adolf Hitler to accept France's capitulation to Nazi Germany in June 1940.

Macron and Merkel held hands and put behind them past conflicts. Powerful symbols and a great photo opportunity.

As the planet is menaced by trade wars and self centred nationalism is on the rise, the papers says, Macron used the Armistice day events to defend his vision of multilateral world. He used the past to warn of the perils we face today.

However, says le Figaro, with "America First" US president Donald Trump's stepping back as the guarantor of world order and the Franco-German partnership incapable of reviving the European project "the invocation of symbols, however powerful, won't be enough."

Where's Trump ?

Le Parisien ledes with a story about the murky finances of one of the major union confederations in France, the General Confederation of Labour, commonly known as Force ouvrière. It's alleged that union bosses are indulging themselves with extravagant expenses and salaries.

Its second front page story is "A day of communion . . . excepting Donald Trump."

The popular daily reports that yesterday, after lunch at the Eysée, during which the Head of State sat between Merkel and Trump, Emmanuel Macron opened the Paris Peace Forum. The meeting, which its designers want to make an annual event, was to discuss global governance and to advocate multilateralism. Trump boycotted the meeting.

Are we surprised? The day before, because it was raining, Trump cancelled a planned visit to a First World War cemetery where American soldiers are buried.

Le Parisien says it's difficult to think that Trump was not in everyone's minds. The issues raised at the Peace Forum - climate change, immigration, terrorism - will require the support of big powers such as the United States.

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