French press review 13 November 2018
Issued on: Modified:
Macron versus "the old demons." French victory in the 40th anniversary Route du Rhum. And, the countryside against the city in the row over fuel price hikes in France.
Centrist daily le Monde put the spotlight on President Emmanuel Macron's warning in recent days that what he called "the old demons" are rising again.
The principal old demon is strident nationalism, which is evident not only in several European nations but also in the United States.
The paper's front page editorial says there were two ways to mark the centenary of the Great War (on Sunday). "Celebrate a fictitious unity, respectfully greet the presence in Paris of the American president and the Russian president, and congratulate ourselves that thy are not at war . . . Or highlight the threats that are putting this peace at risk again, eating away at democracy and dividing the Western camp."
Emmanuel Macron chose the second, le Monde observes.
In his speech to nearly 80 heads of state and government at the Arc de Triomphe, he declared that "patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism", lambasting those nationalists who say "our interests first and what does it matter!"
The paper concludes that Macron was speaking to those who are tempted by this ideology. But the message was also directed at President Donald Trump, sitting in the front row of world leaders, a few feet away. Trump's motto, you may recall, is "America first!"
The paper says relations between Europe and the US are fractured. Not simply on climate change, Iran, trade or Israel and Palestine. It's about values, on multilateralism and on the vision of international relations, says le Monde.
"The shadow in the picture is, alas, obvious, the paper concludes. "Europe is itself divided, subject to the same nationalist currents that brought Donald Trump to power. In the European Union, the number of governments, either dominated by nationalist parties or weakened by weak coalitions . . . Mr Macron appears today as the strongest leader to fight against nationalism."
The paper hopes that support for him at home does not crumble.
Victory and "Dry failure."
The front page of Conservative daily le Figaro chooses to ignore these global worries.
It gives pride of place to the French ocean racing veteran Francis Joyon who won the 40th anniversary Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race from Saint Malo to Pointe-À-Pitre in his trimaran. It was In the closest finish since the race was first staged in 1978 and the paper calls it "a magnificent victory."
Figaro is equally excited about the street protests against hikes in the price of diesel and petrol for motor vehicles. The protesters, dubbed "Yellow Vests" (they wear those high-viz waist-coats favoured by construction workers) have the government worried, the paper says, and puzzled how the diffuse the fuss.
In its editorial headlined "Dry failure" the paper says "Faced with the "yellow vests" the head of state hesitates . . . He has the choice between two bad solutions. To alter plans to raise fuel prices or lower the cost of a driving licence; either concession will appear as a setback."
Like a hen who has found a vest
Left-leaning Libération also opts for the "Yellow Vest", with its cover story asking "Who are they?"
"Initially spontaneous, the movement against the rise in the price of gas has been partly co opted by the far right," the paper says.
Born on social networks, the first calls were to ask the government to reconsider its new ecological tax, responsible for the rise in taxes on gasoline and diesel. Since then, claims have multiplied, suggesting a coalition of discontent, says Libé.
And, there is something else behind this uprising: a humiliation that feeds anger, the paper opines. "Add to the traditional class struggle - the suburbs against the city centres, the periphery against the centre, the small communes against the big. Rural communities feel despised and abandoned - often rightly," it says.
According to Libé, the French government is facing this movement "like a hen who has found a vest." (That's the literal translation - and I don't get it either.) "Using rational speech to answer an emotional complaint. This is most often the guarantee of misunderstanding."