French press review 16 March 2010

French political parties try and hack deals and drum up interest in the second round of regional elections. Are the Germans cheating on labour costs? How bad are US-Israel relations? And how rich is Belgium's King Albert?

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Right-wing Le Figaro gives headline prominence to the struggles of the right-wing UMP party to get its act together for the second round of regional elections. A contradictory exercise, since President Sarkozy has played down Sunday's defeat to such an extent that members of the majority are caught between a desire to do something to reverse last weekend's mauling, and a we-don't-really-care display of what the locals like to call "insouciance".

Libération combines the poor voter turnout and the improved performance of the extreme right National Front to concoct a killer headline: "The French fracture" is how they see it. Well done, lads. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Then there's Communist l'Humanité which hopes that the left will get its head out of the sand and forge a few key alliances to capitalise on last week's strong performance.

Catholic La Croix gives all parties six days to try and mobilise the disinterested.

Because, just in case you'd forgotten, we're only half way there. The French get a second chance to show their enthusiasm or otherwise for regional politics on Sunday next.

What else is happening?

Well, business daily Les Echos relegates the elections to the bottom half of page one, alongside news of the merger of clothing giants Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

Les Echos gives pride of place to the pressure Germany is putting on the European Union.

The Germans, apparently, are upsetting the neighbours by paying workers less and giving businesses tax breaks. In response to French criticism, the Germans say they owe their success to innovation and quality. And, as if all that wasn't enough, the European Unionists have to work out who'll pay to bail out the Greeks.

 

Otherwise, Le Monde looks at the parlous state of US-Israeli relations, as the Obama administration complains bitterly but ineffectually about the expansion of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem.

The Israeli media are unanimous in their criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of pursuing a policy which has achieved nothing more concrete than the alienation of Israel's only real ally.

 

Le Monde also looks at the impact of the temperature of the north Atlantic ocean on climate in Africa's Sahel region. According to the weather scientists, the current phase, which is dominated by a tendency to a warmer ocean, will bring more rain to areas of north Africa on the fringes of the Sahara.

The bad news is that a warmer Atlantic is also associated with powerful cyclonic activity. So, more rain for regions that have seen a succession of droughts over the past decade or so, but more wind as well.

 

How rich is Albert ll of Belgium?

That question features on the front page of Le Figaro, followed by the suggestion that King Al is worth at least one billion euros, or 80 times his official valuation. Despite certain historic difficulties, the Belgian royal family, the Coburgs, still own vast and very valuable chunks of the Democratic Republic of, once the Belgian, Congo.

If the story turns out to be true, King "you can call me Al" will come close to the top of the rich European royals ratings, and will annoy a lot of his less well-heeled subjects.

When, in the wake of the global economic crisis, the Belgian government tried to reduce the royal income, the palace took them to court and proved that such a move was against the constitution. Not surprising, really, when you realise that the five previous Belgian kings were not shy in contributing ideas to the formulation of that very constitution.

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