French press review 1 July 2010

The heat is on in Paris, as steamy temperatures seemed to have fired up the tempers of the French president, who is reportedly unhappy with the way some of his ministers have been behaving. That matter, along with the Bettencourt saga, are the hot topics in the papers today.


The front page of right-wing Le Figaro is not going to cheer up members of the French government as they prepare the sandals and water wings for the summer break. "Heads will roll in the autumn" is the uncompromising headline. On inside pages, we learn that those in the line of fire are victims of presidential anger. "I do not like the way some ministers have behaved," said Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday. "Jets, cigars and criticising hotels are not the business of members of the government," the little man continued.

That's bad news for three secretaries of state: Alain Joyandet, who hired a private jet at a cost of 116,500 euros to the taxpayer; Christian Blanc, who used 12,000 euros of state funds to pay for his cigars; and Rama Yade, who criticised the hyper-luxurious hotel in which the French footballing flops were housed in South Africa.

But even the senior members of the presidential team are likely to have uneasy moments by the pool this summer. Former Socialist Bernard Kouchner at Foreign Affairs is no longer a frequent visitor to the Elysée Palace; Patrick Devedjian, Minister for Getting the Economy Going Again might be dumped for failing to do his job, even if it's not entirely his fault that the world economy is still in tatters.

And the big question, according to Le Figaro is, will François Fillon survive as Prime Minister? Probably yes is the answer, since the man most likely to have replaced him, Labour Minister Eric Woerth, has got his hands dirty in the scandal surrounding Liliane Bettancourt, heiress of the LOréal cosmetic fortune.

Le Monde gives pride of place to that very same Bettencourt saga, a long-running, real-life soap-opera, with all the classic ingredients . . . sex, jealousy, bundles of money, political chicanery. What started as a simple battle by a daughter to protect her share of her mother's not inconsiderable fortune has already swept in at least one government minister. And, says Le Monde, no one knows where it's all going to end.

At the other end of the financial spectrum, where most of the rest of us live, communist l'Humanité laments price rises for gas, train tickets and postage stamps, which all come into force today, and warns that our purchasing power is going up in smoke.

Catholic La Croix looks at the effect austerity measures are having on the European military establishment. Cuts in defence spending are on the board right across the Old Continent, and the Americans are getting edgy, wondering who will have to take up the slack in the war against terrorism.

Business daily Les Echos looks at how French civil servants are reacting to having their salaries frozen. Not too well would be a fair summary, but I'm afraid things are not likely to get any better before the end of 2013 at the earliest, by which time the state will be paying 55 billion euros in interest on its debts.

Back to Le Figaro, finally, for an environment story with a difference. Apparently, people are currently painting several dozen Andean peaks white, at a cost of 200,000 dollars (164,000 euros) in an effort to stop the glaciers melting. The science behind the idea is sound, since black surfaces absorb heat, while white ones reflect it. Those behind the South American paint job hope that their 70 hectares of white paint will lower the local temperature sufficiently to enable the re-establishment of local glaciers.

A French expert interviewed by Le Figaro is scathing. "It won't work," he says, "and all that paint is going to cause pollution."

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