FRANCE

French press review, 28 September 2010

Mahmoud Abbas in Paris, belt-tightening at the European Central Bank and France's attitude to immigrants are some of the stories making headlines in Tuesday's French press.

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The front page of Le Figaro has Nicolas Sarkozy calling for European involvement in the Middle East peace talks. Yesterday the French president met his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, and afterwards callled on Israel to stop settlement building.

The same Figaro also looks at how the religious right is turning against Barack Obama, because the loonies think America is turning away from God. They look back with nostalgia to the good old days under George W. Bush. That is a thought that could drive many back to religion.

Business daily Les Echos gives pride of place to Jean-Claude Trichet, the head honcho at the European Central Bank. He wants more belt-tightening by Europe's finance ministers, which of course means more grief for Europe's tax-payers. The problem, according to Jean-Claude, is that European governments continue to underestimate the scale of their budgetary difficulties, and refuse to take the necessary steps to get back on the straight and narrow.

Jean-Claude obviously never had to face a baying electorate and the trials and tribulations of ordinary politics. He proposes setting up a committee to keep an eye on Europe's 27 economies. You just have to wonder how much that will cost?

Libération looks at new French laws to control immigration, under the headline "No papers? No pity". The president, Nicolas Sarkozy, recently said that France was now paying the price for fifty years of uncontrolled access, resulting in a collapse of social integration. He wants the nation to wake up to the realities. Incidentally, France expelled 14,670 people in the first six months of this year, which means the authorities are slightly ahead on their yearly total of 28,000.

Less polemically, Catholic La Croix asks "What welcome for outsiders?" It appears that the image of France is not a welcoming one for those who arrive in desperation. And legal changes being debated today in the National Assembly are unlikely to improve the situation.

Libération's editorial, headlined "Enemies", says the current government works on the basis of "mistrust", stoking popular fears of an "invasion", defending a national identity that was never in question in the first place, but does serve the "them-and-us" cleavage. And the point of that, says Libé, is to reassure the far right that the government is properly concerned about saving the nation from the barbarian hordes clamouring at the gates.

Le Monde devotes an inside page to Malian Mahamadou Keita, fomer illegal resident here in Paris, who now meets the plane from the French capital every evening in Bamako to offer assistance to those who've been sent back. They're mostly men, he says, mostly alone, and the predominant emotion is anger. They all ask him the same question: "How do we get back to France?"

Far from trying to keep foreigners out, Malaysia is offering to sell them private paradise islands, complete with a ten-year visa allowing unlimited visits. According to Le Figaro, the idea is to make money from the more than one thousand uninhabited islands in Malaysian waters, most of them so far unnamed. Speaking of names, the tourism minister promoting the scheme, and at the moment visiting Japan, is one Mr Yen Yen. Clearly, that man was born for the job.

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