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French press review 10 May 2011

4 min

Thirty years after François Mitterrand took over at the Elysee Palace to become the only Socialist president of the Fifth Republic so far, most of the French media questions the lasting impact he had on the country


Exactly thirty years ago, on the 10 May, 1981, François Mitterrand won the French presidential election for the Socialist Party, and some people thought the world, or at least France, would never be the same again.

They were wrong, of course, but practically all of this morning's national newspapers give pride of place to remembering the emotion associated with that narrow victory for the Left.

Communist L'Humanité uses the occasion of the anniversary to reflect on the troubled state of the current, contemporary Socialist Party, and on the lamentable mess that is French politics in general.

An opininion poll in Catholic La Croix points out that today's voters no longer believe in the possibility of dramatic social transformation, but they still regard politicians as the best hope for real change.

Right-wing Le Figaro also marks the anniversary of the socialist victory, but they choose to underline what the right-wing paper calls "the seven errors of François Mitterrand".

Le Figaro says the new president was bedevilled by the document known as "The 110 Propositions", a sort of road map for the socialist re-birth of France, but with an awful lot of nonsense added in by the Communist Party and with many proposals which Mitterrand would never have supported personally. Nationalisation, the reform of the public service, and education were key areas of conflict between the president, his far-left supporters, and his right-wing detractors.

Le Figaro also criticises Mitterrand's dictatorial style, a sharp contrast with his promises to break with what the president called "the Gaullist royal family".

He also had a troubled relationship with money, was fiercely loyal to his friends, dishonestly so, if we're to believe Le Figaro.

And he blindly hated the prime minister, Michel Rocard, in a way the right-wing paper considers unworthy of a president of the Republic.

The Figaro editorial is scathing. They find the whole idea of a celebration out of place, suggesting that it's similar to asking voters in the United Kingdom to get excited about the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's arrival in Downing Street, or imagining that Americans would want to celebrate the memory of the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House.

No, says the Figaro editorialist, it's the old left-wing tendency to glorify the heros of the past, even though the logic of the contemporary world must be forward-looking, driven by the future, happening now.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Greece is back on the front page of business daily, Les Echos, and the news is not good.

The ratings agency, Standard & Poor's, has reduced the Athens credit rating for the fourth time in twelve months, suggesting that the country is, once again, on the brink of bankruptcy.

The main story in Les Echos looks at green energy, in other words, sources of power which don't pollute the atmosphere or poison the neighbours.

Apparently, the globe could be getting nearly 80 per cent of its energy from ecologically acceptable sources by the year 2050, but only if a massive investment campaign is started now.

The electricity sector alone would need to see 3,556 billion euros invested over the next decade if that most optimistic vision of 80 per cent of clean energy is to have any chance of becoming a reality. If it did, greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by one third over the next 40 years.

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