French press review 29 June 2011

Women are on top in the French news today - on the right Christine Lagarde, on the left Martine Aubry. Claims that France is arming Libyan rebels. Pay packets can seriously damage your health ... and so can electric cars, it appears. Where are Tunisia's and Egypt's missing millions? 


Two Frenchwomen dominate this morning's front pages . . .

There's Martine Aubry, who yesterday surprised nobody by announcing her decision to run in the Socialist Party's primary election, the long public agony in which the French left exposes its internal divisions and petty personal feuds, before "uniting" behind the person chosen, who then has the unhappy task of pulling the whole shambles together before the real presidential battle can begin.

Dossier: The Strauss-Kahn affair rocks France, IMF

And there's Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, yesterday named to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund.

Right-wing Le Figaro celebrates her nomination as a victory for France. It's certainly a victory for Nicolas Sarkozy, who is happy to see his woman get the job, especially on the day that Martine Aubry was taking her first step on the road to getting his job.

Lagarde is recognised as a brilliant economist, an able diplomat, but she takes up the reins of an organisation that still has to resolve the Greek crisis and the troubles of the wider eurozone.

And what else is going on in the world?

Le Figaro looks at how France is providing arms and amunition to anti-Kadhafi forces in Libya.

For weeks now, French supply planes have secretly been dropping parachute-loads of weapons into the mountains south of Tripoli, hoping that the region's Berber tribesmen might gallop down and dislodge Mad Moamer.

Le Figaro, which is a staunchly right-wing paper, makes no comment on the legality of the French initiative, but simply notes that there does not appear to be much belief anywhere, any more in the possibility of a political settlement.

What began as an exercise to protect civilians is now, overtly, a mission to dislodge the Supreme Guide.

The front page of Le Figaro also carries a health warning. Pay packets can seriously damage your health, according to a study by two American economists.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

In the current issue of the Journal of Public Economics, the pair point out that fatal car accidents, excessive alcohol intake, drug consumption, fights and heart attacks all peak after the arrival of the monthly salary.

All age groups and both sexes are affected about equally. There doesn't appear to be a cure, not even unemployment, since the arrival of the monthly social security pittance seems to have about the same lethal effect of people's behaviour.

And today's the 29th of the month. Don't say you weren't warned.

Catholic La Croix devotes its main story to ongoing efforts to track down money allegedly stolen by ousted Arab leaders, Zine el Abdine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

The Ben Ali clan is estimated to have amassed a fortune of between three and seven billion euros, with a large property portfolio here in France. Mubarak's entourage is reckoned to hold something like 50 billion euros, a lot of it in American treasury bonds.

When you add in Mad Moamer from Libya, he who owns property in France, London and the United States, you begin to get an idea of the scale of the problem.

But since much of the loot is disguised behind holding companies, and since the international convention against corruption requires states to prove that the money was actually stolen before anything can be done about it, don't expect a sudden surge of repayments.

Sani Abacha finally left Nigeria with a personal fortune of 10 billion euros in 1998. He couldn't take it with him. He was dead.


Thirteen years later, less than one billion of those euros have been recovered, and you still have to deduct the fees for the dozens of lawyers, accountants, consultants and other experts who were involved in tracking down the missing cash.

And it is not unknown, laments La Croix, for returned funds to rapidly go missing again.

Le Monde's main story concerns the dangers posed by electric cars. Far from saving the environment from ternimal meltdown, yer battery-powered machine is, in fact, a potential bomb which, if it goes on fire, as batteries will from time to time, will produce clouds of hydrogen fluoride, which are extremely toxic.

Renault, who have invested massively in the future of the suspect battery technology, say it's a storm in a pick-up, that their batteries have passed all preliminary safety tests, and that the company will submit its vehicles to further testing by the civil security and fire authorities.

And Le Monde also reports that the Chinese still believe in the euro, which is probably good news for Christine Lagarde, and more than you can say for most Europeans.

Dossier: Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution

No less a figure than Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Prime Minister, made his reassuring comments on a visit to England earlier this week.

He said that Beijing would continue to buy European sovereign debt, regarding it as a long-term investment, not a speculative attempt to turn a quick yuan. England, where Wen made his comments, is not a member of the eurozone.

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