French press review 18 July 2011

Socialist party spats, stressy banks, those Chilean miners again and super-cheap houses all feature in the French dailies today....

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You will know that the French Socialist Party is in the delicate, not to say extremely dangerous, process of preparing for autumn primary elections, with a view to choosing a candidate to run in the 2012 presidential race.

Dossier: The Strauss-Kahn affair rocks France, IMF

The problem is that, since they're all Socialists, they don't have much opportunity for variation on basic policy. And since they're all the best of friends, they don't have much opportunity for tearing stips off one another either.

This weekend, Martine Aubry and François Hollande were out and about, trying to say the same things in different ways. And sometimes saying contradictory things. She would like to see more money spent on culture . . . between 30 and 50 per cent more. He warns against exaggerated promises.

For right-wing Le Figaro, the credibility of the two individuals and the party they represent, is already in tatters.

Left-leaning Libération sees it as little more than a friendly spat, but does accept that the economy is going to be the key battleground and that socialist candidates are classically seen as poor economists.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

This is going to be a crucial week, another one, for the euro.

European leaders are to meet, again, on Thursday, to see if they can get the Greeks out of debt by loaning them more money. The world's stock markets remain understandably nervous.

Business daily Les Echos looks back at last week's stress tests carried out on Europe's banks. There's good news, and there's bad news.

The good news is that, of the 90 establisments tested in 21 countries, only eight were outright failures, with 16 others just scraping by. Nothing that an additional couple of billion euros from central coffers can not gloss over.

The bad news is that the stress tests currently being adlministered may not be sufficiently stressful. And crucially, these tests do not even consider the possibility of the bankruptcy of a sovereign state like Greece. So just how much confidence we should have in the European banking system is, frankly, anyone's guess.

THE BATTLE FOR LIBYA

Libération's foreign pages look to Libya, and the acceleration of hostilities with the approach of the muslim fasting season of ramadan, likely to oblige both sides to slow down their military efforts.

Libé also reports that the Chilean miners . . . remember them? . . . national heroes and global good news icons last year, after they were safely brought to the surface after a 69-day ordeal trapped in a collapsed mineshaft.

Well, now 31 of the 33 have decided to pursue the Chilean state for negligence, claiming that the safety of the mine in which they were trapped had not been officially verified.

They are asking for compensation to the tune of 380,000 euros per man. And that's on top of an on-going action against the mine owners, worth several million euros in total. The men also want to be allowed take early retirement.

The Chilean state spent 20 million euros to get the men out alive, and has itself opened legal proceedings against the mine owners, with a view to getting that money back.

At the other end of the money scale, the Indian group Tata has announced the launch of the 500-euro house. Sold as a pack, the 20-square-metre house can be constructed in a week, and comes complete with, I kid you not, a roof, windows and doors.

If you opt for the luxury version, slightly more expensive, you can have 30 square metres, solar panels and a verandah. Tata, which already markets the cheapest car on the planet, is hoping that governments will be the big buyers of the new houses.

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