French press review 19 August 2011

Text by: Brian Eads
5 min

The French papers don't agree entirely on today's top stories, though there are three stories that make it onto more than one front page this morning.


Les Echos leads on what it calls the infernal spiral of the stock market. As you'd guess that's a downward spiral with Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and New York all down yesterday.

The paper highlights concerns triggered by US statistics - jobs and house sales are down - inflation is up. All of which casts doubt of the American economy's returning to growth.

Liberation flags rumours of a new banking crisis, observing that three days after a Franco-German summit aimed at reassuring markets - European markets are down five per cent. The price of gold, meanwhile, has risen to over 1,800 dollars an ounce.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

 On its editorial pages Le Figaro asks if the market economy is dead. Capitalism triumphed over Marxism, the writer notes. But is it capable of surviving the current crisis? It will require a mixture and imagination and courage, he concludes.

Financial woes aside, August is a slow month for news - journalists call it the silly season. But there is still newsprint to fill.

Le Figaro and Liberation look at US President Barack Obama and his prospects for reelection. The presidential election is next year. But no matter. The news pegs are that Obama has been touring the Midwest in an extraordinary bullet-proof battle-bus.

Liberation pictures the president nibbling on an ice cream with the headline declaring that his popularity is at half mast. This is perhaps generous. Le Figaro says that, with efforts to create jobs and boost the US economy largely unsuccessful, Obama's popularity among American is at an all-time low. Fewer than one in four approve his handling of the country's debt crisis.

Obama is soon heading off on holiday to Martha's Vineyard.  And who can blame him?

Meanwhile, Aujourd'hui en France and Le Figaro headline the visit to Spain of Pope Benedict  XVI. Between fervour and tension declares Aujourd'hui. Inside, the paper airs conflicting opinions on the Pope's visit. The money could be better spent in relieving hunger in Somalia, says one young Spaniard. But crowds greeting the Pope outnumbered protestors, the paper notes;

And, judging by the photo of crowds surrounding the Popemobile passing through Madrid, many faithful Catholics welcome the visit.

La Croix leads not on the Pope's travels but on what it calls Norway's infinite pain. One month after a lone gunman killed 69 people, the country is still in shock and trying to understand what happened and why.

The paper notes that Norway is spacious and rich with an admirable quality of life. Bad news usually came from elsewhere. But the killings have raised questions about personal liberty and the shape of Norwegian society. An anthropologist describes recent events as a rite of passage. With regard to the country's religious and ethnic minorities, he says, there is no longer us and them. A nation has emerged than is non-ethnic.

Elsewhere, it looks as though French farmers want to cut out the middle man.

L'Humanité devotes  most of its front page devoted to street markets battling against what it calls the racket of hypermarkets.

The paper reports that yesterday trade unionists, communist activists and peasants dramatised their anger over supermarket prices and imported Spanish produce - by offering French fruits and vegetables directly to French consumers at 178 street markets in Paris and the Ile de France.

Supermarkets are charging consumers four to six times what they pay French farmers, one activist complained. By comparison on the street market a kilo of tomatoes cost 1,50 euro and a lettuce 50 centimes. This was a fair price, reflecting the cost of production, transport and a fair reward for the producers, they said.

Times are hard for French farmers, it seems. Earlier this month angry French stopped Spanish trucks and dumped their fresh produce. Today, their representatives will be at the Ministry of Agriculture demanding a rescue plan.

In sports news:

The big story in L’Equipe is the death of Pierre Quinon, a celebrated French pole-vaulter who won the gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. The athlete - who was 49-years-old killed himself on Wednesday. An angel has passed away, the paper says. Friends and rivals reflect on his passing and consider the stresses endured by top sportsmen once their glory days have passed.

The back page considers the stresses of football management at the highest level after Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid lost to Barcelona again. Evidently, the Special One is looking less special these days. Certainly, to Barcelona's finest. One describes him as the scourge of Spanish football. Another says Real Madrid's image is pathetic. A third that he is annihilating Spanish football. L'Equipe concludes that even when the Portuguese coach annoys people he also knows how to win.

We shall see.


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