French weekly magazines review

The ongoing economic crisis facing the eurozone, political wrangling ahead of next year's presidential election and the trials and tribulations - once again - of Dominque Strauss-Kahn dominate the weeklies.

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L’Express examines the hard times awaiting the people of Europe as the economic crisis continues to loom.

The right-wing magazine reports that the cancer has already spread beyond the financial sphere.

Unemployment is worsening as factories shut down, amid growing unease by the banking sector and anguish by consumers subjected to harsh, unexpected austerity measures.

The paper wonders if Europe’s leaders can stop the dangerous decline.

Le Canard Enchainé takes up the Franco-German cordial disagreement about the role of the European Central Bank in tackling the euro debt crisis.

The satirical paper claims that at last month’s tripartite summit with Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Monti in Strasbourg, Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy pledged to desist from making any positive or negative requests to the ECB.

Under the deal, France agreed to drop its demands that the ECB help bail out debt-ridden countries, while Germany pledged to stop pressurising the Bank from buying bonds from countries in difficulty.

The bottom line according to Le Canard is that the entente allows Germany to continue funding its economy with credit rates by far inferior to exorbitant conditions imposed on its neighbors: eight per cent for Italy and Spain and 12 per cent for Portugal.

The newspaper also reveals that the ECB secretly bought obligations worth 200 billion euros recently in violation of the Maastricht treaty, a decision that angered the Germans.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

According to Le Canard Enchaîné, the Germans’ frame of mind is changing, as their lending rates rose to 2.3 per cent.

Moody’s threat to downgrade the credit rating of the entire eurogroup is what has also forced Merkel and Sarkozy to push for a reform of the Maastricht treaty especially the clauses affecting the independence of the ECB.

Le Point notes that the electric shock caused by the euro debt crisis has final raised Europe’s leaders from the dead.

It is the moment of truth for the eurozone’s leading economies are facing debt default, according to the right-wing magazine.

Le Point reports that despite their triple A credit rating, Angela Merkel’s “technos” have been unable to sell three billion euros of Germany’s debt.

France it notes also faces a frightening deadline on the 12 December, when it must find 7 billion euros to pay its debt interests, 7 billion euros more by the 19 December, three billion by the 26 and 25 billion by the 9 of January 2012.

Le Point, says the ruling UMP party is in search of the best formula to tackle the fiscal shortfall. The measures include a package of value-added industrial relocation tax slapped on companies which outsource jobs and relocate abroad.

Le Nouvel Observateur investigates a select group of fraudsters now facing the wrath of the centre-right government after managing to evade tax collectors for years.

The left-leaning magazine reports that more than 100,000 tycoons are “trembling”, after a whistle blower gave French authorities a list stolen from an affiliate of the HSBC bank in Switzerland.

One of the fraudsters targeted in the gigantic hunt is Liliane Bettencourt, the multi-billionaire heiress who has just been ordered to pay a penalty of 128 million euros for not declaring all her earnings.

Bettencourt who is heiress to the giant L'Oréal Empire, recently received tax rebates of close to 40 million euros.

Le Nouvel Observateur claims that the likes of Bettencourt are the real cause of the economic crisis and it believes that only highly placed persons must have allowed France’s richest woman to escape fiscal control for over 15 years.

Le Nouvel Observateur also publishes a new survey that confirms President Sarkozy’s strong gains in the tracking polls.

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

The TNS-SOFRES poll found that President Sarkozy’s approval rating has climbed to 28 per cent while his socialist challenger François Hollande has plummeted to 31 per cent, although he is still widely tipped to oust the incumbent by a wide margin come 2012.

Le Nouvel Obs, argues that Sarkozy’s strategy of hammering on security and nationalistic themes could become a double-edged sword.

The paper expresses grave reservations about the dangerous game of alliances being played by the Socialists and their Greens partners.

According to the magazine, Hollande’s campaign is being derailed by the nuclear reduction and electoral accords signed by the two partners.

Right-wing Le Point also takes up what it says is a “strange game” opposing Hollande to Socialist Party chief Martine Aubry. It picked out the case of Hollande’s cabinet chief Faouzi Lamdaoui.

Martine Aubry refused to endorse the Algerian-born Frenchman to run for an overseas constituency in upcoming parliamentary elections, bypassing an arrangement reached with Hollande, keeping the post for one of her friends.

François Hollande’s early attempt to win the support of Centrist leader Francois Bayrou is criticized by Le Point as likely to further undermine his appeal with blue-collar voters who trooped towards Sarkozy in 2007 as the socialists went flirting with moderate voters.

L’Express put out a special supplement on Bayrou exploring his motivations, the political and civil society networks backing his presidential bid and samples his opinions about Nicolas Sarkozy and front-runner François Hollande.

Marianne takes to task what it calls the” suicidal Left” working against Hollande’s presidential ambitions: Eva Joly, the Greens’ presidential candidate, Greens MEP Daniel Cohn Bendit and Radical Left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Melenchon who defected from the Socialist Party after serving as cabinet minister in Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s government has repeatedly branded Hollande as a politician from another age, who is to blame for the “demobilisation” of the Left.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn hit the cover page of right-wing Le Point for the umpteenth time this week.

Dossier: The Strauss-Kahn affair rocks France, IMF

Revelations published in the United States by American investigative journalist Edward Epstein suggest that the still missing BlackBerry of the ex-IMF chief was hacked while he was spied upon during his stay at the Manhattan Sofitel. These revelations are again fanning the “obsession” about conspiracy theories.

The 16-page special combs through tons of police records and findings by private detectives suggesting that Strauss-Kahn was trapped.

Le Canard Enchaîné sheds light on the circumstances surrounding the 2004 bombardment of the French base in Bouaké that forced President Jacques Chirac to order the destruction of the Ivorian air force.

Le Canard, quoting new intelligence sources, reveals that the pilots who carried out the raid at the Licorne base were Belarussian mercenaries.

French military investigators confirmed that they were arrested alongside several other mercenaries but later released on instructions by Paris.

The intelligence reports contradict claims by then defense minister Michéle Alliot-Marie that the pilots were never identified.

According to Le Canard Enchaîné, the attack was probably a “manipulation” by Ivorian rebels, to trigger French reprisal attacks against Laurent Gbagbo’s forces.

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