French press review 14 February 2012

The situation in Greece dominates this morning's front pages with predictions of revolution at the Acropolis ... or will the whole country just go bust? And there's a look at the Iran-Israel face-off.


Communist L'Humanité's main headline reads "Uprising" with the small print explaining that the cradle of European civilisation is on the brink of revolution because the common people have had enough of the economic hardship being demanded by Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

The problem, says L'Humanité, is that the Greek Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos, is a technocrat, imposed by the European Central Bank to look after its money and he has absolutely no democratic legitimacy. So he's hardly in an ideal position when he calls on the rioters who are burning the centre of Athens to respect democracy.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The Papademos government has agreed to cut the minimum wage to 586 euros a month.

With the rent of an ordinary one-bed apartment in Athens currently 350 euros and a monthly travel pass for public transport at 45 euros, that leaves precisely 191 euros to pay the bills and buy the food. Always assuming you're lucky enough to earn the minimum wage. Nearly half the Greek population under the age of 25 is on the dole.

Catholic La Croix wonders what would happen if Greece does finally go bankrupt and has to leave the eurozone.

What can be predicted would be a huge drop in the value of Greek goods and sevices, making the place very attractive to buyers. Imported goods would be beyond the reach of most Greeks, at least initially. There would also probably be a massive exodus of the rich, each lugging his personal fortune across the border in suitcases, hoping to get to Switzerland.

The state would have to let thousands of civil servants go, since it wouldn't have the means to pay them.

And a Greek departure would also provoke chaos on the world financial markets, as investors flee other fragile members of the eurozone.

It looks as if the Greeks are facing a choice between Brussels-imposed and self-imposed misery, with many feeling they might be better off with the second option.

Le Figaro's main story looks at Israeli determination to use force to put an end to the Iranian nuclear programme. The hardliners in Tel Aviv are asking why they should wait for American permission to go and knock the nobs off Ahmedinejad's nuclear nick-nacks.

Israel believes that it is important to act quickly, before key parts of the programme can be so deeply buried as to be beyond the reach of even the most powerful bunker-busters. Washington is afraid of the impact of any military action on the fragile stability of the region and on the price of petrol.

Thirty-five per cent of the global trade in crude oil passes through the Straits of Hormuz and Iran says it will close off that vital supply line if it is attacked. US President Barack Obama has an election to win later this year and petrol at 10 dollars a gallon won't help him one little bit.

Les Echos looks at yesterday's parliamentary coup here in France where a hastily convened group of Socialist deputies, profiting from the absence of a huge number of majority UMP MPs, who rarely make it back to the capital for Monday sessions, managed to have the so-called "social sales tax" rejected by the parliamentary finance commission.

It was a purely symbolic move, which won't prevent the proposals from eventually becoming law, but the Socialists are triumphant, chortling that the level of disinterest shown by the majority yesterday says a lot about their overall committment to this much-disputed law.

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