French press review 21 May 2012

Greece, Nato, and French elections are this morning's headline stories.


Business daily Les Echos and Catholic La Croix take opposite approaches to the budgetary problems of Athens.

"Europe stumbles about in the dark as Greek crisis worsens" reads the main headline in Les Echos, with the small print asserting that several eurozone leaders now believe that Greece will have to go.

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Nonsense, says the front page of La Croix, with a main story explaining why "Europe needs Greece".

The main reason seems to be that, if the Greeks do go, a lot of European money will go with them. And that will just leave Spain next up in the firing line.

For La Croix, the entire basis of the European experiment is under stress. If the other nations leave Athens to its fate, and its devalued drachmas, then not just the eurozone, but the whole idea of a continental community will go down the gurgler.

A lot of French cash will go the same route, according to the details on inside pages of Les Echos.

France is the unhappy holder of around 100 billion euros of Greek public and private debt. France is also the largest single investor in the Greek market, with a huge balance of trade surplus, which is good news, provided the Greek companies which owe the French companies money actually have the readies to pay the bills.

At the weekend G8 meeting, the leaders of the world's most powerful economies and/or the world's most endebted economies, agreed that growth is the answer. The problem is how to get the ball rolling.

Throwing more cash into the bottomless pit in Athens may not be a very good way of using the scarce reserves available in the eurozone. And, of course, the German chancellor, Ma Merkel, still wants what she calls "structural reform", meaning that no country should be allowed to become so indebted as to be unable to pay its German suppliers.

And then there's Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, currently trying to find a way to retreat from the chaos of Afghanistan without breaking into a panicky rush.

New French president, François Hollande, has repeated his promise to bring French soldiers home by the end of 2012.

That's one year earlier than the promise made by Nicolas Sarkozy and is, according to right wing Le Figaro, a bad decision since it places national interests before the commitments of the alliance.

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The weekend edition of Le Monde cleverly gets both the economic and the military aspects of the G8 and NATO talks into one headline, reading "An alliance for growth".

Which brings us to next month's French parliamentary elections.

The official campaign period opens today, with the right attempting to mobilise to prevent a Socialist takeover of the National Assembly.

The ministers in the new government of Jean-Marc Ayrault face a tense few weeks, juggling their new portfolios with their obligation to win seats in the next election, since they have been warned that any minister defeated in next month's poll will have to resign his or her cabinet seat.

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