French press review 4 September 2013

6 min

War dominates this morning's front pages.


There's Syria, obviously, with Libération and Le Figaro agreeing that the debate on an appropriate response to Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons is causing deep divisions on both sides of the political spectrum.

On France 24

Communist L'Humanité wants France to speak with a common voice, and the communist daily does not rule out the possibility that that voice might call for peace rather than punitive military action.

In Le Monde, writer/philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy wonders at the hypocrisy of a discussion which allows a president to bomb, burn and starve to death thousands of his fellow citizens, provided he does it with legally sanctioned conventional weapons. It took just a whif of gas to turn the whole thing into a human tragedy. Indeed.

Then there's the moblie phone war, which Europe is losing to the Americans. This follows the news that Microsoft has bought Finland's Nokia phone operation, once worth 257 billion euros, for five billion. Says business daily Les Echos, Microsoft needs a platform to get into the mobile market as sales of bulky, old-fashioned, desk-bound computers go down the tubes.

A different war will be remembered later today when the German president visits the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane. On 10 June 1944, a division of the German SS wiped out almost the entire population of Oradour - 642 people - as a warning to any French resistance fighters that their activities would have immediate and terrible consequences for nearby civilian populations.

This afternoon, says Catholic La Croix, the French and German leaders will meet at the village, now home to 2,500 people, in a spirit of remembrance and reconciliation. I wonder what the people of little villages in Syria will make of the ceremony?

Le Monde devotes its main story to the fact that French earners have been subjected to no fewer than 84 new taxes over the past two years. Irrespective of who calls the shots - conservative Sarkozy or socialist Hollande - the tax take has continued to mount.

This year is going to break all the records with a level of obligatory taxation (that means income tax, social charges, housing and residence payments) which represents more than 46 percent of gross domestic product.

Sarkozy got the ball rolling back in 2011, adding 16 billion euros to the national tax bill. He followed that up with 12 billion a year later. Then honest Frank Hollande promised to save us from penury, got himself elected, and promptly hit the reeling electorate with two increases: a gentle left hook of 8 million (on top of the taxes already agreed under the out-going UMP government) and then the knock-out 20 billion euro increase for this year. Zowie!

French businesses have suffered under both presidents, accounting for 33 billion euros of the additional tax take over the past three years.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Against that background, I was surprised to see an opinion poll in Le Monde which shows that President Hollande's popularity rating has improved, though I have to admit the improvement is slight, a bit like discovering you only have a brain tumour when you thought you had a brain tumour and athlete's foot. To put it scientifically, fearless François has moved up to 32 percent in the approval ratings, a two-point surge, with a significant decline in the number of those (55 percent) who think he's completely hopeless.

The science supplement of Le Monde reports that it's not only taxes that are increasing: apparently the average European man is now 11 centimetres taller than he would have been back in 1870. According to the people who carried out the study in 15 European countries, average height is a good indicator of improvements in the general health of a population group. Of course, they still haven't managed to wipe out athlete's foot!

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