French press review 11 March 2014

Thousands of French people face having their power cut off. A Nobel prizewinner condemns Japan's nuclear policy. France suffers a brain drain but not as bad as Germany's, Italy's and the UK's. Did Hollande and Valls know about taps on the phones of Sarkozy and his lawyer?


Later this week, on 15 March to be precise, France's "winter truce" comes to an end. That means that landlords can once again evict tenants for repeated non-payment of rents and other serious infringements. It's also the date after which the national electricity company can start disconnecting clients who have major arrears on their energy bills.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

According to the front page of communist l'Humanité, France is rapidly approaching the level of one million households deliberately deprived of power for non-payment of bills.

Some 600,000 families face being cut off from 15 March, with the average amount owed to the electricity supplier being 1,900 euros. At the rate at which that statistic has been growing, l'Humanité says a million families could be without light or heat by the end of the year.

It's not strictly related but the editorial in Catholic La Croix notes that 453 people died on French streets last year, mostly males, with an average age of just 50.

The main story in La Croix says Japan remains firmly convinced that the nuclear sector is still the key to its energy future, this barely three years after the Fukushima disaster.

Japan's 50 nuclear sites have been closed for safety inspections for the past three years but are due to be brought back on line progressively.

Like secrets? Find out about the Hidden Paris

Interviewed by the Catholic daily, Japanese Nobel literature prize winner Oe Kenzaburo says his government learned nothing from Fukushima, which he considers the second great tragedy of recent Japanese history, the first having been the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Kenzaburo says that, whereas the 1945 experience profoundly changed Japan, making the pacifist constitution inevitable, the more recent disaster changed nothing at all. Japan continues to export nuclear technology, claiming to be one of the best and most experienced constructors in the world, when in reality, says Kenzaburo, the damaged reactors of Fukushima prove the opposite.

Le Monde is worried about the increasing number of highly qualified French young people who are fleeing overseas.

According to the Paris Chamber of Commerce, unemployment and economic uncertainty resulted in the doubling of the number of young graduates who left the country to begin their working lives overseas last year.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The neighbours are even worse off, with Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom all seeing serious outflows of young talent. The conservative parliamentary figure, Luc Chatel, who was education minister under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to examine the question.

Left-leaning Libération and right-wing Le Figaro continue to give pride of place to the Sarkozy spying saga, which is, frankly, a lot less exciting than that makes it sound.

You will know that a lot of people have recently been squeezed out of the cracks for having shown an interest in the former president's personal conversations.

Presidential advisor Patrick Buisson was one such, the amateur James Bond who smuggled a dictaphone into meetings of the Sarkozy inner circle so that he could record a mixture of cynicism, vulgarity and self-interest that has surprised practically no one over the age of 10.

Perhaps more importantly, it is now clear that French judges investigating the alleged financing of the Sarkozy presidential campaign in 2007 by Libya have been listening to private conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer.

Le Figaro wants to know how much the current, Socialist, administration knew about the judicial spying on the former head of state. President François Hollande and Interior Minister Manuel Valls are unlikely, says Le Figaro, not to have known about the nature of the investigation and they could face legal repercussions.

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