French press review 25 April 2014

A dispute between the government and members of the Socialist parliamentary group over President François Hollande’s Responsibility Pact and the Russia-Ukraine crisis hit the French front-pages today.

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Le Monde says the French government plan to reduce labour costs, mostly through cutting corporate taxation, in order to improve the economy's competitiveness is facing more difficulties than expected.

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The sticking point, according to the paper, is a demand from the Socialist left for smaller pensions to be exempt from a proposed freeze. Le Monde says the exasperation of MPs and voters about the measure was most evident when President François Hollande was heckled Thursday during his visit to Carmaux, the hometown of historic Socialist leader Jean Jaurès.
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Le Figaro reports that the Socialist Party is ready to sanction rebel lawmakers who are threatening to vote against the government austerity package next Tuesday. It points to a warning issued by Bruno Le Roux, the Socialist chief whip in parliament in an interview Thursday. The right-wing paper reports that the rebels are determined and even itching for a fight, which might even mean breaking away from the Socialist parliamentary group.

As Prime Minister Manuel Valls tries to calm the flaring tempers, L’Opinion says he is looking to Rome for salvation. Valls is indeed due to attend the canonisation of the late Pope John Paul II and John XXIII on Sunday.

Libération investigates a breaking scandal following reports that the treatment of handicapped people from France has become a lucrative business in Belgium. Libé found out that there are al least 139 centres specialising in French patients and that most do not provide all the facilities advertised in brochures. It visited one establishment where residents were seen roaming all over the place, their rooms unheated and littered with unprotected electricity cables.

According to Libé, the trade has been going on for years, facilitated by systemic failures in the French healthcare system.

Les Echos takes up speculation about the future of French engineering group Alstom, which builds power-generating equipment and high-speed trains.

It reports claims by the financial news agency Bloomberg that US General Electric may make a takeover bid for the French giant. The economic newspaper notes that Alstom shares shot up 9.45 per cent to 26.64 euros Thursday as the allegations hit the markets. The Bloomberg report says that GE is on course to buy Alstom for more than 9.4 billion euros.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has continued to proceed with his plan on Ukraine, warns Le Figaro, after ordering new military exercises on the border and threatening "consequences" in the wake of Kiev’s deadly assault against pro-Kremlin rebels

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occupying a flashpoint town of Slavyansk.

The right-wing newspaper believes the Kremlin is taking advantage of the weaknesses of its adversaries, the political disorder in Europe, their dependence on Russia for energy and their military inferiority.

For La Croix, Putin is waging a war of nerves with the Western allies, noting that the conditions for a fully fledged escalation between Ukraine and Russia are now in place. The problem, according to the Catholic daily, is that the repeated exchanges between the belligerents have multiplied the risks of an explosion.

The authorities in the Kremlin are clearly looking for a pretext for military action, it believes, as they did during the crisis in southern Ossetia in 2008 when Russian troops invaded Georgia before a quasi-annexation of Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Sport daily L’Equipe believes that the Ukrainian crisis is spilling over into Saturday’s world heavyweight boxing match between reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko and Australian challenger Alex Leapai in Oberhausen, Germany.

The 38-year-old Klitschko is the younger brother of Vitaly Klitschko, the ex-world heavyweight boxing champion and popular Ukrainian politician. According to the daily, the big fight for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts is expected to be broadcast in 150 countries worldwide … but not in Russia.

L’Equipe says Russia’s main channels deny having any rights to the fight but it believes the orders not to buy the rights came from above as Putin would not like Russians seeing a Klitschko win.
 

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