French press review 3 September 2014

Putin challenges Europe. Iraqi Kurds flee the Islamic State. France’s Socialist government gets tough with the unemployed. And French kids go back to school amid a row over education reform.


The main headline in left-leaning Libération reads "War Against Europe".

The article explains that the Russian military offensive in Ukraine and the provocative double-speak of Moscow's main man, Vladimir Putin, reveal his true intentions . . . nothing less than the annexation of eastern Ukraine. And if he gets away with that, says Libé, and he probably will since Europe seems incapable of taking any action more serious than a ban on Russian tomatoes, then Putin will be free to continue a clear policy involving the Russian take-over of other former Soviet states.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Libération's editorial describes Putin as a former G8 leader, now an enemy of Europe. He is getting away with murder and Europe is desperately wringing its hands. Libé accepts that no European volunteers will be found to go and die in the defence of Donetsk. But the European Union could help to give the Ukrainian army weapons, just as France has honoured contracts with the Russian navy. What remains of the diplomatic credibility of Europe is at stake.

Over at Catholic La Croix, the front page is dominated by a special report on the Iraqi Kurds who've been forced to flee their homeland in the face of attacks by Islamic State fighters. According to the story, many Christian Kurds have decided that peaceful cohabitation with a Muslim community administered on the lines advocated by the Islamic State would be simply impossible.

Since June at least 700,000 people have been driven out of northern Iraq by the Islamists’ campaign of religious purification.

According to La Croix, some of the refugees have turned their backs on the homeland forever, stunned by the violence of the holy warriors; others continue to hope for some useful form of military intervention by the West, which might eventually enable them to return home and live in real security.

The three other French papers to hand all get stuck into a new government initiative to cut down on social security fraud. Each in its own way.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Le Monde's main headline reads "Government to reinforce control of the unemployed."

This follows an announcement by the employment minister that he wants to be sure that those claiming unemployment benefit are making a serious effort to find jobs.

Le Monde wonders if this is another sign of the increasing drift to the right by the nominally socialist government of Manuel Valls and wonders how the official right wing will react as the government increasingly follows the line for so long advocated by the mainstream conservative UMP.

Communist L'Humanité is scandalised, saying the proposal is nothing less than a witch-hunt targeting the poorest members of French society. Says L'Humanité, in a story illustrated by a photo of the employment minister shaking hands with bosses’ union chief Pierre Gattaz, the minister has been unable to reduce unemployment and so he's decided to take refuge in a reactionary assault on those out of work.

This government loves business, says L'Huma, but not workers.

Rebsamen says there are currently 350,000 jobs on offer at government employment exchanges but none of the nation's three and a half million unemployed want to take them.

Right-wing Le Figaro is delighted to see further signs of disintegration in the ruling majority. With a jobs minister taking no nonsense from those out of work and the man at the interior talking about limiting the number of immigrants, the conservative paper praises ministers who've had the courage to break a couple of left-wing taboos.

There are smiling schoolchildren on the front page of Le Monde.

They went back to school yesterday, blissfully unaware of the political turmoil surrounding the changed school attendance regulations. Strictly speaking, all French junior schools now work a five-day week, instead of having Wednesday off, as used to be the case. A lot of people are unhappy about this, including some parents, teachers, opposition politicians and the mayors who have to pay people to mind the children when they're not in class.

But the kids seem completely oblivious.

That's good news.

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