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French press review 15 September 2014

6 min

This is going to be the "week of truth" for several French political figures.


The front page of right-wing Le Figaro reminds us that, over the next few days, prime minister Manuel Valls faces a vote of confidence in parliament; president François Hollande will have to square-up to the press for his six-monthly oral exams; and former president Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to confirm his comeback to the political mainstream by announcing that he's a candidate to lead the conservative UMP party.

It's several storms in a teacup really, and fairly thin as a main front page story. Valls will win the confidence motion because the rebels in his own socialist group are smart enough to abstain. Voting against the prime minister would cost them their seats; not voting at all means they can continue to criticise their own political leaders while drawing their salaries.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The president will get through his orals, because he's good at this sort of thing and there's a limit to how tough the questions can be. Journalists like being invited to the Elysée Palace, and you don't want to get yourself a bad name. And then there's the oft-intimated return of Sarkozy to the political fray. He's being built up as the champion of a divided right, the man who can save France from bankruptcy, the answer to all our prayers.

But let's not forget his previous five years at the helm, not exactly a golden era either politically or economically, nor his various legal problems. And then he has to convince the supporters of the various UMP godfathers that he's the best man to lead the party and the nation into a brave new world. There will be blood.

Against that background, you might be surprised by the front page of this morning's communist paper, L'Humanité. The headline reads "The left takes hope"! What? Is it the threat of another Sarkozy presidency? The mathematical chance that the Valls government might go down the tubes? Nothing of the sort. The communists are in good form because this was the weekend of the annual far left festival of music and togetherness, La Fête de l'Humanité. The sun shone, the music was cool, even the terminally grumpy extreme left leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon, managed to be polite. The bad news would seem to be that nearly everyone agrees that the current socialist management is not going to haul the country out of the bad times. What is needed is an end to the coalition between government and bosses which is keeping us all poor. At least that's clear .

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Left-leaning Libération announces war against the militants of Islamic State. There's to be an international conference this very day in Paris, where an attempt will be made to co-ordinate policy and military action against an invisible enemy. Islamic State is very well armed, has no shortage of volunteer fighters, has weapons to rival the best in the business.

But there is no front line, no battlefield. When there is a clear zone of activity, as in Syria, the bad guys are fighting against the worse guy (he being Bashar al-Assad) and it's not clear who the global coalition should support. The choice is between those who behead civilian captives and those who use poison gas against their own citizens.

The weekend edition of Le Monde launches the first round of what is probably going to become a regular little game.

The centrist paper compares the enthusiasm of the new European Economic Affairs Commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, for a tax on financial transactions, with the attitude of the same Pierre Moscovici to the same tax, when he was French Finance Minister.

Yesterday, European Pierre was telling the world that he has always had an ambitious view of a tax which could bring in 35 billion euros per year for the eleven participating governments.

Rewind to July 2013. When the European Commission first proposed the tax, French Pierre said, and I quote, "the Commission has gone too far . . . the new rules will be counterproductive. People are worried about the negative effect on French industrial growth and the financing of the national economy."

Opponents of the new tax claim that it could lead directly to the loss of 30,000 French jobs. Which might seem good value for 35 billion euros when you're sitting pretty in Brussels.

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