French press review 22 October 2014

Christophe de Margerie, the boss of the French oil firm Total, who died tragically in an accident in Moscow on Monday night, dominates this morning's front pages.


Le Monde remembers him as an untypical figure; Le Figaro says De Margerie's death has sparked universal emotion. Which is true if you're not too fussy about what kind of emotion we're talking about.

Communist L'Humanité, for example, remembers a man who worked his way up through the ranks of Total to a salary conservatively estimated at 3.5 million euros. The communist daily says he was polite, but he was a business leader, fiercely opposed to many social reforms, friendly with right-wing figures like the former prime ministers, Villepin and Raffarin.

Christophe de Margerie was convinced that France was a high-risk country for investors, because of unstable taxation laws and a frozen social system. Who, he wondered a few months ago, would want to invest in a country capable of inventing laws forbidding the closing of factories?

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Several papers look at the broader question of the French energy sector, already shaken by the resignation of the boss of the nuclear company, Areva, and by changes of management at both the national electricity and gas suppliers.

This strategically crucial sector faces unprecedented challenges, both political and economic, says left-leaning Libération. There's a need for clear, determined management, not for in-fighting among potential successors.

Communist L'Humanité gives its main front page story to an appeal to help those who are defending the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani against Islamic State militants.

The paper says it is time to break the walls of silence and isolation which have left the defenders of Kobani facing an impossible task.

L'Humanité asked various political and cultural figures to comment of the plight of the embattled Syrian city. The national secretary of the French Communist Party wants to see the United Nations take responsibility and co-ordinate diplomatic moves towards peace. Perhaps forgetting that Islamic State has so far shown little respect for diplomacy, peace or the United Nations.

The communist party chief is convinced that an exclusively military approach is a tactical dead-end, and that the Turkish suggestion of a buffer zone is simply playing into the hands of the islamic extremists who show scant regard for boundaries, whoever draws them.

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The main story in conservative Le Figaro concerns the plight of would-be immigrants, currently trapped in the northern French city of Calais.

As many as 3,000 refugees, from Africa, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, are living rough in and around the port of Calais, hoping to hop unnoticed onto one of the hundreds of heavy goods vehicles which cross the English Channel every day.

The local police say they can no longer cope, especially since the migrants have taken to mass assaults on the kilometres-long queues of slow-moving vehicles awaiting customs clearance. There have been clashes, between police and migrants, between various migrant nationalities.

Yesterday, an unfortunate Ethiopian girl died in an accident following a pitched battle between Ethiopian and Erytrean refugees. The police arrest people every day, but are forced to let most of them go since there are no trained translators available for many of the languages spoken.

The American film director, Woody Allen, is interviewed in Le Monde. Today sees the French opening of his latest film Magic in the Moonlight, and Woody is always good for a bit of humour.

He describes New York as "a city in black and white . . . full of gangsters, bookies and men wearing hats. They may be drinking a coffee or smoking a cigarette, but they've all got machine-guns hidden under their newspapers." Not surprisingly, he says he prefers Europe.

On the big questions, Woody says he believes life is like a picnic during which you hear the distant sound of thunder. You're having a grand time, enjoying a meal, knowing that the storm is going to arrive and ruin everything. I suppose the important thing is to enjoy the bit before the rain starts falling. Perhaps Woody Allen movies help us to do that.

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