France

French press review 3 January 2015

Taxes, adoption and the return of one of France's most controversial writers, are some of the top stories dominating French newspapers.

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A mixed bag in this morning's French papers. The main headline in right-wing Le Figaro growls that the middle class will suffer increased taxes this year. As recently as November, the paper reminds us, President François Hollande declared an end to tax increases. "From next year, there will be no additional tax on anyone," he promised.

In fact it very much depends who you are and how much income your household generates. This year's budget raises the threshold for income tax - which will benefit more than 6 million low-income households. This decision, which will cost the taxman 3,2 billion euros, follows a give-away last year of 1,25 billion . Over two years, these measures will enable 9 million people to avoid paying income tax. Most of them members of the Socialist government's core constituency. No great surprise there.

But that, says Le Figaro, is where the government's generosity ends. With lower earners off the hook - someone has to pay the bills. Guess what, it won't be the super wealthy - already mugged by ruinously high taxes - those, at least who have not taken themselves and their loot to less onerous tax regimes such as the UK and Switzerland. It will be what's now known as the "squeezed middle classes." The burden will fall on the 17 million tax paying households - that's less than half the nation - with a smaller number of people having to fork out an additional 4 Billion euros in come taxes in 2015.

Looks like a case of read my lips - no new taxes! Strictly speaking - perfectly true. Well, almost. Provided one ignores measures already announced; There's increase in the duty on diesel fuel, the gradual increase in a "carbon tax", a pricier TV licence fee, higher charges for public transport, a rise in the tourist tax and bigger contributions to the State pension system. Oh, and let's not forget that Hollande's government has given the green light to local municipalities to hike the council tax on second homes by as much as 20 per cent.

Elsewhere, the paper tells us that last year the number of overseas adoptions by families in France tumbled below 1000 - the lowest number in 30 years. This, it says, is a consequence of the scandal in which a French charity - known as Zoe's Ark - was accused of abducting more than 100 children, mostly from Chad. Since then many African countries have tightened the rules for adoption. Bad news for childless French couples and, Le Figaro tells, for African children too - children such as 6-year-old Théo - still languishing in a orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo - 18 months after his adoptive French parents asked for permission to bring him to France.

The week-end edition of left-wing Libération - funky as ever - devotes its front page - and pages 2 to 7 - to the controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq - whose sixth novel is entitled "Submission" - which will be published next Wednesday. The action unfolds in 2022 when the President of France is - Shock! Horror! - a Muslim.The paper describes the book as a political polemic as much as a work of literature. As Libé sees it, the novel is a mix of of fantasy and farce, both sad and provocative. Certainly the premise will excite attention and debate. Less than a decade from now - the novelist's fictional France is ruled by an Islamist party which has defeated the far-right Front National at the polls. It's fiction, yes. But, it articulates the concerns of more than a few people in France.

The Catholic daily, La Croix isn't a bundle of laughs this morning. It takes an anguished look at a day in the life of a judge in the children's court in the city of Lyon. A change in the laws regarding children - more focused on their welfare - is anticipated later this year. Not a moment too soon, in La Croix's opinion.

And, several papers report that the quintessentially French holiday giant - Club Med - with resorts worldwide - is in the shop window. The likely buyer is a mainland Chinese group called Fosun. Evidently, a previously interested Italian investor has pronounced the asking price too high. The company is valued at more than 900 million euros. Club Med's management is reported to favour the Chinese offer. French history buffs will recall that 200 years ago the Emperor Napoléon warned against the rise of China. It's taken a while, but here's the proof. One wonders if there's enough cultural angst there for Michel Houellebecq's seventh novel.

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