French press review 27 January 2015

There's a Greek clean sweep across this morning's front pages.


The Doomsday Clock has just been re-set, leaving the human race just three minutes to ultimate midnight. The clock is a completely symbolic effort, created at the start of the nuclear era, and intended to give a graphic reminder of just how close we are to a global catastrophe.

Explaining their decision to reduce our theoretical margin of safety by a further two minutes, the panel at the Atomic Science Bulletin say they have made the latest adjustment to include the possibility of climatic disaster.

The Doomsday Clock has been advanced or slowed 18 times since it was inaugurated in 1947, according to Libération. The time right now is 23 hours and 57 minutes.

Le Monde says the weekend victory of the radical left Syriza party is a warning to Europe. The latest news that Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras, has forged an anti-austerity coalition with the far-right Independent Greece party has, according to the centrist daily, caused a certain amount of tooth-grinding in Athens, Brussels and Berlin.

The local debate centres on the wisdom of an alliance with a populist party which, just two and a half years ago, after the 2012 parliamentary elections produced no clear leader, was considered as so far off the political dial as to make any post-election negotiations impossible. Now, under the banner of economic pragmatism, Alexis Tsipras is prepared to overlook the more extreme views of his alliance partners. He'll have to keep his gaze high.

The Independent Greece party leader is a bulky chap by the name of Panos Kammenos. He looks like someone who'd get on well with Vladimir Putin. Kammenos would almost certainly get on well with vetern French populist, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Panos Kammenos claims that the Greek orthodox church risks losing its monastries because it can't pay its tax bills, while buddhists, jews and muslims pay no taxes at all. He's against civil marriage for homosexual couple, and is opposed to cremation.

Perhaps even more seriously, he was the Shipping Minister who negotiated the 2008 sale of the port of Piraeus to the Chinese. But he continues to favour t-shirts bearing the message "Greece is not for sale".

Conservative paper Le Figaro is slightly more sombre than it was yesterday, now finding Europe caught in the trap of the Greek debt. After yesterday's blazing fulmination against Greek gougers who might not pay back the billions we gave them to keep their crummy economy above the waterline, Le Figaro now realises that they could do just that, and get away with it. Europe needs to hide its iron fist in a velvet glove, says Le Figaro's front page story, proving that they ran out of decent metaphors yesterday. The decision of Alexis Tsipras to ignore potential partners from the Greek pro-European centre, and get into bed with big, bad Panos Kammenos, has really put the wind up Le Figaro.

Catholic La Croix estimates that Alexis will have to beat an earlier Greek figure, Hercules, if he's to make a real impact. Hercules was a god, very well connected, and is perhaps best known for his twelve labours. La Croix limits the labours of Alexis to three... forming a stable coalition, reforming Greece and re-negotiating European borrowings... but, already, that makes an average day for Hercules seem like a doddle. Stealing the knickers of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, would seem a lot easier than reducing a national debt estimated at 322 billion euros, nearly twice what the country can produce in a good year.

Communist L'Humanité continues to see the Syriza victory as the dawn of a brave new Europe, a rallying call for the anti-austerity army. The communists are waiting for the beleagured masses in Italy, Belgium, Germany, France and Spain to wake up and realise that this is a golden opportunity to alter the balance of power and put a few manners on the suits at the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Left-leaning Libération wonders what would happen if the Greeks told Europe to stuff their debt where the monkey stuck his nut. Libé is all for giving the Greeks a decent break, but points out that such generosity would cost France alone 40 billion euros, which will have to be forked up for by tax-payers.Maybe, suggests the leftist paper, we should just give the Greeks more time to pay. Always assuming they don't remind us of what the monkey did with his nut.

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