French press review 18 May 2015

Doubt, discord and dissension in Socialist ranks. What does the Paris government really think about Jean-Claude Juncker's immigration quotas? Catholic La Croix wonders what are the likely implications of yesterday's decisions by a Protestant church to bless same-sex marriages.

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Right-wing Le Figaro, not for the first time, gives the front page honours to a story of doubt and discord in socialist ranks.

"Hollande and Valls fear a flaying at party congress," reads the headline, with the story suggesting that this week's vote by the Socialist rank and file on motions to be debated at the party's congress in June could be the first in a series of internal setbacks for the struggling president and his prime minister.

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Le Figaro says there's little danger that the line favoured by the government will be defeated but that the margin of victory will be so small as to further damage an executive already suffering from its terrible performance in the sphere of job creation, with four successive electoral routs to its discredit and with rebels rumbling in a party machine boasting barely a quarter of the number of card-carrying members it had a decade ago.

The right-wing daily is also happy to point out a prime ministerial contradiction of the question of migrant quotas for Europe. You'll know that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wants member states to accept set numbers of those migrants who survive the trip to Europe, with an overall limit of 20,000 entries in any year.

On Satuday, says Le Figaro, Manuel Valls announced that he was against the Juncker proposition. But only a week ago, according to the conservative daily, Interionr Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was assuring journalists that the Juncker plan was based, in part, on proposals originally presented by France.

The prime minister said yesterday that the whole question of immigrant quotas was clouded by confusion, not least in the ranks of government, chortles Le Figaro. It would be funny if it wasn't so tragically serious for the people most centrally concerned.

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Catholic La Croix wonders about the implications of yesterday's decision by the United Protestant Church in France to open the possibility of a liturgical blessing for same-sex marriages. The synod of the allied Reformed Church and evangelical Lutherans left no room for doubt on the question, with 94 votes in favour and just three against.

Where does that leave the Catholics?

La Croix reminds readers that Catholics were in the frontline two years ago in the protests against the law which allowed marriage for everyone.

Just because the second-largest Christian group in the country has now decided that same-sex marriages can come in from the cold, says the Catholic daily's editorial, that does not mean the Catholics have to go down the same road. It is true that French people are free to go abroad to avail of certain practices, euthanasia and surrogate parenthood for example, which are currently not legal in France. And that, says La Croix, creates a certain pressure to allign legislation internationally.

But that pressure must be resisted by those who are convinced in principle of the correctness of their own stance. Marriage is a sacrament; the structure of the family is not same-sex; those are fundamentals on which it is hard to see the Roman Catholic Church giving any ground, even under the open, dynamic, realistic and humane management of Pope Francis.

What effect will that stance have on the slow thaw in relations between the Catholics and their Protestant brethern?

That's a different question, admits La Croix, and one that will be high on the agenda when the Catholics hold their synod on the family in October.

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Left-leaning Libération has been asking French secondary teachers what they think of proposals to reform the nation's college system. Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem has been under intense political fire for her efforts to make school less elitist, more in tune with contemporary society and less boring.

She is accused of, among other things, wanting to kill off the teaching of classics and subverting the republic by replacing the history of the Enlightenment with an obligatory course on the rise of Islam. The debate has generated a lot of noise, somewhat less clarity. So it is perhaps not surprising that Libé finds the members of the teaching profession confused, divided, perturbed.

Many teachers feel that the whole question of badly needed reform has been hijacked by politicians whose agendas have little to do with improving the image and performance of the French secondary system. There's to be a teachers' strike tomorrow. That'll surely help.

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