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French press review 26 June 2015

Text by: William Niba
8 min

Arrests, injuries and destroyed cars as French cabbies clash with police and UberPop agents encroaching on their business. A French court grants five non-white men hefty compensation for unwarranted ID searches by police; Greece is in a race agaist time days before the 30 June deadline to service its debt, facing default and a possible exit from the euro; and the miraculous survival from a plane crash in Colombia.

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We begin with the unprecedentedly violent strike by cabbies in France against the ride-booking application UberPop, accused of unfair competition.

Around 3,000 cabbies took part in the strike Thursday, blocking access to the capital's Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, and preventing cars reaching train stations around the country.

Le Figaro reports that ten people were arrested, seven police officers injured and 70 vehicles damaged in clashes between taxi drivers and Uber agents who put customers in touch with private drivers at prices lower than those of traditional taxis.

Le Monde counted five so-called “snail operations" around Paris as furious cabbies vowed to shut down the country already struggling with spiralling unemployment.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has ordered the immediate impounding and confiscation of all UberPop cabs found transporting passengers on French streets and highways.

No surprise that Libération sees the fear of massive job losses and a disappearance of their business behind the malaise and discomfort caused by the Uber application.

Le Figaro argues that the cabbies can’t be more enraged at a time when cab licences could cost up to 350,000 euros. However a massive 78 per cent of Le Figaro’s readers are paradoxically against the cab drivers' industrial action, according to an interactive survey carried out on the conservative newspaper’s website.

Libération wonders if any of its readers are interested in becoming “uberised”, an expression coined out of the new phenomenon of amateur chauffeurs joining the cab driving business. The paper goes further arguing that France is witnessing an “uberisation of society” by a crop of new barbarians who endanger well-established professions by using new technologies and start-ups.

Libération comes back on the sentencing of the French government in an unprecedented ruling to pay five non-white men 1,500 euros each in compensation for unjustified identity checks on them by the police. The French appeals court acted on a complaint filed by 13 men, all of black or Arab origin and without police records, that they had been the victims of multiple humiliating ID checks.

The method widely known in France as “stop and frisk” is considered by police as an important crime-fighting tactic. Libération says that gratuitous ID checks have long been cited as a prime reason for troubled relations between police and residents of poor suburbs.

Benoit Hamon who served as education minister in the previous Hollande government reacts to the verdict. He explains that a plan introducing ID badges for police officers, an emblematic measure in President Hollande’s electoral manifesto intended to discourage such abuses, had been abandoned for the wrong reasons. The argument was that it would throw suspicion on the police and complicate their work, when the real motivations were about the ego of the police and preserving social peace in the interior ministry, he says.

Hamon, who now sits with backbench Socialist rebels in Parliament, says it is disheartening for a politician from the left like himself to realise that the protection of individual liberties evolves faster through judicial verdicts rather than political choices. In the interview, he expresses the hope that this judgement will become a pressing invitation for action by decision makers to prevent the state from becoming a repeat offender.

Greece can count the hours it has to avoid defaulting on its debt owed to the International Monetary Fund, according to Le Figaro. The comment comes after the Eurogroup completed another round of negotiations on Greece’s colossal debt without reaching a deal. Greece has until 30 June to reimburse 1.6 billion euros in debt servicing payments or face default and possible exit from the euro.

For Le Monde, the IMF doesn’t buy claims by Athens that it has improved its tax collection system, since Greece recorded a shortfall in revenue collected during the first four months of the year. The paper predicts a bleak future for the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras if he fails to cut a deal during this weekend’s marathon talks with its main creditors -- the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank.

L’Humanité already accuses the European Commission of conniving with the right-wing Greek opposition to overthrow Tsipras. The IMF, it holds, is secretly praying for the talks to fail in a ploy to protect the wealthy.

Palestine’s filing of its first case against Israel at the International Criminal Court at The Hague motivates comments from Le Monde. The paper reports that it bears on Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank, Tsahal’s offensive against Gaza and on the condition of Palestinian prisoners.

The newspaper explains that as a signatory of the Rome Stature since 1 April, Palestine hopes that the information submitted in the file will spur a preliminary examination of possible war crimes committed by Israel’s leaders since 13 June 2014.

Le Monde however expects the procedure to take years to materialise. It argues that it comes three days after the UN published a report accusing Israel and Palestinian armed groups which clashed in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 of grave international human rights violations likely to be qualified as war crimes. Israel, it notes, has promised a harsher global response to the diplomatic initiative launched by the Palestinians.

And Le Parisien tells the miraculous story of a woman and a baby who survived a plane crash in Colombia. According to the paper Maria Nelly Murillo and her baby spent five days in the jungle after their Cessna 330 taxi-plane went down in the dense Amazonian forest in the northeastern province of Choco last Wednesday.

Rescuers are quoted as saying that they discovered the carcass of the missing plane and the remains of the pilot on Sunday and were about to declare the search operation over when they realised the door of plane was opened, raising hopes that 18-year-old Moreno and her eight-month-old baby, the only passengers on the plane, may have survived the crash.

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