French press review 13 July 2015

There's a Greek clean sweep at the top of this morning's front pages but no shortage of variety in editorial approach. Reactions range from surprise at the way the Greek prime minister has changed his tune so dramatically over the past seven days to speculation about the future of Franco-German relations.


Centrist Le Monde offers to explain why Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, victorious in last weekend's tough-guy referendum at home, has so rapidly rolled over and wagged his tail like a good European dog.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

It's not rocket science. Referendum triumphs won't pay Greek debts and Alexis, despite the resounding rejection by the Greek electorate of anything vaguely resembling austerity, still needs to find about 20 billion euros immediately to pay the holders of government bonds and another 60 billion just for day-to-day expenses. The state coffers are empty and the banks are closed. That sort of situation will put manners on even the toughest of prime ministers.

Catholic daily La Croix says Europe has increased the pressure on Greece, notably because the referendum result makes it difficult for any outsiders to believe that the Tsipras government can now get the Greek people to accept even limited reforms. We said "no," we meant "no," now give us the money. Europe says "no". For the Catholic paper, it all comes down to a question of confidence and that, paradoxically, is what the referendum managed to destroy.

Left-leaning Libération wonders what exactly German Chancellor Angela Merkel is up to with her insistence on a hard line with Athens. Once again, there's no need to get out the slide rule. Merkel's Germany stands to lose a lot of cash if the Greeks leave and potentially a lot more if they stay. Her own political coalition is hanging by a thread with the snarling Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble not at all in favour of further gifts for Greeks. And Mutti Merkel will have to get any deal agreed in Brussels past her own parliament in Berlin.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Communist L'Humanité is having none of that. The communist daily says Merkel wants to humiliate the Greek people because they alone had the courage to reject the dominant policy of austerity for everyone.

Right-wing Le Figaro is worried that France and Germany are not playing in the same direction, Paris favouring a delicate handling of Greek sensibilities, Berlin calling for a kick in the arse.

The conservative paper thinks that this misalignment of the Franco-German allies poses a danger for Europe as a whole. It marks a divide between a northern Europe keen on accountancy and the laid-back southern brothers more inclined to political accommodation.

It is clear, says the Le Fiagro editorial, that the Greeks have been living beyond our means for a while now but the responsibility has to be shared by those who let them into the euroclub in the first place with their cooked books and fictional financial statistics. As things stand, says the conservative paper, there are only losers: Greece most obviously, then the euro in terms of credibility, finally Europe where solidarity and cohesion now look like entirly theoretical concepts.

Dossier: May 68

Le Monde's science pages look at what Edmond Rostand called "an instant of infinity", the kiss.

Apparently, Western scientific claims that mouth-to-mouth amorous contact is virtually universal are all blather. New research suggest that kissing is a big deal in only about 50 per cent of human societies, and that some groups, like the southern African thonga, find the practise absolutely barbaric.

Another example, suggests Le Monde, of Western arrogance projecting its own preferences on populations who have their own and different ways of achieving that instant of infinity.

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