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French weekly magazines review 19 July 2015

DR
Text by: William Niba
7 min

The Greek tragi-comedy dominates the cover stories for yet another week, after Alexis Tsipras' unbelievable volte-face allowing Europe to apply the austerity programme he asked the Greek people to reject in the referendum.

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Greece's run of bad luck appeared to have ended when Angela Merkel, contrary to expectations, blessed the agreement which she had been expected to sabotage. But the editorialists are divided over what the future holds for Greece and its European Union creditors.

“It wasn’t an accord but a diktat,” headlines Marianne. The magazine says the brain washing continues, the Brussels treaty having sealed Tsipras’ unconditional capitulation. The economic and political defeat is total and Greece’s ruling left-wing Syriza party will have to pay for its fractures.

This was the perfect opportunity for the left-leaning publication to compare the so-called debt slavery imposed on Greece to the Athens of the 6th century when poor indebted citizens handed themselves over as slaves to their creditors. Angela Merkel has crowned herself “empress of the creditors”. What the other European leaders need to do now is to bow and pay their respects, says Marianne.

The privileges of the Greek Orthodox Church are an issue that L’Obs believes Prime Minister Tsipras needs to take on, but it wonders if he can have the courage. According to the left-leaning publication, at these times when the country is close to bankruptcy, the Church still doesn’t pay taxes.

Despite its colossal wealth   130,000 hectares of land, 1.5 per cent of shares in the Greek Central Bank   the church still looks up to the state to cough out 220 million euros a year, for the salaries of its 10,000 popes and bishops as well as 100 million euros in public grants to church-operated charities.

L’Obs is also infuriated by another anomaly – they are using the Greek file as a forest to hide their own mountains of debt. While the Greek debt represents 176 per cent of its GDP, Italy’s represents 131.8 per cent of its GDP. Portugal’s is at 131, Ireland’s close to 115 per cent, Belgium’s at 108 per cent, Spain’s at 96 per cent, France’s at 95 per cent and the UK’s at 87 per cent of their GDP. Hence, L’Obs's questioning of why it is Greece and not the others being imposed such harsh conditions in order to qualify for debt relief.

Le Point looks back at the week when Europe got up from sleep. The right-wing publication scorns the “sovereignists”, populists and liberalists who had been banking on Greece’s expulsion from the eurozone to fuel their cynical agendas.

Euro skepticism is a disease which renders people deaf and blind in our world, argues Le Point. It points out that their disciples are recruited not just from the extremes of society but also from mainstream political parties and live in a tiny “virtual world of their own".

According to the journal, having been wrong-footed by the unfolding events in Greece they have all gone underground while waiting to fight another war.

Le Point commends Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel for the breakthrough. The weekly holds that the accord was the result of a secret role-sharing deal in which Merkel was assigned the role of bad cop, while Hollande was to do the good guy. Hence the right-wing publication’s conclusion that while Merkel has some healing of wounds at home, it is the Franco-German couple and the entire eurozone which emerged victorious from the crisis.

In a rare tribute Le Point says it is high time President Hollande starts deploying at home the talent he exercise with such ease abroad, in Africa and in Europe.

Le Canard Enchaîné agrees, underlining that even the conservative Die Welt newspaper refers to President Hollande as the new man calling the shots in Europe. The satirical weekly actually credits him for fishing Greece out of the ocean stating that he has won the respect of many as the man who dared defy the power of the Germans for 17 full hours.

According to Le Canard the "Rain Man" was able to spend his first bright Bastille Day reasserting his new status as protector of the French people from terrorist attacks, the Greeks from bankruptcy and the entire planet, according to Le Canard Enchaîné.

It says he will probably keep enjoying the honeymoon until the next storm if the Greeks accept to swallow the bitter pill and if European parliaments ratify the 13 July accord. The weekly however warns that if President Hollande doesn’t succeed in reversing the jobless figures, his recent diplomatic brinkmanship will not stop the French from sending him off on a long holiday in Greece.

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