French press review 23 January 2016


Nicolas Sarkozy and his book just won't go away. They're back, this time on the front page of Le Monde. They share that august space with Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank, a man who's been assuring anyone who'll listen that he'll fight tooth, nail and steam-powered calculator to save the euro.


Le Monde gives pride of place to former president Nicolas Sarkozy, under the Latin headline "Mea culpa" or "My fault".

Yesterday Sarko and his new book France for life were on the front page of conservative Le Figaro. If the right-wing paper chose to emphasise the positive lessons which the man who would be president has drawn from past mistakes, centrist Le Monde is more inclined to underline the errors.

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Sarko now accepts that he was too protective of the rich, that he should have done something to end the 35-hour working week and that he has no intention of reopening the debate on homosexual marriage, it says.

Le Monde says the book is a first major step on the road to reelection and it includes a promise to reduce taxes by 10 per cent immediately.

A lot of the writing is two-faced, Le Monde finds, as when Sarkozy says he has no bitterness no dislike for the current president, François Hollande but goes on to describe the man who beat him to the top job as a cold "manipulator," skilled at concealing, even transforming the truth.

Will the book be enough to change French attitudes (broadly negative) to the former leader? Le Monde asks the question but leaves the answer open, which is, itself, an answer of sorts.

Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank (ECB) is the other chap on the front page of Le Monde. He has a certain amount in common with Nicolas Sarkozy, as suggested by Le Monde's headline which sees the president of the ECB as continuing to make promises, at the risk of not being able to deliver.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Mario's latest promise is a whopper. Yesterday, Europe's main moneyman told the jittery world markets that Europe was the safe place to put the cash they've been pulling out of the stock exchange since the start of the year. He repeated that the European Central Bank has the "power, the will and the determination" to support the euro.

European interest rates are likely to remain extremely low. The ECB will continue to practise "quantitative easing", printing new money to boost the value of the old stuff.

But it's that very business of producing worthless money that has the US and Chinese central banks in such dire straits and, unless the European member states get their own individual economic acts together and start creating real value, Mario risks being left like a conductor without an orchestra.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

On its inside pages Le Figaro interviews the philosopher Pascal Bruckner on the question of Western reactions to the barbarity of the Islamic State armed group.

Bruckner says we are in the early stages of a military and ideological war unlike any fought ever before and will come to realise that the seven decades of peace in Europe since 1945 were nothing but a pause.

He also says that the Western intellectual habit of self-accusation leaves us completely disarmed against fundamentalist barbarity. In other words, because of our past colonial crimes, a conviction that we are the root cause of all the violence in history, we're afraid of being racist, of acting like neo-colonialist, arrogant imperialists. And so, instead of saying squarely that radical Islam and the cult of martyrdom have created a global death industry, we blame ourselves for the crimes of which we are the victims.

We have more to fear, according to Pascal Brucker, from that virulent internal enemy than from any of the mad acts perpretated by the self-styled warriors of the god of hate.

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