French press review

French press review 16 April 2016

DR
6 min

Le Monde devotes its main front-page story to the possibility that the English will decide to leave the European Union. The centrist paper picks up the story where Le Figaro left it yesterday morning, suggesting that Prime Minister David Cameron's Panama Papers problems will not help him in his efforts to ensure the United Kingdom stays in the trading bloc, especially since it was he who provoked the whole debate in the first place in his efforts to wring further concessions from the so-called partners.

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Only 21 per cent of voters believe Cameron knows what end he's talking out of when it comes to Europe, that's a spectacular loss of 8 points in as many weeks. The prime minister is now lagging behind London mayor Boris Johnson, a Conservative like Cameron, but one who wants to take the UK out of Europe. And Cameron's even further distanced in the opinion polls by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And Cameron won't have won any new friends by agreeing to spend 12 million euros of public money on 27 million copies of a booklet which explains why Her Majesty's subjects should vote to remain in Europe.

Many of his Conservative party colleagues feel the voices and arguments of the numerous Eurosceptic deputies have been censored. Others think the printing costs would have been better invested in the National Health Service.

The English go to the polls to decide the Old Continent's fate in ten weeks.

Right-wing daily Le Figaro looks at how Europe has been dealing with the recent unprecedented increase in the number of refugees clamouring to be let in.

The year 2015 saw more than one million refugees arrive at our doors, representing an increase of 1,700 per cent over the previous twelve months.

The conservative paper finds that, as European Union policy on migration has changed, so the refugees change routes and strategies, never their determination to escape from misery and destruction in their home countries.

The same Le Figaro wonders about today's visit by the Roman Catholic leader, Pope Francis, to the Greek island of Lesbos, just 10 kilometres from the Turkish coast and one of the landing-points most favoured by refugees struggling to reach Europe.

Is this papal day-trip, organised at the last moment, a humanitarian or a political gesture by the pope? The question is sharpened by the deal signed last month between Brussels and Ankara which should see all those who arrive on Lesbos automatically sent back to holding camps in Turkey.

The pope will visit the 3,150 people currently held by the Greek authorities at Moria (in a camp with 2,700 places) as Greece waits for the Turkish deal to take effect.

Le Figaro notes that the pope's first trip, in 2013, was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, then the landing point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from north Africa. The Catholic leader then criticised the comfort culture which left those inside the soap bubble deaf to the cries of those outside.

He spoke of the globalisation of indifference. The right-wing paper wonders if he'll have even harsher words today, perhaps going as far as demanding that Europe renounce the Turkish deal which is not intended to resolve the migrant problem, simply to ensure that someone else has to deal with the consequences.

The Vatican says the trip is strictly humanitarian.

Speaking of trips, President Hollande is off to Cairo tomorrow at the head of a business delegation. Left-leaning Libération wonders why anyone would want to visit Egypt right now, as the Al-Sisi regime scrambles to survive financially.

Economic growth is weak, capital is fleeing, state debt and the public deficit are devouring all before them. If the French team do sign any deals this weekend, perhaps they should ask to be paid in cash.

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