French press review 4 May 2016


London's next mayor could be a Muslim, shock, and a Labour Party member, horror. Today the European Commission has to decide whether visa-free travel for Turks is worse than free access for Syrian refugees. And French President François Hollande has quietly begun polishing his image with a view to doing it all over again.


Centrist daily Le Monde gives pride of place to the possibility that London's new mayor will be not only a Labour supporter, but a Muslim.

According to practically all opinion polls, Sadiq Khan, the son of a Pakistani bus driver, is favourite to beat the anti-European conservative Zac Goldsmith in tomorrow's election to find a replacement for Boris Johnson.

Le Monde sees the mayoral battle as a confrontation between two cities . . . the London of the son of a billionaire and the London of a kid who grew up in public housing in Tooting.

And Khan has no trouble with Islam, saying he's proud of the tradition of openness and respect for others in which he grew up and which remains an important part of his identity.

Who orders the forces of order?

Communist L'Humanité accuses the French government of having orchestrated the violence which has marked many recent protests against proposals to change labour law. Worse, says the paper, the forces of law and order have allowed almost free reign to the "casseurs," who smash up property and fight with police.

What does the government think it's up to, wonders a scandalised L'Humanité.

Visa-free European travel for Turkish nationals?

As the European Commission gets ready to decide later today on the wisdom of allowing Turkish nationals into Europe without visas, Catholic La Croix looks at the complicated relationship between the European Union and Ankara.

The problem is that Europe does not have much room for manoeuvre, needing to keep the Turkish authorities happy so that they will continue to play their part in the refugee deal signed last March, under which Syrian and other nationals are held in Turkey, rather than allowed into Europe.

The fact remains that the last time Europe examined Turkish credentials with a view to an eventual admission of the eastern neighbours to the trading club the report was damning, the worst ever since Ankara first asked to be let in, in 1987. Crucially, the authoritarian drift of the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the handling of the question of Kurdish rights are seen to be the most serious problems.

But there's the added complication now that Turkey is the centre of regional refugee traffic, with all that that suggests in terms of administrative chaos, false papers and porous borders.

Visa-free Turkish visitors are the second-last thing Europe needs right now. But the Old Continent will have to accept them because they are marginally less difficult to manage than homeless Syrians. Nobody wants them.

Hats off to President Hollande

Right-wing Le Figaro and left-leaning Libération both give the front-page honours to President François Hollande as the French leader quietly sets off on the difficult road to reelection in 2017.

"He's a runner!" says Libé, before analysing a campaign which will, at least initially, be based on an effort to reevaluate Hollande's achievements as head of state. As well, of course, as giving strategic handouts to key electoral blocs, like this week's promise to give primary school teachers, traditionally Socialist voters, an increased bonus of 800 euros from September.

Libération looks at 10 of the claims being made by the Socialists with a view to getting their very unpopular president back in for another five years.

On the positive side, income tax is more progressive, taking the pressure off the least-well-off and making the rich pay more. Same-sex marriage is legal. Family grants are no longer given to those who are rich enough not to need them. You can't be made work as a trainee for more than two months without being paid.

However, medical care is not as cheap or as easy as the government would claim, nor have the banks been forced to separate their speculative and lending functions.

On job creation, schools and security, it all comes down to an interpretation of complictaed statistics. Libération says the government has half-kept its promises in those areas.

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