French press review 25 May 2016


The row over labour legislation continues to draw the lion's share of editorial attention in the French papers.There's a look forward to next month's Euro 2016 football finals, to be played here in France. Six months after the Novemebr attacks in Paris, the crucial question concerns crowd safety. The French interior minister is confident and pragmatic. He says there is no such thing as a no-risk situation.


Le Monde, L'Humanité and Le Figaro all give the front-page honours to the ongoing struggle between the government and some trade unions over labour law reform.

Centrist Le Monde says the prime minister and the union have chosen a head-to-head clash as a means of resolving their differences. Police yesterday used water cannon to dislodge activists attempting to block access to oil refineries and storage depots, according to union sources. Not at all, say the police, the equipment was simply used to put out fires started by the protesters.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has promised an extremely firm response to the effort to block petrol supplies. He says the government will not allow ordinary workers to be "held hostage".

The government has quite a job on its hands, with the CGT union calling more strikes and days of protest. Already land and air transport are slightly affected, there's a threat to electricity production at the nation's nuclear power plants and the importation of crude oil could be made difficult if the docks go on strike as threatened from tomorrow.

Government 'at war with' unions

Communist L'Humanité says the government is increasingly isolated and has decided to take it out on the trade unions.

Despite the fact that they are in an effective minority on the question of changing employment legislation, L'Huma says Hollande and Valls have the cheek to accuse the workers of being responsible for a conflict created by the administration.

The government is in a state of panic, says the Communist Party daily, deducing that fact from the language used by administration officials to denounce the CGT: "dead end", "drift", "blackmail", "hostage takers", "minority blockade" are some of the terms which L'Humanité sees as expressing the government's fear and disorganisation.

What the conflict can teach Sarkozy's Republicans

Right-wing Le Figaro accuses the CGT of "madness".

The conservative paper's editorial asks what the current conflict has to teach the right-wing Republicans party, which is headed by ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, about the struggles it will face to bring in reforms in a swathe of sectors, if returned to power in 2017.

Le Figaro says the message is clear: instead of making ridiculous promises about bringing the world of high finance to heel, right-wing candidates have 12 months to clearly explain their programmes and proposals. Say what you are going to do and then, once elected, do it quickly. The electorate will have voted for change, will have been warned that the change has to be drastic, and will get what it voted for. Simple, really.

If the presidency of François Hollande has taught us anything, concludes Le Figaro, it is that standing still is a fatal disease in politics.

Security and the Euro 2016 football finals

The front page of sports daily L'Equipe looks forward to next month's Euro 2016 football competition, to be hosted here in France. Under the headline "Facing the threat", the paper wonders if the nation's security apparatus is prepared to confront the two-headed monster represented by terrorism and football's tragic fellow traveller, hooliganism. To say nothing of the routine dangers posed by large crowds and lots of beer.

L'Equipe interviews the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. He says France has taken every possible precaution but that does not mean there is no risk.

It may be necessary to ban certain public demonstrations during the competition, according to the minister, simply because the security forces will already have their hands full and public safety has to be the priority. He's hoping that the sense of responsibility of those who might organise such protests will guide them but does not exclude using judicial avenues. The state of emergency will still be in force during the competition.

And Bernard Cazeneuve is categorical that no serious consideration was ever given to calling off the Euro 2016 finals. He points out that Sarkozy said it was madness for France to host the Cop21 climate conference. Sarko was wrong.

"How can we hope to beat the terrorists," asks the minister, "if we give in to the pressure they try to put on us?"

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