French press review 15 September 2016

The European Community holds its first post-Brexit summit this week, against a background of division and dissent. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the organisation faces an "existential crisis". French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy has turned into a climate sceptic. He says population growth poses a far worse threat than carbon dioxide to the planet.


It's the sort of headline you get only in Le Monde: very serious, very French.

"Europe in deep existential crisis," we read, with the small print explaining that, when the 27 heads of state of the European Union meet in Bratislava tomorrow, not only will they be without the Brits for the first time since Brexit, they still have to answer serious questions about unemployment, the community economy, refugees and the threat of terrorism.

Worse, given the divisions between member states on crucial issues, the European Commission seems powerless to stop the fragmentation of the bloc. It was the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who noticed the "existential crisis" yesterday in Strasbourg.

And, says Le Monde, with both Germany and France facing elections in the not-too-distant, the traditional drive provided by the European odd couple is sadly lacking.

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz was warning earlier this week about the possible collapse of the euro. It may turn out that Joe was being optimistic and that the whole institutional edifice, not just the currency, is about to come down around our ears.

Maps for star travellers

Whatever about the broader community experiment, the European Space Agency is doing very nicely, thank you. Perhaps because, while we are living in the gutter, the agency has its eyes fixed on the stars.

Yesterday, reports Le Monde, the ESA presented a detailed map of the Milky Way galaxy, with the exact positions of a record billion and a half stars. The idea is to collect information which will enable researchers to better understand how the galaxy works.

If a billion and a half stars sounds impressive, the European Space Agency admit that they are barely scratching the surface. The Milky Way contains anything between 100 and 200 billion stars, meaning that 99 percent of them remain to be mapped.

More strikes and delays forecast as protest continues

Right-wing paper Le Figaro warns that we're going to have to put up with another day of strikes this Thursday, as transport and postal workers continue to protest against changes to labour law. This will be the 14th day of action (or IN-action) since March. Le Figaro warns that air transport is likely to be the worst-affected sector, with a down tools by traffic controllers forcing the cancellation of at least 15 percent of flights in and out of Paris.

Le Figaro wonders what's the point of the whole fracas, since the law has aleady taken effect and most trade union leaders accept that the only tactic remaining is to mount a legal challenge in the courts.

Is Nicolas Sarkozy turning into Donald Trump?

The former French president who hopes to win the right-wing nomination for another shot at the top job has already shown himself adept at Trump's populist game, playing communities off against one another in his own interest. Yesterday, Sarko was speaking to French business leaders and he said that it was simply arrogant to claim that the human race was responsible for climate change. "The climate has been changing for four billion years," said the Republican leader, "but it wasn't industry that turned the Sahara into a desert."

Sarkozy told his audience that, in fact, population growth is a far more serious threat to the planet than pollution. "There'll be 11 billion of us in a few years. Man is directly responsible. But nobody takes any interest," he went on to say.

Back in 2007, Sarkozy assured a different audience that "we have to have the courage to define our policies while recognising that we cannot ignore the climate challenge, unless we want to destroy the very conditions upon which human survival depends."

Ecology activists have already lamented the tiny amount of attention being paid to the environment in the current campaign. They won't thank Sarko for his latest contribution to the debate.

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