French press review 1 October 2016

What will be the political legacy of Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president laid to rest yesterday in Jerusalem? Is there any future for German financial giant Deutsche Bank? Did Nicolas Sarkozy get good value for other people's money when he paid 86,000 euros for his 2012 campaign music, Race to Victory?


Le Monde looks back to yesterday's funeral of Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.

Under the headline "Popular hostility and silent leaders across the Arab world as Peres is laid to rest," the centrist paper notes that Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was the only Arab leader present.

Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan's king Abdullah II should have been there, says Le Monde, if only because of the peace agreements their respective governments have signed with Israel. But Middle Eastern diplomacy doesn't work like that.

If Peres seems to have been universally liked in Israel, his legacy remains complex and the former president of the Jewish state is not much loved by the neighbours.

The 1993 Oslo peace agreeement, for which Peres was awarded the Nobel peace prize, never got further than the paper ir was printed on, far-right Jewish reaction leading to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin; disappointed Plaestinians waging the second uprising. But Peres continued to believe that peaceful coexistence between Jewish and Arab communities was not just possible, he felt it was absolutely essential, and could be arrived at, provided both sides showed willingness and courage.

Le Monde points to the sad fact that Shimon Peres has no political descendants, no major figure or faction in Israel today who is trying to continue his work towards peace. And the Jewish state is itself collapsing into a tribal structure, with the ultraorthodox, the Russian immigrants, the supporters of a secular state, the religious far right. No contemporary personality has the charisma and clout to talk to all at once. Peres represents the end of a line.

French public debt passes 2,170 billion euros

The main story in right-wing daily Le Figaro carries the revelation that France currently owes the astronomical sum of 2,170 billion euros to various lenders.

While such figures are meaningless to those of us who are happy to get to the end of the month without going further into the red, Le Figaro does provide some perspective by saying the French public debt is now very nearly the same as gross national product, the amount of wealth the country can actually produce. By contrast, the Swedish government announced plans yesterday to get their debt down to 35 percent of GNP over the next four years.

Is German giant Deutsche Bank going down the gurgler?

Is the struggling Deutsche Bank going to go the way of Lehman Brothers, and bring all the world to ruin? That question is posed by Libération, which answers with the confident if uncomfortable expert opinion that, indeed, we could be on the brink of another global financial cataclysm.

For the moment, Angela Merkel has ruled out any question of state intervention but that determination probably won't stand up to a decent panic attack. Especially given the national and global importance of Deutsche Bank.

Bad debts are the heart of the problem, with the recent dumping of Deutsche Bank stocks by US hedge funds getting the rest of the world's traders nervous.

Lehman Brothers went down with a capital to credit ratio of 32, meaning they owed 32 times more than could ever hope to pay back from the bank's cash reserves. The capital to credit ratio at Deutsche Bank is currently 36, a figure described by Libé as "astronomical"! Especially since the Deutsche Bank boss was boasting yesterday that they have cash reserves of 200 billion euros, meaning they have loaned 36 times that amount, 7,200 billion euros, more than the combined GDP of France, Germany and Italy. If Deutsche Bank goes, we're all going with it.

Shock as Sarkozy's Gauls mix it with sleazy saracens

And since no French press review would be complete without some mention of Nicolas Sarkozy, it turns out that the French national identity is more complicated than the former president's recent invocation of the Gauls.

Basically, says the former president, all French citizens, whether they come from Senegal, Algeria or Vietnam, must agree that they share a grandfather along the lines of Astérix or Obélix, the douty resistants to Roman rule in René Goscinny's and Albert Uderzo's comic books.

Le Monde's science pages confirm that Romans, Franks, Vikings, Burgundians and Visigoths have all contributed to the national character. Worse, and as already humourously suspected by François Mitterrand when he was president, there was even a saracen contribution. And they were, to put it bluntly Mr Sarkozy, Arabs!

. . . one more time, with feeling!

Libération notes that Sarko paid 86,000 euros for the music used during his campaign meetings in 2012. Not cheap for a three minute 45 second mix of Ravel's Bolero and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, with a decent hint of Gaulish Berlioz. The problem is that the former president first said that the piece had been a gift; then that it had cost 43,000 euros (that's what it says in the official campaign accounts). It turns out to have cost exactly twice that.

The piece was recorded by an 80-member symphony orchestra in Bulgaria and was entitled, perhaps unfortunately, Race to Victory.

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