French press review 5 September 2017

French schools are back in business after the summer break. If the majority of children are happy to go back, the same cannot be said for many of their teachers. Ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's former right-hand man and interior minister, Claude Guéant, says he earned less than the his hairdresser when he was a cabinet director. And how can Europe stop the flow of illegal migrants?


Nearly 13 million French kids trudged back to school yesterday and Le Monde has good news for their parents.

"Most pupils are not unhappy in school," we learn from one of the centrist paper's main headlines. It's a negative way of putting it, which is a bit worrying, and the speaker is not one of the schoolkids but a dude named Eric Debarbieux, who used to be the junior minister in charge of preventing violence in French educational establishments. He has just produced a book based on interviews with 44,000 teachers. Not a squeak from the back of the class! Worser and worser!

Eric claims that 90 percent of French schoolgoers are either happy or very happy at school. He doesn't tell us where he got that figure.

Unfortunately, not so many of the teachers are quite so chuffed. They are either unsure of their function, consider themselves undervalued by their hierarchical seniors, abused by the students, scorned by the parents, underpaid and overworked. Many feel themselves unfairly trapped between a minister eager to catch the public attention and families who, understandably, want their kids to succeed.

It's not all dark. Ninety-three percent of French teachers claim to love their job but only 77 percent of them feel that they serve any real purpose. Which leads to this morning's crucial philosophical question: what do the 16 percent who love their job but don't know what purpose they serve actually think they're doing?

The crucifixion of Claude

The French former interior minister and one-time Sarkozy right-hand man Claude Guéant has just published a sort of kiss-and-tell memoir of his time in government called, roughly, "A few things you might like to know".

Guéant has already been sentenced to two years in jail for having skimmed off 25,000 euros in cash from a special ministry fund intended to pay police informers. He didn't declare the money as part of his income. The case is currently under appeal.

Claude Guéant is deeply affronted by the whole business. The explanation is simple, he said yesterday on television, with right-wing daily Le Figaro taking up the story this morning. "The money allocated in the budget was insufficient to pay bonuses, so we dipped into a different budget. Something that had been done for years."

Then, with a tear in his beady eye and a catch in his jailer's voice Guéant says, "I worked out what I earned when I was the director of the group working for the interior minister. With my salary and bonuses included, it came to 27 euros an hour. My hairdresser makes that much in 30 minutes." Oh, the injustice of it all!

Worse, even if he manages to avoid jail, the former police minister faces a bill of 535,000 euros for unpaid taxes, including a penalty for attempted fraud.

He says he has suffered crucifixion.

Guéant should try to get comfortable on his cross because Le Figaro's list of the cases pending against him is long and serious. He says the law is being used to persecute him. For the man who used to be head of the French police, that's an insight.

Questions about the migrant crisis

Le Figaro's editorial looks at how the Macron administration is trying to deal with illegal migrants.

Last year alone, 91,000 foreigners were arrested in France without papers but only 13,000 were expelled. The rest are now living in squats, or under bridges, trying to get into, or out of, Calais, terribly visible and politically useful to all sorts of extremists, according to the right-wing daily.

Because commercial flights rarely accept expelled would-be migrants, mainly for security reasons, why not use military aircraft, suggests Le Figaro. Those who object to such a move are, according to the editorial, are simply playing the game of the traffickers who make millions of euros from the suffering and desperation of others.

President Emmanuel Macron's plan to establish migrant selection centres in Africa is worthy but won't work, the paper argues, because those who fail to get in officially will try the clandestine route anyway. Why not make control of their potential migrants a condition attached to French overseas aid to African governmlents?

And the European Union has to take responsibility, too. Sending people back is a waste of time, says Le Figaro, as long as Europe's borders remain porous.

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