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French press review 29 March 2018

4 min

France needs to do more in the realm of artificial intelligence. Is the far-right National Front party on the verge of implosion? And which European nation is currently leading the productivity race for babies?


Le Monde has the presidential party MP and top mathematician Céderic Villani calling for more research in the domain of artificial intelligence.

He wants to see progress made in four areas: health, transport, the environment and defence. Because these are sectors in which government support and control will be important. He points out that the worlds of banking and finance have already made their own way into the numeric future, because they have the resources to lead the way and can't afford to be left behind.

On the danger of seeing robots and computer algorithms take jobs from human beings, Villani says it is difficult to predict the impact of artificial intelligence on the labour market. Most analysts agree that some form of complementarity between humans and machines is the most likely scenario. But it is certain that if France decides to do nothing, says Villani, it will lose further competitivity and see its economy collapse.

In a separate report, Le Monde notes that the South Korean industrial group Samsung has announced plans to set up an artificial intelligence research unit in France, probably in Paris or in the near suburb of Saclay, with more than one hundred employees. This follows an earlier decision by the Japanese Fujitsu corporation to base its European centre for artificial intelligence research in Saclay, home of the National Institute for Information and Automation Research.

What's happening to the National Front?

Right-wing daily Le Figaro reports a collapse of support for the far-right National Front, with two elected representatives leaving the ranks and a sharp drop in the number of paid-up members.

Le Figaro says last month's party congress, intended to re-launch the far-right organisation as a respectable political party, does not appear to have been a great success.

The party has refused to provide membership and voting figures for that congress.

Le Figaro seems to know them anyway, saying that overall membership has shown a drop of at least 45,000 members since the last party congress, in Lyon, in 2014.

There were 13,000 voters at this year's congress, 97 percent of them supporting party leader Marine Le Pen.

France leads the European baby race

Also in Le Figaro, news that France is competing neck-and-neck, if that's the appropriate expression, with Sweden and Ireland for the title of European Baby Champions.

Although France has passed below the symbolic statistical level of two children for every woman, France is still way ahead of the Europan average of 1.6 kids. The French are currently churning them out at the rate of 1.92 babies per couple, topping the EU's productivity table.

The Swedes come next with 1.85, and Ireland with 1.81.

Spain and Italy have obviously found something better to be doing, maybe watching football matches. They've dropped out of the running completely with a mere 1.34 kids per couple.

There's a sharp east-west contrast in the statistics, with mothers in Italy, Spain and Portugal tending to be older (the average age for having a first child being now 31 years), with those in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania younger, where the average is 26.

And the two-kid family is no longer an obligation. Across Europe, 12 percent of new arrivals are third children, with France once again taking the lead with 15 percent of third-borns in last year's count.

Disunity in the face of antisemitic violence

Libération looks at shades of the national reaction against anti-semitism. This follows last week's murder of an 85-year-old Parisian Jewish woman and various demonstrations of public outrage at her killing.

The problem is that the organisers of yesterday's Paris march banned the participation of members of the far-right National Front, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the hard-left France Unbowed movement.

Libé's editorial says it is possible to understand the antagonism towards Le Pen, even if she herself has scrupulously avoided the antisemitism for which her father and party co-founder was notorious. But how do you explain the angry exclusion of Mélenchon? Libé says that verges on the grotesque.

Especially in the context of a march in solidarity with the family and community of a victim.

Mercifully, the son of the dead woman has distanced himself from the organisers who expelled the two political figures. Libé says he has shown himself wiser and more generous than the council representing Jewish institutions in France.

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