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French Press Review 22 August 2018

Text by: Brian Eads
4 min

As France drifts back to work after the summer break, what's on the government's to-do list? What, if anything, is the Vatican doing about deviant priests? Fruit, veg and the class war. And tourism that promises more than a suntan.


Conservative daily Le Figaro stays close to home, leading with what the French call la rentrée - the return to real life after the obligatory August break.

"Farewell Brégançon [the president's island retreat] and the sun of the South," the paper declares.

"Emmanuel Macron returns to the black clouds of power, the storms of politics. Economists point to declining growth forecasts.

Despite an economic climate more gloomy than expected, the head of state wants to demonstrate his willingness to continue at a good pace the "transformation" of the country.

Le Figaro says the return from holiday promises to be tough. Even before the Benalla affair - the scandal over a presidential bodyguard caught assaulting a demonstrator while wearing a police crash helmet and an alleged cover-up by the Elysée Palace.- the parliamentary agenda for the start of the academic year was already overloaded, as in Emmanuel Macron's year one.

For those who missed it, the Benalla affair is the scandal triggered by the gross misbehaviour of a Presidential bodyguard

Forgetting Benalla

The front page of popular daily Le Parisien echoes these thoughts.

"After almost three weeks of break, the government is back on Wednesday with the firm intention to continue the pace of reform to better forget the Benalla case," it says.

Like Macron, many members of the government waited until the last moment to leave their summer quarters. The president of the republic even plans to return to Brégançon this Friday to spend a last weekend.

"But make no mistake," the paper says. "Behind the apparent relaxation, the return does not look like a pleasure for the executive.

"The second year is bound to be more difficult," it quotes a ministerial adviser. "It's a weird time. It's no longer takeoff and it's not landing yet. We are flying and sometimes there is turbulence."

On the to-do list: changes to unemployment insurance, collection of income tax at source, pensions. Plus Macron uniting his ruling party and identifying those with leadership qualities. And, last but not least, to mend the damage done by the Benalla affair.

It could be a bumpy ride. The growth figures, which fell in the middle of the summer, are worse than expected. What complicates matters further are deficit reduction commitments made to Brussels. Difficult choices ahead, it seems.

Pope faces up to paedophilia

It's also been a bumpy ride the for Roman Catholic church of late and centrist Le Monde leads with "Paedophilia: the Pope accepts the Church's responsibility."

The paper reports that the Vatican made public a "letter from Pope Francis to the people of God" about paedophilia and sexual violence

The head of the Church asks for help and recognises the responsibility of his institution

"We neglected and abandoned the little ones," he writes, condemning not only "those who commit" but also those who "conceal these offences"

However, the paper notes, despite the strength of the language used, no decision was announced. Something which victim associations immediately deplored.

The Pope goes to Ireland on Saturday. He's likely to hear more harrowing stories of child abuse by members of the clergy there.

Perhaps he could learn from the Christian Brothers, an Irish teaching order which routinely meted out corporal punishment, or as black humour puts it, they left their mark on thousands of Irish schoolboys, using a range of weapons including leather straps, metre-long wooden sticks, bamboo shoots and their fists. Six of the best for errant priests might be a good start.

Parsnips and class war

Communist daily l'Humanité pictures a heap of plump parsnips and other vegetables on its front page under the headline "Quality fruit and veg . . . a luxury for the common people."

Evidently, it's a luxury they can enjoy briefly at least. The French Communist Party in collaboration with small farmers is making available in the Place de la Bastille in Paris and two locations outside the city top quality produce at affordable prices.

"The class war is fought also on the plate," the paper declares. Who knew?

Globalised health care

On a lighter note, the cover story on left-leaning Libération is medical tourism.

Hip replacements in Thailand. Hair transplants in Turkey. Cosmetic surgery in Romania. Heath care has become a global business, the paper concludes.

Why laze around on the beach when you could get a new head of hair and remove those unsightly bags from under your eyes?


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