French press review 15 September 2018

President Macron says sorry for torture committed during Algerian War of Independence, in landamrk break with longstanding French policy.


President Emmanuel Macron's admission that France enabled torture during the 1954-62 Algerian independence war is the big issue in the newspapers this Saturday.

Le Monde says Macron issued the apology while visiting the wife of mathematician Maurice Audin, a French Communist pro-independence activist who disappeared in Algiers in 1957 at her home in Paris.

Maurice Audin aged 25 at the time and an assistant to a professor at the University of Algiers, was arrested at his home and accused of harbouring independence fighters. But the exact circumstances of his disappearance and death remain unclear.

His wife Audette now aged 80 was told 10 days later that her husband had escaped while being transferred between jails.

The paper says Macron who is the first French leader born after the conflict -- went further than any of his predecessors in recognizing the scale of abuses by French troops vowing to open up its archives on the thousands of civilians and soldiers who went missing during the war, both French and Algerian.

In 1998, Jacques Chirac acknowledged the massacre of civilians in the town of Setif in 1945, and in 2012 Francois Hollande recognized the "suffering" caused by the colonization.

Le Monde claims that despite the President’s "guilt and repentance", some French citizens in denial of historical truths about the dark pages of France's history.

But the paper holds that lucidly acknowledging and taking responsibility is the sole way of reconciling memories on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Sud-Ouest makes the  point that it was not just a liberation war but a civil fratricidal conflict complete with its sad procession of disappeared persons and mysteries of untold horrors and reprisal attacks, the massacres of Europeans in Oran, the plight of “Harkis”, who served the French colonial administration forced to flee Algeria under horrendous conditions.

The paper asks if Algeria will be candid enough to send a similar message to the French people.

President Macron's outburst about the crazy amount of money spent on social welfare makes him the laughing stock for yet another day as Libération comes back on the anti-poverty plan the centrist leader unveiled on Thursday.

According to the left leaning publication the eight billion euros he plans to spend over four years to improve the life chances of children born into low-income families sounds more like a bankruptcy similar to Lehman Brothers than anything that has to do with government action.

The paper warns that Macron's offer at a time of great suffering by fragile families and spiraling unemployment is the kind of capitalist politics which can push citizens to turn their backs on democratic government.

Le Figaro comes back on the anti-poverty plan which it terms "the showcasing of President Macron's left foot". The right-wing publication says Macron's real aim was to silence the recurrent criticism of his so-called rich man's Presidency, and to broaden hisl power base.

According to Le Figaro, Macron should have done better had he listened to the advice made by ruling REM party leader Christophe Castaner who in the wake of Nicolas Hulot's resignation as Ecology Minister, proposed a larger cabinet reshuffle to bring in more popular leftist personalities starting with Greens chieftain Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

The regional newspapers mock the unveiling of an ambitious plan by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to spend 350 million euros over 7 years to build cycling lanes and make France's streets safe for climate-friendly citizens and to encourage companies to reward pollution-fighting efforts by their staff.

Le Journal de la Haute-Marne begins by ridiculing the number of city dwellers using bikes as a means of transport to work. It's just 2 percent according to the paper.

L'Alsace argues that even if the use of bicycle needs to become a cultural habit it will not be done with a magic wand but through a better understanding of the need to share a common space whether they are cyclists, pedestrians, car drivers or users of scooters and hover boards.

Républicain Lorrain wishes well to staff representatives who will try to get their company bosses to release some allowances under the pretext of love for the planet.

For Est Républicain when it comes to issues concerning to use of bicycles, the question is far-fetched, and at best an illusion in most of France's small towns where cycling lanes end up at busy road junctions.

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