French press review 17 September 2012
A new survey on attitudes to the European Union in France as well as the battle for the leadership of the conservative UMP party are two stories in the French papers today.
The front page of Catholic La Croix gives the honours to Pope Benedict, currently on his way back to Rome following a weekend visit to the Lebanon.
The leader of the Catholic Church used his trip to the Middle East to call for increased understanding between supporters of the region's various religions. Benedict twice urged the setting up of days of public prayer for peace, days that would involve Lebanon's Christian and Muslim communities, with the technical details to be worked out later.
Calling for mutual respect by the believers of all religions, the Pope pointed out that peace will be possible only when freedom to worship becomes a reality for everyone.
The main headline on the front page of business daily Les Echos assures us, not for the first time, that "The eurozone has pushed back the risk of a banking crisis".
According to the governor of the Bank of France, who takes on the language of the weather forecaster, without, perhaps, fully appreciating the risks involved: "the horizon is looking clear and cloud-free." The crucial question is, for how long.
The European finance ministers met in Cyprus at the weekend, with a view to setting some ground rules for the eventual handover of control of the continent's 6,000 banking institutions to the European Central Bank. It didn't go too well, mainly because France and Germany have very different ideas about how quickly the reforms should be put in place.
The French Minister, Pierre Moscovici, wants to get the ball rolling right now, feeling that banking reform is crucial to boosting European economic growth. His German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble, is dragging his heels, feeling that it will be impossible to give the necessary supervisory powers to the ECB before next January. So much for that clear horizon!
The French are falling out of love with Europe, anyway, according to an opinion poll in today's right-wing Le Figaro.
Twenty years after the Maastricht Treaty, which set up the single currency, 64% of those questioned say they would now vote against the treaty which effectively created the euro. It only scraped through in 1992, with 51% for and 49% against. It would be rejected today, but it's a bit too late.
Seventy-six per cent of those questioned say the European Union has not been efficient in managing the economic crisis.
But, all that notwithstanding, 65% of the French do not want to abandon the euro and return to the franc.
Le Figaro's editorial points out that it is unwise to blame the euro for our current ills. We're in trouble, says the right-wing paper, because we've been spending more money than we actually have, whether you count it in francs, euros or mungo beans.
But the right-wing paper goes on to observe, not without reason, that the prevailing anti-European atmosphere, ill-founded though it may be, will make the crucially necessary moves towards greater European financial unity even more difficult to sell to the French.
And that's where communist daily, L'Humanité, comes in with a front page warning that the national campaign for a referendum on the European budgetary treaty will begin with nationwide demonstrations on 30 September.
Left-leaning Libération looks at another debate, no less bloody for being acted out behind closed doors. The right wing UMP party - the Union for a Popular Movement - is currently trying to find a new leader. Candidates have until tomorrow evening to lodge the 7,924 members' signatures required of each contender.
Several big names are struggling to reach the magic number, which may mean the contest comes down to a straight dirty fight between, in the red corner, former Prime Minister, François Fillon, and in the other red corner, Jean-François Copé.
By the time the dust settles on 18 November, the two men will each have addressed over 100 meetings, far more than any candidate for the French presidency. Which will give you some idea of how important the job actually is. Especially since the winner will probably be the UMP candidate in the 2017 presidential race.