French press review 22 October 2012
Europe, Lebanon and Khadaffi feature in today's French papers ...
Le Monde's font page editorial is headlined "Europe: the three crises still to come".
With the stability mechanism, the budgetary agreement and the soon-to-be ratified banking union, the euro has finally been saved. Now we just have to save Europe itself.
That's not going to be a stroll in the park, warns Le Monde, as if saving the currency had been easy. There are three huge problems.
The first one is budgetary. This month, Europe's leaders have to agree a budget for the whole European Union for the next few years. But there's going to be a clash between those who want to hold on to their current advantages, like agricultural subsidies and grants to poor regions, and those who say scrap those old, costly and inefficient handouts; let's invest in the future, in research, in the education of tomorrow's innovators.
David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has already said he'll veto any effort to make Britain pay more and get less. And that despite the fact that the Brits have paid less than everybody else for years because Maggie Thatcher negotiated a special discount deal with Brussels back in 1984. That's why they call people like Cameron and Thatcher "conservatives".
The second problem is the clash between the 17 eurozone nations and the broader community of 27. With all those stabilising mechanisms, false limbs and unified debt management balderdash, a bank in, say, Spain, is clearly much better off than a bank in, say, Hungary. Because the Spanish one is propped up by the European Central Bank and the Hungarian one ain't.
Where does that leave the idea of the single market? Can Hungarian producers expect to compete with Spanish ones? And what about London, which not only makes its own financial rules, but refuses to pay the continental tax on financial transactions. Can France survive if all its bright young business people go down the Channel Tunnel and never come back, except to visit the granny in Grenoble?
And the third problem concerns the overall supervision of the monetary union. Who is going to keep those pesky PIGS on the straight and narrow? Who will force the eurozone strugglers to enact the structural reforms demanded by Berlin when those very reforms are provoking riots on the streets of Athens and general strikes in Spain?
The basic lesson seems to be: get used to the feeling of crisis. It's here to stay.
The main story in right wing Le Figaro claims that the plague of financial exile is already decimating the ranks of France's brightest and best.
Business daily Les Echos is worried that French business is not going to get the boost required to make it more competitive. A government-commissioned report on competitivity is expected to recommend hacking 30 billion euros off the charges paid by bosses over the next three years. But the government won't like that one little bit, since they'll have to compensate for the lost revenue by hiking VAT and other indirect charges.
Catholic La Croix gives the front-page honours to the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo where, when you cut away all the noise and nonsense of international diplomacy, you come down to ordinary people, very poor, squeezed between the greed of the regular army and the greed and malice of various militia. It's been going on for at least 20 years, and shows no signs of running out of steam.
The mineral wealth that should make this one of the richest places on earth has transformed it into one of the most dangerous. The real tragedy, says La Croix, is the patent failure of the United Nations mission to protect the local population.
And then there's the spectre of middle eastern war on the front page of Libération in the wake of Friday's assassination of the Lebanese intelligence chief. Most people in Lebanon (and, indeed, here in Paris) blame Syria and Hezbollah for the death of Wissam al-Hassan.
Lebanon is already divided between sunnis and shi'ites, between supporters and opponents of the Syrian revolution, and Damascus would be delighted to see it boil over, to provide a further smoke screen for Bachar al-Assad's crime of the century, as he goes on murdering his own people with the tacit approval of just about everybody.
According to a regional analyst interviewed by Libé, it's no longer a question of if Lebanon will be drawn into the Syrian conflict, just a matter of when.
Le Monde devotes an inside page to the final hours of the deposed Libyan leader, Moamer Khadaffi, murdered by a lynch mob on the road south from Syrte exactly twelve months ago.
French jets were able to bomb the fleeing Revolutionary Guide's convoy because they had a fix on his mobile phone, the number having being communicated to Nato by none other than Syrian slimeball, Bachar al Assad.
But on the crucial question of whether a French agent or agents may have been among the pursuers, and whether such an agent might actually have fired the bullet that ended Khadaffi's ignoble final agony, Le Monde says there can be no definitive response. At least, not yet.