Article published the Thursday 22 November 2012 - Latest update : Thursday 22 November 2012

French press review 22 November 2012

By Michael Fitzpatrick

It's official! France is a poor place for the very rich!

According to the main story in this morning's business daily, Les Echos, France has become the country with the highest level of taxation for the very well off.

And Paris is virtually unique in Europe in its attempts to straighten out the deficit by selectively targeting the proud possessors of megafortunes.

If, unfortunately, you earn less than one million euros per year, then France is comfortably placed near the western European average in taxation terms: Globally, Great Britain leads the tax-take stakes, with a nominal level of 50 per cent. Then there are France, Germany, China and Australia at 45 per cent. South Africans get off slightly lighter at 40 per cent%.

But Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are the places you really want to be, if you don't like contributing to public coffers, can survive without alcohol and don't mind the death penalty - the tax rate in both countries is zero. The battle for top spot in the unfortunately named Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), France's main right-wing opposition party in France, continues to attract editorial attention.

Right-wing Le Figaro is less than gruntled. In an editorial headlined "Laugh till you cry", the paper compares the UMP's leadership struggle to the Gbagbo-Ouattara tragedy in Côte d'Ivoire, saying it makes even the Socialist selection process look like a gentlemanly affair.

It's a disgrace, thunders Le Figaro, to descend to such self-serving depths, especially when the country is being plunged into the abyss by François Hollande and the left-wing hordes . . . growth is going backwards, the national debt is thriving, Moody's are moody, homosexual marriage may become legal . . . and the best the best of the UMP can do is argue about who is really best.

Wake up lads, wails the right-wing standard-bearer, you're creating a triumphal arch for the loopy left to march through and bring the country to ruin.

Let Copé and Fillon go to the International Criminal Tribunal, suggests Le Figaro, or sort out their differences in a sack race up the Champs Elysées. But let them do it quickly, and stop this lamentable saga that is undermining the very idea of responsible opposition.

In left-wing Libération the editorial is, in fact, much more measured. Libé points to a long history of internal bleeding in the right-wing intestines - think of the warmth of relations between former presidents Jacques Chirac and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing or the butcher's hook on which Sarkozy wanted to hang his one-time ministerial mate, Dominique de Villepin.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The real problem, says Libération, is that the right is lost in a strategic black hole, constantly harking back to a non-existent golden age, incapable of anything more complicated than a Pavlovian rejection to all things emanating from the Socialist administration, predicting nothing more reassuring than apocalypse.

Perhaps we should be thankful the mainstream right is so divided, it feels. Except that the most likely profiteers are the nasties on the far right.

Communist L'Humanité is worried about the way in which motor manufacturer Renault is accelerating on the road to increased labour flexibility. Having forced through a deal in Spain on the back of a disastrous unemployment situation, Renault is now trying to do the same in France.

According to the trade unions, the Spanish were beaten into submission with a stick labeled "Turkey", where production costs are lower. The French will now be beaten with a stick labeled "Spain".

L'Humanité's editorial is scathing, saying the point is not to increase French capacity to compete, it's just to boost profits at the expense of the downtrodden worker. The other front-page story concerns this week's European budgetary summit in Brussels, at which the 27 member-states are supposed to work out how to finance the whole creaking monster for the 2014-2020 period.

Among the big problems is the fact that no one has a centime to spare. They spent it all saving Greece. Then there's the Brits. They remember that Maggie Thatcher simply said "I want my money back" in 1984, and it worked. Ever since, the United Kingdom has received special treatment in budgetary matters, contributing far less than its economic weight would warrant. Now, Prime Minister David Cameron wants a further 200-billion-euro reduction and he's threatening to veto the whole ball of wax if he doesn't get his way.

tags: Car industry - David Cameron - Economic crisis - Economy - England - European Union - France - François Fillon - French press review - Jean-François Copé - Press review - Spain - Tax - Turkey - UMP
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Comments (2)

Interesting piece, however, a

Interesting piece, however, a few points:

1. Brits is plural, therefore it is there are the Brits, not there is.
2. Several countries are threatening to veto the EU's budget. Why do you single out the British government? Are you biased?
3. Great Britain has no power to raise taxes. You mean the United Kingdom, but the UK and GB are two different entities.
4. Whilst it's true that the UK no longer pays as much as it used to, for many years it paid far more than it ought to have done. It is still true that the UK pays more than it receives back.

Your comments on my comments

Dear Reader,

Thank you very much for your comments and questions on the Thursday Press Review. It's nice to know there's at least one careful reader out there. I'll be more careful in the future.

As for the specific charges, Brits are indeed plural and will be so treated in all forthcoming Press Reviews.

Of course I'm biased! I'm Irish, for God's sake, and base my prejudice on 700 years of shared history. More seriously, I was attempting to present an editorial line made very clear in several of the day's French papers (notably Le Monde) rather than parade any bias of my own.

My confusion of Great Britain and the United Kingdom is simply unforgivable. I do it all the time. Sorry.

I'm afraid most of the "powerful" European economies pay more into Europe than they get back. It is the case for the UK, but also for France, Germany, Spain and Italy. How long those last two will be able to continue as net contributors is one of the big problems at this week's summit.

Thanks again for your interest.

Will try to do better.


Michael Fitzpatrick, RFI

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