Article published the Monday 10 December 2012 - Latest update : Monday 10 December 2012

French press review 10 December 2012

By Michael Fitzpatrick

Plenty of variety on this morning's French front pages.

Business daily Les Echos and left-leaning Libération both devote their main stories to Italy.

Les Echos sombrely announces that "Italy is wracked by political turmoil". Libé goes for the far more dramatic "Return of the mummy". That's "mummy" as in dead, stuffed, embalmed and shrink-wrapped former ruler.

They're both talking about the same basic facts. The first is that Mario Monti, the technocrat who has been steering the Italian national debt in the direction of calmer waters for the past twelve months, has announced his resignation, to take effect immediately after the terms of the 2013 budget are agreed.

The second, and this is where the mummy comes in, is that Silvio Berlusconi has announced that he's going to make a political comeback, standing for the sixth time in elections likely to take place in February or March of next year.

Silvio says Mario Monti has been a "disaster" for Italy, with his technical policy based on German-style austerity.

No mention of the previous disaster, orchestrated by smiling Silvio himself, which saw the Italian economy teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, with accumulated debts of 2,000 billion euros.

That would have been enough to bring the entire eurozone down around our ears, but Mighty Mario managed to put manners on the mess, getting Italian treasury bonds back into the respectable bracket on the world's exchanges.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The reforms have had negative consequences, of course, with an increase in the national debt when compared to gross domestic product, and an increase in the dole queues. Nearly 11% of Italians are currently out of work.

Silvio says he'll sort the whole business out, promising an end to austerity. A recent opinion poll showed that just 7% of Italian voters were in favour of having Il Cavaliere back as prime minister.

The Le Monde weekend supplement on politics devotes front-page space to explaining why Europe needs to maintain a credible military presence.

Cash-strapped European governments are all spending less on defence. That's bad, says the Le Monde writer. Bad, because Europe faces the threat of radical islam currently cooking in the Sahel, the proliferation of balistic missiles, the danger that nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

And there's a real possibility of international war in Asia. Against that cheerful background, there's a real need for Europe to remain strategically significant, and to re-think its defence needs in the age of cyberterrorism.

Speaking of cyberterrorists, Le Monde's main story says French kids don't want toys for Christmas, they want the latest high-tech gadgets.

Computers, music players, phones, video game consoles are now the top choices of 90% of French youngsters once the reach the age of nine.

Which is a real problem for the manufacturers of traditional toys, who count on the Christmas sales rush to balance their books. And is also a problem for parents, who have to pay for the new gear, generally more expensive than a stuffed bear or a pirate ship.

Christmas is also a time for solidarity between rich and poor. Today, a two-day conference on social exclusion opens in Paris, looking at ways of making health services, education, jobs and basic nourishment available to those who subsist on the margins of French society.

As Catholic paper, La Croix, points out, there'll be lots of worthy debate and plenty of good ideas at the conference. What there won't be, sadly, is sufficient money to make the ideas work for a substantial number of those for whom the word "crisis" is a description of everyday life.

tags: Army - Christmas - Economic crisis - European Union - Eurozone - France - French press review - Italy - Mario Monti - Press review - Silvio Berlusconi
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