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Bernard Kouchner Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Catholic France Nicolas Sarkozy Pope Benedict XVI Roma

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French press review 8 October 2010


Carla Bruni's husband is off to the Vatican today. He might be getting a few dozen Hail Marys' penance for his trouble since – as the front pages of Le Monde and Libération announce this morning – France has been misbehaving again by targeting the Roma people.

France has already been told off by the Pope for expelling Roma from France. And this morning the two papers recount the alleged existence of a file called the MENS (Non-Sedentary Ethnic Minorities), which is supposed to be a file on Roma people present in France.

Four associations have launched a legal case, since it's illegal in France to gather information on people's ethnic origin. But the Interior Ministry says it doesn't know anything about this file. And the police say that it doesn't exist.

Another document that doesn't exist is the letter of resignation that Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner wrote in August. Or didn't write. Earlier this week the Nouvel Observateur magazine reported that Kouchner had put a resignation letter into the very hands of President Sarkozy on 25 August. But right-wing Le Figaro tells us this morning that, according to the Elysée palace, "the president never received a resignation letter from Bernard Kouchner".

So President Sarkozy will no doubt be taking up the miracle of the disappearing letter with the holy father.

The president has just made part of the retirement reform disappear, which makes several papers. This is good news for French mothers born before 1956, because their retirement system won't change. But, this only concerns about 130,000 women, probably not enough to put off next week's strike.

There are bigger numbers involved in the plans of France's Elite third-level institutes. They're looking abroad, hoping to triple the number of foreign students in their class rooms in the next 10 years. Business daily Les Echos tells us that the institutes want to charge 12,500 euros to most of these foreigners, bringing in the not-insignificant sum of seven billion euros. There are however two obstacles to this: the institutes need more independance to set their own fees, and they also need to start teaching in English.

We also learn this morning that Spain's Royal Academy has launched a Youtube recording of Don Quixote in 2,149 parts (Le Monde), that France's National Library has done a deal with Microsoft to increase access to the library's 1.25 million online books and that a "forgotten language" called Koro has been discovered in north-east India (Le Figaro).

The papers also tell us this morning that France's Junior Minister for Sport Rama Yade is about to publish her third book, called A letter to young people (Les Echos), that the spokesperson for the New Anticapitalist Party Olivier Besancenot won't answer a question about running in France's 2012 presidential election (L'humanité) and that French thriller writer Franck Thilliez has sold the rights to two books in the US for a six-figure sum.