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French press review 12 January 2012

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Who polices the police? And who polices the police who police the police? Is France's 35-hour week a calamity? Is France's education system failing pupils? And can CDs fool evil spirits at the start of the Year of the Dragon?


Le Monde looks at a scandal, rather a series of scandals, involving the so-called "police police". These are the guys who are supposed to make sure that those who are paid to enforce the law actually obey it. It turns out that, at least some of the time, they probably don't do so themselves.

According to Le Monde, the inspectorate of police knowingly falsified evidence in at least one police enquiry. Witness statements have been modified, the results of telephone evesdropping edited.

Among the alleged victims of such practises are two top civil servants, considered to be too close to the Socialist Party in the Sarkozy era. Six cases involving this sort of dirty dealing are currently being investigated by the legal establishment.

The main stories in right-wing Le Figaro and business daily Les Echos look at the fact that French workers do less of it than any other European nation, except the Finns. We're talking about time spent working.

While your average German keeps nose to the grindstone for 1,904 hours every year, the average French nose goes home a lot earlier, having worked just 1,679 hours. That a 225-hour advantage to German producers. And the Germans are themselves only middle-ranked in Europe as a whole.

While Les Echos says that economists remain divided on the impact on the French economy of the 35-hour working week, a Socialist initiative aimed at boosting employment, Le Figaro has no such doubts. The right wing paper's front-page editorial on the 35-hour regime is headlined "A calamity".

As France teeters on the brink of recession, and with trade union leaders and the bosses due to meet President Sarkozy next week to discuss ways of getting the economy moving again, Le Figaro says the 35-hour week is the root of all evil.

It has caused French businesses a dramatic loss of competivity; adds hugely to public expenditure and has done nothing to alter the unemployment situation, only adding to the ever rising cost of living, the paper argues.

France imports products worth 75 billion euros more than it exports, every year, and that, says Le Figaro, cannot be allowed to continue.

Libération looks at the French education system, publishing an appeal against failure as official statistics suggest that as many as one in five French 15-year-olds is failing. Or rather, education is failing 20 per cent of French 15-year-olds.

Libé says the forthcoming presidential campaign will obviously, and rightly, focus on the economic situation, poor in France, near-catastrophic elsewhere in Europe, but that education must not be relegated to the status of a side issue.

In Taiwan, they are getting ready for the Chinese New Year, which will be on 22 January.

In the capital, Taipei, the authorities are giving away CDs with recorded fireworks explosions, in an effort to limit air and noise pollution during the festivities. Singapore, Hong Kong and all of Malaysia have a total ban on personally detonated fireworks; Taipei wants to see if this initiative will make an official ban unnecessary.

It remains to be seen if the evil spirits which the traditional bangers are intended to frighten will be fooled by the CDs.