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French press review 25 October 2013


There's anger in Brussels about US snooping and "you-too" accusations from the US. French unemployment keeps climbing. The last car rolls of the production line at Peugeot-Citroën's factory at Aulnay-sous-Bois. Football clubs go to war over supertax.

Boiling anger of Europeans against US President Barack Obama”: that’s Le Figaro’s presentation of the state of mind of EU leaders gathered in Brussels to push for new rules on the spying game after stunning revelations the United States tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

The right-wing newspaper claims that while there are no international laws prohibiting spying, eavesdropping between friends is simply inconceivable, borrowing a quote from Merkel’s comments as she arrived Brussels for the crisis meeting.

The irony about the scandal, according to Le Figaro, is that it is Barack Obama who has been tripped up by the US National Security Agency cables. For the newspaper, it is all the more terrible because Obama is a Democrat, a Nobel peace laureate and the man who ran for office on an anti-George Bush agenda, promising to break with abuses under the cover of national security.

Aujourd’hui en France, reports that while Obama has remained tight-lipped, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is trying to minimise the affair, arguing that it is a surprise to nobody that countries spy on each other. The paper is referring to an interview she gave in Washington Thursday in which she accuses France of spying on her when she was US ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997.

Albright recalled a conversation she had with her French counterpart at the time, during which he asked her why she said this to that person about her wish to have more women in government. A shocked Albright responded with an “I beg your pardon?”.

Aujourd’hui en France says the dispute with the United States is set to return on the agenda of the summit due to more revelations by the British Guardian that Washington not only listened in on the phone conversations of key allies - from France and Germany to Brazil and Mexico - but also of 35 world leaders.

Les Echos analyses France’s new record unemployment figures after the number of new job seekers leaped by 60,000 in the single month of September. Aujourd’hui en France notes a facelift for youth employment. The economic newspaper says the catastrophic statistics have put the Elysée Palace under intense pressure.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

L’Humanité is mourning the closure of Peugeot-Citroën’s car factory at Aulnay-sous-Bois as the automaker is due to produce its last car at the plant this Friday.

For the Communist Party daily, the shutdown of the historic site in the outskirts of Paris is the culmination of the lies told by PSA’s managers about its competitive business plan and a so-called exemplary social conversion scheme which has left its beleaguered workers paying the price.

The closure of the PSA plant is the ultimate symbol of the drifting French automobile industry, according to Les Echos. Peugeot-Citroën’s production figures plunged by 50 per cent in 30 years, its workforce falling from 320,000 in 1983 to 135,000 in 2012.

French football clubs are preparing for war with President Francois Hollande’s 75 per cent income tax, according to Les Echos. The newspaper is reacting to Thursday’s unanimous vote by the presidents of premier and second league clubs to boycott league matches on the 29 November and 2 December, if the government does not repeal its plan to tax businesses that pay wages exceeding one million euros.

And Libération is wondering whether former budget minister Eric Woerth is a fuse that can blow open the "Sarkozy system", operated by the former president and his allies while he was in office. The question springs from new revelations by the paper that Woerth ordered up to 83 millions in tax rebates to disgraced business tycoon Bernard Tapie after the 400-million euro payout which he received as settlement of the controversial Adidas sale arbitration.