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French press review 20 December 2014

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Cannabis, undocumented migrants, US-Cuba relations and the love of believers and non-believers alike for the Pope: what more could you ask for as you curl up with a coffee and a croissant for a look at the Saturday editions of the French newspapers?


We'll start with Le Monde's top story of a study which concludes that France would do well to legalise cannabis. The centrist daily publishes on its front page what it calls the "shock study" by left-wing think tank Terra Nova.

The three economists who wrote the report say the current policy is not working, as there are half a million people in France who smoke the drug daily. They reckon that making cannabis a nice, clean, taxable drug could bring about 2 billion euros to the French coffers every year. They look to other examples abroad, such as Colorado in the US, which has legalised the drug, leading to greater consumption but a decrease in criminality and 700 million dollars in revenue for the state.

But Le Monde does concede this looks unlikely to happen any time soon in France, where the issue is too much of a political hot potato.

And as if to show just how controversial the topic is, Le Figaro retaliates with its own shock healdine claimingthe state would be complicit with the mafia if it ever legalises the drug. The right-wing daily interviews the president of Parents Against Drugs, who emphasises the human and moral costs of such a move.

Left-wing Libération travels to the towns and villages that elected mayors of the far-right Front National party in March. In its editorial, the paper argues the FN officials have not come up with a sole original idea for improving civic life, and that when it comes to the nitty gritty of local admnistration, they have not broken any of the moulds of their predecesors. The only thing they have really added to political life, says the paper, are inflamatory remarks about slavery, obstinency about nativity scenes in the town halls, snubbing of Muslims and, well, casual xenophobia.

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To a town hall with a Socialist mayor, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has written to the Ministry of the Interior to ask for 500 migrants in the capital to be given legal papers. Le Parisien, and a number of other papers, report that Hidalgo says red tape has led to an "abhorrent" budgetary and humanitatian situation.

The story of the US and Cuba reestablishing diplomatic relations is also making the French press. Le Monde takes us to Miami, where the Cuban emigrant population remains divided over whether this reprochment is a good thing. The front page photo shows a very heated debate between Cuban exiles. Some of the interviewees believe Obama has made too many concessions without guaranteeing freedoms for Cubans. But sociologist Guillermo Grenier, who has been studying Cuban attitudes, believes the majority do approve of the move and feel the previous US policy of isolating Cuba is ineffective.

Le Figaro reports that official statistics show 2014 was the warmest year in France since records began in 1900. Temperatures were up an average by 1.2 degrees. It doesn't sound like much, but this has affected 30-odd ski stations, which haven't been able to open on time for the holiday season. Fine for us here in Paris where the weather has been exceptionally mild recently.

Le Parisien's top story is an exclusive opinion poll on the attitudes towards the Pope. According to the paper, 89 percent of French people like him. That is true of non-Catholics and Catholics alike, perhaps somewhat surprisingly. Those who took party in the study think his main role is to promote peace in the world, and they see him as having contributed to the warming of relations between Cuba and the US.