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French press review 12 February 2015


This morning, the editors of the French national dailies round up several of the usual suspects.

Le Monde thus gives pride of place to a glacially grim looking Vladimir Putin, calling him the master propagandist.

Conservative Le Figaro is happy to announce that the state spending watchdog is barking its head off at government incapacity to keep debt-reduction promises.

The front page of Libération looks at what history will probably call the Dominique Strauss-Khan trial, saying that the evidence given by several prostitutes in the case against the former head of the International Monetary Fund and several co-accused has at least the advantage of bringing to light a series of sordid practices which society is normally content to ignore.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

And then there's Greece, with catholic La Croix asking if that country is reformable, and communist L'Humanité saying that the Greeks are united behind the new government of Alexis Tsipras and their crusade against the agents of austerity in Brussels and Berlin.

Incidentally, Le Monde's economics section makes a convincing argument that a Greek exit from the European single currency would be a disaster for both sides, a political disaster for Europe, a financial one for Athens. The automatic devaluation of the drachma would be of the order of 30 per cent, which would push the public debt towards 250 per cent of Greek productive abilities and basically send what remains of the national economy down the tubes. Alexis Tsipras won't want to be remembered by history for having provoked that.

Unless he calculates that Greece would gain in competitive edge by going it alone, even if the first few months would be marked by recession and hardship. The combination of devaluation and recession would have the medium term effect of making Greek goods and services unbeatably cheap, which would get domestic production going again very nicely.

Since we're talking state finances, the front page of Le Figaro is a conservative diatribe against socialist waste.

Dossier: The Strauss-Kahn affair rocks France, IMF

Based on the latest report from the body supposed to ensure budgetary rigour, Le Figaro says public spending is just too high, and tax income is being undermined by low inflation, which is keeping prices down, which means less income in terms of value-added tax. The savings we were promised are either insufficient or imaginary. The government continues to throw money out the window, laments Le Figaro, as austerity strangles the ordinary earner and the standard of public services declines daily.

The so-called Carlton trial comes down to the question of whether or not a number of rich, powerful and highly-influential men knew that the ladies who joined them for sex parties were prostitutes. The readers of right-wing Le Figaro are in no doubt. Eighty-eight thousand of them voted in yesterday's poll organised by the paper, on the question "Do you believe Dominique Strauss-Khan when he says he did not know he was dealing with prostitutes?" Twelve per cent are prepared to take the man at his word; 88 per cent say he's lying through his teeth.

In case you were wondering whatever became of Jean-François Copé, the man who used to be president of the right-wing UMP party before the fraud squad started looking at the way in which the last presidential campaign was financed, be assured: you can not keep a good man down. M. Copé is now teaching, in English, at the prestigious Institute of Political Science in Paris. His course looks at "the role of the law, public ploicy and institutions." I'll bet there's not a dry seat in the house.