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French press review 5 December 2016


What will happen in Italy now that Matteo Renzi has lost his referendum bid to streamline the political process? Could a new Italian government take the country out of Europe? The Austrian presidential win for Alexander Van der Bellen is hailed as good news for the old continent. And what sort of historical monument was Cuba's Fidel Castro?

Le Figaro gives pride of place to outgoing Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who has resigned in the wake of the referendum defeat yesterday of a constitutional reform intended to reduce the powers of the Italian Senate. Italy's chronic political instability has seen a succession of 60 governments since 1948.

The right-wing paper says the rejection of the reform is likely to make Italy even less attractive to investors, crucial at a time when several of the country's major banks are trying to recapitalise to cover their huge backlog of bad debts. Several French banks are understood to be up to their hind hocks supporting struggling Italian lenders.

Business daily La Tribune expects a busy and nervous day on the financial markets in the wake of the Italian no.

The anti-European economist Jacques Sapir, interviewed by Le Figaro, says the defeat of Renzi could well lead to the departure of Italy from the economic union and cause the implosion of the eurozone.

Austria votes against eurosceptical populism

At least the news from Austria is better. The Austrians were voting for a new president yesterday and they chose a Green pro-European one as opposed to a far-right one. Libération quotes one young Green voter as saying the country has chosen democracy against the anti-immigrant and Eurosceptical populism proposed by the defeated Norbert Hofer.

Catholic La Croix says the Austrian win for Alexander Van der Bellen is good news for Europe.

But let's remember that 46 percent of Austrian voters supported the far-right candidate and that the country is due to hold parliamentary elections in the course of 2018 at the latest.

Royal row follows minister's praise of Fidel Castro

The French environment minister, Ségolène Royal, is in a spot of bother for her praise of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, according to Le Monde.

Speaking on Saturday in Santiago de Cuba, where she was representing the French government at Fidel's final send-off, Royal described Castro as a "historical monument", saying he had promoted religious freedom and allowed Cubans to reclaim control of their land, their lives and their destinies. She dismissed the frequent charges of human rights abuses against the Castro regime as "misinformation," insisting it was important to take the positive view.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International in its current report on Cuba says opponents of the regime, now headed by Fidel's younger brother, Raul, is guilty of the harrassment of opponents, using the security services and the courts against opposition figures.

At least 8,000 political arrests were carried out in the course of 2015 according to a local human rights group. The internet in Cuba is still controlled by the authorities, who filter information and block anti-government sites. Amnesty International has been banned from Cuba since 1990.

Royal has been criticised from all sides, including a blast from the National Front's Florian Philippot and the Socialist senator David Assouline. Assouline says France is world renowned for having drafted the declaration of human and citizens' rights, not for supporting dictators.

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, was the only other European government representative at Fidel's funeral.

Stockholm's anti-sexist snow policy on the skids

Le Monde looks at the problem of sexist snowclearing in the Swedish capital, Stockholm. I kid you not.

Women tend, on average, to do more walking and cycling than men. The lads hop into their cars to drive to the office, while the girls push cartloads of kids to the crèche or cycle them to school. Women in Sweden are statistically more likely than men to suffer injuries in falls on icy ground.

So the city fathers and mothers in Stockholm decided last winter that they would give priority to clearing snow from the footpaths and cycle routes, and only then would they turn to the roads.

Unfortunately, last month's first snows in southern Sweden were the heaviest in 111 years - 40 centimetres fell in a few hours, totally paralysing the Stockholm ringroad, blocking school buses, leaving thousands of motorists stuck in their vehicles.

And, while all that was happening, city employees struggled to keep the footpaths and cycle routes open.

The leader of the Swedish conservative party, Anna Kinberg Batra, was scathing. "It isn't all a question of sex," she tweeted. "Especially snow. How is Swedish equality helped when the buses can't reach the schools?"

The ecology party mayor admits that they weren't ready for this year's surprise snowfall but insists that the policy of paths first, roads after is a good one because it's fairer to women.