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French press review 1 February 2017


Far-right leader Marine Le Pen is the latest French political figure and presidential candidate to become embroiled in allegations of the misuse of public funds. Le Pen has until tonight to pay back 300,000 euros to the European Parliament. She says she is the victim of "persecution" and is countersuing.

If you're fed up with stories about the Fillon family finances, there's relief in sight in Le Monde.

According to the centrist daily, far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen has refused to pay back 300,000 euros to the European parliament.

At the heart of the affair is the allegation that Le Pen used European funds to pay Catherine Griset to be her parliamentary assistant in Brussels while, in fact, Griset was working full-time for the party in Paris.

If Le Pen fails to cough up the disputed sum by this evening, she risks having half her salary and allowances as a Eurodeputy withheld and also losing all rights to general allowances.

The unfortunate woman is spitting fire, saying she will not yield to "persecution".

Sounding unfortunately like François Fillon, she goes on to accuse shadowy "political opponents" of trying to deprive her of basic legal rights, saying she depends on the courts to provide truth and justice.

Le Pen is suing the secretary general of the European Parliament for something called "intellectual falsehood". She's also got her legal teeth into the European Office against Fraud, accusing them of collusion.

And the saga's not over yet, since Le Pen is further asked to pay back 40,000 euros of European money which she allegedly used to pay her personal bodyguard.

Not bad for a woman who is in favour of pulling France out of Europe.

French farmers reduce pesticide use

There's really good news further down the Le Monde front page with the confirmation that last year saw the first decrease in sales of pesticides in France since 2009.

However, French farmers remain big fans of chemicals to kill bugs and beasts, topping the list of European users of insecticides, fungicides and weedkillers.

Last year's decrease was of the order of three percent but that shouldn't mask an overall trend which has seen the use of chemical killers increase by nearly 20 percent over the past seven years.

French economy fails to fly

Over at right-wing Le Figaro, they turned the front page over to their economics analysts. Shock, horror, the reason the French economy is doing so badly is because, well, the French economy is doing badly.

"France trapped by poor growth," moans the Le Figaro main headline.

Gross domestic product increased by just 1.1 percent last year, less than the government was hoping for, but with a promising upturn in the last quarter of 2016.

That's worse, however, than the feeble 1.2 percent growth in GDP recorded in 2015. But at least there's no imminent danger of recession.

And the government statisticians are not expecting this year to show any marked improvement, especially with the strengthening of the euro, the increase in oil prices and interest rates likely to rise.

Yesterday Economy and Finance Minister Michel Sapin admitted that hoping to see economic growth reach 2.5 or 3.0 percent no longer made any sense.

Tough times for a family feasting on public funds

Over at left-leaning Libération, the front page is dominated by François Fillon, whose presidential campaign is, according to Libé, flying like a lead balloon.

Le Canard Enchaîné's latest revelations, suggesting that Mrs Fillon may have earned nearly 900,000 euros for parliamentary work which no one saw her do, is a further blow to the man who surged out of the right-wing primary looking like a shoo-in for the presidency.

Libération investigates what it calls the "Golden Family", noting that the man who plans to abolish 500,000 civil service jobs paid two of his kids 84,000 euros for parliamentary work, his son having been paid 27,000 euros during the six months in which he was preparing for his law exams.

Libé ends the article by saying that several right-wing leaders last night admitted that they did not see how Fillon could survive as the Republicans candidate for the presidency. But they don't know who might replace him. Not yet, anyway.