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France Press review

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French press review 17 July 2017

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President Emmanuel Macron has promised French home owners that they'll pay less tax. French mayors are worried that they won't, as a result, be able to run their towns and cities. The hard talking begins today on the timing and terms of British withdrawal from the European Union. And what do Papua New Guinea and Donald Trump's USA have in common?


Right wing Le Figaro is worried about the French president's plan to abandon the housing tax. That's good news for the 80 percent of house owners who are going to have to pay less once the plan gets underway next year. But it leaves the nation's local politicians, notably the mayors of towns and cities, wondering how they're going to make ends meet.

Currently, the nation's 27 million owners and renters pay an average of 600 euros each year. Except that about two-thirds of them either get off completely or pay much less. In fact four million families pay no housing tax at all, simply because their annual income is less than 10,000 euros. Widows and widowers don't pay at all. There's a special scale of reductions for poorer families and those headed by someone over the age of 60. It's complicated. One third of households currently pay full whack.

But that's unfair according to Macron, since there's no scale linking income to tax obligation. One size fits all. If you own a house with a garden, two bathrooms and a doghouse, the bill is the same for the company owner and the company night-watchman.

And it depends where you live. At an average of 481 euros per year, Paris is relatively cheap because of the huge population. But the average is 1,385 euros annually in Marseille. Not fair at all.

And it's all based on rental values established . . . in 1970, nearly half a century ago.

So. Next year 18 million households, those with revenues under 20,000 euros per resident, will pay one-third less housing tax than at present. With the further two-thirds knocked off over the following two years. Meaning that by 2020 only the very rich will still have to pay housing tax.

Le Figaro remainds readers that Macron's campaign meeting with the mayors and the presidents of the French departments was a stormy affair, Macron telling the local bigwigs that they'd have to come up with ways of saving 10 billion euros over the next five years and that they'd find themselves with a much reduced take from the housing tax, currently their principal source of income.

A national conference involving the local representatives kicks off this morning in Paris, with a view to coming to some sort of workable agreement.

Figaro's readers are voting on the question of whether local communities are right to be protesting against the proposed reduction of the housing tax   with 16,500 votes cast a few minutes ago, nearly 70 percent felt the protests were justified.

The long goodbye begins

Left-leaning Libération gives the front-page honours to today's official opening of the divorce proceedings between Europe and the United Kingdom.

This first meeting in Brussels should be plain sailing. It will attempt only to establish a calendar for future negotiations.

Then they'll get down to the nitty-gritty of deciding on citizens' rights and who owes whom how much.

Europe reckons the Brits will have to settle a bill of around 100 billion euros before they can go. British Foreign Affairs Minister Boris Johhnson has told them to take a hike.

The talks risk being as friendly as Theresa May's smile.

Will Trump support paid maternity leave?

On its inside pages Le Monde notes that the US president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, could well be responsible for a small revolution intended to benefit American women.

Currently, maternity leave is tolerated in the United States but it is unpaid. Ivanka wants daddy to offer mothers eight weeks off following the birth of a child and to pay them 70 percent of their salaries. That will cost 16 billion euros over the next 10 years, the sort of sum to make decent Republicans grind their well-polished teeth.

And it could be worse. Ivanka wants eight weeks, the International Labour Organisation recommends 18. Bulgarian mothers get 32 weeks paid leave after each birth. Here in France it's 16 weeks.

Paua New Guinea is the only other country, along with Trump's US, not to offer some form of paid maternity leave.