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French press review 1 March 2011


The fallout continues from the cabinet reshuffle carried out by President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday. The French press presents various versions of the motivations behind, and repercussions of, Sarkozy’s decision to replace two of his key ministers.

Sarkozy argued that the changes were necessary to reflect a changing world. But Le Monde says in its editorial that the reshuffle has more to do with home affairs than foreign ones. The paper suggests it's all a question of getting rid of any potential loose cannons ahead of the presidential elections next year.

Meanwhile left-wing Libération suggests that Sarkozy has lost the confidence of his own UMP party - and will not be nominated as its presidential candidate next year. The paper cites its own recent poll which found that 66 per cent of voters surveyed had a negative opinion of Sarkozy. It paints a picture of various presidential pretenders just waiting to take over from their beleaguered boss.

In fact, Libération has a handy guide to the four people it believes are in prime position to replace Sarkozy as the UMP candidate:

- Alain Juppé, who Sarkozy has just appointed to Foreign Minister;
- Prime Minister François Fillon;
- UMP leader Jean-François Copé;
- former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, whose various public disagreements with Sarkozy could play in his favour, according to Libé.

But that of course remains pure speculation, and possibly wishful thinking, on Libé's part.

Elsewhere in the papers, tributes have been pouring in for the French actress Annie Girardot, who died yesterday aged 79. Her picture is on several front pages today.

Girardot was well loved not only for her many film roles, but also for her work raising awareness of Alzheimer's disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2004. She continued to act even after the diagnosis, and allowed cameras to film her struggle with the disease for a revealing documentary.

As it happens, President Sarkozy just last week promised to allocate more resources for research into treatments for Alzheimer's, as l'Humanité reports. But unions have been protesting this week that the specialist Georges-Clemenceau geriatric hospital near Paris, which cares for many Alzheimer's patients, is currently under threat of closure.

If you’ve ever fancied following in the footsteps of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and other illustrious alumni of France’s universities, you may wish to read today’s opinion piece in Le Monde by the head of the Conférence des grandes écoles, the association of France’s top universities.

Pierre Tapie wants France to triple its intake of foreign students over the next few years. France is already the world’s third most popular destination for those who study abroad, with around 246,000 non-French students.

These students currently qualify, like their French classmates, for France’s non-fee-paying university system. But Tapie wants at least 80 per cent of them to pay the cost of their education, plus additional fees.

That would turn foreign students into a valuable source of revenue for France: Tapie calculates they’d bring in at least an extra 5.4 billion euros a year.

As for the students, Tapie argues that the system would not make a French degree more expensive than a British one, and around half the price of a US one - and, he suggests, it would leave them with the sense that their degree was reassuringly expensive. Though it’s debatable whether they’ll think that’s worth the thousands of euros they’d have to shell out.

Fans of French fast-food can, too, be reassured: the burger chain Quick publishes a full-page letter in Le Figaro and Les Echos promising the tightest of hygiene precautions in its restaurants.

Why the charm offensive, you may wonder? Well, what the letter scrupulously avoids mentioning is that a teenage boy recently died of severe food poisoning after eating two Quick burgers.

The company promises that all staff will be given additional food safety training to ensure that all its meals are safe to eat.

Finally, the number of the day: 11,500 people in France are killed by household accidents every year. Le Monde explains that's things like falls, fires, DIY accidents and the mysterious "ingestion of products".

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