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France

French press review 31 December 2012

media

There's not a lot of news on this morning's front pages. That's normal . . . most of the readers and nearly all of the journalists are on holiday, and it's the end of the year . . . so editors go for either a look back at last year or, more interestingly, a look ahead to 2013.

The exceptions are right wing Le Figaro and business paper Les Echos. Both look at the weekend setback for the government as the Constitutional Council threw out plans for a 75% tax rate.

Le Figaro says president Hollande has been caught in the hypertaxation trap. The right wing daily is delighted to point out that this particularly symbolic tax proposal,

a crucial plank of the Hollande presidential campaign, was so poorly prepared that it didn't even respect the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment for all French nationals, even stinky rich ones.

The problems are minutely technical but, basically, seem to come down to the fact that an individual earning more than one million euros would be subject to the new tax rate, while a married couple earning just short of two million would not be. That's clearly not fair, and is one of the reasons the law has been rejected.

The government has already said it will sort out the details and present a new law before you can say "I'm leaving for Belgium".

Business daily Les Echos is not so sure, suggesting that the rejection leaves little room for manoeuvre, being based on a conviction that extreme levels of taxation are fundamentally unfair. The government will spend more time in the planning stage, says Les Echos, especially since the real impact of an eventual law on the overall tax take is insignificant.

Also on the front page of Le Figaro, news that the top forty companies on the Paris stock exchange saw their share values increase by nearly 15% last year, the best performance since 2009, the year after the thing we've ever since been calling "the crisis" began.

The rest of the front pages either look back in anger or look forward with a sense that next year's not going to be much better for many people.

Communist L'Humanité says it will take hard work to turn the struggles of last year into the victories of 2013. On the taxation debate, the communist daily claims that the richest .01% of the French population have seen their income increase by 51% since 1998, while the 90% at the poorer end of the social spectrum have had to make do with a 3% increase. If the Constitutional Council is so worried about inequality; let them sort that out!

La Croix sees reasons for hope. Last year, says the catholic daily, the world made progress in the fields of peace, charity, health and the euro. Much of that will come as a surprise to many Syrians and Congolese, to the hungry and homeless, to those dying of aids, to economists. But Catholics are like that. And the paper does admit that there's a huge amount of work to be done to turn the glimmer of hope into a real bonfire.

Libération decides to look back at the best and the worst of the year just ending . . . if the feuding right-wingers, Copé and Fillon represent the worst, then the athletes Maheidine Mekhissi of France and Kenya's Ezichiel Kemboi, embracing after their epic battle in the Olympic 3,000 metres final, showed us what the best can be like.

Everyone agrees that 2013 won't be easy; nearly everyone finds some reason for hope. Let's hope the optimists are on the money.
 

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