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France

French press review 15 May 2014

media

Financial skulduggery at the conservative UMP party, striking French civil servants, Europe and Cannes, the southern French city where the film festival got underway yesterday, are this morning's front page topics.

Let's start with left-leaningLibération's exclusive scoop on falsified accounts at the right-wing UMP party. According to the report, a public relations company closely linked to UMP chief, Jean-François Copé, has been charging the opposition party a lot of money to organise events.

You call that a story?

Well, it turns out that the UMP paid three times more to organise events for the UMP in 2012 than they had in 2007. One such event was organised on 30 May 2012 and it involved a UMP figure, Pierre Lellouche, who was to speak on access to credit.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The total bill, for catering, video facilities and a sign-language translator, came to 299,000 euros. So, was the conference worth the money? Did Pierre Lellouche feel he did his best on credit, access to?

Lellouche was surprised when Libé asked him that very question. He knows less than nothing about credit access and has no recollection of ever addressing such a conference. On the day in question, he spent the morning at the National Assembly and then met right-wing colleague Xavier Bertrand and a bunch of doctors. Somebody's credit is clearly in question.

Between January and June 2012, the UMP organised 55 conventions for a total cost of 13 million euros. Only six of those events have left any trace. A meeting on terrorism, which cost 300,000 euros, gave rise to a four-page report. Nice work at 75,000 euros per page.

So where did all the money really go?

There is a dark suspicion, says Libé, that the cash may have been siphoned off to fuel the election campaign of one Nicolas Sarkozy. If that can be established, then Sarko and Copé, the man who would be president, will be up to their necks in it.

French civil servants rarely live up to the name. Today you would be well advised to expect neither civility nor service because the aforementioned good people will be on strike, complaining about hardship. French civil servants have seen their salaries rise by just half a per cent since 2010, resulting, according to estimates done on a trade union calculator, in a 13.5 per cent loss in buying power. Up with this they will no longer put, so today has been designated a day of action, which is union-speak for a strike. You have been warned.

Dossier: Cannes Film Festival 2014

Then there's Europe. La Croix says the Catholic church wants to go on believing in an institution that champions the values of peace and brotherhood but Europe also gets involved in questions of ethics, frequently taking a liberal line little liked by the Catholics. Abortion and the tangled question of sexual identity and marriage are cases in point.

Right-wing Le Figaro is looking at a different Europe, this version about to be engulfed by the panicked hordes fleeing Africa and other economically or politically troubled zones. The European Union's border agency says the number of illegal immigrants last year, estimated at 107,000, represents a 48 per cent increase on the previous year. The right-wing paper claims that fewer would-be immigrants are being sent back and that Italy, frustrated at the inaction of its neighbours, is threatening to open the floodgates.

Which brings us to Cannes and the 67th film festival. Le Monde says this year's event is haunted by the spectre of war, with films on Ukraine, Mali and Chechnya. Art imitating life.

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