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France

French press review 3 July 2014

media

Former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is a lucky man. If you or I were to be hauled into police custody, questioned and then subjected to criminal investigation on suspicion of, say, corruption, we'd just have to grin and bear it. Sarko gets to whinge about it on prime-time TV.

Former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is a lucky man. If you or I were to be hauled into police custody, questioned and then subjecetd to criminal investigation on suspicion of, say, corruption, we'd just have to grin and bear it. Sarko gets to whinge about it on prime-time TV.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Last night the nation was treated to more than ten minutes of an angry face-to-face with the former president who denied ever breaking the law and denounced the political use of the justice system to humiliate him. He was hopping mad, repeatedly referring to the investigating judges who interviewed him after 15 hours of police questioning as "those two women".

He made a lot of tactical and factual errors, naming the proven crimes of several socialist figures in an attempt to deflect questions about his own guilt, arguing that the national accountant, the Cour des Comptes, had found nothing fishy in the UMP election budget, now believed to have involved a completely illegal overspend of 17 million euros.

He didn't bother to point out that if, as is now suspected, the bills shown to the national auditor were themselves carefully falsfied at the request of the UMP party, then an audit would find nothing wrong. For that, you'd need a criminal investigation, and that's exactly what's going on as we speak.

Sarko wondered why his phone conversations were being tapped last year as part of the investigation into the alleged financial participation in his victorious 2007 campaign by the Libyan dictator, Moamer Kadhafi. "Did they think he was going to call me from where he is now?" spluttered the former president, suggesting he knows more than the rest of us about the supreme guide's current whereabouts.

Dossier - The Bettencourt scandal

Sarkozy faces charges which would send an ordinary French citizen to jail for 10 years if he was found guilty. Perhaps more importantly for the former president, he could find himself barred from political life for a period to be determined by the courts.

On an eventual return to the political stage, Sarko was last night dignified, reserved, defiant, saying his decision, which he will make between now and September, will be based on his sense duty to the suffering French people. Indeed.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has his own problems. He has recently had the bosses union threatening to boycott next week's social conference which is due to look at employment, growth, investment and health, along with other social conundrums. Valls has got the employers back on board by promising to soften the rules about company contributions to a fund to finance the early retirement of workers whose jobs are considered difficult. In fact, the whole ball of wax has now been put on the back burner until 2016.

Communist L'Humanité is as angry as a president accused of corruption. "Valls bows to the bosses," is a rough translation of the communist daily's main headline. L'Huma says the postponed and watered down hardship account was the only positive trade-off for workers under the so-called "responsibility deal". And now, even that has been whisked away to satisfy the greedy gougers who run the nation's companies.

According to the leader of the Force Ouvrière trade union "the bosses have only to sneeze to have the government come running with a box of hankies."

On inside pages, Le Figaro looks at the increasing problem of resistance to antibiotics, recently described by the World Health Organisation as the single greatest threat to human welfare. In Europe alone, an estimated 25,000 people die every year because various bugs and bacteria have learned to thrive on the chemicals originally designed to kill them.

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