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France

French press review 12 March 2016

media DR

Tomorrow's regional elections in Germany are attracting a lot of attention as a sort of referendum on Chancellor Angela Merkel's immigration policy. Paris announces new measures in the fight against terrorism. And there are a lot of candidates for the right-wing presidential nomination here in France.

Le Monde has a new-look front page, but the style changes can't mask the fact that most of the news remains bad.

The centrist paper's top story looks to Germany where there will be elections in three regions tomorrow, a crucial test for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose attitude to refugees is increasingly contested. Recent opinion polls suggest that 56 percent of German voters do not approve of Merkel's immigration policy.

The far-right Alternative for Germany party is up to 10 per cent in the same polls.

Anti-terror units armed and ready

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve wants to have anti-terrorist assault units stationed within 20 minutes of any location in France. The minister is going to equip these units with the most sophisticated - and dangerous - weapons. He also wants to see more coordination between the various bodies responsible for keeping the rest of us safe.

Part of the problem for Le Monde is that more dangerous weapons can lead to more spectacular mistakes. And then there's the rivalry between the various armed security agencies.

The anti-crime brigade and the rapid intervention units are to be given the new lethal weaponry, to the annoyance of their colleagues in the GIGN, the RAID and the BRI, each of which played a key role in reacting to last year's terror attacks.

To read our coverage of last November's Paris attacks click here

But there is a clear problem of coordination: in Seine-et-Marne, near Paris, agents of the BRI arrived when the RAID and GIGN forces were already in place in the battle to arrest the Kouachi brothers after the Charlie Hebdo killings. At the Bataclan in November agents of the RAID arrived in a zone supposedly under the control of the BRI. It's only a matter of time before this sort of confusion results in the death and injury of security officers at the hands of their own colleagues.

French Republicans primary avalanche

And then there's the question of who will represent the right-wing Republicans party here in France in next year's presidential election.

According to Le Monde, there's nothing short of an "avalanche" of candidates.

There are already nine confrimed runners, with at least two others doing their warm-ups.

But it will all get serious by 9 September next, by which stage each would-be runner will need to have collected the support of 2,500 party activists, 250 elected representatives, and 20 MPs or senators.

And is it worth all the trouble?

An opinion poll in Le Monde indicates that 88 percent of French voters think the whole political system works badly, 76 percent say they feel manipulated and 93 percent are convinced that politicians think, first and foremost, of their own interests.

Money can't buy growth

The top story in Le Monde's economics and business supplement is headlined "Loads of money, no growth."

That's a reference to the European Central Bank's (ECB) latest promise to keep pouring cash into the effort to get the Old Continent back in its zimmer frame.

The ECB is now spending 80 billion euros every month, buying member countries' public debt. And the European bank will loan money to institutions for free.

Which would all be very fine if it was making a blind bit of difference but it isn't.

And even the ECB seems to know it's flogging a dead horse since the bank's own prediction for growth in the eurozone for this year is a miserable 1.4 percent.

Tusk tries to sell Turkish deal

Money matters are currently far down the list of European priorities.

Saving Greece from being submerged by Syrian refugees is the main task at the moment and that's why Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, has been making the rounds, trying to squeeze cash and a semblance of political respectability out of member governments to support the "send them back to Turkey" solution.

There are at least three major problems:

  • finding the money to pay the Turks to do the European dirty work;
  • not yielding too much to Ankara's demands for special visas and a free hand against the Kurds;
  • the dubious legality of deporting asylum seekers.

To which you can add the stark and tragic fact that the refugees will keep coming anyway, because they don't have any option.

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