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French press review 24 April 2018


Is the slow alignment of the French right wing and far right inevitable? Can President Emmanuel Macron keep his promise not to raise taxes? And what do the Swedes think of the current rash of strikes here in France?

The top story in Le Monde looks at the slow but definite alignment of policies of the French far right and the supposedly more mainstream Republican movement, headed by Laurent Wauquiez.

While Wauquiez and far-right leader Marine Le Pen remain technically opposed at a national level, the centrist daily says that position is being undermined by several local initiatives aimed at creating a broad right-wing alliance.

The recent debate on proposals to change the law regulating asylum and immigration has, according to Le Monde, confirmed a range of ideological and strategic points of convergence.

Will Macron keep no tax rise promise?

Le Figaro warns that the French tax-payer is close to the end of his and her tether.

Despite repeated promises that there will be no tax hikes during the five years of the Macron mandate, the right-wing daily says voters are either dubious or outright sceptical. The Hollande presidency that preceded Macron saw five successive years of tax increases, the paper says. This year the government will need to squeeze an additional 4.5 billion euros out of households. To say nothing of the presidential promise to abolish the housing tax, a gift which will have to be replaced in one form or another.

Le Figaro's editorial says the whole thing is so opaque, it's clear that nothing is very clear.

But with less coming in because of Macron's abolition of wealth tax and his softening of the fiscal rules for business corporations, there's an obvious problem. And tax-payers are obviously worried.

Worse, says Le Figaro, whatever Macron has achieved, he has done nothing to slow state spending. In fact, official France is spending 2.5 percent more since Macron took the helm. The right-wing paper says the only way the president can keep his promise to balance public expenditure by 2022 will be to break his promise on taxation.

Waste not, want not

Yesterday the French government decided to go to war against waste.

The prime minister himself, Edouard Philippe, and Brune Poirson, a junior minister in the ecology department, joined forces to launch the battle against the dominant economic model under which producers produce, consumers consume and, after three months we throw it away and buy the latest model.

Fifty measures have been announced with a view to making consumers more considerate and less wasteful. Buy better stuff, preferably made in France or at least in Europe. And buy less.

The basic idea is to progress from the current linear economy which leads directly to the dump, to a circular model under which things can be repaired, recycled, ideally reused.

Products will be labeled to indicate their level of solidity in the hope that, instead of buying, say, a new fridge every five years, we will buy a good one which can serve for 30 years. The environment will benefit and so will our purchasing power.

We certainly need to do something. The current linear model means that, if the rest of humanity started acting like pampered Westerners, we would need the resources of five planets just to supply our endless appetite for junk and have space to bury the obsolete leftovers.

European champion in the strike stakes

Le Monde looks at what the European neighbours are making of the current rash of strikes here in France.

Most German commentators seem to applaud Macron's effort to "undo decades of social stagnation in a couple of months", at the same time warning that the speed of the proposed revolution is causing a certain dizziness. Others suggest that the government may have chosen the wrong target and that reforming primary school or reducing company tax rates should have been given a higher priority.

The London papers seem to hope that Emmanuel Macron will turn out to be a French Maggie Thatcher, the Iron Lady who brought the cross-Channel trade unions to their knees in the 1980s.

And the Scandinavians are laughing since, for them, France has strikes the way dogs have fleas.

Compared to the French average of 132 days of disputes and stoppages for every 1,000 employees last year, Sweden recorded five days of strikes.

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