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France

French press review 5 November 2018

media

The French media react to the decision by voters in the south Pacific islands of New Caledonia to remain French. The latest effort by French President Emmanuel Macron to improve his standing in the popularity ratings. And bad news for French motorists.

Le Monde says the outcome of the referendum on independence for the French islands of New Caledonia is a mixed blessing.

Fifty-six percent of the inhabitants of the Pacific islands yesterday voted in favour of remaining part of France. But, says Le Monde, the huge turn-out - 80.6 percent of registered voters cast a ballot - and the considerable support won by the pro-independence group, which got 44 percent, means that Paris will now have to take a different line with those who campaigned for sovereignity for New Caledonia.

Le Monde also points out that the overall result conceals huge contrasts. If voters in the main city, Nouméa, and in the wealthier southern provinces were massively in favour of remaining part of France, their northern neighbours and those on the Loyalty Islands were equally determined in their support for independence. The turnout in the northern districts was relatively low, at just 59 percent.

The French prime minister Edouard Philippe is due to arrive in New Caledonia later today to meet local representatives and discuss the political landscape in the wake of the referendum.

Will Macron's memorial marathon help us forget?

The news of the South Pacific decision is nearly invisible in right-wing Le Figaro.

The conservative paper gives the top of the front page to President Emmanuel Macron who is, according to Le Figaro, planning to use this week's commemoration of the centenary of the Armistice which ended World War I as a scaffold to rebuild his own waning popularity.

The cycle of commemoration opened last night in the north-eastern city of Strasbourg, with Macron sitting beside his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier through a concert involving French featherweight Claude Debussy and top Teutonic tunesmith Ludwig van Beethoven. A clear and inevitable victory for the visitors, even if the official theme was peace and reconciliation in a region which divided the neighbouring nations for centuries.

Macron now faces seven days of travelling, visiting 11 departments and 17 cities, before he slows down next Sunday under the Arc de Triomphe here in Paris where he'll address 100 heads of state and directors of international organisations.

The idea is not purely political but the presidential entourage will be hoping that this highly mediatised marathon will help distance Macron from the difficulties of the Benalla affair, the resignations of his ecology and interior ministers, and the tragic rise of the populist vote across a Europe which Macron is trying, almost single-handedly, to save from itself.

Should car users pay for pollution?

Libération is worried about the price of fuel.

The problem is complex: the government plans to boost the cost of petrol and diesel in next year's budget. The official reason is to increase the amount of money available for ecological expenditure, penalise polluters, and gradually bring the price of petrol and diesel more or less to the same level.

More important, perhaps, is the contribution the price rise at the pumps will make to the 38 billion euros the government hopes to collect next year under plans to tax the consumption of energy.

That's all very fine if you're green. But some members of the ruling majority are going purple about the gills as they listen to the opposition and many ordinary voters whingeing about another vicious blow to the already dangerously diminished spending power of the average Frenchperson.

The government says most of the latest increase is enforced by the rise in the price of a barrel of crude on world markets. Drivers and the opposition are loudly sceptical. Marine Le Pen of the far right, Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the hard left, and Socialist former environment minister Ségolène Royal are among those who have criticised the government as, variously, "dishonest," "incoherent," and "city biased", in other words acting against the interests of those who live in rural areas and have no choice but to use the car.

There will be protests.

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