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France

Eye on France: Paris papers look at pigs, parliaments and posturing

media Danish pigs will no longer be allowed to fraternise with German boars. REUTERS/Stringer

Instead of French news, we offer droves of Danish pigs, a squabble of predictions about the composition of the next European Parliament, the first after Brexit. And bad news on the Old Continent's standing in the global military/security stakes.

The Danes are building a wall. But it’s not in solidarity with US President Donald Trump.

According to Le Monde, the 68-kilometre-long fence is intended to keep German boars (that’s the four-footed creatures of the pig family, not sleep-inducing professors) out of Denmark. Because the German beasts are suspected of carrying African swine flu, and the Danish bacon sector wants to avoid any chance of contamination.

One single case of the fatal disease on a Danish farm means that the entire drove has to be put down. If the veterinary authorities find a single infected boar on the Danish side of the border, then all non-European exports will have to stop immediately. And that market is worth 1.5 billion euros each year.

The fence, by contrast, will cost a mere 11 million euros.

A filter rather than a fence

The reason the fence appeals to some Danish pig farmers is that they know exactly how many wild boar live in Denmark, there are 150 of them, and their health is a matter of national concern. The Danes just don’t want them fraternizing with German boar.

They are also going to spray all animal transport vehicles as they cross the border.

There is a problem. You have to leave holes in a fence like this: small ones to allow animals other than boar to circulate; big ones for railway tracks and roads. Opponents of the barrier say the boar can easily swim across the Flensborg fjord, which is on the border.

“It’s a political move,” says one opponent, interviewed in Le Monde. “Danish farmers are suffering. The government wants to give them something. What better than a highly visible barrier, even if it won’t protect anybody from anything!”

Needless to remark, the populist/nationalist/piggist Danish Peoples Party is one of the key political supporters of the initiative.

One party member in parliament has called for the boar barrier to be made a bit higher, “to keep out illegal immigrants, asylum seekers” and people he calls “adventurers”.

What will the next European parliament look like?

Speaking of barriers and divisions, several French papers today look forward to the likely scenario in the wake of this summer’s European parliamentary elections.

We are warned to expect a Strasbourg assembly more divided than ever, with nationalists and eurosceptics expected to make huge strides, without having the numbers to create a majority block.

In the wake of Brexit, there’ll be 46 fewer seats. The balance in the in-coming parliament is likely to be similar to the current set-up . . . a big dollop of straightforward conservatives on one side, with a gang of nationalists, extremists, non-alligned and others as their potential allies. And facing them will be a big bloc of social democrats, with ecologists, liberals and the hard left.

No danger of an outright Eurosceptic takeover

No opinion poll gives any political tendency a chance of more than 200 of the 705 seats up for grabs.

There’s already talk in several European capitals about unprecedented alliances. But Le Monde assures us, insofar as you can be sure about anything based on opinion polls, that there’s no danger of a majority coalition of eurosceptics of the far right. But there will be a lot of them, and the fragmentation of the mainstream parties means that they are likely to be more influential in the next parliament.

Europe in superpower security squeeze

Which brings us, finally, to the question of European security, the subject of last week’s Munich conference, which ended with a whimper from the Germany Chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday.

Right-wing paper Le Figaro says Merkel was left alone to face an increasing “Trumpisation” of the question of global security as she made her closing remarks.

Merkel did a great job of defending a multilateral approach, says Le Figaro.

But she does not make the weight against the big rivals, the United States, Russia and China. Especially since Europe seems more than ever divided and lacking in leadership.

Merkel was keen to insist that a military solution to the conflict in Syria, or the dispute over Iran’s nuclear research programme, is never going to be enough.

But, says Le Figaro, the fear of Russia, especially in eastern Europe, makes any EU consensus difficult, and has forced many governments into an otherwise unwelcome alliance with the blinkered thinking coming out of Trump’s Washington.

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