French press review 28 June 2017


Le Monde clearly has its finger on the pulse of French political life. The centrist paper reports that Jean-Luc Mélénchon and the members of his hard-left organisation sat for the fisrt time in the new parliament yesterday, and they were not wearing ties! Shock, horror!

Actually, no. Fake news! There is no obligation on any member of the National Assembly to wear a tie while attending a sitting. Parliamentarians are simply asked to “dress correctly”.

It has become traditional for assembly officials to loan emergency ties to representatives who arrive in distress, or in pyjamas, but there is no rule.

In 1985 a minister, Jack Lang, showed up in a Chairman Mao-style jacket without lapels to wrap the tie around. I suppose it helped that Jack’s jacket was designed by Thierry Mugler. A decade later the security people tried to stop a French Communist Party deputy from entering the parliament in worker’s overalls. He was eventually allowed in.

Who has the right to be a parent?

Otherwise, the big debate of the day concerns medically assisted procreation.

As things stand under French law, only mixed-sex couples who have failed to have a child naturally are allowed benefit from the various scientific advances in the domain of conception and parenthood.

Now the national ethics watchdog has recommended that the same rights should be extended to female couples and even to unmarried women.

The ethics body thus reverses its own decision made back in 2005. Then the choice was made on the basis of a potential clash between the general interest and the rights of individual persons to become parents.

Right-wing paper Le Figaro is not happy, saying that the revised decision is a bad one since it “opens a breech in the anthropological construction” of the child, deciding on that child’s behalf that he should grow up without a father.

And Le Figaro wonders if President Emmanuel Macron, who was one of François Hollande’s back-room boys during the acrimonious 2013 debate on marriage for everyone, will have the wisdom to step back from trying to turn the parenthood issue into legislation. Macron has promised to avoid opening the wounds which disfigure French society. With labour law, new security provisions and another reform of the education system, suggests Le Figaro, he might do well to step back on the vexed question of who can be parents and how.

Interestingly, a Le Figaro‘s readers’ poll has attracted 21,000 votes so far this morning, with less than 25 percent of respondents in favour of a law allowing female couples and single women to benefit from medically assisted procreation.

How long will the employment minister keep her job?

Speaking of disfiguring wounds, this morning Employment Minister Muriel Pénicaud will present her plan for labour law reform to her government colleagues. Later in the day, the same minister will get to tell her colleagues how the furniture has been flying at the discussions with the social partners, the trade unions and the bosses.

Pénicaud will be used to the pressure, having been the director of Business France for three years before taking up the ministerial mantle. Business France is a public organisation dedicated to promoting French companies on the international stage.

So far, so good. The problem is, according to left-leaning Libération, that Pénicaud’s Business France is suspected of having ignored its legal obligations in awarding a 380,000-euro contract to the parties and promotions operation, Havas, for a January 2016 Las Vegas bash attended by the then economy minister, now president, Emmanuel Macron.

A preliminary inquiry has been launched, with view to establishing how the contract was awarded, and how much Macron’s ministerial men knew about the background to a party intended to glorify the French start-up sector.

Libération says Muriel Pénicaud survived the first Macron-era reshuffle, which saw four of her colleagues go under. Will she make it through the second game of governmental musical chairs?

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