French press review 29 June 2017


Le Monde‘s international pages report that the United Nations is going to have 600 million dollars (530 million euros) less to spend on peacekeeping missions next year.

The budget reduction is the result of pressure from the United States.

President Donald Trump has promised to reduce American contributions to the United Nations.

The UN will still have 7.3 billion dollars (6.4 billion euros) for its peacekeepers, compared to the current figure of nearly 7.9 billion (6.9 billion euros), that’s a reduction of about seven percent.

Washington, which finances nearly one-third of the peacekeeping budget, had been asking for even more drastic cuts.

Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the world body, had called for an increase in spending for the UN’s peacekeepers.

Le Monde says the cuts will affect Sudan’s Darfur and the DRC, with a reduction of the number of UN troops on duty in each case. The mission to Mali is unlikely to suffer.

President upstages prime minister

Right-wing paper Le Figaro gives the honours to little political battles.

First of all, it’s President Emmanuel Macron who is accused of a lack of tact in addressing the combined upper and lower houses of the French parliament just one day before his prime minister gets to expose his general political vision to the National Assembly.

Macron gets to be the star on Monday, leaving Philippe to pick up the threads on Tuesday.

Le Figaro says the timing is extraordinary, completely taking the wind from the prime minister’s sails.

The leader of the opposition Union of Democrats and Independents, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, says it’s a waste of time and money and he won’t be showing up. “We’ve had to listen to him in two successive election campaigns. What has he got to say now?” Macron is accused of “squeezing” the government by upstaging his prime minister.

Socialist parliamentarian Olivier Faure says we are witnessing the reinforcement of the president’s personal power with the prime minister left to play the supporting role.

Macron’s people say it’s all kosher and has been done before by weighty types like Charles De Gaulle, Georges Pompidou and twice by François Mitterrand.

Another example of the presidential obsession with symbols, says Le Figaro. We had the march to the strains of Beethoven around the Louvre the night he was elected, the reception of Tsar Vladimir Putin in Versailles, and, on Monday, a return to Versailles for the first of five promised meetings with the elected representatives of the people to tell them where we’re going and how we’ll get there.

Among the things Macron will have to break to the deputies and senators is that he plans to get rid of about one-third of them, in line with an election promise, and that they’ll have to stop multiple-jobbing.

Bald men battle for possession of a comb

Yesterday’s other political battle was the mighty struggle for control of those parliamentary molehills known as commissions. Normally, says left-leaning paper Libération, the governing majority takes the lion’s share, leaving the bits to the largest opposition group. There are traditionally just as many nominees as there are posts, so the whole business passes off without a vote.

But that was before the largest opposition group split into historic Republicans and the wonderfully named Constructives, who are prepared to support suitable centrist initiatives. Yesterday they proposed their own man for one of the commission posts and the two-day-old parliament faced its first crisis. The new lads and lassies had to take a two-and-a-half hour recess while the gentlemen of the right sorted it out with knives behind the bicycle shed.

The Constructives finally saw their man elected.

And the Republicans, who argue that the Constructives can’t really be described as in the opposition, were fit to spit: “an outrage,” spluttered their parliamentary leader Christian Jacob, decrying “the end of 50 years of custom. A slap in the face for the opposition.”

“There’ll be no budgetary control in this house,” he grimly warned.

Cruise liner likely to win transatlantic race

Le Monde also reports on the bizarre transatlantic race currently in progress, in which four multi-hulled sailing vessels are competing against the cruise liner Queen Mary 2.

As things stand, three days after the start, the liner is half way across the Atlantic, and comfortably ahead of the nearest wind-powered challenger.

The Queen Mary is expected to power to victory, with a 48-hour leading margin over the best of the sailors. They are expected to show up in New York harbour next Monday morning.

No jokes about icebergs, please.

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