French press review 23 August 2017


Trouble is brewing in French universities.

As the start of the new academic year get closer, Le Monde says they’re “saturated” with students, so much so that over 6,000 candidates are still waiting to be allocated a place.

The paper explains that more young people want to attend university than ever before.

Nearly 40,000 new candidates applied for a place in March this year. Added to this figure are the 25,000 students seeking to change courses.

Due to the high demand in some faculties, nearly 10,000 students saw their first choice of subject turned down, following a random draw.

In France, any student who passes the Baccalauréat after high school is entitled a place at univsersity.

But Le Monde says the government is now considering a more selective approach, to regulate access to courses based on students’ academic record.

This will not sit well with student unions, who are already preparing to protest against the government’s plans to cut education spending by 330 million euros and knock 5 euros off public housing allowances.

French students certainly know a thing or two about protests.
Their wrath can certainly test the nerves of the most determined ministers.

Le Monde says none of this bodes well for the government, and that the coming year will begin under high tension.

 

Good news for France’s millionaires

 

Le Figaro is getting excited about another controversial reform Emmanuel Macron has promised to carry out.

The French president wants to roll back the “Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune” – that’s a tax on France’s wealthiest residents, whose assets exceed one million 300 thousand euros, at a progressive rate starting at 0.5 per cent.

It’s been blamed for causing millionnaires to flee France, but has also been a bit of a taboo, that no president since Jacques Chirac has dared to question.

Macron now wants to scrap the wealth tax, and tax real estate instead, to encourage investment.

In its editorial, Le Figaro is hailing the planned reform as highly significant, and a sign that Macron truly is breaking with the past.

“It would put an end to a system which wastes wealth and pushes into exile people whose only crime is to have made money”, it says.

The right-wing paper predicts that “some entrepreneurs will no longer need to leave”, and that some might even come back.

But the President isn’t going far enough, according to Le Figaro.

A hefty tax on real estate would penalise “small” fortunes, whose wealth comes from their main home or their second home.

The paper says this sends the wrong message, and that even if you amputate it, “a silly tax remains a silly tax”.

 

What should France do with its monuments to slave-owners?

 

In the wake of far-right protests in the US, against the removal of a statue of a Confederate general in Virginia, Libération is asking if France shouldn’t also take a critical look at some its historical monuments.

“Slavery – France too has its ghosts” reads the headline on the front page.

From statues to street names, the paper says France should confront the legacy of its slave-trade era.

“The persistence in some French towns of plaques commemorating shipowners who made a fortune in the slave trade […] legitimately insults Republican memory”, reads the editorial, “not only among African or Caribbean communities.”

According to Libération, it would be ridiculous to remove the monuments and names of all historical figures involved in slavery, such as Napoleon, Colbert, Richelieu, or Louis XIV.

But it says France should at least take away tributes to those who don’t have a wider legacy to be commemorated.

 

French cinema pays tribute to AIDS activists

 

One French movie is creating quite a stir in the press this morning.

100 beats per minute will be released in cinemas today.

Set in the early 1990s, the film depicts a group of activists associated with the Paris chapter of Act Up, as they try to raise awareness about the growing AIDS epidemic, whilst challenging the attitudes of the authorities and big laboratories.

It won the Grand Prix at the Festival de Cannes, and most newspapers are enthusisastic about the movie.

Le Monde says the director Robin Campillo doesn’t give in to easy effects or melodrama, but tells his story with empathy and and lucidity.

La Croix also lauds the film’s historical accuracy, as well as the quality of the cinematography, but says that it’s not easy to watch, and drags on a little.

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