French press review 28 October 2017


It’s hard to get away from Catalonia this morning.

Yesterday, true to form, the Catalan parliament voted in favour of independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, equally determined to play to character, dissolved the regional body, sacking its separatist leader and its police chief. Catalonia has thus lost its autonomy and is, since last night, governed directly from Madrid. There are to be elections before Christmas. Unless civil war breaks out before then.

Right-wing daily Le Figaro says yesterday’s parallel declarations have left the two sides deadlocked.

The decision by the regional parliament created what the separatists are calling an “independent sovereign republic”.

The autonomous government of Scotland has said it respects the position taken by the Catalan parliament and that the people of the region must be allowed to decide their own future. But, for the moment, only Gambia has officially recognised the new state. Everyone else is clinging to the status quo or saying nothing, wondering what will happen next.

Le Figaro is convinced that there’s a real risk of clashes between the two sides in the coming weeks and finds it difficult to see any form of compromise. The right-wing daily reminds readers that Slovenia became independent of Yugoslavia in 1991 by following the same route as the Catalan separatists. And Slovenia is now a member of the European Union, of Nato and of the OECD club of rich nations.

Madrid trapped

The conservative daily’s editorial says the situation is absurd. The separatists have refused every opening offered by Madrid in the hope that a freezing of regional autonomy would finally mobilise otherwise luke-warm Catalans. And Madrid has walked straight into the trap.

Will what Le Figaro calls a “handful of extremists” succeed in isolating seven million European citizens, without any justification, in the paper’s opinion, since they already have their own language, their own culture, used to run their own health services, education and police. Until yesterday.

Where will independence leave them, wonders the same editorial. Obliged to forge a special relationship with North Korea, perhaps, or strike a trade deal with Venezuela?

Yesterday’s desperate act was nothing less than a return to regional feudalism, says the right-wing daily. With a final suggestion that the best Madrid can now do would be to leave them simmering in their own juice of splendid isolation.

Right-wing readers disapprove

Let the Catalans tremble: Le Figaro has organised one of its readers’ opinion polls on the question “Are you favourable to the Catalan declaration of independence?”.

Of nearly 77,000 replies, 71 percent say “no”.

Left-leaning Libération says Catalonia has taken a leap in the dark.

Libé‘s editorial says yesterday’s decision marks a victory for the most radical element in the independence movement and has opened the door to chaos.

It is hard to see how the worst can be avoided now, laments Libération, saying that the Catalans themselves remain divided.

Yesterday’s vote passed with a tiny majority, after the opposition had walked out. But Madrid’s decision to take back control of an autonomous region, something that has never been done in democratic Spain, seems almost certain to lead to clashes. Remember what happened when Spanish police were sent in to prevent the recent referendum?

Libération qoutes European Council president Donald Tusk as calling on both sides to “favour the force of argument rather than the argument of force”.

Speeding rock scorches through solar system

Elsewhere in the solar system, the astronomic community is delighted to announce that, for the very first time, an object “from elsewhere” is on its way through our bunch of planets surrounding the sun.

It’s just a pebble in planetary terms – a lump of rock about 200 metres across. And it’s going like the clappers: 100,000 kilometres per hour. The speeding lump’s trajectory suggests that it came from outside our local area and is travelling fast enough to continue its journey back into deep space, eventually escaping the sun’s gravitational pull.

The best current guess is that the lump comes from Vega, the fifth brightest star visible from Earth, about 25 light years away. It has been in our locality for the past 10,000 years and will take almost as long to leave.

Bon voyage!

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