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What the papers said 21 May 2018

rfi English, May 21

Should the rest of Europe be afraid of Italy's anti-system coalition government; and is sex abuse an inevitable part of the humanitarian package?

Right-wing Le Figaro gives pride of place this morning to Italy.

Later today, an anti-system alliance between the populist parties run by Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini will present their programme to the Italian president. They have promised to use public money to get the economy moving again. And that, says Le Figaro, has all of Europe a-tremble, because it's strictly forbidden by budgetary orthodoxy as laid down by Brussels.

French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire says that nothing less than the stability of the entire eurozone is at stake.

The only hope for Le Figaro is that President Sergio Mattarella might refuse to validate the nomination of a prime minister who has promised to break Italy's European commitments. That appears to be Emmanuel Macron's bet as well, the French leader having said a few days ago that respect for Europe has got to be the basis on which any new Italian administration will function.

The Italians have politely told the French to stick their noses in their own camembert.

There's also the possibility that the hastily contrived marriage between Salvini's League and Di Maio's Five Star Movement, an "improbable combination of a carp and a rabbit" according to Le Figaro, will come to a rapid and nasty end. Or that the business of running the country will wake the two-headed monster up to the harsh realities.

Le Figaro tells us that the anti-system experiment in Greece, spearheaded by Alexis Tsipras, led to ruin, disgrace and having to sell the cutlery. And the Italian economy is eight times bigger than the Greek one, meaning that the tidal wave caused by a refusal by Rome to honour its European obligations would be at least eight times more devastating. In fact, warns Le Figaro, it is not clear that Europe's financial salvage equipment would be up to the job.

So, while France, Spain and Greece stick to the German line of getting government spending under control and then worrying about boosting the economy, Italy could be about to lower taxes and increase spending in an effort to get out of the low growth/high unemployment trap.

The Italian press estimates that the incoming government's plans would cost more than 100 billion euros each year. And that for the third most-indebted country in the world.

Money is not the only problem. The Italian odd couple are also angry at Europe's incapacity to deal with the immigrant crisis, leaving Rome to struggle alone.

The only good news is that Le Figaro's readers are on the case and they are not trembling. According to 63 percent of the 22,000 voters in the right-wing paper's poll, there is no danger that Europe will be paralysed by Italy's anti-system alliance. Molto bene!

Sexual predators and the powerless poor

In the wake of latest Oxfam scandal, left-leaning Libération looks at the tragic association between humanitarian agencies and sexual violence. "Abuse Without Borders" is the front-page headline.

Libé's editorial says no profession is free of sexual harassment, even rape. But you would hope that aid agencies would be a little bit better. Sadly, no, says Libération.

The poor, the unprotected are also the victims of sexual abuse, of crimes committed by the very people supposed to be helping them.

The only positive point is that the wall of silence and indifference seems to have been breached.

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