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What the papers said 5 April 2018

rfi English, Apr 5

The broad terms of the government's plans for institutional reform are outlined; the efforts of Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani to resolve the Syrian situation are reviewed; and the proposed law on immigration and asylum is criticised.

There's never a dull moment, as France reels from the fallout of the second day of strike by rail workers who don't want the government to change their status, the prime minister yesterday launched another major reform.

Presenting his plans for an institutional facelift, Edouard Philippe said the changes will attack three fronts and should be in place by next year.

As Le Monde sees the proposals, there are going to be about 30 percent fewer MPs and senators. If passed, the new rules would leave France the European state with the second lowest number of MPs per head of population, after Russia.

Sixty of those rare politicians will be elected under the system of proportional representation, as opposed to the current straight vote.

The Economic, Social and Environmental Council, a sort of advisory think tank which currently has 233 members, will be reduced by half.

As promised by President Emmanuel Macron, the French Mediterranean island of Corsica will get special mention in the new constitution, allowing it to adapt national law to its own special conditions but under the control of the Paris parliament.

That's a long way from the demands made by Corsica's local assembly for independent law-making status in such areas as taxation, land-ownership, social and educational policy. The autonomy party leader Jean-Guy Talamoni described the Paris proposals as "a denial of democracy", warning that Corsicans will not accept them.

So now we can expect ferry and port strikes to add to all the other confusion.

Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani fail, again, to solve Syrian deadlock

Right-wing daily Le Figaro gives the front page honours to the latest efforts of the three wise men, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani of Iran, to resolve the Syrian civil war deadlock.

The three tried and failed last November in the Russian resort of Sochi. Yesterday's meeting was in Turkey's capital, Ankara. The discussions lasted exactly one hour, 15 minutes, lunch included. The only solid result seems to be the decision to try again, this time in Tehran.

Which, of course, is better than pretending to ignore the Syrian conflict. The three leaders reaffirmed their determination to cooperate in the effort to establish a lasting ceasefire. Which is hardly excessive as a stated ambition.

The three are against any proposal that would challenge Syria's sovereignty or territorial integrity.

Minister's migration rhetoric under fire

Left-leaning Libération is in nasty form, with a main headline linking Interior Minster Gérald Collomb to the far-right and anti-immigration National Front of Marine Le Pen.

It's no more than a low-grade pun, but underlines the feeling in left-wing circles and even among government-supporting MPs that the minister's proposed legislation on immigration and asylum-seekers is far too harsh.

Worse, says Libé, the minister's language is shockingly reminiscent of far-right rhetoric, a long way from what we might expect of a supposed centrist, formerly Socialist.

The left-wing daily dislikes talk of a France "swamped", of regions "disintegrating" under the pressure of waves of immigrants.

Libé contests Collomb's claim that, unless the expulsion rate is increased, France will have to build the equivalent of a medium-sized city every year to accommodate refugees. That claim echoes Marine Le Pen's 2011 assertion that France allows illegal entry every year to a population equivalent to that of the western city of Rennes.

This is the language of escalation, not pacification, says Libé, and plays into the hands of those who practise "the politics of fear".

Let's all go to the pictures

World sales of cinema tickets last year set a new record at five percent better than 2016, which was itself already a record year.

People worldwide spent 33 billion euros to see movies in cinemas last year, thanks to such blockbusters as The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman.

Apart from the North American market, where ticket sales are down slightly on 2016, the big growth has been in China, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, India and South Korea.

 

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