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What the weeklies said 1 July 2018

rfi English, Jul 1

As Simone Veil is honoured by France with a tomb in the Panthéon, Marianne assesses her impact on contemporary France; and French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy has news for European Union leaders: the migrant crisis is over.

On Sunday the Holocaust survivor and former government minister Simone Veil was be buried in the Panthéon in Paris, the site where the Republic pays homage to its great subjects.

The weekly magazine Marianne attempts to assess the impact of Veil's life and political effort on the lives of contemporary French women.

It's a complicated story. Veil was a pioneer. Having survived Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen and the murderous forced march of prisoners in the winter of 1945, she went on to become the first woman to preside over French justice, the first woman to be named a government minister, the first woman to be president of the European Parliament.

As health minister, she made contraception available and then fought for the legalisation of abortion.

Without her, as the writer Abnousse Shalmani tells Marianne, French women would be less free. But it is important, Shalmani goes on to say, to avoid the trap of sanctification.

Simone Veil was no saint. She deserves to be remembered in all her shades and contradictions, Shalmani insists, not frozen under some mythic halo.

"The European migrant crisis is over"

The 28 European leaders who stayed up most of the night on Thursday, trying to thrash out a common policy on immigration, were apparently wasting their time. If they had taken the time to read the article by French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy in this week's edition of Le Point, they'd have realised that there is no migrant crisis.

BHL has been checking the statistics. He can thus confirm that, over the past three decades, the migratory balance in France is zero. In other words, over 30 years, the number of people coming in has exactly equalled the number going out. Fine.

More statistics: Lévy says the UN's migration office counted 15,289 arrivals of refugees by sea routes in the first 95 days of this year. Compared to 172,000 in the same period in 2016, and over one million for the whole of 2015.

The reasons for this decline are easily described, if less easily digested. Europe has put up better barriers and is paying Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarian government in Turkey to keep too much of the problem from reaching our shores.

The crucial point, according to Lévy, is that the European migration crisis is over.

But there are two residual problems. Not the hundreds of people who still drown in the Mediterranean every month, or who are saved by rescue vessels that are then barred from European ports.

No. The first problem, according to BHL, is the crisis of Islam. In simple, not to say simplistic terms, the question is how does Europe (he means France) deals with an influx of people who he says come from a different mental universe, who don't believe in democracy, or the rights of women, or the idea of a secular state. And the answer is patience and education. We must slowly bring these people to an appreciation of our standards, so that those we welcome can fully embrace the values of the republic.

The second glitch is darker, and concerns what President Emmanuel Macron has called "the leprosy of populism". The front-line states of Hungary and Italy have both elected hard-right governments. Lévy explains that this is not a simple knee-jerk reaction by voters afraid of being left to deal with the problem alone. It is, in fact, a political reaction, based on intellectual and moral misunderstandings.

Europe no longer believes in itself, says BHL. We Europeans have lost our passion for democracy; and with it our confidence in ourselves and in our values.

What we've been calling the migrant crisis is really a crisis of European civilisation, according to the philosopher.

Let that be a consolation (not) to those who are adrift on rafts off the north African coast.


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