French riots expose social divide: European press

3rd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - The riots rocking the suburbs of Paris have laid bare the flaws underpinning French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential ambitions, European press commentators said Thursday.

PARIS, Nov 3 (AFP) - The riots rocking the suburbs of Paris have laid bare the flaws underpinning French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential ambitions, European press commentators said Thursday.

While pinpointing the origins of the violence as decades of neglect in the urban sprawl, they said Sarkozy's tough rhetoric on crime had helped fuel the fires raging in the deprived, high-immigrant neighbourhoods.

Sarkozy had rightly called for zero tolerance of violence, Britain's Daily Telegraph wrote, "but he has damaged his case by resorting to the language of the far right, speaking of cleaning the 'scum' out of the suburbs."

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung agreed, saying Sarkozy "has become a figure of hate for those without hope in the suburbs."

Prime minister Dominique de Villepin -- currently Sarkozy's chief rival for the presidency in 2007 -- and decades of government policies also came in for criticism for failing to tackle the decay in the dilapidated suburbs.

"They are facing the consequences of decades of flawed integration policies and an economy that has failed to produce enough jobs," said the Daily Telegraph, Britain's leading conservative broadsheet.

"The riots have cruelly laid bare the inadequacies of the French model."

In Berlin, the Tagesspiegel daily said the riots "are the dramatic results of problems that have not been resolved" for many years.

It said the unrest could have broken out in any big city in France, "where the majority of black and north African immigrants live in isolated, deprived neighbourhoods."

The rioting erupted a week ago after the accidental electrocution of two youths who hid in an electricity relay station in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, to avoid police.

Over succeeding nights, running street clashes with police, the torching of vehicles and vandalism spread to other suburbs around the capital.

In Geneva, the Tages Anzeiger had a cartoon of Sarkozy trying to put out a car fire using a hose attached to a petrol pump.

In Vienna, Der Standard said the French government appeared "clueless" but argued that credit should at least go to Sarkozy -- "who could hardly have shown more clearly how NOT to resolve the problem."

Russia's press blamed most of the problems on immigrants. "Arab immigrants are settling scores with the authorities," wrote Kommersant.

"The riots ... are threatening the French government," said Vremia Novosti, adding that while the 1968 demonstrations were a rebellion against a parental society, this time "ethnic and religious factors are at play."

The Czech press said Sarkozy and Villepin were using the unrest to bolster their presidential ambitions. "For French politicians the continuing crisis in the suburbs is just another opportunity to score points with the electorate," said the Lidove Noviny daily.

Likewise in Spain, where El Pais said the interior minister was fast losing credibility as it was his zero-tolerance policy enflaming the situation.

In the end, neither Sarkozy nor Villepin might benefit, cautioned Sweden's Dagens Nyheter.

"On the Internet, the xenophobic National Front has entered the debate. Let the fighting continue ... and Jean-Marie Le Pen will win the election."

At the last presidential election in 2002, Le Pen stunned France by taking advantage of disarray on the left to secure a run-off battle against incumbent Jacques Chirac.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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