International analysis of riots all over the map

8th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 8 (AFP) - France is confronting its biggest crisis since the May 1968 student protests and the riots led by poor suburban youths could spread to the rest of Europe, according to editorials published this week across the world.

PARIS, Nov 8 (AFP) - France is confronting its biggest crisis since the May 1968 student protests and the riots led by poor suburban youths could spread to the rest of Europe, according to editorials published this week across the world.


The eleven nights of rioting to date, with more than 5,000 vehicles destroyed by fire and more than 1,000 arrests, demonstrated that the French model of integration had failed, Austrian newspapers reported.

And tough-talking interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy had to shoulder a large part of the blame, said conservative daily Kurier.

"His recent tough statements have fanned the flames among an immigrant population that is integrating less and less in French society," the newspaper said.

"Civil war threatens France," ran the headline in Hungary's Blikk tabloid, while the left-wing Le Nepszava devoted two pages to what it called "the intifada ravaging France," a reference to the Arabic word for an uprising.

Romania's Cotidianul newspaper also fretted that the worsening violence could spread further, becoming a "euro-intifada".

The social model in which the French take so much pride is the root cause of the riots, a Polish newspaper wrote Tuesday, because it "generates unemployment instead of reducing it, suffocates the spirit of initiative instead of arousing it, narrows horizons instead of expanding them."

"The problem is not that nothing is done for the people in the (French) suburbs," where the riots have taken place on a nightly basis since October 27, wrote liberal daily Rzeczpospolita. "On the contrary, too much is done for them -- too much except for one thing: they are not allowed to do anything for themselves," wrote the newspaper in an editorial.

"What else can the French government do, except send in the army against the young rioters," asked Czech left-wing newspaper Pravo. "However, the armed men should be followed by employment and education specialists with, of course, bags of money because historic mistakes must be paid for."

Commentators in Belgium were especially severe, pointing out the French government was powerless to contain the violence.

"France on fire" ran the headline in Libre Belgique, expressing surprise at the time taken by president Jacques Chirac to speak out.

"The fire has smouldered for 30 years... social cohesion has never existed, the suburbs have been transformed into ghettoes," said Le Soir newspaper.

In Portugal, whose citizens flocked to France in the migrant waves of the 1920s and 1970s, Sarkozy's fitness as a presidential contender was questioned and Portuguese immigrants spoke of their disappointment.

"This is no longer France," declared Diario de Noticias, while Correio da Manha speculated on whether the violence could spread to other countries.

However, Dutch daily Trouw suggested there was a more prosaic explanation for the escalating cycle of vandalism -- a destructive competition between ghetto gangs. "Neighbourhoods compete with each other to see who will provoke the most violence," the newspaper said.

Coverage in the German press, by contrast, was relatively low key.

"The references the youth make to their Muslim identity serve above all for one thing: attracting the attention of the media. But it (the media) should keep itself in check: Paris is not Baghdad," said the centre-left Tagesspiegel.

The Financial Times Deutschland, meanwhile, pointed out that residents in one of the hotspot suburbs, Aulnay-sous-Bois, had called for calm and a local imam demanded the vandalism cease.

Greece's centre-left Eleftherotypia and the left-wing Une Ethnos outlined concerns about a domino effect sweeping other European countries, a fear echoed by Poland's Rzeczpospolita, which was critical of the French model of "forced assimilation".

For Spain's Cadena Ser radio network, France has been "a country in permanent national identity crisis" for years and was a barometer for problems that would confront neighbouring societies.

Croatia's Novi List compared the riots to those of May 1968, adding that France had left "the despised outcasts of its former colonies" to live on the fringes of its paradise never dreaming that "their former slaves would lay violent hands on them."

In Italy, the riots were seen as a challenge to multiculturalism, spiced by the rivalry between French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Sarkozy in the lead-up to the 2007 presidential race.

"Unemployment is to blame, 10 percent throughout the country and up to 50 percent among the children of immigrants. This is the failure of tolerant multiculturalism," editorialised Corriere della Sera.

Russian newspapers criticised French authorities Tuesday for being "powerless" in the face of urban riots.

"During 10 days of rioting, the authorities showed their powerlessness in confronting the situation," the Kommersant daily said, warning of "a grave political crisis" and a possible "immigrant revolution" across France.

French President Jacques Chirac displayed "quite indecisive behaviour faced with the biggest upheaval in contemporary French history," the Gazeta daily said, attacking the "lack of agreement within the government."

"The interior ministry should take preventive measures against those who could organise unrest, up to and including detention and deportation," Rogozin said in an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

Arab world

The violence sweeping France's impoverished suburbs triggered criticism from the Arab media on Tuesday over a failure to integrate immigrants, and raised fears that the riots' consequences could spread across the Arab-Muslim world.

While condemning the spread of violence by French youths -- mostly among the country's immigrant Muslim and Arab communities -- the Arab media has mainly blamed riots on longstanding social malaise, unemployment and alienation.

Many Arab newspapers also feared that the "French fire," or the nightly rioting that began on October 27, was threatening to "spread" across Europe.

"We give great importance to this issue because it may spread across Europe and affect the (Arab and Muslim) region," Ahmad Sheikh, editor-in-chief of Al-Jazeera satellite channel, told AFP.

"It may have implications like the May 1968 student revolt in France," he said, adding that Al-Jazeera was preparing a special documentary "to try to answer the question: Why did this happen? Was it about grievances or just riots?"

Like Al-Jazeera, competing satellite television network Al-Arabiya has dispatched reinforcement crews who are carrying out, day and night, live coverage of the events, with features on the suburbs as well as interviews with residents and community leaders.

"We do not take any stand. We do not subscribe to what some people say, that violence is justified because the immigrants have problems or the contrary. We only offer the chance to all sides to voice their opinion, including the French authorities and all community leaders," Al-Arabiya spokesman Jihad Ballout told AFP.

In Lebanon, the An Nahar newspaper said: "What is happening in France today shows the flagrant failure of the integration of immigrants.

"While it may be normal to give priority to security (concerns), the remedy to this situation cannot be limited to just that... as the causes of this absence of integration should be tackled," it said.

Under headline: "And first there was negligence," the As Safir daily in Beirut said: "The French model needs reforms... just as other European models do, from Britain to The Netherlands... at a time when immigration pressure remains high at the doors of Europe."

Qatar's Asharq newspaper said: "There may have been wrongful reactions by the immigrants... in attempting to obtain some of their rights, but the problem is (based) on long-standing cultural and human" disparities.

An editorial by the Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates said: "The immigrants may have a grievance or two, but should they go to this length and disrupt life this way?

"France has all along helped the millions of immigrants there to live their lives with dignity... for a mistake or two, no one must punish a country like this," it said.

A leading Muslim cleric based in Qatar, Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi, insisted on Monday that France was a friend and called on Muslim communities in the country ripped by urban violence to be "calm and reasonable".

Qaradawi, who hosts a popular show on Al-Jazeera, also called on French authorities to go beyond restoring security and start dialogue with Muslim community leaders to deal with the roots of the trouble.

"In their behaviour, they surely seem like savages, as is usually the case in revolutions," said an editorial in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper written by Al-Arabiya television director general Abdel Rahman Rashed.

"But unfortunately these are the voices of a community that has no voice on the political scene," explained Rashed, also the daily's former editor-in-chief.

China, South Africa

In China, where national television has broadcast daily coverage of the vandalism, newspapers illustrated the problems facing Chinese merchants in France.

South Africa's The Star drew parallels between the Villepin-Sarkozy power struggle and rivalry in the upper echelons of the African National Congress ruling party. "Paris unrest shows the need for ANC to hear our people," the newspaper said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article