Monday, 7 November 2005
Press alarmed by French riots
France's immigration policy comes under scrutiny as papers in France and beyond consider the political repercussions of continuing riots.
Several dailies warn that the rest of Europe faces similar problems and may not be immune from disturbances.
Papers in France wonder how the state can restore public order after riots spread from poor Paris suburbs to other cities in the country.
A headline in Le Figaro warns of the "worrying contagiousness" of the unrest. The paper notes that the riots spread to the provinces over the weekend "despite many calls for calm made by elected representatives and organizations working in the suburbs".
Liberation calls for greater political continuity on law and order. The paper warns that people's concerns over whether the state can still guarantee public order could turn into "panic" in the face of a "growing number of extreme acts of violence".
"And when people feel abandoned like this, it is to be feared that they will show individual or collective reactions aiming to defend their immediate safety through any means necessary," it says.
The paper argues that both the right and the left have failed to develop a cross-party consensus on long-term law and order policies which "each camp would be able to adjust but not radically call into question".
Le Monde says the riots raise doubts about France's social model.
"In full view of everyone, a country which regards itself as the birthplace of human rights and the sanctuary of a generous social model is proving to be unable to ensure decent living conditions for young French people" who are the descendants of immigrants who contributed to France's economic success in the post-war period, the paper says.
The Spanish daily ABC says the aim of French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday was to contain the "shock wave" of violence spreading from Paris to the provinces.
The unrest among the immigrant community, says the paper's Sunday edition, has been "ignored for too long".
"From Bordeaux to Nice, from Strasbourg to Rennes, France has been set ablaze by the embers of a racial resentment that the Villepin government has been incapable of extinguishing," it says.
"It is too late to call the firefighters," the paper concludes. The Basque daily Gara, meanwhile, mixes the incendiary metaphor with a medical one.
"In the offices of Paris work is under way... to find an antidote to treat an epidemic that is spreading like wildfire," says its Sunday edition.
The paper rejects both policing - as advocated by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy - and financial measures as solutions.
"Because it comes too late, an injection of cash into the estates... may ease the pain but not heal the wound," it says, pointing out that many of the rioters have turned their backs on the welfare system.
Policy 'in ruins'
The Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes says France's policy of trying to assimilate immigrants is in ruins.
"All that remains of it after the last few days is smoking car wrecks, burnt-out shops and piles of ashes," the paper says.
Another Czech paper, Hospodarske Noviny, says the problems have been building up for years.
"There has been no agreement whatsoever between big political parties on how to tackle the issue of immigration," the paper says.
It feels that politicians have vacillated between "investments and subsidies one day and iron rule the next".
The paper believes that these two approaches merely served to cover up the politicians' helplessness.
A European strategy?
Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sees good and bad in Mr Sarkozy's strategy.
The paper says it was unwise of him to make remarks about urban gangs which were "an expression of anger rather than political rationality".
"But his tactics of restoring law and order first before the problems are tackled is right," it feels. Berlin's Die Tageszeitung says similar riots might well erupt in Germany one day.
The paper argues that the impoverishment of "whole sections of the population" is a crucial parallel between the two countries.
"This policy of social apartheid affects primarily, though not exclusively, the descendants of immigrants," it says.
The paper adds that this policy is currently a "dogma" in the entire EU, but it acknowledges that there are some French specificities.
"In France the ghettos are particularly big and isolated," it says, "but their inhabitants are all the more self-confident." Belgium's De Standaard says the riots point to huge challenges ahead.
"What is happening in France provides us with food for thought on the sheer depth of the social problems we face," the paper says.
It argues that "simple analyses" in terms of racism and multiculturalism will no longer do.
"Let us begin by admitting that the challenges are huge, and that we do not even know how to talk to each other," the paper says.
"If you do not know how wide the river is, you cannot build a stable bridge," it warns.
The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.