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Cablegate: Media Reaction Report - Angela Merkel to France

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

231312Z Nov 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 007986

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR INR/R/MR; IIP/RW; IIP/RNY; BBG/VOA; IIP/WEU; AF/PA;
EUR/WE /P/SP; D/C (MCCOO); EUR/PA; INR/P; INR/EUC; PM; OSC ISA
FOR ILN; NEA; WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC/WEUROPE; DOC FOR ITA/EUR/FR
AND PASS USTR/PA; USINCEUR FOR PAO; NATO/PA; MOSCOW/PA;
ROME/PA; USVIENNA FOR USDEL OSCE.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR FR
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION REPORT - Angela Merkel to France
Sharon's Centrist Move
PARIS - Wednesday, November 23, 2005


(A) SUBJECTS COVERED IN TODAY'S REPORT:

Angela Merkel to France
Sharon's Centrist Move

B) SUMMARY OF COVERAGE:

Domestic stories dominate today's front pages: yesterday's
moderately successful rail strike, the government's "caving
in, at a cost, in order to save the peace" (Les Echos) and
arrests in the suburbs further to the recent suburban violence
dominate in Le Figaro, La Tribune, Les Echos, Le Parisien and
Le Monde.

Catholic La Croix devotes its lead to President Chirac's plans
to tax airline tickets: "France To Tax Air Travel to Help the
South." The subject will be debated today during the Cabinet
Ministers' meeting. Says La Croix: "For the time being only
France backs this idea even if other nations could follow."
Les Echos states that the tax will be implemented in France as
of July 1, 2006, "despite the travel industry's opposition"
but the editorial contends the "tax will not take."

On the European front, Angela Merkel's visit to Paris today is
a major editorial story. Le Figaro notes: "Merkel no longer
wants to assign the same `exclusivity' to the Franco-German
relationship, although she does not minimize the importance of
the relationship." (See Part C)

Ariel Sharon's new move to the center is seen as a positive
move for him and the peace process. (See Part C)

Les Echos interviews France's Agriculture Minister Dominique
Bussereau on Peter Mandelson's proposals for the CAP: "His
offer is akin to thousands of lost jobs."

Le Figaro devotes a full page to New Orleans' difficult road
back to normal: "Three months after Katrina, the city is still
suffering and few residents have returned." One story is
entitled: "Once the most dangerous city in the U.S., New
Orleans has become the safest."

(C) SUPPORTING TEXT/BLOCK QUOTES:

Angela Merkel to France

"Welcome Mrs. Merkel."
Pierre Rousselin in right-of-center Le Figaro (11/23): "The
symbolism behind Merkel's first foreign visit being devoted to
France does not escape us. The Franco-German tandem is in bad
enough shape: we must therefore not extrapolate on the
reasons. The German Chancellor is truly convinced of the
crucial importance which the Franco-German relationship bears
on European integration. She just would like the relationship
to be less `exclusive,' and hopes to include the smaller
European nations. We must not complain: what good is the
Franco-German engine if it does not lead? The EU has suffered
too much already from the syndrome that led to a break between
the `old' and `new' Europe. One of Angela Merkel's tasks will
be to establish anew a relationship based on trust with the
U.S. ally. France has nothing to worry in this regard: it has
everything to gain from Washington listening to Berlin more
and realizing that German opinion is not as Atlanticist as it
was during the Cold War."

"Welcome Angela!"
Former President Valery Giscard D'Estaing in right-of-center
Les Echos (11/23): "France wishes the new German Chancellor
success. France and Germany are in similar situations, with
slow economic growth, high unemployment, and the need to
reform their institutions. in order to counter the effects of
globalization. There are three issues of great importance to
France and which are included in the German agenda: Franco-
German cooperation is indispensable to give a new impetus to
the European construction; Germany's coalition government has
expressed its reservations concerning Turkey and its EU
membership, saying that the negotiations do not necessarily
mean membership; and most importantly Germany is committed to
Europe's constitutional treaty. These issues will come
together in the spring of 2007 when Germany takes over the EU
presidency and France votes to renew all of its political
institutions."

Sharon's Centrist Move

"The New Sharon a Favorite in the Polls"
Patrick Saint-Paul in right-of-center Le Figaro (11/23):
"Sharon's poker play has paid off. Yesterday, all the polls
showed him to be in the lead. His former Likud voters,
frightened by their party's shift to the far right, have
massively opted to support the Prime Minister's new centrist
party. Although Sharon has expressed his commitment to `work
for peace,' he will probably not be clarifying his plans with
the Palestinians during the campaign. Analysts believe the
peace process will be stalled until the elections. Sharon, who
has been nicknamed `the Bulldozer,' will probably concentrate
his campaign on his personality: his reputation as a strong-
natured individual was his strongest suit during the 2003
campaign for a population haunted by the fear of suicide
attacks. His role in the Gaza pullout has been instrumental in
building up his new image of `wise man,' including abroad."

"The New Sharon"
Jacques Guyon in regional La Charente Libre (11/23): "Tired of
being the target of his own party's extremists, Sharon took
advantage of the new Labor Party's vote to reverse the
situation in his favor. He even believes that his favorite
adversary, Shimon Peres, will join him. On the Palestinian
side, these changes are being carefully monitored. The new
political situation in Israel can indeed be interpreted as a
positive sign. The fact that the change is coming from Sharon
will surprise only those who have forgotten the road traveled
by General Yitzak Rabin before he shook hands with Yasser
Arafat." STAPLETON

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