Barclay brothers to launch French weekly

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The Independent Online
The weekly newspaper The European will give birth to a French daughter, L'Europeen, this spring.

The new magazine, also a weekly, will be the first attempt to sell a Europe-oriented publication to French readers. If successful, L'Europeen could be the forerunner of German, Spanish and Italian-language clones of the same idea.

Its parents are, politically speaking, an odd couple: 65 per cent will be owned by the right-wing, anti-European Union British financiers, the Barclay Brothers, who own The European; 35 per cent will be owned by the left-of-centre, stoutly pro-European French newspaper, Le Monde. The editor will be a celebrated French television journalist, Christine Ockrent, Belgian-born and also known for her strongly pro-EU views. Although the two publications will share some resources, Ms Ockrent was at pains to point out yesterday that they would have separate editorial policies.

The British version of The European, launched by Robert Maxwell in May 1985, has always taken a fiercely Euro-sceptical approach. So has the Edinburgh-based morning newspaper, The Scotsman, since its purchase by the Barclay Brothers and the installation of the former Sunday Times editor, Andrew Neill, as the editorial supremo of the group.

Ms Ockrent said that her own newspaper would take a different view but would not slavishly support the institutional European line. Unlike its British sister, the dummy version of the new French paper partially takes the form of a review, with extensive translation, of articles which have already appeared in other European publications.

The magazine will have a minimal staff of 30, plus freelances. It has set a break-even circulation target of 80,000, which seems modest enough but may be larger than the real circulation of its chronically unsuccessful British progenitor.

The launch of a French version of The European is the admission of the failure of the project as originally conceived by Mr Maxwell. He wanted to create a newspaper - ultimately a daily - that would be bought by all nationalities in Europe. Perversely, however, it always peered at Europe through distinctly British spectacles.

The creation of L'Europeen is a switch of policy towards the creation of a stable of newspapers which will examine European themes and issues, but will remain anchored in national markets and written in the major European languages. In a sense, this sits more easily with the nationalistic, anti-federalist view of Europe propagated by Barclay brothers' publications.

l Andrew Neil, editor in chief of The European and The Scotsman, has appointed his friend, and former Tory MP Gerry Malone as associate editor of The European. Mr Malone recently failed to win the seat of Winchester after succeeding in getting the general election result overturned in the courts.