Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Who is the outsider here?

France and others, including certain British journalists, are usually quick to accuse Britain of being the odd man out in “Europe”, the one who fights to stop further progress (unspecified), the one who stands up for her rights and interests. Now, it seems the odd one out is France with its peevish President.

This morning’s Le Monde carries an article about the NATO Summit, entitled Isolated in his role of a killjoy, Jacques Chirac remains exasperated. The article details the President’s huffy reluctance to sound pleased at the hand-over of power in Iraq and his efforts to undermine NATO in its intention to train Iraqi forces.

There is a contrast here between President Chirac, on the one hand and Chancellor Schröder and Prime Minister Zapatero, on the other, according to Le Monde. Schröder and Zapatero have refused to send troops to Iraq as well, but have also asserted that they will support NATO in its work. What exactly that will mean in practical terms, remains to be seen.

To add insult to injury, President Chirac has also refused to support the announced NATO decision to aid Afghanistan in its ceaseless efforts to build up security. Despite a direct plea for help from Hamid Karzai, Chirac announced grandly that it is not NATO’s job to provide security for the forthcoming elections.

It is not quite clear what President Chirac thinks NATO’s job is. Indeed, it is no secret that he would like the Alliance dissolved and some sort of European Security structure put in its place. As we have already noted in this blog, that will hardly be the most active of structures because of the lack of troops, equipment and intelligence.

In the meantime, President Chirac and France are earning themselves the title of being the most obstructive and peevish of all western nations, and the most reluctant to support others, particularly when the fight is for those high-minded principles that French politicians are so keen to pontificate on.

If Le Monde is anything to go by, there may be a certain amount of weariness with this attitude in France itself.

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