Thursday, March 24, 2005

The man who lost Europe

That is what The Times is saying of l'escroc Chirac, the man who has subdued Bolkestein's monster but is not safe yet.

Their Paris correspondent, Charles Bremner, reports that France "heaved a sigh of relief yesterday" after it emerged from the European Council (he insists on calling a “summit”) that Chirac had won his battle against the monster that has been terrorising his country.

So it continues in a jokey vein, the article making comparisons between Frankenstein's monster and Bolkestein's directive. It has come to crystallise everything that France fears in the EU - and its new constitution in particular, writes Bremner. The people once again are up in arms against the ruling élite, as represented by Chirac's administration and the Socialist opposition, he adds.

The buzz-word has become "liberalism", the enemy of the people, the word having assumed demonic status, instanced by a rural caller to the France-Inter breakfast programme on Tuesday. He summed up the debate, saying: “They are closing my village post office, so how dare they ask me to approve the EU constitution?” he said. In this logic, post offices are closing because the “liberal” EU is forcing France to hand over public services to capitalists.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the Franco-German Green leader, 1960s revolutionary and no friend of naked capitalism, voices his frustration over his adopted country: "The degree of irrationality is incredible," he says. "Obviously, when the French cannot change something, they just say that they are going to stick it to liberalism, even if they do not know what that means." My heart bleeds for the man.

Bremner also reports that the pro-European Establishment is appalled that the "no" camp has managed to demonise a constitution that was proposed by France and drafted under the chairmanship of Giscard d'Estaing. Arguments that the treaty contains much that is in France's interest have been drowned out by the seductive arguments of the "no" camp.

Furthermore, Chirac is taking much of the blame. Having cast himself as anti-liberal champion of the welfare state, he has spent his presidency blaming Brussels and the "Anglo-Saxons" for the "liberal" drift, to the extent that first Brussels and now the constitution has become irrevocably linked with "liberalism".

Last minute changes in casting may not be enough. And if the verdict is "non" on 29 May, concludes Bremner, Chirac knows will spend his final two years in office as the man who lost Europe.

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