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June 20, 2005
French Don't Buy Chirac's Blamethrowing

Jacques Chirac appears to have run out of options in deflecting blame for the collapse of the EU constitution last month. After his insistence on holding a referendum blew up in his face as political opponents across the French spectrum lined up to torpedo the pact, Chirac attempted to lay off the failure on the British annual euro rebate. That strategy caused the EU summit to collapse in a hail of recriminations across the continent, but for some reason Chirac expected to return home to cheers for protecting French agricultural prerogatives.

Instead of cheers, however, the French president has been savaged by the French press, who haven't been fooled at all by Chirac's theatrics, at least according to The Guardian (UK):

Swollen with Gallic pride after denouncing Tony Blair's "pathetic" performance at the European summit, the president probably wondered whether the Champs Elyses would be full of adoring crowds.

As he awoke to a summer heatwave on Saturday morning, after a dawn flight from Brussels, Mr Chirac was instead greeted with headlines depicting him as the principal loser of the summit.

Le Monde, the grand old tribune of France's intelligentsia, declared the summit a "double victory" for Tony Blair. Downing Street officials could barely believe their luck as they read that Britain had buried the EU constitution and succeeded in highlighting the "anomaly" of how the EU spends seven times more on farmers than it does on "future" projects, such as science and research.

"This new failure on Europe risks affecting his credibility in the world arena and having the ricochet effect of further weakening him on the domestic scene," Le Monde said.

The problem comes from Franco-German blindness to the fact that most European countries don't want to tie themselves to a system that benefits the Franco-German center at the expense of their own economies -- among other worries about further integration. The Dutch have recently found out what multiculturalism might bring with the Islamist murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, while the Eastern European nations have firsthand experience with the Socialist economic model and hardly want to support yet another country's pensions with their own GDP. Britain also falls into this latter category, even with its own social spending levels far above that of the US, for instance.

In fact, EU integration seems destined for failure in an area more well known for its insistent nationalism and sovereignty than in any impulse for unification (at least, peaceful impulses). Chirac can find budgetary minutiae such as the EU rebate for debate fodder, and he might even have had a point if Chirac exhibited any flexibility on the agricultural protections and subsidies on which France insists. All of these remain secondary to the real issue of EU unification -- which is to say that Europe simply doesn't have an appetite to unite politically in any meaningful way.

Apparently, Chirac thought he could fool the French into thinking that his lack of insight somehow equated to defending the French prerogative. Instead, the French realize that his insistence on shading his eyes has made their country lose a tremendous amount of prestige, and his petulant ranting at the EU budget summit might result in a complete collapse of the portion of the EU that has actually worked for Europe's benefit. It turns out that Abraham Lincoln's warning about the folly of attempting to fool all the people all of the time even applies to the French.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 20, 2005 12:39 PM

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» Off With His Head! from Kerfuffles
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Tracked on June 20, 2005 1:39 PM

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Tracked on June 20, 2005 9:56 PM

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