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June 21, 2005
Chirac Signals Surrender On French Farm Subsidies

After taking a beating in the world press and in French public opinion that blames him for the collapse of the EU budget process, Jacques Chirac suddenly changed course today and signaled his surrender on French agricultural subsidies. Tony Blair, emerging victorious over his French rival, agreed that the annual euro rebate Britain receives should also be reconsidered as part of an economic normalization:

The French President said he would after all accept the latest compromise to solve the deadlock, even though it would cost his country 6.6 billion.

Last week's Brussels Euro summit collapsed when Britain refused to give up its rebate worth more than 3 billion a year unless France cut back farming subsidies worth almost 7bn a year.

Mr Chirac refused to do so despite strong pressure from Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean Claude Juncker, who holds the presidency until Mr Blair takes over on July 1. But today Mr Chirac said he was ready to compromise.

It followed Mr Blair acknowledging after a breakfast meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Goran Persson that the rebate was "an anomaly that has to go".

It remains to be seen if Chirac's reversal will win him any political support at home. However, Chirac clearly saw that his petulant outburst at last week's budget summit, where he openly insulted Blair and the British delegation, garnered him no laurels but instead widespread scorn. Le Monde declared the British victorious and scolded Chirac for his childish behavior, while the rest of Europe made it clear that Chirac had abdicated his leadership for the continent with his obstinacy. French farmers will not cheer the elimination of their price supports, of course, but that may not matter much in the long run for a politician whose popular support has dropped to the low 20s.

This gives the EU another opportunity to prop up its sagging currency and to create something closer to a true free-trade zone. Now that the big boys have finished their directed-urination contest, perhaps they can also prop up the EU's sagging credibility as well.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 21, 2005 5:18 PM

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