Friday, April 01, 2005

The trouble with Jacques

National politicians are railroading the EU in pursuit of short-term electoral gain. This has been evident for many years but perhaps it is only now, when it has become so blatant, that newspaper editors have decided to write about it.

There is more of the same to come before the year is out. It seems despite, or rather in spite of, Britain conceding some ground on the services directive to help out France in the forthcoming referendum, Chirac has now rounded on Britain and attacked the budget rebate. This was foolish as Blair is now likely to seek a long overdue review of the CAP - France receives colossal payments under the CAP. Britain holds the EU Presidency later this year.

Blair, however, is as nothing compared to Chirac when it comes to epitomising all that is wrong with the EU. Not only is Chirac blackmailing the EU into redressing his unpopularity at home, he is putting national interest before the community interest. Raising the UK budget rebate is another populist move designed to distract attention from problems at home. He will certainly gain popular support for a review of the UK budget rebate, but by the same token Britain will also gain very considerable support for a review of the CAP.

Chirac is, I believe, deeply unpopular in France. He was only so overwhelmingly voted into power because of democratic apathy, which resulted in the alternative candidate for the French Presidency being Jean-Marie Le Pen! The choice was poor to say the least. And, Europe, and indeed the wider world, now has to live with his attempts to garner favour with a people who didn’t really want him in the Elysee Palace.

Chirac has persistently engaged in demagoguery and populism to generate some semblance of support among the French electorate. It was one the key factors informing his position on the Iraq War. It has underlain his championing of French cultural exceptionalism. It has been a major factor in his requiring a referendum for the French on Turkish EU accession. It has lately been a driver behind his opposition to the services directive, and it is now manifest in his raising the matter of the UK budget rebate. The result of all of this has been to create division in the EU. It is time France removed Chirac from the French Presidency, depriving him of immunity from prosecution for corruption when he was Mayor of Paris.

Chirac stands in the way of progress in Europe – in ancient Athens he would have long since been ostracised. Who will rid us of this turbulent Frenchman!