Snobbish France in European quotes

Article published on March 5, 2008
Article published on March 5, 2008
Sarkozy had said so: "France is back in Europe". And on the very day he was elected, in May, 2007. Europeans were quite happy to hear it: the French will go back to work, and it is about time…But a couple of months later the rejoicings are over: French behavior is once again exasperating many. How so? Because a French stays a French, as some already noticed over time.

The polls are telling: 61% of the French think the French Presidency of the EU is a great opportunity for France to increase its influence in Europe. French people thus believe that for six months, their country will be able to foster twice as much of its own interests, its own views, its own opinions. Ouch…

Not to wonder, it is enough to make people cringe in Brussels. France 26 partners had assumed that since the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, this egocentric vision of Europe had become obsolete. Whithin six months he certainly helped to make progress on a large number of issues, including the notorious Treaty now being ratified.

But a few weeks from now, things started to get out of control. France fell back into old sins, old habits. Europe is once again starring at France as it would of a strange-looking animal. Like a well-known German named Arthur Schopenhauer, used to say : " If other parts of the world have their monkeys, in Europe, we have French people. It makes it even".

Speed and rush

That is so French, catching every breeze - William Shakespeare - Richard VI 

Shakespeare had understood it all: French personality is very similar to that of a weather-cock. When a Frenchman has something on his mind, it should be discussed every moment, implemented on the same day, and without pausing to know whether it is feasible, or even better, if all agree with it.  A perfect illustration of this problem is the Mediterranean Union.

A French project more than anything, Nicolas Sarkozy wants to bring all of Europe to work on it. Which triggered Germany's anger, who was not really consulted before the official declaration. Berlin only conceives this project as part of the Barcelona process, already in place. Angela Merkel fears that this new policy targeting the South will affect the enlargement process started in the East, much closer to Germany and where a lot of work still needs to be done. 

As the Swiss writer and poet Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz puts it: "It is often enough for a French to be in love with an idea, to consider it easily done". Germany, constraining 'weather-cocky' Frenchness?

Dare it all!

There is nothing better than what the French do best, nothing worse than what they do badly - Benoit XIV 

Pope in the 18th century, and a little ahead of its time, he was faced with quite a lot of skirmishes and squabbles from Louis the XV. And that was his conclusion. It is also what makes Europe quite worried when thinking about the French Presidency of the EU.

Nicolas Sarkozy declared, on the 8th of January, that by the end of it, he wants the EU to "have a immigration policy, a defense policy, an energy policy and a environmental policy" 

French institutions do not seem to fear such an enormous workload but as Doug Larson, a 20th century British runner, reminds us : "Never doubt the courage of the French, they are the ones who discovered snails are eatable"

However, this boundless ambition for a six-month period at the head of the EU is not necessarily well thought of in Brussels, as it recalls Europe was made out of consensus, not out of hurry. 

All this flutter also irritates Slovenia, currently in charge of the EU Presidency. As the first of the 2004 enlargement countries to take it on, it is proud of its role and wants to excel. It resents the French gesticulations as an attempt to outshine Slovenia. The Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa even declared that if "the Slovenian Presidency will not be as glamorous as the French one, it would focus on the content".  Here you go France.

It echoes what a Swiss writer and philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel wrote a while ago:  "France always believed something said was something done".  And to avoid any new blunder, French institutions have been ordered not to communicate about the FPUE: probably an order coming from very high up…

Opportunism ? 

A French person is very rarely agreeable the first time, it always seems that he is agreeable when ordered to or by interest - Fiodor Dostoïevski – The Player

You are European or you are not. The Eurpean Commission could send it as  a reminder to Nicolas Sarkozy and the French politicians in general. Because after all the talking, French political elites are the smartest when it comes to blame a situation on Europe.

What was it last time? The President of the Republic himself, talking to the fishermen in January questionned the legitimity of the EU fishing quotas, nonetheless accepted by France last December.

This time, the top-priority was to rescue its popularity ratings from a dangerous low.  But this internal political manoeuvering was not well recieved in Brusssels. It was the Secretry of State for Fishing, Michel Barnier, that was sent out to rescue and cover it up:   « France is not strong when she is arrogant, not great when acting alone »

And we will leave give the closing line to a 19th century German writer and philosopher, Georg Christoph Lichten Berg : « France is  fermenting, will it be vinegar or wine, we can't say yet ». To be continued…