Was Chirac strongly pro- European?

Article published on March 28, 2008
Article published on March 28, 2008
At the moment when Nicolas Sarkozy experiments one of the most memorable slap in the face of French history – his collapse in public polls was just as quick as his power boosting – dinosaurs are making their come back.

A few weeks ago, missing walkabouts and needing to stock up some country goods, Jacques Chirac – this good old Jaco – came at the Agricultural Show Expo to shake visitors’ end exhibitors’ hands. Far from the contempt that the current president had had to face a few days earlier as a visitor reproached him for his “dirtiness”, Jacques Chirac received all the honours.

This kind of flashback could have simply been funny if the media had not seized the opportunity to declare that Chirac had “come back” in the heart of French people, and in Europeans’…

Chi-chi nostalgia …

It is true that international representatives may regret the previous French chief of State and that our European partners sometimes show some signs of nostalgia for the couple once made by Chirac-Shroëder. Indeed, less passionate than the one composed by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel – a sort of “I love you, neither do I” sometimes disconcerting – the duo was much more consensual. At least, the two bigwigs managed to hold Europe without hastening it toot much.

But, as Sarokozy activism draws many worries on our European partners’ side, it seems that they come to regret the more traditional style of his predecessor. If the European spirit of Jacques Chirac was once considered too minimalist, at least it was sober.

Sarkozy has claimed it : he is strongly pro-European (to illustrate his attachment, he always poses with both the French and the European flag); Chirac, himself, never showed as much enthusiasm.

For sure, this gap relies on the very peculiar context surrounding the European Union and, consequently, France: a treaty renegotiated after the French rejection, tensed referendums in Ireland and Slovakia, a French presidency that will have to implement the technical arrangements of the new text. Besides, a restless future president of the EU, spreading trouble around the Mediterranean Union and the CAP, who is about to give in public expanses that are not possible regarding the budgetary deficit France is reproached for by Brussels.

Why such a disenchantment? Giscad’s analysis.

In the columns of the Express magazine, Valérie Giscard d’Estaing (VGE for friends) minimizes this disenchantment that some may qualify of defiance. According to the fore founder of the European Convention, Pygmalion of the European Constitution, “imagining that this presidency will be the occasion for France to take over Europe [is] an absurd misunderstanding which could reinforce the reputation of French arrogance.”

Though remaining discrete about Sarkozy’s European policy, the senior UDF member is not hiding his optimism in an interview to Le Point: “Let’s hope that the 500 million Europeans will be grateful for the caution, the moderation and the expertise that [France] will use to find common solutions to the issues which are of the competence of the European Union.”

Sophie Helbert