Why I’m a little irritated with France:
For falling asleep at the wheel in 2002 and letting back in to the Elysee a fraud who has no vision for France, no values apart from expediency, and whose number one professional objective was using the office to stay out of jail.
For thinking Supermenteur is kind of funny and harmless with his man of the people, socks in his sandals routine, when he’s spent the last 8 years lying to the people and assuring them it’s ok to put off, say, retirement reform till it’s too late to save the pensions of anyone under 40.
For letting Chirac keep as prime minister a one man crumple zone who took all the knocks for the right’s policies but had no mandate to do anything except fold when the public sector unions got stroppy.
For being hoodwinked by the government into blaming everything else on the EU.
For running a corporatist closed shop of unions and business leaders who don’t give a damn about the excluded unemployed and the perpetually damned ‘sans-papiers’.
For endless criticism of the US 2004 presidential outcome combined with chippy defensiveness when the French vote mostly on domestic issues to tell the rest of Europe to kiss off.
For endless rhetoric about the European ideal (especially in the pre-amble of said constitution) and the coming together of nations in harmony, etc. etc., based on the assumption that France is the true driving force
For insisting in the first place that the constitution be written by a self-important old windbag / ex-President of France.
For constant efforts to impose its own social model on the rest of Europe – not so we can enjoy the benefits, but to weigh us down with the costs so we provide less competition for France.
For self-congratulation at vanquishing ‘anglo-saxon capitalism’ while handing incoming EU President Tony Blair carte blanche to shape the outcome of the French non.
For assuming that if the French don’t like this painstakingly negotiated agreement, everyone else will quickly iron out the wrinkles and present one that’s more to France’s taste.
For the assumption that if France votes no, then the constitution is automatically dead. Just how democratic is that, protest voters? (Don’t Austria, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain count? They’ve all voted yes – in parliament or referendum – and by overwhelming majorities.)
For its refusal to have any debate about admitting Turkey to the EU that doesn’t start with straw men (‘then why not Syria too?) and finish with inchoate mutterings that are nonetheless held to be self-explanatory (But …they’re Muslims.).
For bringing the country to a standstill every five minutes to protest Canute-like about global economic forces.
For its dubious insistence on making the European Parliament pack its boxes every single month and shuttle to Strasbourg, a lose-lose symbolic practice that showcases French blocking power while keeping MEPs frazzled and weak. (So that’s probably a win-win if you’re the French government, then.)
For the CAP. How can it still be alive…? (Answer: because CAP also stands for collective action problem.)
And so on.
I may have over-stated my case just a tiny little bit. And I have experienced and enjoyed too many aspects of the French exception to not be a little complicit too. But, gentle French readers, if you find yourself jibing at the irritation of your fellow Europeans over the next week or two, keep in mind that these are the angry little thoughts zinging around in our heads. They will pass. And no one will be pouring French wine into the gutters. But you should know not all fellow Europeans regard this as France’s finest hour.