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March 25, 2006

Get "une vie," Monsieur Chirac!

By all accounts, France is going to hell in a handcart. If the alienated "youths" (a/k/a Muslim thugs) aren't burning cars, it's people upset about a new labor law that actually might encourage work. And the French have become morose.

By almost every measure this society holds dear -- political, economic, wine exports, art auctions -- France is losing its global dynamism. The recent demonstrations by angry young people across the country are just the latest symptom of angst and fear in the national psyche.

"France is divorced from the modern world of the 21st century," said Nicolas Baverez, author of a top-selling book, "New World, Old France." It describes a country so fearful of letting go of outmoded traditions -- including a hugely expensive cradle-to-grave welfare system -- that it is being shut out of the global marketplace. "We're at a very dangerous turning point," he said.
Amid all of this, Jacques Chirac is concerned and "has urged citizens to stop the 'self-flagellation.'"

But what really has Monsieur Chirac concerned -- and angry -- is that during a meeting of EU leaders, the head of the business organization spoke in English. Sacré bleu! And he stormed out in protest.

The Financial Times has an editorial mocking him. An excerpt:
Zut alors! Ernest-Antoine Seillière, head of the European Union's business organisation, had la témérité to address Thursday night's meeting of EU leaders en anglais. Naturellement, Jacques Chirac stormed out in protest at what his French compatriot described - rightly - as the language of business.

Malheureusement, M. Chirac missed Mr Seillière's impassioned plea for Europe's leaders to resist the swelling tide of national protectionism. The French president's mentalité Maginot is a symptom of that tide, but also a complete failure to recognise that France has been a notable beneficiary of globalisation - precisely because of the language skills of its people.
But the most amusing line of the day comes from the Washington Times. One of Chirac's allies put in his two cents (deux centimes?):
"Europe has other worries and it's a waste of time to have responded to such questions," said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who is usually a stout Francophile.

Taking a jab at Mr. Seilliere, he added: "I cannot cease to be amazed that while our French friends invite us to speak French, many of their top officials not in government are more than happy to speak in approximative English."
Have you ever heard a native English speaker use the word "approximative"? I think it may be time to storm out of the meeting.