That Gallic Skepticism Over Iraq

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

“Sovereignty” was transferred to the new Iraqi provisional government last Monday, two days earlier than what had been announced, in what has been praised as a slick move to head off the crescendo of attacks insurgents surely were holding in store for what was supposed to be today’s ceremony. But that’s necessarily “sovereignty” in quotation marks, since it’s an open question what sort of “sovereignty” that new Iraqi government has really received, if for no other reason than the large number of foreign troops – mostly American – that remain in the country but outside of any sort of direct Iraqi control.

You know that you can expect views from the maximal-skepticism side to come from the French press. The early hand-over may have been a surprise, but both Libération, from the French Left, and Le Figaro, from the Right, were nonetheless quickly ready to provide the same. (more…)

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Turkey and Other Bones of Franco-American Contention

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

At the NATO summit in Istanbul, wrapping up its second and final day today, relations between the United States and France have certainly not gotten any better. Bush did not help prepare things very well with an interview he had with RTE (Irish Radio and Television – official transcript here) as he made his way to Istanbul by way of Ireland (and a summit there with top EU officials over the weekend). In the interview he strongly suggested that it was really only France that opposed the Coalition attack on Iraq – “And, really, what you’re talking about is France, isn’t it?” – an assertion which seems to be in contradiction with widely-held facts. Then, once in Istanbul, Bush seemed to think he had the authority to advise the EU to admit Turkey as a member-state, which prompted French President Jacques Chirac to declare that Bush “not only [went] too far, but he went into territory that isn’t his. . . . It is not his purpose and his goal to give any advice to the EU, and in this area it was a bit as if I were to tell Americans how they should handle their relationship with Mexico.” Undaunted, Bush has since repeated this line today at a speech at an Istanbul university: “America believes that as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union.” (This CNN report has all the details of the spat in English.) (more…)

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Mixed French Reviews for the New Constitution

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

Failure in December – but success in June! At their just-concluded Brussels summit the European Union’s now twenty-five members finally accepted a draft to put forward to their constituent parliaments and/or voters as the new European Constitution. Perhaps this summit’s productive result can be ascribed to the rotating EU presidency being held now by Bertie Ahern and the diplomatically-astute Irish, whereas Italy and Silvio Berlusconi were in charge last December – the Council presidency will cease to rotate this way once the new Constitution is enacted, by the way – or maybe it was all due to the new governments in place in Spain and Poland, the two “medium-sized” EU states that were the principle obstacles to progress at the last summit in December. One thing is sure, though: France and Jacques Chirac were once again in the middle of the goings-on, and so a review of French reporting and comment is appropriate. (Tony Blair was also a leading protagonist – or at least according to the French press, as we shall see – but I’ll let you read the on-line British papers about that yourself – and pay for it, in the case of The Times.) (more…)

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The Glory That Is France

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Back now today to the cultural survey series of the EU member-states published serially in the Danish newspaper Politiken. As you would expect, by now they’ve started to treat some of the ten new member-states – I see Slovenia and Cyprus on the list already. So we can ultimately expect a total of twenty-five such portraits, as the Politiken editors finish rounding up the cultural figures from each country to give their selections of representative paintings, photographs, persons, etc.

Goodness, which to choose? Luxembourg is available! – a cultural portrait assembled by one Jean Portante, a Luxembourgeois poet. Yes, we’ll definitely cover that one, eventually. There’s also Ireland, which should be interesting; Germany – but that one is sure to be so heavy that I think I’ll cover it around the 6 June D-Day celebrations; and Austria: just how is it different from Germany, anyway? And Italy.

I’ll play it safe this time and go for France and its representative cultural selection chosen by Jean d’Ormesson – or to give a more precise name, Jean Lefévre, comte d’Ormesson. (The Politiken editor notes that his full name is twice as long as that.) He is a director at the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro, and at the same time a prominent fiction-writer, especially of historical fiction – particularly, it seems, of tales of the decline and fall of aristocratic families. We’ll find that his cultural choices range from the predictable to the surprising – and to the surprising chosen so as to avoid the predictable. (more…)

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France Warms to Gay Marriage

Friday, May 14th, 2004

War, torture, deception, decapitation: Let’s leave Iraq behind for once, and return to the matter of love. Or at least what some call love, while others prefer not to recognize it as such, calling it other things. Remember not so long ago when a flurry of homosexual marriages were being performed at the San Francisco City Hall, among other places in the US, to which President Bush countered with his proposal for an amendment to the US Constitution defining marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman? Well, once more people are planning homosexual marriages, and the administration is promising to block them while inveighing loudly against the very principle. This time, though, the opposition is preparing a law for debate in the legislature to formally enshrine that principle into law.

Ah, the “opposition”; the “legislature.” Do I mean the Democrats and Congress? No, and that’s your clue (plus this entry’s title, plus the innocent fact that this weblog is entitled “EuroSavant,” after all). If you haven’t heard of all this, you probably have a good excuse since it is happening not in the US but in France, and reports on these developments are by-and-large only available in French. (more…)

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Did the Terrorists Win in Madrid? German Views

Tuesday, March 16th, 2004

As you all well know, almost-simultaneous bombs set off in several Madrid commuter trains during the morning rush-hour last Thursday killed over 200 people, and wounded many, many more. Then Spanish general elections followed on Sunday; in a result that took many observers by surprise, the Spanish Socialist and Workers’ Party, i.e. the opposition, emerged as the winner, with that party’s leader, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, posed to take over as prime minister instead of the hand-picked successor (Mariano Rajoy) to José Maria Aznar of the ruling (right-wing) Partido Popular.

Aznar of course had been one of US President George W. Bush’s stoutest allies when it came to the War in Iraq, and 1,300 Spanish troops are still stationed in the Polish sector there. Mounting evidence suggests that last Thursday’s massacres on the rail-lines of Madrid were the work of some sort of Arab-linked terrorist organization; so that the thought has come to not-a-few that Spain was being punished for that support for the US with these attacks, and that the Spanish electorate reacted to them drastically by removing the regime that would bring this sort of punishment down on them.

So: Is Aznar’s loss a victory for terrorists? That question is posed in an on-line article by Kathleen Knox from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. It is answered in the affirmative in today’s New York Times by regular columnist David Brooks – he asks in his column Al Qaeda’s Wish List “What is the Spanish word for appeasement?”, although he also claims to be resisting the conclusion that “swing Spanish voters are shamefully trying to seek a separate peace in the war on terror.” That’s basically the same answer given by Edward Luttwak, on the very same NYT Op-Ed page, in Rewarding Terror in Spain, which starts out “It must be said: Spanish voters have allowed a small band of terrorists to dictate the outcome of their national elections.” (But the NYT editorial board disagrees.)

But that’s all English-language; you already know about all that. Let’s check what the German press has to say. (more…)

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French Persecution Complex?

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

That whole “jokester” issue – dealt with in my previous post, and having to do with a young Frenchman touching off a bomb-on-plane scare at JFK airport – refuses to die down, at least as far as the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro is concerned. You see, that’s not the only instance recently of French citizens tangling with the American authorities. The newspaper even thinks it sees some sort of pattern emerging, as is apparent right away in the title of its latest article, Those Frenchies [that’s the word the title uses] Being Maltreated by the American Authorities. (more…)

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French Airline Jokester Released

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

American security and air transport personnel these days truly do not joke around. Thank goodness I’m not telling you that out of sad personal experience arising out of my recent travels to and within the United States – recall that I advanced the heretical idea in this space not so long ago of displaying a sassy Dilbert cartoon while going through security checks. No, the above conclusion is instead clear from the recent experience of an unfortunate Frenchman – “a rather flippant French jokester,” some would conclude – named Franck Moulet who seemingly took a schtick about suspicious shenanigans on the American Airlines flight he was on rather too far a couple of weeks ago, and was jailed in New York City and put up on charges for his pains. English-language coverage of the incident (at least what I could find using that old reliable stand-by, Google News) is rather sparse. The French press, in contrast, has proved rather more willing to cover the story, as reporting attests to in Le Monde and in Le Figaro (Franck Moulet Freed in Exchange for Confession), and that last article even features a head-shot of the 27-year-old M. Moulet. Just look deeply into those eyes, I say, and then tell me whether this is some sort of comedian. (more…)

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Après la Capture

Tuesday, December 16th, 2003

The big story is out there, the obvious one. Maybe you want the EuroSavant opinion on the capture last Saturday night of Saddam Hussein. I think . . . that that was a Good Thing.

“That won’t cut it, MAO!” perhaps you object. Ah, but allow me to remind you of what you could term the “EuroSavant essence”: It’s not necessary for me to pontificate on these pages. (Although that can also occasionally happen; actually, I feel another expatiation coming on now, but not on this Saddamned subject: stay tuned for the next entry.) Rather, my function is to lead you daily (or whenever) on a merry traipse through the motley landscape of one or more of the various European presses – a landscape in which, to extend the metaphor, the lay of the terrain as well as most of the bright and curious flowers to be found within it would remain unknown and incomprehensible to you without my (free!) services as surveyor, geologist, and naturalist.

Translation: I just need to find other writers, writing in one European language or another, to pontificate on the topic of the day, and tell you what they’re saying. Since Mr. Hussein was such a good customer of France back in his glory days, let’s see if the French press can comment on his capture in ways that transcend the obvious. (more…)

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Zut Alors! No Contracts?

Thursday, December 11th, 2003

Did you catch the latest news about the Pentagon shutting out from eligibility for those big rebuilding contracts in Iraq all those countries that didn’t support the war, like France, Germany, and Russia? (For the protection of the essential security interests of the United States, natch!) Hoo-hah! Suckaaaz! Did those jackal-states really expect that they could step back and let the American troops and their various allied homies go in and put their rears on the line to lay down some hurt, and then just show up afterwards to earn some big green cleaning up the mess?

(Of course, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to hit them with this tough new reality just before the Prez was scheduled to give them a call asking them to forgive the Iraqi debt they hold. Josh Marshall feels that there really should be some official in place to coordinate things between Washington’s various diplomatic and security agencies so that embarrassing things like this don’t happen – something perhaps like a “National Security Advisor”?)

Ah, but remember that you are now in EuroSavant territory, my friend, which means that you get to hear from the other side. Are the French gnashing their unhygienic teeth in frustration? Are the Germans crying into their beer? I’ve got time to check out the one (France); stay tuned to this site to see if I also squeeze in the other. (more…)

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Giscard Sounds the Alarm over Constitution

Sunday, December 7th, 2003

The original delegates to the Convention which spent eighteen months drawing up the draft EU Constitution, delivering it last June, got together again last Friday in Brussels. Their meeting was of course in the shadow of the climactic European summit of heads-of-government coming up fast next weekend, which is supposed to round off the EU’s Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) and coming up with a final constitutional document on which all member-states (current and future) can agree. The theme of their meeting: “What have you done to our work?!” Or, to use some French: “What’s with all the détricotage?” or “unravelling,” the way you would maliciously pick apart someone else’s carefully-done knitting. That was the formulation of their leader at the Convention, France’s Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who was there to address them and articulate where the Convention thinks that the IGC has gotten it wrong. This is covered in two articles out of the French on-line press, whose titles are eloquent in themselves: Giscard Tries to Save His Constitution, in Le Figaro, and “Better No Constitution Than a Mutilated Constitution” (that’s a quote, and not just Giscard’s), in Libération. (more…)

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Approaching the Naples IGC – French View

Saturday, November 29th, 2003

We’re back “in the groove” now, as you’d expect we would be, since there are big things going on. Yesterday and today in Naples there has taken place a meeting of EU foreign minsters constituting the latest step in the process of formal negotiations over the proposed European Constitution collectively termed the “Intergovernmental Conference” (IGC). The French press covers the run-up to this meeting well. (Coverage of what is actually accomplished – if anything – will probably be available by Monday.) (more…)

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The European Social Forum

Sunday, November 16th, 2003

Recently this site has picked up some new fans, showing a particular interest in things French and offering kind words of encouragement (on their “Links” page). This reminded me that it had been a while since I had turned to the French press to see what was going on there.

(Same with the Czech press, it looks like. Hey, if you feel I’m neglecting something I claim to cover, just let me know and I’ll get right on it. This does work – it’s worked in the past.)

That turned out to be good timing, because this week there was something going on in Paris that attracted wide attention from French newspapers but little outside the country, namely the Forum Social Européen (FSE), or “European Social Forum.” Then again, there’s the problem that, even after reading about it from the various on-line journals, I’m still rather at a loss about what to make of it, or even to give a twenty-words-or-less summary description. (You can take your own look if you want, at the Forum’s own English-language website.) “An anti-globalization summit of left-wing political and non-governmental organizations” is what you could call it, a successor to the “World Social Forum” of January, 2001, which convened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and was meant to be the explicit counterpart to the “World Economic Forum” meetings in Davos, Switzerland, of the rich-and-famous which occur regularly during that time of year. (The first European Social Forum happened in November of last year, in Florence, Italy.) (more…)

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Gerhard Chirac: The French View

Friday, October 17th, 2003

Now that we’ve already covered German reporting and commentary on Jacques Chirac acting to represent German interests during the second day of the European summit in Brussels (today, in fact), let’s look at the French side. Another day’s passing has even allowed the time for more detailed, nuanced coverage to spring up in the French press, and so I concentrate on these recent articles. (more…)

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The Franco-American Summit in New York

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

George W. Bush yesterday gave his long-awaited speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations. It hardly went over like gangbusters. I assume that you’ve already consulted the accounts from the mainstream American press: the New York TimesAn Audience Unmoved; the Washington PostA Vague Pitch Leaves Mostly Puzzlement. And that unflattering coverage was from American media, which need to behave themselves vis-à-vis the Administration to ward off John Ashcroft shutting them down as subversive organizations under the Patriot Act. (OK, so it’s not like that, at least not yet. At least not among the newspapers – but I’ve read some interesting analysis about the factor that makes the American broadcast media so nice towards Administration policy, and its initials are F, C, and C.)

How bad is the coverage of the same event (and its appendages – like the Bush-Chirac meeting) likely to be in the French press? Let’s take a look.

The analysis piece in Le Monde, Paris-Washington, Two Opposing Diagnoses on the Situation in Iraq, shows a surprisingly mild tone. (more…)

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The French Press Responds to Bush

Tuesday, September 9th, 2003

Here we go! (Lost the thread? See the beginning of my previous post, i.e. of “Mon Sep 08, 2003,” as the peculiar pMachine software formatting puts it.) Plenty, plenty of commentary on Bush’s Sunday speech in the French press – let me try to cover as much as I can, in the time I’ve allotted myself (and it’s a generous slice, you can be sure, dear reader!) to write this.

Why not start with Le Figaro? My reflexive instinct is rather to start with Le Monde (“France’s New York Times,” and all that), but Tuesday’s print edition of Le Figaro irresistibly draws me with its big front-page, above-the-fold headline above the standard picture of Bush addressing the nation in the Oval Office: Qui veut aider Bush? – “Who Wants to Help Bush?” (more…)

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Democracy in Iraq

Monday, August 11th, 2003

Can democracy be established in Iraq? Would that then solve our problems, our “gripe,” with that country? Or do we really want democracy there at all?

Die Zeit On-Line is currently particularly rich with opinion pieces which address these issues, and so (in different ways) are natural sequels to Georges Suffert’s assessment in Le Figaro of the American efforts in Iraq which I reviewed here. For one, there is the article by Richard Herzinger which was the subject of my last post: Yes, things are going well in Iraq and democracy is being built, is his view. Anyway, even if they aren’t going well Europeans have their own obligation to help out to make sure that they do.

But then there are a couple of additional pieces sharing homepage-space on the current Die Zeit website which take rather more subtle views. Jens Jessen offers an interesting viewpoint in Die hilflosen Missionäre – “the helpless missionaries.” OK, our objective is to transplant our political system, democracy, into Iraq; it’s also to transplant our economic system (namely capitalism) there. The rationale behind these objectives is that successfully completing them will ensure that Iraq will become a friendly, reasonable sort of state that we can welcome back into the community of nations. (more…)

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A Half-Hearted Cheer for the Americans from Le Figaro

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

It has been one hundred days since George W. Bush flew onto that aircraft carrier off of California to stand beneath a giant banner reading “Mission Accomplished” and declare that major combat operations in Iraq had come to an end. Nonetheless, events since then – such as the deaths there of 119 further American soldiers, and the continued survival of Saddam Hussein – have shown that the American engagement in Iraq is far from done. The Bush administration marked this 100-day anniversary both by releasing to the public a 24-page report entitled “Results in Iraq: 100 Days Toward Security and Freedom,” and by plucking the President himself out of vacation-mode at his Crawford ranch to speak reporters for 18 minutes (this according to an account in the Washington Post). “We’ve made a lot of progress in a hundred days, and I am pleased with the progress we’ve made, but fully recognize we’ve got a lot more work to do,” was his pronouncement.

Point – Counter-Point: Writing in Le Figaro, Georges Suffert gives an appraisal from the French point-of-view of what the Americans have accomplished in Iraq, and in that part of the world in general, in an editorial entitled Bush dans les sables du Proche-Orient, or “Bush in the sands of the Mid-East.” (more…)

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Another Uproar over Mis-Spoken Words

Sunday, July 6th, 2003

More now about the verbal misstep committed by that right-wing politician last week in Strasbourg . . .

“Oh no – Berlusconi again?” you might moan. No, no: this time I’m talking about French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. It seems that at a meeting of the Council of Europe there Raffarin let loose with the following bon mot: La France n’en est encore sur le chemin de son paradis qu’au purgatoire, puisqu’il reste des socialistes. “France is not yet on the road to paradise but rather in purgatory, since there are still Socialists around.” (The Socialists are the main party in opposition in France; the Council of Europe has nothing to do directly with the European Union – in fact, it pre-dates it – but instead acts as a general, non-executive European political forum; see its website here.)

I found out about this incident in today’s New York Times (registration required), and, sure enough, from the way the Times described what was going on, it looked once again like a case of a joke – or people’s reaction to a joke – being taken too far. For example, according to Jean-Marc Ayrault, leader of the Socialist faction in the French National Assembly, “Mr. Raffarin no longer deserves the title of prime minister of the Republic.” So I decided to apply the EuroSavant treatment to it – let’s look at what the French on-line papers have made of it. (more…)

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French Alarm over the EU Constitutional Convention

Friday, May 30th, 2003

Returning to its non-English-language roots, EuroSavant today examines reactions to the unveiling of the draft EU constitution on the Continent (or “in Europe,” as certain British newspapers are wont to call that land mass stretching out on the other side of the Channel – as if they don’t happen to be part of it, legally, administratively, and even historically). And yes, loyal and long-standing €S readers, we first consider France. Surely there everyone is firmly on the side of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the Constitutonal Convention’s president, and his draft document. (more…)

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The EU Gang of Four – Part I

Wednesday, April 30th, 2003

The heads of state of France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg met yesterday in Brussels to launch a new European defense initiative for a multinational force to flesh out the European Union’s foreign and security policies. Presidents Chirac and Schröder and Prime Ministers Verhofstadt and Juncker took pains to emphasize that they were not acting against NATO nor against that alliance’s senior partner, the United States.

Of course, besides Luxembourg, it is true that these were the European countries in the forefront of opposition to America and its “coalition of the willing” as they undertook their assault on Iraq. And many do intrepret this as an anti-NATO gesture – the Times of London‘s foreign editor Bronwen Maddox speaks of a “direct hit on Nato” and “payback time” for these four countries. What do the countries involved have to say for themselves? (more…)

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“Iraq Withdrawal Syndrome”?

Monday, April 21st, 2003

The Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz claims to see “signs of Iraq withdrawal syndrome” among the American media. How does this play on the other side of the Atlantic – say, in France? (more…)

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