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August 27, 2004

An Arrogant Nation Finds Itself Isolated, Losing Influence Among "Allies"

And I'm sure you're all crushed to hear the arrogant nation in question is France:

British bureaucrats are racking up one success after another in securing coveted posts in the new European Commission to the chagrin of the French, who have traditionally dominated it.


The quiet summer coup by the British has set off a fresh bout of soul-searching in Paris, where angst over lost influence at the heart of the European Union has become a part of daily discourse.

Jean-Pierre Chevènement, the former interior minister, said this week that France had been brushed aside with the dud job of transport commissioner while the Anglo-Saxon camp had walked off with all the prizes. "It's undeniable that the free-marketeers and Atlanticists have taken the lion's share in this commission," he told Le Figaro.

With job selection barely beginning for the next five-year term, the British have netted the powerful cabinet jobs in the external relations, budget and trade directorates.

The French are trailing so far with only one senior appointment: competition policy. It is a poor showing for a country that has always regarded the commission as a branch of its own civil service.

The British-led "counter-revolution" in Brussels has been gathering pace with the arrival of the Austrians, Swedes and Finns over the past decade, but it has now shifted into a higher gear after the "Big Bang" enlargement of the former communist states in Eastern Europe.

Michel Barnier, the foreign minister, tacitly acknowledged yesterday that France had paid a price for its high-handed treatment of the new EU states and failure to grasp that Paris no longer had the clout to impose diktats on Brussels.

"France is not great when it is arrogant. It is not strong if it is alone," he told senior French ambassadors. "France certainly has to conduct its own diplomatic action without shrinking back, but it increasingly has need of others. And the first reflex, I say bluntly, must be European."

Let me be more blunt: France's first reflex must be non-cocksucking. It's second reflex can be "European," but honestly, the big problem here is the cocksucking. It's the cocksucker-tendencies that really irk.

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posted by Ace at 01:39 AM

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