Faint praise and candid criticism of Chirac

12th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 12, 2007 (AFP) - European newspapers on Monday offered at best qualified praise and also sharp criticism for French President Jacques Chirac, a day after he announced he would not be running for a third term.

PARIS, March 12, 2007 (AFP) - European newspapers on Monday offered at best qualified praise and also sharp criticism for French President Jacques Chirac, a day after he announced he would not be running for a third term.

The French press tried to strike a balanced tone, praising Chirac for his fierce defence of France on the international stage and his opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq.

And while they passed over the corruption allegations still hanging over Chirac from his earlier stint as Paris mayor, they did not hesitate to criticise his 12-year record as president.

"Jacques Chirac didn't succeed in waking up France or the French on the fundamental question of the economy," wrote the business daily La Tribune. "Jacques Chirac will leave a France in trouble."

Chirac was also rebuked for calling a referendum on the European Constitution, then failing to actively campaign for the document. French voters rejected it in 2005.

"Chirac could have left Europe with its head high if he hadn't messed up the ratification of the Constitution in France with his over-confidence and air of indifference," concluded the centre-right La Croix.

British newspapers were more stinging in their criticism.

"Convention demands that we say nice things about people when they retire but, in the case of Jacques Chirac, it is not easy," said Britain's centre-right Daily Telegraph.

He was widely criticised for flip-flopping on big issues, with the left-of-centre Guardian branding him a "weathervane" and the Financial Times calling him "an eternal opportunist."

However the FT noted that even his critics praise him for getting some things right.

"He is widely praised for admitting France's responsibility for deporting Jews during the German occupation in the Second World War and in 2003 led 'Old Europe' in opposing the US-led invasion of Iraq and warned of the dangers of American unilateralism," wrote the business daily.

The paper concluded however that "What stands out -- for his detractors -- from Mr Chirac's record is a sense of wasted opportunities."

The German media appeared to agree.

"What did this man do with the chances he had? Very little," left-leaning Berliner Zeitung said, adding that Chirac was leaving France "in the state it was in when he came to power in 1995."

The Frankfurter Rundschau meanwhile insisted Chirac "was leaving behind a country searching for its identity," while The Spiegel weekly published a damning editorial on its website, saying: "Not much will remain of the legacy of Chirac, who over 40 years helped to shape French politics."

The Russia media voiced far more praise for Chirac, with the financial daily Kommersant claiming that "no future French president will hold as much weight" as Chirac, adding that he "figures among the top 'euro-saures' who, in accordance with the laws of evolution, must give way to a new kind of leader."

"An entire era is coming to an end," public broadcaster Rossia chimed in, lamenting that "there will never be another French president with such (warm) feelings for Russia."  

Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique called Chirac the "greatest politician of his generation," adding however that "we really have trouble finding a clear political line" in Chirac's action, after he for "40 years has contradicted himself."

And Belgium's Le Soir referred to the exiting French president as an odd "father of the nation," criticising him for being a "political weathervane, a feeble strategist but an excellent demagogue."

Austrian newspaper Der Standard hailed Chirac's defence of his country abroad: "His political programme breathed France. Chirac was neither right nor left, he was a Gaullist, meaning a fervent Frenchman."

The paper added however that Chirac's limited support for presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, showed that he "only thought about himself."

"Maybe his succession doesn't matter to him ... For that reason too, he can hardly expect applause as he steps down."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, President Jacques Chirac

0 Comments To This Article