UK minister blamed Chirac for treaty crisis

20th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, May 20 (AFP) - Poor leadership by President Jacques Chirac and his ministers may lead the French to reject the EU constitution in their referendum next week, Britain's former Europe minister said in an internal memo leaked Friday in a newspaper.

LONDON, May 20 (AFP) - Poor leadership by President Jacques Chirac and his ministers may lead the French to reject the EU constitution in their referendum next week, Britain's former Europe minister said in an internal memo leaked Friday in a newspaper.  

The French political class campaigning for a "yes" vote on May 29 suffers from a "lack of leadership in explaining, defending, promoting the EU... not as as extension of France and French interests," Denis MacShane wrote.  

MacShane, a Labour lawmaker who until earlier this month was the Foreign Office minister responsible for European affairs, criticized the "yes" effort in France for "the incoherence of its campaign with its mixed messages and lack of enthusiasm or positive argument for the treaty".  

His memo, dated April 8, was circulated to Prime Minister Tony Blair's Europe advisor and key cabinet members, and leaked in the Guardian on Friday.  

Douglas Alexander took over MacShane's ministerial portfolio after the May 5 election.  

The digs at the French political class come at a delicate time, as Paris seeks to stem a rise in "no" sentiment, buoyed by the unpopularity of Chirac's centre-right government.   Blair has tried to avoid stating clearly whether Britain will hold a referendum if the French reject the treaty - meant to streamline the functioning of the enlarged EU - in order not to influence the French vote.  

MacShane said that Britain, long seen as the most eurosceptic of major EU powers, was being replaced by France. "Bashing a commission president is now a French as much as it was a British pastime," he wrote.  

But London also came in for a rap from the pro-EU MacShane, who said that Britain would have to shape up its nationalist and self-centred rhetoric when it assumed the six-month presidency of the bloc in July.  

"[Britain's] EU presidency in 1998 was when the new Labour government walked on water.... That is no longer the case," he wrote.  

"John Bull and Whitehall-speak needs to be parked for the six months of the presidency," he said, referring to the mascot of typical "Englishness" and speech typically employed in internal domestic politics.  

"Britain's Europe policy will need a step change to move away from the defensive-boastful language of red line, vetoes [and claiming] Britain is way ahead of the rest of Europe."

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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