Friday, March 24, 2006

Jacques Chirac: The pesky, protectionist president

Chirac leaves EU summit as Frenchman speaks English Nicholas Watt and David Gow in

Friday March 24, 2006
The Guardian

Jacques Chirac led a French walkout from the opening session of the EU's annual spring summit last night when a fellow Frenchman committed the grave offence of speaking English.

Highlighting France's acute sensitivity towards the decline of the language which once dominated the EU, Mr Chirac led three senior ministers out of the talks when Ernest-Antoine Seillière, the French head of the European employers' group Unice, abandoned his mother tongue on the ground that English is "the language of business".

Mr Chirac picked up his papers and left, with Philippe Douste-Blazy, the foreign minister and Thierry Breton, the finance minister, in tow. Gallic pride was soon restored when Jean-Claude Trichet, the French head of the European Central Bank, addressed the meeting in his mother tongue - and Mr Chirac led his ministers back.

The walkout set the scene for what is expected to be an inconclusive summit ending at lunchtime today.


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