PRESIDENT CHIRAC stormed out of the first session of a European Union summit dominated by a row over French nationalism because a fellow Frenchman insisted on speaking English.
President Chirac and three of his ministers walked out of the room when Ernest-Antoine Seilli?re, the leader of the European business lobby UNICE, punctured Gallic pride by insisting on speaking the language of Shakespeare rather than that of Moli?re.
When M Seilli?re, who is an English-educated steel baron, started a presentation to all 25 EU leaders, President Chirac interrupted to ask why he was speaking in English. M Seilli?re explained: "I’m going to speak in English because that is the language of business."
Perhaps such tempermental tantrums sell back home in the coulisses and bistros and bars [Oops, English borrow word!].
I guess Chirac has given up any hope of running for re-election in 2007 and, like Denny Crain of Boston Legal, indulge himself in childish stupid moronic public exhibits of the kind that we allow the old and senescent as they sink into senility.
More seriously, Chirac also had a tantrum or shouting-match with his PM Dominique de Villepin, who had to announce talks with union leaders yesterday after vowing to hold the line against student riots and threats of a general strike in order to oppose de Villepin's easing of hiring-firing laws for French youths.
Chirac undermined his Prime Minister, perhaps destroying the fop-poete's presidential aspirations in the process, by forcing de Villepin into a public climbdown----and virtually destroying any prognosis of labor reform.
Chirac is seriously involved with fantasies involving his own ego, always a problem with French Chiefs of State since Louis XV uttered his prophetic: "Apres moi, le deluge," which came with the French Revolution two decades later.
But French unemployment is over 10% and youth unemployment over 20%, so what is to be done? Obviously, Chirac is no longer anything but a hindrance to any real reform. Perhaps he wants to spite his own party and allow the Socialists to win the Presidency, a recipe for further protectionism and Maginot-mentality in a country already fed up with EU globalizing.
So Chirac disgraces himself and his country in front of 24 other EU summit Heads-Of-State over a snit about language.
I think Angela Merkel will want to think long and hard about continuing the Franco/German Dual Hegemony after this sorry episode, or at least it will make it more difficult for other Europeans to take the French seriously.