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Chirac: “the travelling salesman for enlargement”

A mindboggling article on the TF1 (French TV) website.

Apparently, Jacqeues Chirac is dedicating today’s presidential press conference to the subject of EU enlargement. The analysis is that this will dillute French influence in the EU, shift the balance of power in a more “Atlanticist” direction, and help bring about back-door free-market reforms.

The French Socialist Party has decided to make the threat of a libertarian Europe (Europe libérale) the main plank of its European election campaign, citing the EU constitution as part of the potential problem. They think it is going to be amended into something terrifying (i.e. good). Especially horrible for the European left is the prospect of cross-border private welfare arrangements: buying private pensions and health insurance without the ‘protection’ of nationalized welfare monopolies. Get your life insurance in France, health insurance in Germany and your pension in the UK for example.

Jacques Chirac as the agent of Anglo-Saxon capitalists! Priceless.

13 comments to Chirac: “the travelling salesman for enlargement”

  • Verity

    Gustave – That’ll be the day. France is never going to give up its protectionism no matter what.

    They were told by the EU they had to introduce competition into their electricity market (“market” being used loosely, as the provider is a government-owned monopoly) by this year and they haven’t made a single move to do so. EDF is a huge employer and they simply cannot afford – from a pensions point of view – to have customers drop away to more reasonably priced alternatives.

    Also, you cannot buy British car insurance in France. I wanted to stick with my original British provider as I had found them extremely efficient, but, of course, the giant French insurance firms are never going to tolerate genuine EU competition. You are forced to buy your car insurance from a French provider.

  • Gustave La Joie

    I did say mindboggling.

  • Edmund Burke

    I thought it particularly interesting that Giscard insisted that “Solidarity between the Generations” be an important part of the Constitutional treaty. This is French for no privatised pensions.
    My guess is that if ever the treaty is ratified, the French will try and use this clause to insist that more prudent countries such as the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands be forced to prop up bankrupt systems in countries such as France, Italy and Germany.

  • Any a federast mentions the word “solidarity” hold on to your pocket books and be very afraid.

  • Verity

    Gustave, you did indeed. Sorry.

    Edmund Burke – Absolutely! The young working British will be expected to contribute to lavish pensions for French people retiring at 55 after 25 years of slaving at a nine to six job (two hours out for lunch) on an exhausting 35-hour work week. And enduring these labours with only six weeks’ annual holiday.

    I hope the Tories have the sense to make something of this despite whatever hissy little names Blairy spits at them.

    Just wait until France can’t borrow any more money to pay for pensions! Honey, it is going to be Katy-bar-the-door! They

  • ernest young

    So it’s him that keeps sending me that ‘spam’ about ‘enlargement’.!!

  • A_t


    “Also, you cannot buy British car insurance in France. I wanted to stick with my original British provider as I had found them extremely efficient, but, of course, the giant French insurance firms are never going to tolerate genuine EU competition. You are forced to buy your car insurance from a French provider.”

    Is it possible to do this anywhere? Is it possible to buy French car insurance or German car insurance in the UK? I have my doubts. I would imagine the different legal systems would make it tricky for a start.

    Equally, I shouldn’t imagine there are any laws stopping UK companies from setting up branches in France etc.; that would seem rather contrary to the spirit of the EU as a whole, but it’d probably be a lot of effort trying to muscle in on the market, competing with plenty of established players.

    … & if you can’t get French car insurance in the UK, does that mean the “giant UK insurance firms” (of whom there are a few) won’t tolerate French competition then?

  • Except the definition of libertarianism among French politicians and the local media has nothing to do with the real thing. If you happen to believe you should keep more than half of what you make, you are ‘ultra-liberal’…

  • Verity

    A_t – ever coming in on friendly little kitty cat feet – I’m sure (?) you can’t go with a French insurer in Britain because it’s not mutual. Oh, gosh, the EU has mutual “human rights” laws (like “respect for the transgendered”), but not insurance laws. Insurance = competition. “Respect for the transgendered” is just kind of an easy free pass to happy-clappy land. Despite the aims of the EEC, now morphed into the EU, the happy talk is what counts as substance. Competition, as practised in the Anglosphere, is too scary. In other words, it doesn’t work

  • Verity

    Also, there are a couple of British mortgage companies operating in France – can’t remember which ones – but of course, they are restricted by all the same enterprise-numbing laws that French mortgage companies labour under. So there is no advantage.

  • A_t

    Hi Verity… kitty feet ahoy… I’m somewhat confused by your last two posts… All I asked was “is this French protectionism in particular, or just a general thing”?

    I seem to have received a nice chunk of anti-EU/PC & pro-anglosphere bluster back, but precious little to suggest the French are being any more protectionist towards their Insurance industry than the UK, the US or any other country.

    Here’s one French insurer who’s made it across to the UK anyway. Sadly, they’ll probably wither in the face of our dynamic anglo-spirited companies, eh?

    Surely if the EU really was primarily about protecting internal markets & implementing happy-clappy social measures, support for the whole project within business circles would be negligeable.

  • Verity

    A_t – Ok. Touché. My point, which I admit I made poorly, was there’s all this mutualising of “feelings” in their Mickey Mouse constitution – respect for the transgendered; respect between generations, blah blah blah, yet there is nothing in the EU which promotes (or at least gets out of the way of) dynamism and competition. I should be able to insure my car with a British company based in England. Why not, after all?

    But no, the EU is all about France. In the supermarket I frequent – the largest, so the others will be worse – there is a vast cheese counter with perhaps 50 different cheeses on sale. Any Cheddar, Leicester, double Gloucester? Are you daft?

    What cars fill the parking lots and the streets? French, French and more French. You see a very occasional Mercedes and a very occasional BMW. And a fairly rare Fiat. Rover, Jaguar, Vauxhall? Etes-vous fou?

    In Britain, everyone and his brother is selling electricity. Tesco’s is selling electricity. In France, EDF, a state-owned monopoly, is the only provider of electricity and gas. They were told by the EU that they had to let competition into the market by this year, but, ah, it seems to have slipped down the back of the couch. There is absolutely no way they can afford to have customers deserting them when they have all these giant pensions to pay.

    France cannot afford competition. It is as simple as that. They’ve got to hoard every centime for themselves because they’ve got this massive pension debt. Yes, there’s free movement of goods, but the stores won’t import them. Their own makers of products need the sales to pay their pension commitments.

    There’s free movement of people, frankly, and that’s about it for the EU as far as the French are concerned. For now. Until they slip their Mickey Mouse “constitution” through and get a hammerlock on other people’s money.

    Also, France is an extremely unattractive place to open a branch in because of their massive bureaucracy and endless rules and regulations, every one of which is enforced with mad fervour. There are better places for creative, competitive British companies to spend their money. And there is no way the French are going to allow an insurance company or bank operating out of Britain serve customers in France. End of story.

  • A_t

    Verity, taste & local chauvinism are nowt to do with the EU… Being shocked at a country having a distinctive mix of cars (& who in their right minds would drive a vauxhaull or rover? ugly, dull cars that appeal to British patriotism whilst being basically rebranded foreign designed vehicles) is pretty damn stupid. Fancy getting exercised over the Germans buying mainly VWs, Audis & Mercedes too while you’re at it? Or perhaps the disproportionate amount of italians who drive Fiats? Then, after that, let’s have a go at the Brits for eating too much Cheddar & ignoring most of the 20,000 varieties of French cheese, ok?

    Same applies to the cheese. Last time I was in France, some very nice mature cheddar, better than that available at my local Sainsbury’s, was available at the cheese counter, along with the usual huge selection of French cheeses. I would challenge you to find cheddar in non-expat regions of Germany or Spain.