Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

“The French have lost much” and become “the sick man of Europe”

So, at least, thinks Maurice Faure – France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1956-8, and the last surviving original signatory of the Treaty of Rome. In an interview with Spanish paper El Pais, as the 50th anniversary of the Treaty rapidly approaches, he’s really rather scathing about the progress and contributions La Belle France has made during the last half century.

In amongst it all,there are some nice snippets about the signing of the treaty, and France’s intentions back in March 1957 (loosely translated with the help of Mr Google and a pocket Spanish dictionary):

“An enthusiastic atmosphere reigned. There were groups of young Italians that came to congratulate us, wanted to shake our hands. The praise was enormous”, remembers the 85 year-old from his Paris home, shortly before heading off for Rome and Berlin, where the European authorities will celebrate the half century of the Union this weekend by pulling our all the stops. But beyond Roman euro-enthusiasts, the signing of the Treaty didn’t provoke much interest, according to Faure. “To the French this subject did not worry them much, what really mattered to them was Algeria. The Common Market occupied more space in newspapers of Italy, Germany or the Benelux, but in general it was a project that the elites took care of; the people did not really understand what it was all about”.

Agriculture was by then already one of the main obstacles to negotiations. French pressure ensured that important aids to agriculture were included in addition [to energy and trade agreements]. “The text was a great concession to the farmers”, says Faure… “During all the negotiations it was necessary to maintain to their current level the farmers, who sent a telegram to the deputies and the senators of all six countries to get them to vote in favor of the Treaty”. …In the last 50 years, the European economy has undergone a radical transformation, but not the weight of agriculture in the community’s policies policies – 40% of the European budget is dedicated to the area, which continues to be the most important.

Faure, a fervent pro-European, does not hide his disappointment with what is happening to the European project. “We hoped for much more. Europe is in crisis and is no longer advancing”…

Faure understands that Angela Merkel, the German chancellor… wants to wake Europe from its lethargy, but thinks that the greatest celebrations would have to be in Rome. “What’s being celebrated in Berlin is an aberration”, says Faure, who, nevertheless, shows with pride the letter from Merkel inviting him to travel to the German capital this weekend. “I don’t know, I hope that they translate the ceremony into French. The Treaty of Rome negotiated everything in French, but all this has changed, the French have lost much”.

It’d be nice to have the full interview (preferably translated by a professional, rather than someone whose only knowledge of Spanish comes from Terminator 2) – there are so many tantalising hints there of what everyone suspects about France’s original attitude towards the EEC, and the bullying tactics used to gain concessions, but nothing overly explicit.

Wouldn’t it be nice for one of the chief French negotiators to explicitly admit that “yeah, erm… we basically ripped you guys off because we could get away with it, so, erm… the foundation stone of the EU project is a bit of a sham, really”? Then we might finally be able to shake of the mythologising of the Treaty of Rome, and come up with something rather better – based on the 21st century needs of all 27 member states, rather than the mid-20th century needs of just France.

Ho-hum – I can dream, can’t I?

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