Europe by the book

Philippe Riboton

WHEN LOOKING BACK at the current period preceding the adoption of the European Constitution, history teachers a few years from now may have some difficulty explaining how different European countries were preparing for this strategic stage. Certainly they will point out that one of the historical supporters of the European idea, France, was ready to say “no” just a few weeks before its national referendum. They will not miss reminding students how the French rooster was strutting in celebration for some major acquisitions or investments in the emerging part of Europe, while at the same time protecting its domestic market from corporations or nationals originating from the very countries it was investing in. European students will certainly have a lot of fun looking back at President Chirac’s economic policy motto: “Buy my cars, shop in my hypermarkets, but don’t try to come to work in my country – and don’t even think about selling your services on my domestic market!” They will learn with great amusement how the French honed their competitive economic advantage, steadily decreasing the number of working hours and fine-tuning the art of striking whenever reforms loomed on the horizon. The same students may have as much fun discovering how the Czech Republic was preparing for this unprecedented move. They will learn that this country did not have a public debate at all on the European Constitution, as it was too busy witnessing the collapse of a government that thought its own survival – for just a few more days or weeks – was the most important item on the agenda. They will hardly remember the name of the government chief at the time, except maybe for the fact that his wife entered history as the first spouse of a European prime minister to be so active in real estate that her tenant list included a bordello. Compared with our own European history, punctuated with wars and terrorism, this burlesque promises a lot more fun. Welcome to European history textbooks!






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