Fainting in Coyles An occasional letter from the
Heart of Euroville
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Rush along to a new Government website, feast your eyes and try not to stop laughing The UK in the form of the permanently embarrassing Miniature for Europe Denis MacShame and France in the person of Noelle Lenoir today launched the anniversary website of the Entente Cordial.
Not only was the keynote speech patently absurd “THE EU WILL BE SHAPED BY BRITAIN AND FRANCE, but so is the commemorative website (in the past didn’t they just produce a couple of mugs, oh I forget today they did).
Lets have a look at that speech, no giggling.
How exciting it is to be here to help launch with my good friend Noelle Lenoir, the Europe Minister of France, our joint website to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale. A real thrill for everyone I am sure
Of course of the 100 years of the Entente Cordiale is just an interlude in the long relationship between the peoples of our countries.
A relationship, hmmm, most famous for let me think, Oh yes, open warfare.
'Prenez garde!' said Winston Churchill speaking from the balcony of the Hotel de Ville in newly liberated Strasbourg – 'Je vais parler en français.' I will not take any such liberty tonight.
Or as Nelson put it “"To serve my King and destroy the French I consider as the great order of all, from which little ones spring; and if one of those little ones militates against it, I go back to obey the great order." Or as Churchill himself put it after the war “The greatest cross I had to bear, was the double cross of Lorraine”
Our two languages co-exist as sisters and brothers, rivals in the search for great writing, thinking and art.
Eh? Languages co-exist? Has he ever heard about the way that the French fight tooth and nail to do down the English language, especially in the European Commission.
In the corner of every British heart there is a place reserved for Paris; for 'a beaker of the warm south' with Keats; for 'sashaying down the N7' with Connolly; for 'Flaubert's Parrot' with Barnes; or for me the heights of Mont Blanc and the Alpine slopes and summits which have held the British tourist in awe for two centuries. I still think of the great Dr Albert Smith, the first Brit who went to the top of Mont Blanc in 1851 and took 24 bottles of champagne and crates and crates of claret with him.
I am with him in my admiration for Dr Smith.
Yes, there are always between our countries high economics and deep politics. The day everyone in France agrees with everyone in Britain will be the moment to emigrate. France and Britain define so much of what makes Europe a good place to live it. We have come to our common European vocation by different routes.
Common vocation! Perhaps he was with Dr Smith and his claret before he made this speech.
The appeal of June 18th – that sublime moment when the microphones of London allowed a French general to leave military duty and enter destiny. The wisdom of Monnet and Schumann as they begged a British government - alas a Labour government that turned them down - to join with them in laying the foundation stones of what has grown into this extraordinary expression of democracy, freedom and a market economy tempered by social, environmental and cultural responsibilities – this thing called the European Union.
The attitude of De Gaulle and British membership of the EEC seems to have been airbrushed out of MacShame’s memory, how surprising. It is at this point he completely loses the plot, I cannot even comment about how inaccurate, asinine and mendacious. I leave it to you to ingest and enjoy.
The EU will be shaped by Britain and France – also by its other 23 Member States. But Britain and France have not so much a special relationship but a special responsibility to make Europe work. We will never build Europe without France or against France, without Britain or against Britain.
France works with the United States to remove a regime that had run out of time in Haiti. Britain works with the United States to build a democratic Iraq. Partnership is better than unilateralism, engagement the answer to isolation.
When President Chirac was here last he replaced the term 'Entente Cordiale' with the concept of 'Confiance Cordiale' – the need to build and sustain confidence between our two nations. The President of the Republic was quite right. It is by building a new network of confidence and trust that both our nations will grow. We have as big a set of challenges as 100 years ago.
As Victor Hugo said, Britain and France should be rivals as the best is the enemy of the good. I want us to be locked in friendly competition, trying to surpass the genius of the other but to do so on the basis of respect and affection, not the cynicism and nihilism of those for whom anything emanating from the capital of the other must be treated with scorn.
So I hope this year will allow us to go forward and build a new century that shows France and the UK can mark the history of Europe and raise our sights to a new ambition of helping to make a better world.
In a classic NuLab history the front page of this website that celebrates 100 years has roll over pictures of important dates figures etc. That'll be two pictures of Blair and Chirac, one picture of Chriac reviewing the Brigade of Guards and one pic of Straw and Vile pin. NO space for anybody else in the last 100 years. History started in 1997.
Then, also on the front page we have advertising for a few companies, the patrons of the affair. That'll be Eurostar, Thales and Electricity de France. What is the link, hmm lets see...