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John Laughland

New Books from France
Reviewed by John Laughland
John Laughland is European Director of the European Foundation.

The European Journal, MAY 1998

FRANCE IS BECOMING ONE OF EUROPE'S most intellectually fecund centres of Euroscepticism, thanks to the valiant efforts of a number of politicians and publishers.

For a magnificent account of the true historico-psychological background to the Franco-German relationship, readers should tum to Edouard Husson's L'Europe contre l'amitié Franco-allemande, des malentendus à la discorde, published by François-Xavier de Guibert in Paris at 100FF. Husson is a young historian who does research at the Centre d'Etudes Germaniques in Strasbourg. Directed by a professor at the Sorbonne, Jean-Paul Bled, who is a contributor to the European Journal, the Strasbourg Centre is something of a Euro-realist haven of good sense in a sea of political correctness in France.

Like many of the best Eurosceptics, Husson used to be a believer in the European cause. As a young Giscardian in 1989, he watched German reunification and realised that pious Giscardian banalities simply did not add up. This was the beginning of a decade of intellectual development, which has led him to produce this superb book, which analyses the true motives behind the Franco-German axis and explains why it is bound to collapse.

Husson insists that both the French and German élites are wrong to think they can throw the concept of nation into the dustbin of history. The French, he says, do not believe in the peaceful capacities of the German nation because they have abandoned faith in the French nation themselves. This, of course, means that they have abandoned faith in democracy itself.

Both the French and the Germans, there fore, as Husson magisterially shows, are still in hock to a logic of politics which has been inherited (albeit negatively) from the fascist past. Just as the Nazis and Vichy thought you could have the nation without demo cracy, so today's pro-Europeans think they can have democracy without the nation. In reality, of course, the two are different sides of the same coin, and you cannot dissociate them without destroying both.

HUSSON'S MASTERLY GUIDE through millennia of French and German history is gripping stuff, and imperative reading for Eurosceptics everywhere. He shows how German history is marked by the incapacity of that country to distinguish between the national federalism which unites its constituent parts, and supranational federalism which seeks to include neighbouring states within the empire.

Husson therefore thinks that modern pro-European Germany has not entirely laid old imperialist ghosts to rest. Chancellor Kohl may boast of having gaily pulled up border posts on the Franco-German border when he was a child, but is this an appropriate response to the cliché of German soldiers gaily pulling up border posts on the Polish border on 1st September 1939? Indeed, says Husson, Kohl ought to be more respectful of borders. He did not recognise the Oder-Neisse line as the border between the new Germany and Poland until 17th July 1990 - six months after reunification had been announced - as if such details did not matter, and he does not hesitate to interfere in internal French politics. In both 1992 and 1997, he gave French voters the benefit of his advice about which way they should cast their ballot.

Husson is convinced that with all these dishonest ulterior motives - the French are terrified of the Germans, but they dare not upset them in public, for fear of losing their place as Europe's brilliant (or not so brilliant) second country - the Franco German relationship will soon collapse. The longer the necessary crisis is put off, the more acrimonious the break-up will be. But, he says, there will be a break-up for the present "friendship" between Europe's two leading states is, in reality, little but a relationship between suzerain and vassal. How could it be otherwise, when the only think which can make states equal, whether they are weak or strong - national sovereignty - is being contemptuously cast aside as if it were an outdated historical trinket?

A SECOND VOLUME worth consulting is the minutes of a conference held in Paris on 4th February 1998, published by the political think tank, Liberté Politique, and by the publisher Francois-Xavier de Guibert at 140FF. The meeting, organised by a cross-party group of French deputies and Euro deputies, had to be transferred to a new venue because, while 200 people were expected, 1,300 came. It contains articles by the late Maurice Schumann, the man who used to introduce de Gaulle's broadcasts on the BBC during the war with the ringing words, "Honneur et patrie! Voici le général de Gaulle!"; an interview with Milton Friedman on "The euro's inevitable failure"; and contributions from the other stars in the French Eurosceptic firmament, Georges Berthu, MEP, Jacques Myard, MP, Philippe de Villiers, MEP, the free market economists Pascal Sam, Jean-Jacques Rosa and Florin Aftalion, the historians Paul-Marie Couteaux and Emmanuel Todd, and the banker and former president of Société Générale, Marc Viénot.

FINALLY, two books by the indefatigable Georges Berthu, MEP. A member of the Groupe des Nations faction in the European Parliament, Georges Berthu is the author of numerous papers on European integration, as well as of numerous appeals against Maastricht and Amsterdam to various French and European courts. He also launched, with the organisers of the Euro conference, an appeal for a referendum on Amsterdam which necessitates constitu tional amendments in France.

His two latest books Non au traité d'Amsterdam (No to the Treaty of Amsterdam) and A Chaque Peuple Sa Monnaie (To Each People its own Currency). The first is an immensely detailed analysis of the dangers and inanities of the Treaty of Amsterdam (in the latter category lies certainly the elevation of the Declaration on the Protection of Animals to the level of a Protocol, tempered however by a commit ment to protecting "religious rites"); the second is a highly professional presentation of all the arguments against a single currency. Both are published by the Groupe des Nations in the European Parliament.

Philippe de Villiers is a French rebel with a cause. He breaks a general taboo among respectable politicians in France. He says boldly that "the Europe of Brussels is an anti-democratic dictatorship".
In the last European elections Mr de Villiers' political party, the Movement for France, won more votes than any other centre-right party, including the one led by President Jacques Chirac.
BBC 30/3 2004

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