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L’exception française

More than any other European nation, the French have a powerful sense of historical destiny. Having exported their values to the world in 1789, their self-confidence ebbed away in the 20th century. But with the election of Jacques Chirac, a new Gaullist assertiveness is making itself heard. Douglas Johnson asks whether it can co-exist with an integrating Europe

By Douglas Johnson   December 1995

Hindsight is the arrogance of the unimaginative. But all the same, no one should have expected much from the recent meeting between Jacques Chirac and John Major. They called each other by their first names and enjoyed a little nuclear cosiness. But there is no new Franco-British alliance concerning Europe. Not yet.

Intelligence agents have been busy collecting scraps of President Chirac’s conversations in which he has made hostile remarks about the European Union-as he is wont to make about the Serbs, the Russians and the Tahitians. But talk, peppered with insults, is one thing. Policy is another. It has…

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