Really, one cannot trust the French! For days we had been told that prime minister Lionel Jospin was going to deliver a speech on Monday about the future of Europe which would advocate further federalisation of the European Union – and thus play right into the hands of William Hague and the Conservative Eurosceptics and turn the British election in their favour overnight! Instead, M. Jospin made a strong defence of the nation state within the European Union and quite specifically rejected the federalist views expressed only a couple of weeks ago by the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder.

The French have thus added their thoughts to the on–going debate about the future of the EU to those already expressed by Tony Blair in Poland last year, by Gerhard Schroeder earlier this month and by the Commission president Romano Prodi yesterday. The next major intergovernmental meeting on the structure and broad policy objectives of the EU is not due to be held until 2004 but we can expect many ideas to be floated and discussed in the interim. These should all be welcomed and weighed as contributions to the shaping and development of one of the most exciting ventures the world has seen in creating an association of like–minded states with common interests.

There were some excellent formulations in Lionel Jospin's speech, for instance: “Like many other ardent Europeans, I want Europe but my nation remains important to me. My preferred policy would consist in building Europe without unbuilding France or any of the other European nations.” And: “Europe must be a factor of equilibrium in international relations. It does not want to be a dominant power but it can use its power to serve its values.”

Ray Fleming

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