by Jerome a Paris
Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 07:14:37 AM EST
The quasi simultaneity of Chirac's announcement that he would retire with the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome creating the EEC has given ample opportunity for newspapers to take a "hard look" at France and Europe. after revisionnist history, we now get unfettered glee at the supposed failings of both. A small sample from the Economist below.
Europe's mid-life crisis
the fact is that, even as it turns 50, the EU is mired in a mid-life crisis. The biggest problem is economic. European economies have perked up recently, but the record is still of lamentably slow growth and high unemployment.
It all went wrong
On entering the Elysée Palace, Mr Chirac inherited a restive country, with high unemployment, mounting debt, a disoriented electorate and a sense of political stagnation. Twelve years later, having announced his decision not to run again, the 74-year-old Mr Chirac bequeaths to his successor a restive country with high unemployment, mounting debt, a disoriented electorate and an even more intense sense of political stagnation.
It is true that parts of the dirigiste French model, of high taxes and high spending by a strong state, do indeed work well. They have delivered the country efficient public transport, nuclear energy and first-rate health care. Yet the model is not only unsustainably expensive but fundamentally weakened by its failure to reduce unemployment. The jobless rate has not dipped below 8% for 25 years, despite spending on subsidised jobs.
Jacques Chirac's poisoned legacy
[Mr Chirac's] 12-year tenure seems in many ways a continuation of the 14-year term of his Socialist predecessor, François Mitterrand. Neither had much time for America or the free market: Mr Chirac once denounced ultra-liberalism as the new communism. Both resorted to higher public spending and debt as an easy option to buy off bolshy voters. Neither cut the country's suffocating bureaucracy and tax burden. Both fought hard to keep European subsidies for France's cosseted farmers and to protect national champions.
Many French voters support Mr Chirac for his strong opposition to the Iraq war, which even made him briefly popular. Yet his aggressive tone strained relations not only with America and Britain, but also with eastern Europe. Even the boost for France's status in the Arab world proved fleeting. His indulgence of Russia's Vladimir Putin was another black mark, and his loss of the May 2005 referendum on the EU constitution a personal failure. Elsewhere—in Africa, in Iran—Mr Chirac's freelance diplomacy and refusal to consult allies has been mostly just a nuisance.
they have a full survey of the EU, I'll wade in later...