The Editorial page of the Webmaster: Europe and the rest of the World (#4)

WARNING : On this website, I am trying to give balanced points of view BUT, as a Frenchman, I have my own strong personal opinions. I don't know if they are representative but they are mine. If you hate my comments read about Americans and criticism. See also my resume.


Read Rochefort's "Diary of an old student"

The Genius of British diplomacy- Nobody understands the British government’s policy regarding the Brexit : I think I do and I’ll tell you what is the British strategy in its negotiations with the EU.

But before, let me tell you a little fable which may give you some clues.
It is the story of a friend of mine who became the member of a golf club.
Shortly after he bought it, he received a bill for his share of the management of the club. He went straight to management department and said : “This bill is too high : I want my money back. I’ll pay 70% of it, not a cent more than that. If you do not accept my offer, I’ll leave and set fire in the clubhouse”. The management accepted, and the other members saw their bill slightly increased.
It happened that the club owned a few shops which were common property and could be leased but since it was risky to share the risk if the tenant did not pay his rent because customers did not come in his shop and went bankrupt, it was in the by-laws that any memer could decide to take the risk or not for each shop. My friend had a very brilliant idea : for each shop to be rented, he would say “No, it is too risky, I am not in that deal” and he would let the other members refurbish the shop, find the tenant, give him facilities if he could not  pay the rent, etc. If the tenant went bankrupt, my friend would be very sorry and pat the other members on the shoulder to console them for their loss. If the tenant did not get bankrupt, my friend would be furious and would rush into the management office and scream : “Why have I been left outside this excellent deal ; I thought I was among good people and you always talk about our solidarity : give me a proof of your goodwill and let me into that deal : I won’t ask you to pay anything to enjoy the privilege of having me in”. And so he did, many times.
But my friend had a beautiful mistress, who loved caviar and big cars, and his wife did not understand where their money went : they were always broke. So he had another brilliant idea. Every time his wife looked at their bank account, he would sighed : “This club is costing us a fortune : the management is a bunch of gangsters, always ready to bill something to the members.”  His wife was pragmatic and finally she said : “Let’s resign and leave them alone.”
The by-laws said that if a member resigns, he must pay is dues for the current year, pay his share of the investment which have been decided with his vote, sign an agreement about various issues (like not use the back door to come and play for free) and leave the club before the end of the year.
Guess what my friend did !
After he had asked for and obtained several extensions of this deadline, he proclaimed that he would never pay a cent to a bunch of gangsters who shamefully had kicked him out of his favourite golf club and, in addition to this outrage, dare ask him to pay money for his resignation. He threatened to take several of the members to court for various reasons.
At that time the management team resigned and ran away to work with more sane clients. The members were exhausted by months of negotiation with someone who did not want to negotiate fairly and they decided  that the best to do was to cuss him and let him go.

This is the strategy of the British government with the EU.
I do not now if it is the talent of the current British political class or if it a specific genius of the British people but to try to answer this question, I suggest a test that everybody can perform. You buy a British product, for example a Dyson vacuum cleaner or a Roll-Royce Silver Shadow, and when you receive the bill : 1/ you do not pay 2/ after the supplier writes a very polite letter about it : you say that you would like to pay in three months and he accepts it, 3/ after three more months, you say “I offer you three more months delay” (note : it is very important to say “I offer…” and no “Please give me…”) and 4/ you keep doing that until the supplier gives you for free the Dyson or the RR.  Do you think it would work ? (Sept.2019)

Back to Brexit.

About the war in Iraq : it reminds me of the Algerian war in the 1950s and what was called the "Bataille d'Alger" : the French army won it but lost the war ; never humiliate people, especially Arabs who have a lot of pride. Unfortunately, the American war turned the way we had predicted it would : a total disaster and more hate against America. We too had our stupid war (and even more than one) and the Americans should have listened to their French friends... Regarding what the people of this region might think from bringing democracy and freedom through an invasion, I'd just like to quote Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 ("contrary to many armies in the world, the US did not come to conquer and occupy but to liberate"), British General F.S.Maude in Iraq in 1917 ("our armies do not come in your cities and in your countries as conquerors or ennemies but as liberators") or Napoleon in Egypt in 1798 ("we come to restore your rights and punish usurpers"). Three years after the beginning of this absurd invasion, we can evaluate the soundness of this policy. It is always useful to study history... And now, what about what was said about France and the French in 2003 (cowards, ungrateful, traitors,...) and all this good wine stupidly spilled down American gutters... I do not expect to read in the American press anything like "We should have listened to the (d... )French instead of insulting them..." but still, it would be kind of fair-play... An American reader wrote to the Internationa Herald Tribune (Feb.17, 2007) : "Now that the majority of the American people have spoken out against the war in Iraq and Congress has come to the same conclusion, isn't it about time someone has the courtesy to apologize to France and President Jacques Chirac ? We Americans were not supposed to eat French fries or drink Bordeaux, and we were told the French were traitors. Certainly someone in the government should come out and say we were mistaken". (2007)

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The British are tactful : they want to prevent the Europeans from being sad after they leave.

The citizens of the UK decided to leave Europe in June 2016. Whether a stroke of genius or a stupid mistake, it was a democratic decision and must be respected as such. When you resign from a club or from a partnership, when you divorce your spouse, you pay what you owe and you wipe out the past. For three years, the British government had to negotiate both with Europe and against its own parliament because British politicians and the British press had lied about the issues of the divorce with the EU. This is, literally, a historical crime, but the former partners of the UK do not have to pay for it : the perpetrators are (among others) politicians like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, the Murdoch press and the leaders of the Labour and Conservative parties. When the British government finally reached an agreement (after two and a half years), its Chamber refused to approve it (four times, if I remember well). Therefore, the UK had to ask for an extension of the deadline (from March 31, 2019 to October 31, 2019) which led to the ridiculous situation where you see the UK electing in June 73 members of the European Parliament who are supposed to leave it in November.
Do you want to know what these British members of the EU parliament did on July 1, 2019 the day of the inauguration of the newly elected chamber in Strasbourg ?

As all new members stood up to listen to the European anthem (Beethoven's 9th symphony), the British members stood up and turned their backs.

Classy, isn't it?


(July 2019) Read more about BREXIT.

About the so-called Islamic State ... Why did the French government decide to officially use the term "Daesh" when the terrorists in Syria and Iraq call themselves "Islamic State" (ISIS) ? In France, ihis is considered a very important wording issue : ISIS must not be treated as a "state". Why? First, because "the Islamic State" is not "a state" : it is not located in a specific country of its own by a specific people. It is a group of terrorists coming from Syria, Iraq and various countries all over the world whose purpose is to carve a country for themselves out of two existing ones, Syria and Iraq. Why is it dangerous to call it a state? Because, their objective is to reconstitute a caliphate in this country if they succeed. A caliphate is the concept by which a spiritual leader in a country becomes a spiritual AND political leader for all Muslim countries and therefore a geopolitical leader of a population of hundreds of million. This role has been played, since the days of Mohammed, by a succession of caliphs who dominated the Arab world and, for centuries attacked Europe and conquered and occupied a large part of it (Spain and the Balkans). The caliphate disappeared with the Ottoman Empire in 1924. Re-establishing it would give incredible power to people whose proclaimed aim is to destroy Western civilization and install an Islamic domination all over the world. This is not an exaggeration : it is literally what they declare every day. By calling them Islamic "State" we implicitly admit that they have succeeded in creating a state where they are free to re-establish the caliphate. US media and politicians should re-read history before they use the word. Wording is important (remember George W. Bush calling for a "crusade", which was a major political mistake that infuriated the Arab world). (Nov.2015).`

More about Islam in France.



















Good news for Europe : UK steps out! In the midst of the Euro crisis (Dec.2011), a very timid step toward a more efficient Euro zone coordinating the financial policy of the member states has been voted by 26 countries, the 27th one, the United KIngdom, which is not a member of the Euro zone, voting against it. This is good news. There is no doubt that, culturally, Britain is a European country : we share Shakespeare, Goethe, Molière, Cervantes and many others. There is no doubt either that politically and psychologically it is not. When the British refer to Europe, they do not refer to themselves, they mean what is in the other side of the Channel. The proportion of British citizens who think that UK should opt out has always been between two thirds and three quarters. OK, this is their choice. At the same time, the other European countries are painfully trying to build what will be, one day, a confederation. They started with a free trade zone (Marché Commun, 1958) : UK created a rival zone (European Free Trade Association, 1960). Then UK decided to be inside the EC and control it so it would be only to its benefit (remember Margaret Thatcher and "I want my money back"). For many European common projects, the British strategy is always the same : they refuse to participate in it at the beginning and step onboard only if it works and then they negotiate their contribution as low as possible. In the European institutions, the British quota is filled with competent civil servants. They certainly believe in the future of Europe but no doubt they serve the future of their country first. An example : Lady Ashton, the first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, certainly did not do anything that would hurt the British policy (in fact she did no do anything at all : this is why she was proposed by her government). Therefore, instead of being inside and making the life of the other countries even more complicated (they do not need that...), isn't it better to be nicely out ? Europe (as they call it) would have nice and friendly relations with the UK, as a close foreign partner, like the USA. I understand that trying to build a federation out of 27 countries is no fun (the UK was the best supporter of Turkey and pushed hard to increase the number of members, in order to weaken it : good shot!). We'll try to build a confederate Europe without the ambiguity of having one of us constantly pushing backward because its citizens do not want it. For me, it will be an improvement and it will not change my profound and sincere admiration of the UK and its people. No kidding! (December 2011).

Read about BREXIT.

To related pages : other editorial pages  France and the French (1), USA and Americans, Franco-American relations and France and the French (2), current events in France, to speeches by Philippe Rochefort, a Paris Diary, about the webmaster, my family website and its genealogy pages

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For more on intercultural differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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