- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2005

GENEVA — Resentment of France is growing in Eastern Europe where French policies are perceived to be anti-American and undermining the European Union’s cohesion.

Diplomats describe the mood as “Francophobia” and attribute it to various statements by French President Jacques Chirac and to the rejection by French voters of the proposed European constitution.

According to one assessment, “The vast majority of people in Eastern and Central Europe is highly critical of French diplomacy. They consider the United States to be the big winner of the Cold War and the most influential power in the world.”

“We tend to blame the French for everything — or almost everything,” said Jan Eichler of the Institute of International Relations in the Czech Republic.

According to Polish sources, suggestions have been posited in the former communist countries for a more balanced policy by the EU that would see the United States as a partner, not as a competitor. Some diplomats say French prestige and France’s role as one of the union’s dominant powers have suffered.

At the same time the decline of the use of the French language across the entire continent and particularly in EU institutions has caused concern in France.

“The French language is shrinking in Europe,” headlined the conservative Paris daily Le Figaro recently.

These developments come at a time when there are no clear suggestions as to how the EU should cope with the current situation, with the constitutional project frozen after the “no” votes in the referendums in France and the Netherlands.

According to former Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, “No major European institution has had the courage to analyze the present situation, nor to speak of strategy for the future.”

Mr. Eichler, in Prague, said: “The French rejection of the constitution has revived Francophobia whose historic and sociological roots have existed for a number of years. The heritage of Gaullism and of most French decisions of that period are often presented as treason, particularly the French withdrawal from NATO’s military structure.”

The decline in the use of the French language has been primarily because of Europe’s transformation into U.S. technology, which also has affected the status of French as the language of diplomacy.

According to French statistics, in 1986, before EU expansion, 58 percent of the documents issued by the European Commission were initially written in French. The figure dropped to barely 20 percent after the recent expansion to 25 members.

Among east and central Europeans active in EU institutions, 62 percent claim to speak English, 48 percent German and only 7 percent French.

Talks leading to the accession of former communist countries as well as Malta and Cyprus were carried out entirely in English.

Michel Herbillon, author of a recent report on the EU’s linguistic status, pointed out that the union’s recruitment announcements are only in English and that candidates applying for jobs must submit their requests in English.

“What will happen next?” he lamented.

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