A reader writes to suggest that Chirac’s comments about the East Europeans might have been deliberately designed to provoke anti-EU sentiment in those countries, with the result that their electorates would be less likely to agree to join the Union.
Why would Chirac want to do that? Well, having only just regained their sovereignty, many of those Eastern European countries are likely to prove somewhat unwilling to give it up again in favor of an ever more federal EU, particularly one dominated by France and Germany. This might make them rather awkward members of the EU’s club, the sort of members that would vote against further encroachments by Brussels, the sort of members, in fact, that Chirac would prefer to do without. He, of course, couldn’t admit to such feelings outright, so how convenient if, at the last minute, a number of those countries chose not to join the EU after all.
It’s an ingenious theory, but it’s a little reminiscent of the story told, I think, about our old friend Talleyrand. On hearing that some well-known diplomat had died, the ever-suspicious Talleyrand was said to have asked, “yes, but what did he mean by that”?
Best explanation for Chirac’s speech? He lost his temper.