France Says EU Suffers Apathy, Fatigue

At ambassadors' meeting, French EU minister says Union members don't cooperate to get things done and Europe is failing as a political player

France's Europe minister has given a strongly pessimistic view of the state of the European Union suggesting it is suffering from "general fatigue." Speaking at the annual gathering of French ambassadors on Tuesday (29 August), Catherine Colonna said "the functioning of the union � and more generally the state of the union � appears worrying to me."

"It is not that there is a crisis, that is not the case, the European Union is rather suffering from a sort of illness of apathy, from general fatigue."

She went on to say that this does "not augur well for its future capacity to respond to the needs of its people."

"Nobody can understand why the Europeans are unable to help one another in an organised fashion in fighting forest fires or in coordinating the evacuations of their nationals from Lebanon," she pointed out.

Ms Colonna, who used to be president Jacques Chirac's spokesperson, suggested three reasons for Europe's current situation.

ENLARGEMENT AND GLOBALISATION. The first is the bloc's enlargement to take on countries from central and eastern Europe which has "profoundly changed�the nature of the European project."

She said that member states are happy to continue to pretend that the same European project is being pursued but just with more countries.

Ms Colonna also highlighted globalisation � being a "destabilising element for the classic European model" � as another reason and a change in what is expected from the EU as the third reason.

"There is practically no problem that arises that does not result in people turning towards Europe to see what it can do to resolve it," said the minister adding that the EU is not ready to respond.

"Can the European Union carry on at this pace for long? Can Europe even take crucial decisions any more," she asked before concluding:

"We need a more fundamental start, if we are to avoid the risk of the European Union collapsing."

Ms Colonna's warning comes just a day after president Chirac criticised Europe's foreign policy saying that it failed when it came to its response to Lebanon.

"The future of the European project is today predicated on Europe's ability to be a leading political player," the president told the same audience of ambassadors.

FRANCE'S ROLE IN THE EU. Their words also reflect a greater unease and lack of satisfaction with France's overall role in Europe.

A founding member of the EU, it has been perplexed by the addition of the economically liberal new member states making it have to fight to preserve the French social model.

It has also seen a decline in its overall influence as the EU expanded and a reduction in the use of the French language - which is strongly tied to the perception of the country's status.

French voters last year also rejected the European Constitution, with fears about jobs and job security - embodied in an EU law on opening up the services market - seen as a large contributing factor to the vote.

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