EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has responded to French accusations that he is fuelling the rise of far-right parties by saying French politicians are making a "scapegoat" of the EU to distract from their own economic difficulties.
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday hit back at accusations by a French government minister that he was fuelling the rise of far-right parties, saying France was using the EU as a “scapegoat” for its own economic woes.
Barroso’s comments come amid a bitter war of words between Paris and the EU over France's insistence that subsidies for the audio-visual industry be protected in forthcoming free trade talks with the United States.
France’s Socialist government believes that if it is forced to stop subsidising cultural projects, these thriving industries will be unable to compete against Hollywood’s dominance.
France successfully managed to lobby other EU member states to support what it calls the “cultural exception”, and a deal was reached before negotiations were launched at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on June 16.
‘Reactionary’ jibe offends the French
Barroso, openly supportive of US calls for all industries to be included in negotiations, was quick to express his irritation, saying that EU members’ insistence on keeping cultural subsidies off the table was “reactionary”.
This went down badly in France, where the term “reactionary” is considered particularly insulting, bringing to mind backward pre-revolutionary political attitudes.
Leading French daily "Le Monde" went as far as accusing Barroso of cosying up to the Americans because he is angling for a top job at the UN or NATO when his European mandate expires in 2014.
And on Sunday, outspoken French Industrial Development Minister Arnaud Montebourg said Barroso's attitude was fuelling the rise of far-right anti-Europe parties such as France's National Front by ignoring the concerns of ordinary Europeans and individual member states.
“The European Union is paralysed," he told France Inter radio. "It does not respond to people’s aspirations in the industrial, economic or budgetary fields, and in the end it provides a cause to all the anti-European parties. Mr. Barroso is the fuel of the National Front, that’s the truth.”
On Monday, Barroso hit back. “It would be good if some politicians understood that they will not get very far by attacking Europe and trying to turn it into a scapegoat for their problems,” he said.
Need for growth and investment
In the buildup to the free trade talks, Barroso openly sided with the United States, which wants all options to be considered ahead of a deal that could eliminate trade tariffs and harmonise regulations across a broad range of industries.
A successful free trade agreement, all parties hope, would give a considerable boost to transatlantic trade and investment at a time when growth is badly needed and when unemployment is rising.
But EU officials fear that excluding one industry from the talks might spark similar demands from the US to protect other industries, such as the financial sector, watering down any final agreement.
Date created : 2013-06-24