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France's London embassy hits back at 'French-bashing'

© Lars Born via Flikr

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-01-14

Fed up with French-Bashing in the UK media, France's embassy in London has published a fierce rebuttal of a British newspaper’s allegation that “France’s failed socialist experiment is turning into a tragedy”.

The strongly-worded article on the embassy’s website – in unusually undiplomatic language – slammed ten points on which it said London business daily City AM had “got it wrong on France”, while vaunting French public services and attitudes to business.

City AM editor Allister Heath wrote on January 7: “France’s economic sickness is primarily due to its overbearing state, horrendously high tax levels, insane regulations, absurd levels of inefficient public spending and generalised hatred of commerce, capitalism, success and hard work.”

“Companies should not bother opening offices in France,” he added. “There are plenty of better places for them to allocate their cash in today’s global economy.”

The embassy opened by slamming CITY AM's assertion that the French economy was “shrinking at an accelerated rate” as plain wrong – quoting the European Commission’s growth forecast for France which stands at 0.2% for 2013 and 0.9% for 2014.

French health system vs. British NHS

And using the two countries’ health services as an example to rebut City AM’s claim of “absurd levels of inefficient public spending” in France, the embassy hit back calling Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) an “ailing institution” which had suffered “years of under-investment”.

“The French system, by comparison, which is also almost entirely free of charge, came top of 191 countries in the World Health Organization’s rankings for overall healthcare,” the embassy wrote.

“France also provides twice as many hospital beds per citizen as the UK. Similar success exists in infrastructure, from high-speed rail to energy.”

As for France’s “generalised hatred of commerce, capitalism, success and hard work”, the embassy wrote that if France genuinely shunned capitalism, “Xavier Niel, the French telecoms billionaire and media tycoon – to cite just one example – might never have had a chance to accumulate a fortune that exceeds Richard Branson’s”.

“This ultimate self-made man is now the sixth richest in France,” it added. “Success is clearly not a foreign concept to France.”

‘Hard work indeed’

The embassy added that France’s supposed aversion to “hard work” was vastly over-exaggerated – and that French workers were in fact more productive than their British counterparts.

“A very simple data search reveals that France’s labour productivity stands at a healthy 45.4 euros per hour worked,” the piece continued (quoting Eurostat, which gives puts UK’s labour productivity at 39.4 euros per hour).

“Furthermore, the OECD reports that the average usual number of hours per week worked in France stood at 38 hours for 2011, compared to 36.4 in the UK and 35.5 in Germany. Hard work indeed!”

The embassy’s fierce rebuttal of what many in France see as pernicious “France-bashing” in what the French refer to as the "Anglo-Saxon" press follows a January 3 Newsweek article by Paris-based American journalist Janine di Giovani, entitled "The Fall of France".

The story was vastly criticised for its clichés and factual errors – including the claim that the French pay $4 for a half-litre of milk - and caused a storm of outrage on social media networks (Di Giovani took her Twitter account @janinedigi offline soon after her story was published).

French daily Le Monde wrote a similar point-by-point piece to the French Embassy's response – titled “The Fall of Newsweek: French Bashing Gone Wrong” – unpicking Di Giovani's portrayal of an over-taxed nation from which talented youth was fleeing.

Date created : 2014-01-14


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