From the Constitution to the Lisbon Treaty
Edited by Maurizio Carbone
3. France: from rejection to return? Helen Drake and Christian Lequesne INTRODUCTION The French trod an unexpectedly rocky path towards ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in February 2008. In this chapter, we chart the course of a journey which began on 29 May 2005, when the French electorate rejected a constitutional treaty that had reflected important French interests, and which its political class had largely supported. The process stalled for much of the next two years as the Chirac presidency saw out its final months in considerable domestic political turmoil. The election of President Nicolas Sarkozy on 6 May 2007 inevitably reset French sights, as signalled by the new president on the very night of his victory, when he proclaimed that ‘this evening, France is back in Europe’.1 Indeed, within less than a year the Lisbon Treaty had had been conclusively ratified by the French parliament. Along the way, President Sarkozy had lost no opportunity to portray France and, by implication himself, as the initiator, architect and sponsor of the new Treaty. He had also pointed to magnanimous and constructive cooperation on the part of his diplomatic team with the 2007 German and Portuguese EU Presidencies on the one hand, and the European Commission on the other; and he had painted the French role in the process overall as proof that France was once more taking up its (rightful) leadership role in Europe. This was a discourse implicitly critical of his predecessor’s European policy, particularly as conducted during the wilderness...
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