1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 5

Self-Inflicted Defeat



AS France ever before inflicted such a blow on herself?' said M. Paul Reynaud out of sixty years' political experience on Tuesday evening when the European Community broke in two in consequence of France's 'no' to Great Britain. Where now was the instrument of Presi- dent de Gaulle's foreign policy? What price the Franco-German treaty of co-operation exactly a week old? Graver still, where was the credit justly due to France for initiating and creating the European Community, the work of two great Frenchmen, M. Jean Monnet and M. Robert Schuman? The sense of a disaster to France was inescapable to anyone listening to the news that .night in spite of some feeble attempts to patch it up. President de -Gaulle's sense of history. reaching far into the past and far into the future, had been praised by Dr. Adenauer when he arrived in Paris. Alas, he had tripped up over his „contemporaries whom he easily despises.

That something was going wrong he had cer- tainly perceived shortly after his press con.-

_ Ierence. His unwarned Ministers had been taken by surprise by the rigidity of his approach. He himself was surprised by everyone's reaction. Odd as it may seem to us he appears to haVe really supposed that with his tributes to the British past and his analysis of our difficulties in becoming European he was tactfully leading up t0 his helpful suggestion of 'association.' f's he still wondering what meteorological freak has brought this catastrophic storm across the neatly- charted course of the French Republic? His miscalculation about Britain is deeply rooted in a conviction that she has become in- volved in a steep decline of national morale. This was indirectly indicated in his press conference by his reference to the difficulty for any nation of recovering the disposition of her own destiny once she had allowed it to escape from her bands. Like many Frenchmen he was startled by the speed with which Britain came to heel when Washington whistled during the Suez crisis —a reaction shared by men who were not in favour of that Franco-British escapade. This view was certainly confirmed in the President's mind by his interpretation of the Nassau agree- Ment. It is implicit in his suggestion that we would return to knock on the European door in a few months or years, this time unconditionally. BY then we would have perceived how we had


,_ There is another radical misjudgment, easy in his case to understand. The European Com- munity was the fruit of the multi-party State in rich no party can completely identify itself with State because an absolute majority for any One of them is rare and usually short-lived. M. Jean Monnet had brilliantly perceived this oppor- tunity in organising his 'United States of Europe Action Committee,' In each of the six countries he sought the co-operation of Christian Demo- crat, bourgeois liberal and Socialist, accepting nothing less than the leaders of these parties as their representatives. He also sought the co- operation of the leaders of the Socialist and Catholic trade unions. They met and negotiated on each succeeding step towards a European Community parallel to or in advance of the governments which largely depended on them. The parties were in all six States legitimate sources of policy. The degree to which the parties were failing within the national States to master problems was an incitement to seek a supra- national solution. The one essential condition of success was that the multiple-party State should not catastrophically break down as it did in France in 1958 owing to its inability to deal with Algeria. From the moment that General de Gaulle returned to power France was a State different in kind from the other five. The French parties were no longer the source of policy.'There was no doubt an analogy—but it has turned out to be a misleading one—between the situation in France and in Germany. Henceforth only the French opposition parties could any longer play a part in the United States of Europe Action Committee. It was perhaps symptomatic of the new situation that a distinguished French mem- ber of the Community Commission should have stood (vainly) for parliament as an opposition candidate at the last election. At all events on the French side that blurring of frontiers on which the Community spirit depended became pro- gressively more difficult as did also the pos- sibility of mutual comprehension.

Here was the rub. President de Gaulle evi- dently thought that the interlocking machinery on the State level, recently reinforced by the Franco-German treaty, would be decisive in bringing the other five into line. To a doubt- troubled deputy he replied at an Elys6e recep- tion: 'But there are the treaties; let us be serious.'

This aspect of the problem raises another question, now perhaps for ever theoretic: how would Britain with her two-party system have fitted into the Community?