European MPs' protest against Chirac

Issue 

European MPs' protest against Chirac

By Frances Kelly

LONDON — When French President Jacques Chirac spoke in the European parliament on July 11, he was shouted down by MPs in protest at France's resumption of nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

The member for Kent West, Peter Skinner, was one of those who took part in the protest. He told Green Left Weekly, "There were 400-500 MEPs in the chamber when Jacques Chirac strolled in, and of those at least 200 were protesting. The protest came from both sides of the house — socialists, conservatives and greens and some French MEPS. They were from across Europe. Of the 67 UK MEPs, 85-90% took part.

"We listened to him, but as he came in there was a barrage of protest. Most of us were prompted by the arrogance of Chirac. The main thing was the real disappointment at the sense of nationalism coming from him and others. There were protest posters behind me with some French MEPS, which were ripped down by the French nationalists there."

Skinner said Chirac gave the impression of "arrogance and mischief. He felt very comfortable in showing his dominance. He did not listen to us... He came here to have his own platform. If we are going to act as a European community, we act in unison. Acting in independence on these issues makes a nonsense of being in a community. It has been a snub to the rest of Europe."

"If they are doing this, are they going to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty next year?", Skinner asked. "I am dismayed, disappointed and absolutely gob-smacked. It happened so soon after he got elected. Is he in the hands of the generals? I think Chirac is pandering to his own audience.

"There is no excuse in the current world climate for 'live' nuclear testing. Not only is this an environmental crime; it is also an abuse of the human rights of people living in the South Pacific.

"Ten years ago French state-sponsored terrorism was responsible for the death of a campaigner aboard the first Rainbow Warrior. Since then the two secret service people responsible have been released from jail and even decorated and promoted. It seems the French have learned nothing."