Vital Signs

A Fight for French Sovereignty

After years of running smoothly along its predetermined path, the drive toward a United States of Europe seems to have lost wind, especially in France, the place it more or less originated.  It looks as if another trend is gathering strength in the country; it points in exactly the opposite direction, as if it were a rejuvenated form of the infamous nationalism that plagued Europe throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.  Its promoters call themselves souverainistes, and the fight is on between supposedly modern Europhiles and supposedly archaic and backward nationalists, who claim that France must not dissolve into a more or less indiscriminate province of a supranational state but retain her status as a lead actor on the world stage.

All this is full of furia francese and bears a more or less Gaullist hue (Frenchmen should be proud to be French), but what does it truly mean?

Sovereignty has been a particularly popular political motto in France ever since the 18th century.  Apart from setting man on an equal footing with God, the claim that “the people” should be “sovereign” bore a definite hostility toward French monarchy.  Something had to be done about political sovereignty because it was claimed to be unjustly monopolized by the king: The demand for sovereignty meant a demand for democracy.  So why is democracy again threatened in France? ...

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