Just Above Sunset
May 22, 2005 - France at the Crossroads

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The photographer, Don Smith, of the weekly photo magazine Left Bank Lens from Paris dramatically illustrates the story of the May 29 referendum in France.  Should they ratify the European Union's first constitution?  Yes or no.


The vote was discussed in the pages over a month ago in a column from Ric Erickson, usually referred to as Our Man in Paris. 


For the latest you might check out this from the Associated Press.  Polls show a statistical dead.  Are the French obsessed with defending their place on the world stage – will French sovereignty be taken away - will workers' rights and jobs will be lost?  Fear!


But, the AP reports, supporters, led by President Jacques Chirac, say France will be reduced to a bit player unless it part of a strong, united Europe. Europeans either stick together or drown alone in a world dominated by the United States and the prospective powers of the 21st century - China and India.  Or so the argument goes.


It’s hot –


Proponents say rejecting the constitution would leave the field open for American hegemony and unbridled capitalism - as opposed to the more social and regulated economic model dear to many French. France would be isolated and the whole process of closer European integration would grind to a halt, they suggest.


''What is the interest of Anglo-Saxon countries and, with strong reason, of the United States? Naturally that we stop this European construction that likely will lead tomorrow to a Europe that will be clearly much stronger,'' Chirac said in a televised debate.


Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front argues the constitution aims to create a European super-state in which France would be lost.  And it seems he’s taking a lot, again, about Joan of Arc - as a symbol of French resistance.  ''We can't count on Europe,'' he said. ''We must rediscover our capacity for independence.''


The ''no'' camp even has built up a bogeyman, the ''Polish Plumber,'' to symbolize fears the treaty will enable cheap laborers - plumbers from Poland, construction workers from Portugal - to flock to France, putting hundreds of thousands out of work.




And what Don sees on the streets of Paris:

Actual size,,,

Actual size...


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....