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EURO

French send mixed messages on euro

Conflicting messages are emerging about French acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty, 20 years after the accord created the euro, a single currency now used by 23 European countries.

In 2002, voters in France decided by a 51 to 49 percent margin to accept the treaty.

But an Ifop poll conducted for Le Figaro says if the same vote were held today by people who cast ballots the first time round, the agreement would be rejected.

The poll shows 64 percent of people eligible to vote in 2002 (born before 1974) would say no to the treaty.

An even higher share, 67 percent, believe the European Union is going “more in the wrong direction” since the treaty was ratified.
      
The euro is targeted as a contributor to the malaise, according to Ifop’s findings.

“The single currency is a very poor recruiting agent for Europe, especially among the working classes,” Ifop’s opinion department director Jerome Fourquet told Le Figaro.fr.

The poll found 45 percent of those surveyed thought the euro was a handicap in the face of the economic crisis.

The results clashed with another survey that suggested that the French are more receptive to the euro than their neighbours in Germany.

AFP reported a poll on Monday indicating that that nearly two thirds of Germans think they would be better off if they had not swapped the deutschmark for the euro.
 
Some 65 percent of Germans thought their personal situation would be better if they still had the mighty deutschmark, compared to 36 percent of French who
miss the franc, according to the survey by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation.
 
The Germans are also less attached to the European Union, suggested the poll, which was conducted July 3rd to 8th in both countries.
 
Some 49 percent of those Germans questioned said they would be personally better off if the EU did not exist, compared to 34 percent of French who said
they would be better, or much better off without the EU.
 
The poll, also carried out in Poland, showed only 28 percent of Poles believed they would be better without the EU.
 
Nevertheless, despite their apparent scepticism about the euro on a personal level, 69 percent of Germans said they believed the EU was a model
for the rest of the world, compared to 56 percent of French and 59 percent of Poles.

The Bertelsmann survey was conducted by telephone among 1,001 people in Germany, 1,004 in France and 1,000 in Poland.

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EUROPEAN UNION

How Britain tried to turn former French president Chirac against the euro

British diplomats tried to establish a "very private link" with former French president Jacques Chirac with the "unavowed aim" of exposing him to the risks of a European currency union, declassified documents revealed Thursday.

How Britain tried to turn former French president Chirac against the euro
French President Jacques Chirac (L) welcomes British Prime Minister John Major at the Elysee Palace 29 July 1995 in Paris. Photo: AFP
The government files from 1995 document Britain's plan to influence the French president's decision on whether to proceed with the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the group of policies that led to the formation of the euro.
   
“Chirac is alive to the risks of ploughing ahead with the EMU without thinking through the implications,” then British ambassador in Paris Christopher Mallaby wrote to the prime minister at the time, John Major, in a cable outlining his plan to “move the debate in our direction”.
   
He suggested “establishing a very private link” between Downing Street and Chirac's Elysee palace. 
   
“The pretext could be private discussions” about currency union, he wrote.
 
Photo: AFP
 
“The unavowed aim would be to ensure that Chirac was exposed to the risks of an early move to EMU, including the divisive political effect within the EU,” he added.
   
Britain never joined the currency union, having infamously been forced to withdraw the pound from a precursor on “Black Wednesday” in 1992 when it could 
not keep sterling above an agreed level, and was keen to stall the move towards a full union.
   
Mallaby targeted Chirac as a potential ally, saying his “thinking is unformed and influenceable.”
   
The documents also revealed Chirac's scepticism about European integration.
   
“He said bluntly that Europe was no longer very popular,” a foreign office cable quoted him as saying at a 1995 heads of government meeting.
   
The president added that the “EU seemed to be cut off from the real problems affecting the ordinary citizen… and people saw it as a mammoth bureaucracy poking its nose in where it was not needed,” added the memo.
   
Prime Minister Major replied that “he had been waiting five years to hear someone else say things like this!”, according to the cables.
   
Major is now a fierce opponent of Brexit, having been fatally damaged in office by internal divisions over his decision to sign Britain up to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.
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