French President Jacques Chirac led a French walkout from the opening session of the EU's annual spring summit on Thursday night when a fellow Frenchman committed the grave offence of speaking English.
Highlighting France's acute sensitivity towards the decline of the language which once dominated the EU, Chirac led three senior ministers out of the talks when Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, the French head of the European employers' group Unice, abandoned his mother tongue on the ground that English is "the language of business."
Chirac picked up his papers and left, with Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Finance Minister Thierry Breton in tow. Gallic pride was soon restored when Jean-Claude Trichet, the French head of the European Central Bank, addressed the meeting in his mother tongue -- and Chirac led his ministers back.
The walkout set the scene for what was expected to be an inconclusive summit ending at lunchtime yesterday.
France and Germany are at loggerheads over the economic future of Europe after German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized French attempts to limit foreign investment. In the most serious Franco-German disagreement since her election as chancellor in November, Merkel dismissed a French initiative to promote "economic patriotism."
"We can only have an internal market when electricity flows freely and when we accept European champions and not just think nationally," the German chancellor said as she arrived at the summit in Brussels on Thursday.
Merkel, who has made it clear that she wants to open up the Franco-German alliance after the closed years of Chirac and the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, was aiming at the French on two fronts.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has pledged to champion "economic patriotism" by naming 11 French business sectors which should be shielded from foreign bidders.
The US and the Philippines plan to announce new sites as soon as possible for an expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which gives the Western power access to military bases in the Southeast Asian country. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr last month granted the US access to four military bases, on top of five existing locations under the 2014 EDCA, amid China’s increasing assertiveness regarding the South China Sea and Taiwan. Speaking at the Basa Air Base in Manila, one of the existing EDCA sites, US Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the defense agreements between the two countries
‘DUAL PURPOSE’: Upgrading the port is essential for the Solomon Islands’ economy and might not be military focused, but ‘it is not about bases, it is about access,’ an analyst said The Solomon Islands has awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara in a project funded by the Asian Development Bank, a Solomon Islands official said yesterday. China Civil Engineering Construction Co (CCECC) was the only company to submit a bid in the competitive tender, Solomon Islands Ministry of Infrastructure Development official Mike Qaqara said. “This will be upgrading the old international port in Honiara and two domestic wharves in the provinces,” Qaqara said. Responding to concerns that the port could be deepened for Chinese naval access, he said there would be “no expansion.” The Solomon
CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS: The US destroyer’s routine operations in the South China Sea would have ‘serious consequences,’ the defense ministry said China yesterday threatened “serious consequences” after the US Navy sailed a destroyer around the disputed Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) in the South China Sea for the second day in a row, in a move Beijing claimed was a breach of its sovereignty and security. The warning came amid growing tensions between China and the US in the region, as Washington pushes back at Beijing’s growingly assertive posture in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway it claims virtually in its entirety. On Thursday, after the US sailed the USS Milius guided-missile destroyer near the Paracel Islands, China said its navy and
Seven stories above a shop floor hawking cheap perfume and nylon underwear, Thailand’s “shopping mall gorilla” sits alone in a cage — her home for 30 years despite a reignited row over her captivity. Activists around the world have long campaigned for the primate to be moved from Pata Zoo, on top of a Bangkok mall, with singer Cher and actor Gillian Anderson adding their voices in 2020. However, the family who owns Bua Noi — whose name translates as “little lotus” — have resisted public and government pressure to relinquish the critically endangered animal. The gorilla has lived at Pata for more