Europe's attention nowadays is rightly focused on enlargement and on the constitution that is currently being worked out between the EU's member states. But the outcome of several Gallic skirmishes with the European Commission will be no less important in determining the fate of the new and enlarged Europe.
France has unilaterally chosen to ignore the Stability and Growth Pact by running a predicted deficit well above the 3% of GDP limit. The French like to acclaim the rational rigour of their thinking, but where budgets are concerned, Descartes is out and obfuscation is in.
France was among the leading critics of Ireland, when, in 2000, the Irish government reduced its budget surplus, which then stood at 4% of GDP, by a mere 0.5%. Other countries have violated the Stability Pact, but France is the first to do it with smirking, open defiance.
None of this should surprise anyone. France is simply applying to EU rules its engrained habit of viewing its own culture as exceptional. For example, France consistently vetoes reforms of the EU Common Agricultural Policy. As even children know, the CAP is a handsome and totally undeserved present to wealthy European (especially French) farmers at the expense of the struggling farmers of developing countries and EU consumers.