France, Enemy of Europe?

France under President Jacques Chirac is quickly becoming united Europe's biggest nightmare.

It is bad enough Mr. Chirac is splitting Europe with the promotion of his so-called "multi-polar" foreign policy. Now France's blatant flaunting of the EU's Stability Pact, which caps deficit spending at 3% of GDP, is speeding Europe to an important crossroads that threatens to undermine both European monetary union and the euro itself.

The EU's smaller countries, in particular, are furious with France over its stubborn refusal to play by the EU's deficit spending rules. They see French defiance as more than just a narrow issue over fiscal numbers.

"It concerns whether the big countries are willing to sacrifice any measure of national sovereignty for the European good," said one influential ECB official. "The Germans at least are trying to rein in their deficits," the official went on. "But the French simply do not care."