Outraged by English, Chirac Storms out of Summit
Castle, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)
Under mounting political pressure at home, the French President, Jacques Chirac, yesterday stormed out of an EU summit in a fit of pique over a fellow Frenchman's decision to speak in English.
Already at the heart of a row over economic protectionism in Europe, M. Chirac gave the EU's spring summit a combustible start, quitting the opening session in protest at a perceived insult to the French language.
M. Chirac walked out of the meeting as it was being addressed by Ernest-An-toine Seillire, the president of the EU employers' federation, Unice. M. Seilire had been invited to address all 25 heads of government on economic reform.
After a brief introduction in French, M. Seillire said he would speak in English because it was the international business language. Without saying a word, the French President left with the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy and finance minister, Thierry Breton. He only returned when the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, began speaking in French. Tony Blair and other heads of government remained to hear M. Seillire urge EU leaders to resist national protectionism to avoid a negative domino effect on the single market. …