All the News of the World French opinion on the row between Chirac and Jospin over the status of regional dialects
Wednesday 30 June 1999
Lionel Jospin has now recognised that he has no responsibility in the demise and burial of the European Charter and that, furthermore, the president will only have two extremely inconvenient options to choose from - either he satisfies those to the Right, such as Charles Pasqua, who are railing against regional languages, or he displeases the defenders of these languages, such as Francois Bayrou. (And vice versa.) It is a dilemma which is the herald of others, according to whispers at Matignon.
SIGNING THE Charter after revising the Constitution would be like opening Pandora's box. It's only a small step from language to political particularism, and from particularism to autonomy. The recognition of a regional dialect as a language will inevitably lead to demands for autonomy. Its a vicious circle which will lead to rupture. Nobody feels hostile towards Corsican songs, Basque or Kabyle chants and Creole folksongs. But to accord these dialects exorbitant rights would be to engage in a process which sooner or later would give rise to demands for identity, violence, and ultimately the dislocation of the French identity.
THE QUESTION of regional languages doesn't simply create an open conflict between Jospin and Chirac, it also seriously puts to the test the coherence of the the principal cohabitation players' politics. On the one hand we have the PM who is solemnly asking the president to revise the Constitution. And on the other hand we have the president who affirmed the principles of the Charter three years ago. He declined Jospin's request, refusing "to implement an initiative which will attack the fundamental princi- ples of our Republic".
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