Victory for Chirac as he sends EU reforms back to the drawing board

Claiming victory for his vision of Europe protected from the excesses of free markets, the French president, Jacques Chirac, has exhorted France's voters to back the European constitution in a crucial referendum in May.

Claiming victory for his vision of Europe protected from the excesses of free markets, the French president, Jacques Chirac, has exhorted France's voters to back the European constitution in a crucial referendum in May.

At the end of a fractious two-day summit in Brussels, EU leaders handed the French president a political victory by agreeing to his demands to re-draft controversial, British-backed, plans to open up a big chunk of the European economy to competition.

With opinion polls predicting a "no" vote in the referendum, M. Chirac exploited his success with a bullish performance in which he outlined his vision of a Europe able to tame the worst excesses of globalisation.

He said that a planned European directive to liberalise the market in services would now have to go "back to the drawing board". And he promised voters that the new constitution "will seriously increase social requirements, social guarantees and reduce the risk of aggravating social problems".

He also warned that "if France blocks the further construction of Europe the consequences would be far-reaching". The president's comments followed a tense series of meetings in which M. Chirac portrayed himself as the defender of social protection and welfare standards. In private comments, reported by EU diplomats, he declared that "ultra-liberalism is the communism of our age".

That sentiment was echoed during a debate over dinner on Tuesday, when M. Chirac argued that the neo-liberal economic agenda would explode like Communism. At one point, when the discussion turned to the European "social model", Tony Blair asked pointedly: "What's that?"

As well as signalling a leftward drift in social and economic policy, yesterday's summit agreed environmental targets extending beyond the Kyoto protocol which runs until 2012. EU leaders said industrialised countries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 30 per cent by 2020 compared with emissions in 1990.

But, intended to relaunch a scheme to revitalise the European economy, the summit was dominated by economic issues and in particular the so-called services directive. The measure is designed to break down the barriers to trade in services - which accounts for 70 per cent of European jobs - and allow firms from one EU nation to offer services in another.

Britain supports the plan which, it argues, could create 600,000 jobs. But the proposed legislation is acutely unpopular in France where it has crystallised fears that east European firms could move into their markets, offering cut-price services by employing people under their own terms and conditions.

Though several EU leaders confirmed that the proposed directive will be redrafted, there was no detail on the extent to which it will be watered down.

M. Chirac said he had resisted efforts by some countries to make a pledge to maintain the "country of origin" principle. That ensures that, for short-term employment, foreign companies can operate under their own national laws across the EU. "We won't accept this reference," he said. The summit accepted that the directive as currently drafted did not meet with the requirements of the European social model.

While Mr Blair left Brussels without speaking publicly, M. Chirac outlined his economic vision at a press conference. He argued: "Globalisation is an evolution. It can be seen as positive if it was really controlled, managed and humanised, which up to now is not the case."

He said: "We can't continue to have a system where money is concentrated among the rich and population is concentrated among the poor. It will explode.''

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice