LETTER:How to change French policy

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The Independent Online
From Mr John Holborow

Sir: As a regular visitor to the South Pacific, I have followed your reports on Greenpeace's campaign in French Polynesia with considerable interest. While I agree with Andrew Marr's point ("Green power in the world's saloon bar", 11 July) that boycotts can do little, directly, to alter a nation's policies, there is surely still something to be gained by a clear expression of disapproval.

In my travels in Fiji, the Marshall Islands (no strangers to nuclear testing) and Tahiti, I have repeatedly been impressed by the level of contempt normally friendly Polynesians and Micronesians reserve for the French. In Tuvalu, a tiny, beautiful group of islands close to the equator, my girlfriend was accosted by a man incensed by the "Ellesse" T-shirt she was wearing. Although this is an Italian label, the name was enough to set him off on a furious anti-French tirade.

It was only after we had showed him our passports that he returned to a typically "Pacific" demeanour. The few French travellers I encountered in the Pacific seemed unable to understand this adverse attention. Perhaps, if more French people saw how much their nation's nuclear policy disgusted people, across the world, they would start to see the link between their apathy and their country's continued obsession with an outdated and pointless show of strength. The French government can only pursue this policy because so few French people voice any concern about what happens outside France.

Boycotts may not be the way to alter the French government's position, but a massive show of disapproval from the French population would achieve something. The question is whether there are enough informed French people who care enough to make their feelings felt, and at the moment the answer is obviously "no".

Perhaps if they encountered universal hostility across Europe, and a sharp decline in the number of visitors to their tourist centres, this threshold could be crossed. At the moment the French appear to be indifferent to their government's terrorist campaign. Soon they may find themselves on the receiving end of terrorism - the patience of the islanders is wearing thin.


John Holborow

London, SW2

11 July

9 July