Sunday, June 19, 2005


Eleven miles south of Brussels people have been re-enacting the Battle of Waterloo this weekend.

As the last puffs of gun smoke rose from the battlefield in 1815 Napoleon had not only finally been defeated by the alliance of British, Prussian, Dutch and Belgian troops under the command of the Duke of Wellington and General Leberecht von Blucher but his dreams of turning Europe into a French empire lay in ruins.

Back in Brussels nearly two hundred years later French President Jacques Chirac, whose own dream of a united Europe dominated by France (with a little help from Germany), was smashed by his own people’s resounding ‘No’ to the constitution, has also been fighting a battle of long ago.

In shock and denial about his own massive referendum defeat, he has started re-enacting a battle over twenty years old about Britain’s £3 billion rebate as a net contributor to European Union funds while refusing to discuss the CAP which benefits small French farmers more than any other farmers in Europe. It is as if by ignoring the problem he hopes it will go away.

This is classic displacement activity. Just as the Queen decided her most important task was to feed the corgis when she didn’t want to think about the crisis over the breakup of Prince Charles’s marriage to Princess Diana, poor old Jacques is doing something else rather than face the reality of his situation.

In calling Britain ‘pathetic’ and ‘tragic’ he is also displaying another symptom of psychological disturbance – projecting his own faults and failings on to someone else.

After Waterloo Napoleon was finally exiled to the lonely South Atlantic island of St Helena where he had no chance of escape.

Alas, today there is no safe remote island left where Jacques can be safely exiled with no chance of escape and space travel is not well enough developed to banish him to Mars.

Alas too, for at least another two years Europe is stuck with him as well as France, where his Presidency has been a disaster which has turned the country into such an old-fashioned, stagnant place that Britons buy second homes there because it reminds them of how life was in the UK in the 1950s.

The worst thing is that his performance in Brussels was neither a one-off nor the end of Jacques fighting yesterday’s battle and refusing to move on. Until 2007 and particularly in the six next months when his bete noir, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is President of the EU, he will dedicate the rest of his political life to fighting yesterday’s battle.
Perhaps the best and safest place for him when he is finally forced out of office would be a rundown chateau, far from any Britons with holiday homes but close to the farmers he will have fought to the end to defend. Over the mantelpiece in his salon he could have a portrait of Napoleon, who declared ‘the British are the most powerful and constant of my enemies.’
With tears at the corners of his eyes, he might raise a glass of cognac and murmur ‘Et moi aussi, Boney.’
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2005 All Rights Reserved