9th Aug 2022

Chirac walks out of EU summit in language protest

President Jacques Chirac marched out of a gathering of EU leaders on Thursday to register protest at the use of the English language by a French industrialist.

The president made the symbolic gesture when the French expert switched to English which he referred to as "the language of business".

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His walk-out, along with two French ministers, came at an already tense meeting with EU leaders gathered to discuss Europe’s flagging economy.

Ernest-Antoine Seillière, head of the Unice employers organisation, reportedly called on the leaders in English to "resist national protectionism in order to avoid a negative domino effect".

Mr Seillière’s speech was part of a series by experts from trade unions and employers groups urging the politicians to deliver on their pledge to boost Europe's growth and jobs.

The French protest came even as Paris has been on the receiving end of a bout of criticism over its protectionist moves and "economic nationalism".

The criticism came particularly because of a French move to merge its national gas giants Suez and Gaz De France in a bid to head off a take over of Suez by Italian company Enel.

Mr Chirac has rebuffed allegations about France's protectionism arguing earlier this month that his country is "one of the freest" in Europe.

The French president returned after the Unice head finished his speech.

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