France

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Joined: EU 1958 Eurozone 1999 Schengen 1995 The original idea for what would become the European Union came from the fore gin minister of France Robert Schuman with the idea to unite France and Germany economically to prevent the attempts to conquer the continent in war as had happened under Napoleonís France, Kaiser Willem IIís Germany, and Adolf Hitlerís Germany. France became one of the founder members of the European Coal and Steel Community along with Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Those founding nations consider themselves the inner circle, although there are Eurosceptic movements in most of them. The primary opposition to the European Union derives from the Front National led by Marine Le Pen. Its primary focus is anti-immigrant, but also looks to issues of sovereignty. The original French vision was about creating peace between France and Germany, which explains the rhetoric about the European Union bringing decades of peace, despite some very brutal wars occurring during this time. It is likely, however, that the French interest went further than peace and was not as altruistic as the official history relates. Germany was on its knees after World War Two and half the country was removed in the Soviet inspired creation of East Germany. That left France with a window of opportunity before Germanyís size meant that they rose to dominance again. This French pursuit of conquest through economic union can be seen in French president Charles De Gaulle vetoing British membership of the European Communities in both 1963 and 1967. Officially De Gaulle opposed the United Kingdom because of their perceived subservience to the United States, but it is more likely that he was following a 20th century version of Napoleonís continental policy: Britain can rule the waves while France rules continental Europe. After the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community in 1973 there was further friction between them and their old enemies in England (Scotland and France have a long tradition of being allies). This often focused on the powerful French farming lobby acting against United Kingdom food imports, most notoriously in maintaining an illegal six year ban on British beef (1996-2002). At the beginning of David Cameronís time as prime minister relations improved as he and French president Nicolas Sarkozy launched the ill-fated air assault on Libya that led to the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi and the present refugee crisis as Libyans flee the chaos of their failed state.

© Mercia McMahon. All rights reserved

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