6th September 2007
Nicolas Sarkozy: Holding his hands up to claims the French are 'arrogant'
It may come as no surprise to the rest of the world.
But the French were aghast last night after their own study found they were regarded as arrogant.
French statesmen could do with a dose of modesty rather than lecturing other nations on human rights, the report commissioned by president Nicolas Sarkozy said.
France takes pride in its cultural difference and public opinion has often rewarded leaders who assert its importance on the world stage, as Jacques Chirac did in publicly opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
According to the report, the French have no idea how the rest of the world views them.
"As surprising as it may seem, while our country is emerging from a long period of self-doubt and has under-estimated itself as a 'medium' power, it continues to be perceived as 'arrogant' in much of the world," wrote the report's author, former Socialist foreign minister Hubert Vedrine.
Some of that may have to do with its history and its urge to preach the values of the French Revolution, he said.
"Do we constantly have to say that France is the 'home of human rights?'" Vedrine added in his report, which dealt with how France should adapt its foreign policy to face globalisation.
"Historically, Britain and the United States could claim that title just as much," he said, adding: "More modesty would be more in line with reality and would not weaken our concrete efforts in favour of human rights."
Sarkozy, who has criticised Chirac for expressing his opposition to the Iraq war so strongly, pledged to improve ties with Washington which have suffered as a result of the clash.
American anger at France's stance was such that canteens renamed French fries "freedom fries" and the conservative media derided the French with labels such as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys".
"Between an excess of pretentiousness and an excess of self-underestimation, we have been thorough extremes that handicap us.
"It is time to find our balance," Vedrine declared.