Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Michel Barnier, European commissioner in charge of domestic markets, has reacted vehemently to European Commission president Manuel Barroso's declaration that the "cultural exception" to trade negotiations that France has won from its partners is "reactionary." Such public dissension in top EU ranks is rare. Although I rarely agree with Mr. Barroso, I do in this case. The cultural exception is one of those French eccentricities that baffle and exasperate even well-disposed foreigners. It is an "identitarian" anxiety that, altogether too explicably, plays well with the normally anti-identitarian Left because it is directed primarily against the great neoliberal Satan, the United States. It is also a convenient alibi for the Socialist government, a sop to be thrown to protectionist critics of its generally liberal approach to trade issues.