Thursday, January 20, 2011

Every French schoolchild knows that Alsace is in France

You kind of expect political leaders to be astute enough not to make howling gaffes (with the exception of George Bush that is). However, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy seems to be giving George W. a run for his money.

In the Alsatian town of Truchtersheim, less than 20 miles from the German border, Mr Sarkozy said he could accepted unfair competition between China and India, but not between Germany and France.

"I'm not saying that simply because I'm in Germany," he said, before correcting himself to say: "I'm in Alsace."

The crowd immediately began jeering and then booing Mr Sarkozy, who appeared shocked by what he had said " putting his hands up in the air as if surrender.

Alsace, historically one of the most strategically crucial regions in France, was contested constantly between France and Germany during the 19th and 20th Century. It became part of Germany following the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 before being handed back to France at the end of the First World War as part of the Treaty of Versailles. You would think that Mr Sarkozy would know that.

It isn’t as if this is the first time that the French president has slipped up.

In April 2009, following the G20 summit, he reportedly told MPs that Barack Obama was "clever" and "charismatic" but was inexperienced.

He also claimed that Jose Zapatero was "not particularly intelligent", while adding that Angela Merkel had "no choice but to give in to my line."

During the height of the financial crisis, Mr Sarkozy reportedly told Gordon Brown: "You know, Gordon, I should not like you."You are Scottish, we have nothing in common and you are an economist. But somehow, Gordon, I love you... But not in a sexual way."

In November of the same year, he was accused of overstating his part in the fall of the Berlin Wall, after he claimed to have rushed with a pickaxe in hand the night it fell. Archives suggested he only showed up a week later.

Given how gaffe prone such an important politician has proved to be, I think we should maybe forgive some of the failings of our local representatives.

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