PARIS — A lot is being said and written about the "Molière clause," first introduced by Vincent You, an elected representative in the western French city of Angoulême, and which mandates the use of French language on construction sites. This is, first and foremost, a case of guaranteeing safety at dangerous sites. A large number of local authorities, regions, departments and cities, are voting in favor of this Molière clause. Hence the outrage from a certain number of representatives who see it as a concealed attempt to favor local employment or, to put it in cruder terms, to promote "national preference."
Since business owners are required to pay for an onsite interpreter for workers who don't speak French, we can easily imagine that it deters them from employing foreign workers. Unless, of course, you consider that it encourages the same workers to learn French ... Beyond the issue of safety, which is a real issue that shouldn't be overlooked, there are actually two driving ideas here: integration and a lasting, sustainable society.
A human being isn't a machine with arms that you can lug around from country to country as you would with a monkey wrench. A human being also has a culture and a language, a way of life and feelings which, although they are universally human, are rooted in culture.
It would be a happy globalization if we take that into account. Europe is a space of free trade and movement, but it doesn't mean that workers can be traded from one country to another like packing slips. Countries also trade culture. A person who settles away from home has to adapt to a new culture.
If he doesn't make an effort to learn the language, it's because he considers the host country to be nothing more than a hostel in which he's passing through. And this will be as disastrous for the said hostel, which will then become a passageway, open to the four winds, as it will be for the guest, who will then become a sort of zombie reduced to his technical abilities.
It would be natural, therefore, for us to demand of all foreigners who come to live in France that they speak French. This is what most countries are doing. And yet, we tremble when we see in our schools parents who don't show up to meetings with teachers because they're incapable of discussing their children's future in the language of Molière.
Guaranteeing safety at dangerous sites — Photo: Frédéric Bisson
That guests should adapt to the language of their newly-adopted home — and not just guests who work on construction sites — is a form of politeness as well as a necessity for the host country, and a pledge of unity for the guest himself, one that would make him belong in the host country. For he will have to adopt the basic traditions of the country he has chosen to live in, if he wants to live there decently — even if he has left part of his heart in his original home. Language is culture's architecture and the spirit of the place, so to speak.
Only an ideologue could still speak of discrimination in this case, as Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has done. Discrimination means a criminal differentiation. But to refuse France to someone who doesn't want to accept our art of living isn't discrimination, it's merely drawing the conclusions from his choice. Nobody would think of speaking of discrimination when we ban people who can't operate the machinery from construction sites.
Workers aren't robots. Their culture counts as much as the working force they represent, and that is the guarantee of a lasting society. It's madness to want to let workers run from one country to the next, wherever there's a job to be found, without learning the language and customs, without taking root anywhere, and all, without a doubt, to the great benefit of pure economics.
Europe is a space of free trade and movement, but it doesn't mean that workers can be traded from one country to another like packing slips.
Vincent You said that the "Molière clause" he invented "only shocks an out-of-touch elite." It is, indeed, the cosmopolitan elite who, used to going from country to country speaking different languages, thinks that each country should be turned into a sieve. In doing so, they show a poor knowledge of human demands. The cosmopolitan elite, made of big business people, politicians or academics, is useful and necessary to a country. They are the protectors of its openness to the world. But the most important thing for any society is to maintain itself over time.
Wandering capital can easily move from one company to the next, and even increases by doing so. Wandering workers need integration, and language is essential, in this respect.
It is a curious thing that we've come to understand the importance of sustainability so easily when it comes to nature, but that we still struggle to grasp it when it comes to humans. It is curious indeed that Europe's fundamental values are understood, at least by those who talk about it, as a permanent and unstoppable flow of capital and humans, without respect for anything besides frenzied change and profitability. It's not money that is essential, it's culture. That's what forms the spirit of a place.
Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.
MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.
These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."
In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."
The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.
Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.
NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.
"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.
The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."
Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."
The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.
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