Politicians and the media in France have been literally falling over themselves in response to an interview given by the immigration minister, Eric Besson, last weekend in which he said he wanted to launch a major discussion over "national values and identity".
To start from the beginning of November it will be, in the words of the minister, a debate to determine how best “to reaffirm the values of identity and the pride of being French.”
Not surprisingly perhaps reactions came thick and fast with the media quickly jumping on the story.
Radio and television stations asked audiences what they thought about the idea and newspaper websites invited comments.
Reactions from politicians ranged from support from members of the governing centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party to scepticism or outright condemnation from opposition parties.
Frédéric Lefebvre, the UMP spokesman welcomed the idea saying that it wasn't "the return of a debate on national identity that should be surprising, but the blurring of that identity."
The leader of the centre Mouvement démocrate (Democratic Movement MoDem) party, François Bayrou, though was more guarded, insisting that defining or determining "national identity is not for politicians."
"It's like history," he said. "It's not up to politicians to try to monopolise the subject."
For Vincent Peillon, a European parliamentarian for the Socialist party, the call for opening a debate on national identity was symptomatic of a certain "sickness" in France and would have an negative effect on how the country was viewed by others throughout the world.
"France has never talked about national identity," he said. "And it's dangerous to open the debate like this."
Benoît Hamon, the spokesman for the Socialist party, was harsher in his reaction accusing Besson of pandering to the far-right Front national (FN) ahead of next year's regional elections in making illegal immigration a central issue before the vote in March.
"Eric Besson is applying the ideas of the FN," he said.
"He's cynically carrying out parts of its (FN's) programme," he continued.
"It's all part of government policy of keeping illegal immigrants in a state of extreme hardship to dissuade them from coming. "
And from the FN itself came the call from Marine Le Pen for a "Grenelle on national identity" to be held, similar to the one there had been for the environment as her party had "a lot of things to say on the subject."
Maybe the most measured response though came from a member of the UMP itself, in the shape of the former prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé.
Writing on his blog, Juppé cited the discourse "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?" ("What is a Nation?") given by the French philosopher and historian, Ernest Renan, back in 1882.
"The definitions of the nation are numerous," writes Juppé. "It seems to me that the explanation given by Ernest Renan, remains unsurpassable," he continues before quoting from Renan's speech.
"In defining what the nation is, Renan said 'the essential element of a nation is that all of its individuals must have many things in common and they must also have forgotten many things,''" quotes Juppé.
"Renan also said a nation is 'a sense of solidarity, one that supposes a past but is summarised in the present by a tangible fact: the consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue living together,'" continues Juppé.
"Everything has been said," concludes Juppé.
"What's the point of starting the debate all over again?"
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