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Thursday, 28 April 2011

France's European minister Laurent Wauquiez's "17-member" Schengen howler

Once again it appears as though a French minister hasn't quite got a grasp of the essentials of the job.

This time around it's the minister for European affairs, Laurent Wauquiez - who clearly needs to brush up his knowledge on the portfolio for which he is responsible...Europe.

Laurent Wauquiez (screenshot from BFM TV interview)

When asked during a television interview how many countries belonged to Schengen, the 36-year-old managed to make a complete mess of his answer - and look a fool in the process.

Schengen is the treaty which "abolishes internal borders, enabling passport-free movement between a large number of European countries" and it has been in the news a lot recently

On Tuesday the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, jointly requested that it be revised to deal with what they see as an overwhelming number of North Africans (Tunisians) arriving in Europe.

Appearing on BFM TV's early morning show Bourdin Direct on Wednesday, Wauquiez was slipped a question by the journalist Christophe Jakubyszyn which was seemed almost aimed at tripping him up.

And Wauquiez duly obliged.

Laurent Wauquiez and Christophe Jakubyszyn (screenshot from BFM TV interview)

"You're the minister for European affairs," Jakubyszyn said to Wauquiez in that style French journalists seem to love so much, almost assuming their guest have forgotten what daytime job they held.

"How many countries are there in Schengen?"

"17," replied Wauquiez without a moment's hesitation

"22," was Jakubyszyn's immediate response.

"There are four that aren't members of the European Union but are part of Schengen; Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein."

All right so Wauquiez's mistake is perhaps understandable as it's easy to confuse the 27-strong EU with Schengen.

But not all members of the EU have signed up to Schengen.

And just to complicate matters a little more, as Jakubyszyn pointed out, not all Schengen signatories are EU members.

So perhaps Wauquiez could be forgiven - except that he IS minister for European affairs, and really should know these things.

There again perhaps Jakubyszyn's reply wasn't exactly clear either.

22 refers to the number of EU countries that are part of Schengen, with three other non-EU countries - Iceland, Norway and Switzerland - also fully fledged and Liechtenstein "sort-of-fully-fledged" to the area (this is Europe where NOTHING is ever as clear as it could be).

Take a look at the European Commission Home Affairs site and you'll discover just how many countries officially belong to Schengen.

Then go away and have a very stiff drink.

Wauquiez had the good manners to thank Jakubyszyn for correcting him once the interview had finished.


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Anonymous said...

what a buffoon

Anonymous said...

Maybe he can be forgiven for being so dim because is quite good-looking.

Anonymous said...

Fairly! This was a very fantastic article. Thanks for the furnished data.

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