Former French president Giscard d'Estaing was even Chairman of the Convention that prepared the draft treaty - a treaty which safeguards some of France's key concerns, including protection of the French language. (CER, 13 May 2005).
This "sense of crisis" had been brewing for a very long time now. There is a deep-rooted pessimism about the country's economic and political future. Unemployment is at an all-time high, faith in the government's ability to get a grip on its labour market problems, at an all-time low. Today, the French are disillusioned with mainstream politics, frustrated by unemployment and disenchanted by social issues such as integration (or lack of it!) of immigrants into French culture. These issues have resulted in a lack of identity and isolation of the French youth, problems that spiraled out of control in a spate of riots in the November of 2005.
Violence had erupted in France before, in the 80s as well as in Nov. 2004, and the November 2005 riots underlined the fact that the social and economic issues had degenerated and worsened over the past 20 years, gravely threatening France's formal commitment to "libert', 'galit', fraternit'". The riots were clearly symptomatic of a worse disease: that of the roles of race, religion and ethnicity in the fabric of French society, and the social and economic ostracism of immigrants. It also brought to the question France and its government's ability to tackle the problem of integrating immigrants into mainstream French society. (Cesari, 30 November 2005)
Commenting on the riots, Mr. Chirac conceded that the wave of violence highlighted racial discrimination - a "deep malaise" within French society, and said that nothing long-lasting could be built without fighting this "poison of racism." The far-right leader Jean-Marie le Pen criticised France's immigration policies, saying that France was "paying the bill" for its "mad and criminal immigration from the Third World". (BBC, 15 Nov. 2005)
No doubt the center of the unrest lies within France's suburbs with the perpetrators being mainly of North African origin. Despite France's efforts to assimilate immigrants into their society since the '60s and '70s, the Muslims part of Europe's fastest growing religion, have largely failed to integrate into European societies founded on secular principles.
The recession of the 1970s with its unemployment, the stigmatization of urban ghettos and increasing number of school dropouts, drug abuse, combined with union problems and political uncertainty, only serve to exacerbate the issue. The "integrationist" policy of the mid-80s started to show wear and tear when right-wing political leaders began to play on public perceptions that immigrants were responsible for increased crime. (Cesari, 30 November 2005)
With racism becoming a political issue, immigrants found themselves at the centre of a notion of national identity which excluded them, and the pressure on them to conform to French behavior and traditions increased, culminating in the 2003 action plan and policy that required the estimated the 100,000 legal