The Eiffel Tower, the tricolour flag – both are immediately identifiable with France. But answering the question of what symbolises Frenchness in a person is not so easy to determine. This increasingly multicultural country has launched a national debate to find an answer.
Speaking at the French National Assembly, head of the right-wing presidential UMP party, Jean-Francois Cope said: “The question is how we can reconcile people that live in different ways. Some of them live in cities, others in rural areas. Some people are young, others are old. There is the question of women versus men, especially on economic issues. And of course, last but not least, the question of the integration of immigrants who recently arrived. All those issues relate to the same question which is – what does it mean to be French today?” The debate is being spearheaded by the French Minister for Immigration and National Identity, Eric Besson. His department has launched a website for the public to give their opinions. But it is not known how people will respond. French researcher and author Regis Meyran said: “If the question comes up in France today, it might be linked to the economic crisis we are going through at the moment. When there is a dfficult patch or a time of crisis, questions on identity do come up.” So, on the streets of Paris, how best to check the Frenchness of the inhabitants. What kind of a test could be taken? Perhaps an attempt at singing the national anthem?