The announcement that he will be stepping down as French President by Jacques Chirac reminds us that for a long time France has had a head of state and government who has also seen himself as Minister of Agriculture. Two of his last public appearances were at the Paris agricultural show and a European summit in Brussels, the site of his many battles in defence of French farming subsidies. Chirac owns a cheteau in the Massif Central which is one of the poorest and most sparsely populated rural areas of France.
The Financial Times commented, 'His near-umbilical attachment to the country's farmers throughout his career, which included a spell as agriculture minister, means he can at least count on them to be saddened that the Chirac era is coming to an end.'
Whether any of his possible replacements will take a different view of the French national interest remains to be seen.