Jean-Francois Boillot sipped his beer, looking bored and expressed a fairly common view of the coming referendum on European unity.
"People are getting sick of it," he said. "We heard about it some in the papers. Now school's starting again, and people just don't want to talk about it."Polls indicate the French are evenly divided about the treaty, which would link the European Community's 12 nations with a single currency and common foreign policy by 1999. France has been a prime mover toward unity, and rejection by its voters probably would scuttle the accord.
Boillot, 42, a trucking executive, said he will vote yes in the Sept. 20 referendum, if he votes.
Not all French voters are indifferent. Twenty-three million tuned in to a televised debate on the treaty last week. But Boillot reflects a widespread cynicism about the Maastricht treaty, named for the Dutch town where it was signed last December.
Epinal is the constituency of conservative lawmaker Philippe Seguin, a leading foe of the treaty. Seguin, mayor of this town of 36,000 people in the Vosges region of eastern France, argues that Maastricht would cede French sovereignty to EC bureaucrats in Brussels.
The mood of Epinal was decidedly apolitical a little more than a week before the referendum. No campaign posters were up. The town newspaper had a lot of local news, but just a half page on Maastricht, on Page 22.
Lyazid Bendjedia said he would not vote. He is angry about the separate EC plan to create a single market by opening borders in January. Like several people interviewed, he mistakenly thinks that change depends on the referendum.
"Think how it will affect jobs," he said during a break from pinball at Le Rivoli cafe.
"All those foreigners," Bendjedia said. His father is Algerian, but he was born and raised in the Vosges as a French citizen.
"But they won't be `foreigners,' they'll be `Europeans'," interjected a friend, Maurice Jean-nerey, a civil servant.
Jeannerey supports the treaty.
"Look, if the no wins, it's not the end of Europe," he said. "But France and Germany must be the leaders. If France says no, it will be Germany alone."
Many people feel the treaty has not been explained adequately. Some voters are only now receiving eight-page booklets full of complex legalese.
President on mend
French President Francois Mitterrand was recovering well a day after he underwent prostate surgery, walking about his hospital room and even eating chocolates, doctors and visitors said Saturday.
"Twenty-four hours after the surgery, he is rested and well," said a statement by Adolphe Steg, the doctor who performed the operation, and presidential physician Claude Gubler.