Even though the French Government has not yet presented an official document on the Intergovernmental Conference, the main ideas of the previous government were summarized in our note of April 1995 (cf. Task-Force note 55.95) on the basis of the various alternatives and proposals put forward chiefly by the former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and the former Minister of European Affairs Alain Lamassoure, and by the former President François Mitterrand.
Addressing the National Assembly on 3 November 1994, the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, announced the institutional reform priorities in connection with the IGC, the main thrust of which is as follows: the powers of the Council should be strengthened, providing for a longer term of office and a more extensive role for the presidency; the Commission should not claim to constitute a kind of federal government; the system for electing Parliament and the means by which it could exert influence should be altered; and the role of the national parliaments should be increased. The overall unifying framework would be provided by 'reinforced forms of solidarity' open to all those willing and able to take part, and not confined to a 'hard core' of countries.
During his presidential campaign, President Chirac put forward a number of specific proposals, the main thrust of which is as follows:
European integration must spread eastwards, very rapidly and without fail.
The European Union, which today has fifteen members and tomorrow will have been enlarged to include twenty or thirty members, must continue to form the foundations of the European edifice. It must encompass a customs union and common policies in the trading sphere and areas of common interest. It must have a genuine common foreign and security policy, a necessary consequence of which will be tight checks at its external borders.
Within the founding family that is the Union, those Member States which so wish must be in a position to forge special bonds and reinforced forms of solidarity ... Member States which wish to go faster and further together must be allowed to do so ... I would add that once these strengthened joint actions have been launched, they will be open to such Member States as might be willing and able to take part.
One point, however, needs to be made clear: the Franco-German partnership will remain at the heart of the system.
I voted in favour of the Maastricht Treaty and am personally committed to full implementation of economic and monetary union once the conditions specified by the Treaty have been met. At present, only one country satisfies the convergence criteria laid down in the Treaty. France, which, along with Germany, should form the backbone of future economic and monetary union, must take the steps required without fail.
The national parliaments need to be involved more closely in the Community enterprise, for nothing permanent will be achieved without the support of the peoples. It is necessary to study new procedures whereby the national parliaments can play a part in shaping Community law.
Under Article 88-4 of the French Constitution, proposed Community acts containing provisions of a legislative nature are already referred to the National Assembly and the Senate. The two Houses have persuaded the Government to enforce the 'proviso of parliamentary consideration' vis- à -vis Brussels in order that they may deliver their opinions. However, there is a need to go further. I shall ask the Government to ensure that proposed acts having legislative implications in the spheres of common foreign and security policy, justice, or home affairs, and draft interinstitutional agreements, may be submitted to Parliament under the same conditions.
As regards revision of the Treaty, I hope that the national parliaments will be able to wield influence over Union legislation by exercising a right to invoke an 'exception on the grounds of subsidiarity'.
It should also be recalled that, during his election campaign, Jacques Chirac - who had launched his campaign at the end of November 1994 by calling for a further referendum on EMU, a demand which he later withdrew - repeatedly proposed holding a referendum to ratify the revision of the Union Treaty emerging from the IGC.
After Jacques Chirac's success in the presidential elections, Alain Juppé was appointed Prime Minister, while Michel Barnier became Minister of European Affairs and Hervé de Charette became Foreign Minister. In his first television appearance, the latter announced his intention to launch a new policy aimed at bringing about a new Europe.
Addressing the National Assembly on 23 May 1995 in his first statement on general policy, the new Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, also spoke on his government's position vis-à-vis the IGC. Even though the Prime Minister saw employment as the central feature of his government programme, he also took the view that the EU should make a special contribution in this connection. He also announced that France was ready to submit proposals on strengthening the Council and its presidency, rationalizing decision-making procedures, clarifying relations with the Commission and strengthening democratic controls by increasing the involvement of the national parliaments. A furtherissue to be resolved at the IGC was the question of the relations between an independent central bank and the Council of Ministers responsible for the conduct of economic policy. As a general principle, Alain Juppé declared that France was committed to a single Europe, i.e. a Europe which preserved its acquis communautaire and common policies, which asserted its personality and interests in the international sphere and which provided itself with the necessary means to ensure its identity and security. With regard to common policies and the CAP in particular, the Prime Minister declared himself in favour of maintaining the entire system while new enlargements were taking place, with provision being made for the corresponding transitional periods; specifically, he declared himself in favour of maintaining the principle of Community preference.
On 6 December 1995 in the course of the Franco-German summit in Baden-Baden, the two abovementioned leaders addressed a letter to the President of the European Council, Mr Felipe González, setting out the priority objectives of their governments for the European Council in Madrid on 15 and 16 December 1995.
President Chirac and Chancellor Kohl first referred to the five challenges which the Member States of the Union must confront in order to prepare Europe for the twenty-first century. They recalled that these challenges had already been identified at the informal summit in Majorca in September 1995 and stressed that they must be met over the next five years. The challenges in question were to carry through the adjustment of the Treaty on European Union, complete the transition to a single currency in accordance with the timetable and conditions laid down, prepare and conduct the enlargement negotiations with the associated countries of central, eastern and southern Europe in a cordial and determined manner, define the essential criteria for funding the common policies after the year 1999 and, finally, actively pursue the policy of dialogue, partnership and cooperation already launched with the Union's neighbours, especially Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the Mediterranean countries.
The two leaders believe that the Intergovernmental Conference will be a vital stage in the future enlargement of Europe and must be given thorough preparation. In this connection, they commended the excellent work performed by the Reflection Group under the chairmanship of Mr Westendorp.
With reference to the Madrid European Council, President Chirac and Chancellor Kohl propose that the Intergovernmental Conference should focus on four priority objectives: the common foreign and security policy; the creation of a homogeneous area where freedom of movement is guaranteed by common provisions; improving the efficiency of EU institutions; and consolidating a democratic Europe by bringing it closer to its citizens.
They consider that the Union should have a more visible and more decisive common foreign and security policy implemented in a way that ensures improved efficiency, continuity, consistency and solidarity in its actions. This will require the foreign and defence policies of each Member State to be aligned to a significant extent around clear priorities and objectives. They believe that the relationship between the EU and the WEU must be more clearly defined witha view to the expiry of the Treaty of Brussels in 1998. They also think it necessary to consider what adjustments are needed in order to equip the CFSP with resources and instruments consistent with the Union's ambitions so as to give it a higher profile and allow it to harness both Community instruments and the Member States' own capacities.
As the second main objective, they propose to complete the creation of a homogeneous area where freedom of movement will be guaranteed by common provisions, particularly in the field of asylum and immigration policy, and through closer cooperation to provide genuine security for citizens from terrorism, international organized crime and drugs.
As the third priority objective, they propose to give the Union more effective institutions. This will entail major adjustments on the part of both the Council and the Commission. With regard to the Council, they propose an extension of the sphere covered by qualified majority voting, together with a revised system of weighting votes. For the Commission, they propose that consideration should be given to its appointment, composition and powers. Finally, they also propose that ways and means should be considered of streamlining and making more transparent the procedures between the Council, Commission and Parliament.
Finally, President Chirac and Chancellor Kohl feel that consolidating democracy by bringing the Union closer to its citizens should also be a priority objective. In this connection, they believe that this would involve the European Parliament having a greater share of responsibility for matters relating to the process of building Europe, as well as closer involvement of the national parliaments. In addition, they call for the subsidiarity principle to be given proper weight and to be more firmly applied. In general, they feel that the Union should be easier for its citizens to understand and should listen more closely to their needs.
On the question of differentiated integration, they believe that all Member States should be able to participate on the same terms in the progress of European integration. However, where one of the partners faces temporary difficulties in keeping up with the pace of progress in the Union, it would be desirable and feasible to introduce a general clause in the Treaties enabling those Member States which have the will and the capacity to do so to develop closer cooperation among themselves within the single institutional framework of the Union.
This is an internal French government document, published in 'Le Figaro' on the date mentioned above, whose main purpose is to serve as a guide for the work of the committee chaired by the two ministers Mr de Charette and Mr Barnier which meets approximately every ten days to make detailed preparations for the IGC. The most interesting points and proposals of this document will now be summarized.
The objectives to be pursued by France at the IGC are the following: improved application of the principle of subsidiarity; greater involvement of the national parliaments in the European integration process; action to improve theefficiency of the institutions; strengthening the content of the CFSP; and responding to the desire of the Union's citizens for greater security by reinforcing its action in the field of justice and home affairs. The proposals are based on a realist approach entailing retention of the distinctions between the existing three pillars of the EU. France considers that the IGC is not the place to reopen the subject of EMU or the discussion of the common policies.
Concerning the first (Community) pillar and decision-making in Council, two changes are proposed: improved weighting of votes in Council taking account of population, economic factors and Member States' financial contributions; and increasing the number of decisions which can be adopted by a vote, to avoid the risks of blockage arising from the need to decide by consensus. France takes the view that any Member State should still be able to invoke, where necessary, the existence of a significant national interest, thus justifying postponement of the vote and the continuation of negotiations along the lines of the 'Luxembourg compromise'.
On the subject of the Commission, France advocates reducing its numbers in order to strengthen its powers of initiative and decision-making and facilitate the coherence and discipline of the institution. It is also proposed that the Commission should be given clear and urgent mandates in order to improve its role of applying Council policy. It follows that the Commission should consult the Council whenever it cannot continue negotiations with third countries without going beyond the Council's mandate.
Concerning the European Parliament, France believes that the legislative procedures should be simplified, but without modifying the existing balance of powers between Council and Parliament. It also suggests that an upper limit should be set on the number of MEPs at the same time as the project for a uniform electoral procedure is put into practice. Finally, France stresses the need to ensure respect for the 1992 decision on Parliament's places of work, which states that its part-sessions are to be held in Strasbourg.
With respect to the national parliaments, France favours creating a body consisting of their representatives, to be consulted on all matters relating to respect for the principle of subsidiarity, on the grounds that the national parliaments are best equipped to judge on this subject. The confidential document suggests that this 'High Parliamentary Council', which could, for example, comprise two representatives from each Member State, could be created by institutionalizing the existing COSAC.
On the second pillar (the CFSP), the document proposes replacing the existing rotating six-month presidency by a new figure, a 'high representative of the Union', who would have a mandate lasting several years (three to five) and could have an organizational and representative role in the area of the CFSP. This figure would be appointed by the European Council, and would be responsible for exercising the functions assigned him by that body or by the Council of Ministers. The Council Secretariat could be strengthened in order to provide this figure with the necessary support and resources. The memorandum also stresses the need to clarify the division of labour between the CFSP, with its intergovernmental approach, and the external aspects of the Union's common policies.
On the subject of common defence, the document takes the view that endeavours should be made on three fronts: arrangements should be determined for bringing the WEU under the aegis of the Union; there should be a specific decision-making procedure for security matters so as to avoid paralysis in Council; and the WEU's operational capacities should be developed, giving it sufficient flexibility to allow some Member States to combine in more advanced forms of cooperation.
On the third pillar, the text suggests that as far as asylum and immigration are concerned the necessary precautions should be adopted as and when these subjects are brought within the Community sphere. With respect to police cooperation, it is felt that the existing arrangements for intergovernmental cooperation continue to represent the most desirable and suitable formula. Certain improvements are, however, proposed for cooperation on legal matters; it is argued that action should be taken to encourage harmonization of Member States' civil and criminal law. With this in mind, three proposals are made. Firstly, the Commission should be given powers of initiative in this area, while acting in tandem with the Member States; secondly, the national parliaments should participate in the drafting of legislative texts, and, in particular, the 'High Parliamentary Council' should take part where the proposed legislation affects civil or criminal law, to ensure that these bodies' intervention does not happen at the moment of ratification alone; and thirdly, consideration could be given to allowing legislative texts prepared in this way to come into effect without waiting for the instruments of ratification to be deposited, according to a formula already established for international law.
Finally, the document proposes the introduction of a general clause on reinforced cooperation, with a view to enabling those Member States which have the desire and the ability to develop closer forms of cooperation to do so. It is suggested that it would suffice for certain Member States to submit cooperation projects to the Council. These projects, once approved by the Council, would be considered as having been confirmed by the Union as a whole; such an arrangement would introduce the necessary flexibility into the Treaties without reducing the coherence of the Union.
On the occasion of the Franco-German ministerial meeting held in Freiburg on 27 February 1996, the respective ministers, Mr Klaus Kinkel and Mr Hervé de Charette, adopted the following guidelines for the preparation of the 1996 IGC.
Both ministers take the view that the main objectives of the CFSP are to stabilize the Union's relations with its neighbours to the east and south, to consolidate the transatlantic relationship and to develop ties with Russia and Ukraine. With a view to improving the effectiveness of the CFSP, they propose a number of practical improvements. Firstly, in the interests of greater efficiency, the Union's powers of action under the CFSP should be reinforced via improvements to the decision-making process and the implementation procedures, with greater powers of control for the European Council. With specific references to the decision-making procedures laid down in the Treaty, attemptsshould be made to overcome the rigidity inherent in unanimity; accordingly, consideration should be given to: reviewing the distinction between political decisions of principle and implementing decisions; invocation of the principle of constructive abstention on CFSP matters; and recourse to qualified majority voting for decisions at the implementation stage. By that stage, no Member State should be forced against its will to send troops or undertake policing operations; at the same time, however, no Member State should be allowed to stop the others from implementing the measures agreed once the decision to do so has been adopted. With a view to making the CFSP more coherent, it is proposed that the Council, the Member States and the Commission should mandatorily have to apply in full the coherence obligation already present in the Treaty, so as to achieve an effective and credible foreign and security policy. In the interests of mutual loyalty and solidarity, it is suggested in particular that the Commission should take on the same degree of commitment vis- à -vis Council decisions as the Member States, and that procedures should be established to this end to ensure that the Commission submits in due time the initiatives required for CFSP decisions adopted by the Council. It is further proposed to set up an advanced research and analysis unit, which would comprise staff from the Member States, the Commission and the WEU Secretariat and would be attached to the Council Secretariat. This unit would have as its main responsibilities the pooling of its members' experience and knowledge and the preparation of specific proposals for action. To improve the visibility and continuity of the CFSP, it is proposed that the institutions should adapt themselves in such a way as to enable the Union to be clearly identifiable in its external relations, to speak with one voice and to have its continuity and visibility ensured. Without going into detail, it is suggested in this connection that a 'new post' should be created to give the CFSP greater visibility and coherence.
Finally, the text raises the question of greater solidarity, especially in the fields of security and defence. In this context, it is proposed that the Treaty should include a 'political solidarity clause' applying to all the Member States, with solidarity defined in such a way as to take account of individual Member States' legitimate interests. The European Council should lay down guidelines for security and defence on the basis of which the WEU could, at the request of the EU, undertake actions on the latter's behalf. This would include the 'Petersberg missions', which should be incorporated in the TEU. The Union's role should also be strengthened as regards the definition of a common European defence policy. There should be a European capacity for action in all circumstances, even where certain partners do not take part in the military side of an operative action. In such cases, the non-participant Member States should express their solidarity through public support and, where necessary, financial aid. Both ministers expressly support the joint objective of incorporating the WEU into the EU, and consider that the IGC should produce clear and specific undertakings in this direction. Concerning CFSP funding, both France and Germany feel that in general CFSP operational expenditure should be financed from outside the Community budget. Finally, both countries favour developing a European armaments policy, whose objectives would be the strengthening, improvement and realization of European cooperation in this field and the establishment of a European armaments agency.
Europaen Parliament, last revised: 18 September 1996
URL : http://../igc/en/pos-fr.htm