Charles De Gaulle

Charles De Gaulle in Europe

Charles De Gaulle History

General, and President of France between 1958-1969. Made his name as leader of the Free French during the Second World War. Gave independence to all France’s African colonies, and lost the war in Algeria. Blocked the United Kingdom’s first application to join the European Economic Union (EEC). Resigned in 1969 following defeat of his plans for political reform

Life and Work of Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes charles de gaulle (1890-1970) in the following terms: [1] The illustrious career of Charles de Gaulle, president of the Republic of Francefrom 1958 to 1969, who ended the civil war in Algeria and was the architect of his country’s recovery of self-confidence after its retreat from Indo-China, needs no repetition here. During his long wartime period in the UK as leader of the Free French he had unrivalled scope to assess the nature of his hosts, with whom – including Churchill – his relations were often far from easy. His acute sense of nationality enabled him to recognise the same spirit in others. Seeing France as temporarily weak, he wanted no rival for leadership in Europe. Hence it was mainly Realpolitik which motivated him to veto (in 1963 and again in 1967) the UK’s application to join the EEC. Additional factors were the UK’s ties with the Commonwealth, its special relationship with the USA and its predilection for free trade, which threatened the Common Agricultural Policyand ran counter to French mercantilism. In retrospect, de Gaulle’s judgment that the UK and the Community would not be ideally suited to each other is hard to fault.

De Gaulle’s independence made him a difficult colleague in European counsels, especially since his reign coincided with the Commission presidencyof Walter Hallstein, that keen advocate of full European integration. The two men first clashed in the early 1960s over the Fouchet Plan, in which de Gaulletried to amend the Treaty of Rome, reduce the Commission’s powers and put authority in the hands of national parliamentarians. Rebuffed, he sharpened his proposals, aiming to weaken the Council of Ministers and end the supremacy of Community law. At the same time he suggested revising Europe’s defence arrangements to sideline the UK and the USA.

The collapse of de Gaulle’s initiative led to paralysis in the Community and fierce infighting. France threatened to leave the EEC, boycotted meetings and blocked the extension of qualified majority voting. The crisis was only resolved by the 1966 Luxembourg Compromise, which preserved the veto if national interests were at stake. The same year, de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO’s integrated command. Not until after his retirement in 1969 did the Communitystart to recover its poise and invite the UK to resume its quest for membership.

What’s the point of Europe? It must serve to prevent domination either by the Americans or the Russians. General de Gaulle to Alain Peyrefitte, 1962

That even de Gaulle (despite his close alliance with Konrad Adenauer, marked by the 1963 Treaty of the Elysée), like Margaret Thatcher, signally failed to deflect the Community from its path showed that it is easier to promise than to achieve a halt to the advance of federalism. (See also Soames affair and ‘Empty chair’ crisis.)


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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