France in Europe

According to the work “Guide to Foreign and International Citations”, by the Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University School of Law):

The executive is led by the President (Président de la République) and Prime Minister (Premier Ministre). Elected by a direct universal suffrage for a five-year term, the President guarantees the national independence and the integrity of the territory, is the Chief of the army, ensures that the Constitution is respected, and presides over the Council of Ministers. He appoints the Prime Minister and other members of government. He may take emergency measures in times of crisis and under strict conditions. The National Assembly, however, cannot be dissolved, and the Constitution cannot be amended. The Prime Minister leads the administration, and determines and conducts national policy.

The legislative power is held by a bicameral Parliament, consisting of the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and the Senate (Sénat). Unlike the National Assembly, which is elected by a direct universal suffrage, the Senate is elected by indirect universal suffrage by locally elected representatives. All laws must be approved by both chambers. The Parliament exercises control over executive government action through a formal process of opening investigations. It may also contest the mandate of the government. The Constitution grants the legislative branch extensive power to enact statutes, and also provides for a possibility of enlargement of the powers of this branch. All other areas are left to the executive branch, which has the power to enact regulations.

The Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) is responsible for ensuring that referenda and the election of the President and Parliament are fair. It performs mandatory reviews of the constitutionality of the laws, treaties, and parliamentary standing orders prior to ratification. The Council does not review the decisions of lower courts for constitutionality on appeal. Instead, it is called to action through petitions by the President, the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly or the Senate, or by a vote of 60 senators or Assembly
members. The term of office of its nine members is nine years, non-renewable. Three members are appointed by the President, three by the President of the National Assembly, and three by the President of the Senate. One-third of the Constitutional Council’s members are appointed every three years.

The judicial system is divided into a judiciary body, combining civil and criminal courts, and an administrative body of various administrative courts. The former body is headed by the Court of Cassation (Cour de Cassation), the latter by the Council of State (Conseil d’État). The Tribunal of Conflicts arbitrates cases of conflict of jurisdiction or decisions between the two; it is composed of an equal number of judges from the Court of Cassation and the Council of State.

The Court of Cassation consists of three civil chambers, a commercial chamber, a social chamber, and a criminal chamber. It decides whether the lower courts have correctly interpreted and applied the rule of law and the rules of procedure. It does not usually overrule a lower court’s judgment, but instead quashes it and remits the case for rehearing by a Court of Appeal (Cour d’Appel) other than the one that originally heard the case. Important controversial cases may be decided in plenary session. The Courts of Appeal deal with both civil and criminal matters. In civil matters, the trial courts are the Tribunals of Great Instance (Tribunaux de Grande Instance), or the Tribunals of Instance for small claims (Tribunaux d’Instance). In criminal matters, the Tribunal of Police deals with minor offenses, the Criminal Tribunal with crimes, and the Assises Courts (Cours d’Assises) with the most serious offenses. The Assises Courts are the only courts that utilize a jury system. The decision of one Assises Court can be appealed to another. The Court of Cassation can also consider appeals on criminal matters. The
hierarchy of the administrative courts in decreasing seniority is as follows: the Council of State, the administrative Courts of Appeal, and the administrative tribunals.”


The French Monarchy

By the year 1500 the French monarchy was largely consolidated territorially and politically. It had been a slow and painful process, for long ago in 987, when Hugh Capet came to the throne, the France of his day was hardly more than the neighborhood of Paris, and it had taken five full centuries to unite the petty feudal divisions of the country into the great centralized state which we call France. The Hundred Years’ War had finally freed the western duchies and counties from English control. Just before the opening of the sixteenth century the wily and tactful Louis XI (1461-1483) had rounded out French territories: on the east he had occupied the powerful duchy of Burgundy; on the west and on the southeast he had possessed himself of most of the great inheritance of the Angevin branch of his own family, including Anjou, and Provence east of the Rhone; and on the south the French frontier had been carried to the Pyrenees. Finally, Louis’s son, Charles VIII (1483-1498), by marrying the heiress of Brittany, had absorbed that western duchy into France.

Steady Growth of Royal Power in France

Meanwhile, centralized political institutions had been taking slow but tenacious root in the country. Of course, many local institutions and customs survived in the various states which had been gradually added to France, but the king was now recognized from Flanders to Spain and from the Rhone to the Ocean as the source of law, justice, and order. There was a uniform royal coinage and a standing army under the king’s command. The monarchs had struggled valiantly against the disruptive tendencies of feudalism; they had been aided by the commoners or middle class; and the proof of their success was their comparative freedom from political checks. The Estates-General, to which French commoners had been admitted in 1302, resembled in certain externals the English Parliament,—for example, in comprising representatives of the clergy, nobles, and commons,—but it had never had final say in levying taxes or in authorizing expenditures or in trying royal officers. And unlike England, there was in France no live tradition of popular participation in government and no written guarantee of personal liberty.


Foreign Relations of the French Kings about 1500

Consolidated at home in territory and in government, Frenchmen began about the year 1500 to be attracted to questions of external policy. By attempting to enforce an inherited claim to the crown of Naples, Charles VIII in 1494 started that career of foreign war and aggrandizement which was to mark the history of France throughout following centuries. His efforts in Italy were far from successful, but his heir, Louis XII (1498-1515), continued to lay claim to Naples and to the duchy of Milan as well. In 1504 Louis was obliged to resign Naples to King Ferdinand of Aragon, in whose family it remained for two centuries, but about Milan continued a conflict, with varying fortunes, ultimately merging into the general struggle between Francis I (1515- 1547) and the Emperor Charles V.

France in the year 1500 was a real national monarchy, with the beginnings of a national literature and with a national patriotism centering in the king. It was becoming self-conscious. Like England, France was on the road to one-man power, but unlike England, the way had been marked by no liberal or constitutional mile-posts.

Online Resources:

  • National Assembly:
  • Senate:
  • President:
  • Prime Minister:
  • Constitutional Council:
  • Court of Cassation:
  • Council of State:
  • Official Journal:

Description of France

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes france in the following terms: [1] France’s relationship with the Community falls into three phases. Initially, through Jean Monnet and the Schuman Plan, France built on ideas with roots in the inter-war years and in the Vichy period, the crucial element being that France was now the victor, not the vanquished. The overriding aim was political: to contain Germany by commingling the French and German basic industries of coal and steel, so as to ensure that there could be no repeat of the three wars, initiated by Bismarck, the Kaiser and Hitler, which had devastated France in 1870, 1914-18 and 1939-45. As Monnet developed his federalising vision he found his ideal bureaucratic counterpart in the German Walter Hallstein, the energetic first president of the European Commission, while at the governmental level Chancellor Konrad Adenauer went so far in 1950 as to suggest the union of France and Germany. In economic terms, France’s objective was to foster its countryside by agricultural protection in exchange for allowing Germany a freer market in industrial goods.

Italy and Benelux were also founder signatories to the Treaties of Paris (1951) and Rome (1957), in which Alcide de Gasperi and Paul-Henri Spaak played important roles, but the Franco-German entente was the bedrock of the European Community. Even when President Charles de Gaulle, then recently returned to politics, inaugurated the second phase of French policy, with his hostility both to federalism and to the ‘Anglo-Saxons’, the expression of German dismay was muted. In 1963, immediately after vetoing Britain’s application to join the Common Market and at the height of his ten-year battle with the Commission, de Gaulle signed the Treaty of the Elysée with Adenauer, which was to set the pattern for the alliance of France and Germany through thick and thin until the present day. Meanwhile, the outcome of the struggle over the direction of the Community was a temporary stalemate. De Gaulle’s plans to restore authority to the nation states were frustrated, but in the ‘Luxembourg Compromise’ he won an enhanced role for the veto, which effectively intimidated the Commission into paralysis for years to come.

On de Gaulle’s retirement in 1969, successive French governments, starting with that of Georges Pompidou, returned to the theme of European unification, albeit never without that tinge of metropolitan nationalism that distinguishes the French approach. France shares none of Germany’s federalist traditions and its instincts for independence are similar to the UK’s. Yet it has retained its communautaire reputation by always in the end consenting to deeper integration, confident in its ability to lever German economic might and political weakness into French diplomatic power (and doubtless mistrustful of the permanence of any understanding with the UK). The attitude of Pompidou’s successor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, was characteristic. In 1974 he established the European Council as an instrument to bolster the influence of the leading member states; and in 1977 he vehemently opposed President Roy Jenkins’ initiative to elevate the presidency of the Commission into pari passu status with heads of government. But whether defending French interests or resisting the Commission, he always chose the rhetoric of Europeanism.

By the early 1980s President François Mitterrand was willing to make a dead letter of the Luxembourg Compromise (see more in this European encyclopedia). Nevertheless, he continued the policy of Europeanism à la française, briefly resisting German reunification in 1989, opposing an increase in the number of German MEPs, and coming within an inch of wrecking the GATT negotiations in 1993 as the price of protecting French farmers and the French film industry. In each case, a deal, not always of the most appetising nature, saved the day. Most of his term of office coincided with the Commission presidency of his fellow French socialist, Jacques Delors. Together they saw through the Single European Act of 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, thereby transforming the Common Marketinto a union with many of the features of an embryonic superstate.

Europe is the way for France to become what she has ceased to be since Waterloo: the leading power in the world. General de Gaulle to Alain Peyrefitte, 1962

Economically, France is a rich and successful country, the world’s fourth or fifth largest, approximately equal with the UK. Nevertheless, during the 1990s unreformed labour markets, high welfare costs and the franc fort policy of maintaining parity with the D-Mark resulted in stagnation and heavy unemployment. That these difficulties unsettled French public opinion about the single currency was shown by Mitterrand’s desperately narrow victory in the Maastricht referendum; and although the economy began a strong recovery in 1998, intermittent strikes and government cave-ins to public sector workers evidenced the difficulty of changing entrenched practices to adapt to modern competitive pressures.

There have even been signs of fragility in the hitherto unshakeable Franco-German alliance (see more in this European encyclopedia). In the run-up to EMU, Mitterrand’s Gaullist successor, Jacques Chirac, and the recently elected Socialist premier, Lionel Jospin, advocated introducing political influence into the management of the euro. Each had previously flirted with Euroscepticism, and although both were now committed to the single currency, they feared that the future European Central Bank (ECB) would conduct a stringent Bundesbank-style deflationary policy. This threatened to undermine the basis on which France had agreed to German reunification – that Germany would compensate for its own enlargement and an eastward shift in Europe’s centre of gravity by relinquishing its dominance of Continental monetary conditions. Chancellor Helmut Kohl, by contrast, having already given way to French wishes in allowing the over-borrowed Italy into the euro, was unwilling to go further and ask his people to exchange their beloved strong D-mark for a politicised currency. These clashes were exacerbated by the at times frosty personal relationship between Chirac and Kohl. There was a history of differences, too, over foreign policy, trade (Germany the more Atlanticist, France the more protectionist) and nuclear testing (see more in this European encyclopedia). In 1998 an unsuccessful attempt by Chirac to impose a Frenchman at the head of the ECB added yet another source of tension.

So long as Germany hesitates to assert itself diplomatically, the Franco-German special relationship will doubtless survive, even if in somewhat diluted form (it is not for nothing that a judicious friendship with Germany is known in France as the ‘pensée unique’ – the sole preoccupation of external policy). In 1999, however, when Gerhard Schroder succeeded Kohl as Chancellor, domestic concerns initially distracted him from European affairs; and the advent of Prime Minister Tony Blair as an active player in EU politics was a complicating factor, as were the emerging self-confidence of Spain and the planned enlargement of the Community. It is interesting, therefore, to speculate about the effect on French attitudes of various eventualities – if the current generation in Germany were to feel less insecure than its predecessors: or if the hegemony of the Paris-Berlin axis were to be challenged by other capitals: or if a further concentration of power in the hands of the EU’s supranational institutions were to diminish France’s sense of being in control of its own destiny. In any of those circumstances, it is at least possible that Gallic nationalism, presently channelled mainly into rivalry with the USA, might find new outlets, with incalculable consequences for the future of Europe (see more in this European encyclopedia). (See also Treaty of the Elysée.)

Description of United Nations (UN)

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes united nations (un) in the following terms: [1] The UK and France are permanent members of the UN Security Council, together with China, Russia (succeeding the Soviet Union) and the USA. Under the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy the European member states confer with each other regularly and vote together whenever possible (see more in this European encyclopedia). Integrationists have even canvassed the idea that the British and French seats on the Security Council should be merged into a single EU seat.

Merger Law in France

France and the Laws of International Trade


See Also


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)

See Also


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)
  2. Véase También

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