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Dilemmas of the guardian of the temple: France and enlargement of the European Union

Európa 2002, 2004/4 - 15 décembre, 2004
Analyse and essay
Hajnalka Vincze

From the French point of view enlargement cannot relegate to the second plan the aspiration to European independence and prosperity. On the contrary: the CEE countries’ accession must be carried out in a way to serve the cause of the preservation of the European model and of Europe's sovereignty.

How to preserve the enlarged Union? At the eyes of Paris, the solution to the existential and structural dilemmas of the Union lies in the creation of multi-tier Europe. At the heart of French European policy, one finds the separation ‘into two projects' as outlined by Giscard and Delors. It is the only way to solve the contradiction which has been paralyzing Paris for a long time (well before this last, ten-country enlargement). Notably, the fact that on the one hand the current level of integration is insufficient to realize the design of Europe-power/Europe-puissance (the transformation of Europe into an autonomous, fully-fledged international actor); while, on the other, any deepening of the integration at all-Union level (at 15, 25 or more) would automatically put in minority this same vision of Europe-power. The only solution is to separate "the will to live together" and "the will to act together". In other words: distinguish, on the basis of the participants’ political will, the passive and active elements of the relation to the external world. Europe-espace is in itself - as a laboratory of the management of interdependences - a model for other regional integrations. Nevertheless, in order to establish a more balanced ‘rapport de forces’ - the indispensable condition of genuine multilateralism - it is necessary that Europe-power also appears and plays an active part. However, it is obvious that in the Union of today, the tendency goes opposite to the French strategy: efforts are made to force deepenings at the level of the ‘grande Europe’. In these circumstances, Paris stresses the maximalisation of opportunities within this framework and the promotion of the principle of flexibility. But certainly not some kind of deepening at 25, 30, 40 which would lead to significant transfers of sovereignty (and, therefore, would automatically put into minority the French concept of Europe-power). All the while knowing pertinently that under the pressure of future events - ratification of the ` constitution', next enlargements and their ratifications, obstacles related to the unrealistic objectives of the new treaty or appearing when the need for closer co-operation cannot be differed any more - the separation of the two projects will become, sooner or later, impossible to circumvent.


Some historical landmarks

Mitterrand’s project of European confederation

Edouard Balladur and the stability pact

President Chirac’s momentum and the factors relativizing it

Mitigated balance sheet of the French presidency of the Union in 2000

Jacques Chirac calls to order the bad-mannered CEE countries

Conducting line of France’s enlargement policy

The principal direction



ue, france

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