France and the EU Part II

By | October 20, 2021

4: France and NATO

In 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle decided to withdraw France from NATO’s military command . It was a protest against what the country perceived as American dominance. In 2009, President Nicolas Sarkozy reversed this decision – he took France back into the military part of NATO cooperation. The decision was described as the most symbolic foreign policy decision of his time as president. It attracted attention and protests, not least from the left in French politics.

Many were afraid that France would now be reduced to a country that follows the United States in one and all. When the socialist Francois Hollande came to power in 2012, he still chose to let Sarkozy’s decision stand. In return, he insisted that France must contribute to a more effective common defense in the EU in parallel with NATO cooperation. This political goal is not easy to achieve – both due to domestic policy challenges and dilemmas at EU level.

The domestic policy challenges are first and foremost about the defense budget, which is constantly shrinking in France – in 2015, the defense occupies 2% of France’s gross domestic product. The EU dilemmas concern the difficulty of developing a common European defense policy with the United Kingdom. The UK is a natural partner in defense issues, but it is problematic to work out a more far-reaching agreement as long as there is a demanding debate in the UK about the country’s relationship with the EU: Will the country opt out of the EU?

5: Load and burst with the United States

Seen from Paris, it is no longer possible to lean so heavily on a partnership with London. It is necessary to investigate other scenarios. The White Paper on Defense and National Security, published by the French government in 2013, supports ideas for closer cooperation with Germany and Poland, as well as Italy and Spain. In defense matters, France does not hesitate to intervene militarily in various contexts and conflicts: Together with a NATO coalition of “willing” countries in Libya (2011), alone against the armed jihadists in northern Mali (2013), together with the United States against the Islamic State of Iraq (2014). Hollande has chosen to continue Sarkozy’s policy by no longer letting it be a major point to have a Middle East policy other than the United States.

The negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program are another example of France now being a close ally of the United States . This is a clear and distinct break with the tradition of de Gaulle. A major reason for this change is that French foreign policy, like the foreign policy of many other Western democracies, is increasingly concerned with defending global, liberal values ​​and not just national interests.. Paradoxically, France places more emphasis on its Western identity at a time when the West is losing ground internationally. Another reason is that France knows that any military operation outside Europe has become difficult to carry out without the enormous resources of the US Army. In September 2013, President Hollande was forced to abandon his plan to intervene militarily against the Assad regime in Syria. President Obama did not get the US Congress to send US troops to Syria.

The French desire to stand together in a common Western front has been clear and constant even during the Ukrainian crisis . France agreed with the United States and its EU partners to impose sanctions on Putin’s Russia. President Hollande also agreed to postpone a delivery of Mistral aircraft carriers, which were to be delivered to Russia under a 2011 agreement (under Nicolas Sarkozy). There are now many indications that France will repay the Russian advance rather than deliver the ships. On the other hand, both France and Germany are skeptical of further sanctions. It is also difficult to find support in Paris for Ukrainian membership in NATO. It is seen as an unnecessary provocation against Putin and Russia .

6: France – tied to the EU mast?

France is a good example of a country whose economy is closely linked to the EU. Europeanisation is a concrete reality that no French government can escape. The socialists Hollande and Valls are in the process of several structural (profound) reforms of the French economy, as required by EU obligations. This process contributes to increased EU skepticism, even within the government. But if EU skeptics were to take a leading position in the future, it is not at all certain that they will be able to escape the country’s obligations to the EU. France’s relationship with the EU is an example of a game on two levels: What is decided at the domestic level in a member state directly affects which positions the country occupies within the EU. At the same time, the EU’s decisions affect how the member state’s domestic political future is.

Reforms of the French economy still depend on the pace of French decision-making processes . There is conflict often more prominent than consensus(agreement). This is one reason why it takes longer to implement reforms in France than some northern European member states, not least Germany, expect. There is little doubt that France still wants to be a leading member state of the EU defined on TOP-MBA-UNIVERSITIES. As economic policy presents particularly major challenges (cf. the financial crisis, its aftermath and the euro crisis), it may seem that French governments are putting extra effort into foreign and security policy, almost as a kind of compensation for not being able to lead. the economic area. However, it is uncertain whether this strategy works for French public opinion: It is still economic and social issues that dominate the EU debate in France, not foreign and security policy.

France and the EU 2