This chapter on the national co-ordination of European Union (EU) policy in France starts by pointing out that the French objectives are ambitious, and argues that a profound tension exists between the declared ambitions and the intrinsic difficulties faced in achieving effective co-ordination. Would-be co-ordinators need to confront several elements of fragmentation within the core executive itself, most notably: a bicephalous and sporadically politically divided executive; a strong sense of departmentalism, frequently associated with entrenched interests and manifested in interministerial squabbles; and ‘vertical’ divisions between the political and administrative levels, often characterized by tensions between senior officials and political appointees in ministerial cabinets. At one level, the system put into place in France has succeeded in resolving these problems and resulted in effective co-ordination, but at another, co-ordinators in Paris face significant problems as they strive to ensure the coherence of French policy positions in Brussels. The two main sections of the chapter look at routine policy matters of European Community (EC) legislation (for which a formal institutionalized system of co-ordination has been created both intraministerially and interministerially, and in which the role of parliament is weak), and non-routine co-ordination (comprising more set-piece decision-making involving political leaders, and including the preparation of and participation in European Councils, the organization of the French presidency of the Council of Ministers, and intergovernmental conferences). The conclusion outlines the two main hurdles to co-ordination that have limited the effectiveness of the system. The relative autonomy of certain powerful ministries, and the significant gap between the administrative and political levels.
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