Chapter

The French Administration in Brussels

Anand Menon

in The National Co-ordination of EU Policy

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780199248056
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601545 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199248052.003.0003
 The French Administration in Brussels

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France has traditionally aspired to play a leading role in shaping the development of European integration, and implicit in this approach has been a vision of integration as a process within which the member states predominate. Debates within the EU are carried out, as far as the traditional French conception has it, on the basis of competing and conflicting national interests, and the effectiveness with which individual member states can shape outputs at the EU level is intrinsically related to their success in presenting coherent positions within such debates; this emphasis on coherence has led to the creation in Paris of a centralized and institutionalized system of interministerial co-ordination. Although often overlooked, 1 the French administration in Brussels also plays a key role in ensuring the coherence of national positions and in defending French interests within the EU; this is most true of the French permanent representation, whose staff represent France in most meetings of the Council of Ministers, and which is responsible for keeping Paris appraised of developments in Brussels. Paris has increasingly, however, also come to recognize the need to exert influence over the supranational institutions of the EU, and over the Commission in particular, so the French have developed strategies both for ensuring the presence of French officials within these institutions and for maintaining close contact with them. This chapter is divided into three sections: the first examines the composition, organization, internal workings, and role of the French permanent representation to the European Union; the second investigates French strategies designed to ensure both a sufficient and an effective French presence within the supranational institutions—notably the Commission and, to a lesser extent, the European Parliament; and the final section critically evaluates the performance of the French administration in Brussels, considering first its capacity to carry out its allotted tasks, and second its effectiveness, particularly in terms of its ability to further France’s EU policy objectives.

Keywords: Brussels; Council of Ministers; effectiveness; effectiveness; EU policy; European Commission; European integration; European Parliament; European Union; France; French administration; French permanent representation; interministerial co-ordination; national interests; national policy; Paris; performance; policy co-ordination; role

Chapter.  11559 words. 

Subjects: European Union

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