Who does what in France as regards the European Union ?

The government

The government defends France’s interests and vision of the European Union. This involves, amongst other things, constantly setting out and explaining France’s position in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg to European Commissioners and MEPs but also to our European Union partners. In a Union of 28 States, reaching a majority has become a far more complex exercise.

All government ministries have specific directorates and departments for European affairs. France’s positions are determined at inter-ministerial level.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Within government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and, under his authority, the Minister for European Affairs set out France’s position on all major European matters. Both make frequent visits to France’s partners to explain and promote French positions on all European questions. Consultation with other member States is very frequent. The close partnership forged with Germany under the Elysée Treaty of 22 January 1963 is unequalled in its intensity.

See the Franco-German portal.

The General Secretariat for European Affairs (SGAE)

The General Secretariat for European Affairs (SGAE), a dedicated office operating under the auspices of the Prime Minister, covers all the areas set out in the European Union treaty with the exception of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is dealt with by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Permanent Representation of France to the European Union

As France’s communication channel in Brussels, the Permanent Representation of France to the European Union plays a central role as interface between Paris and Brussels in conducting negotiations within Council of the European Union bodies and in relations with the other institutions, in particular the European Parliament and the Commission.

Tasked with promoting and defending France’s positions, the Permanent Representation plays a part in drawing up and implementing all European Union policies and maintains relations with all stakeholders involved in European decision-making processes. See the missions and objectives of the Permanent Representation in detail.

European, national, regional and local elected representatives

These are elected by French citizens to represent France in the various institutions.

See also the French representatives in European institutions.

The European Parliament

Of the 754 MEPs in total, 74 are elected in France (72 by universal suffrage and a further two appointed by the National Assembly and the Senate as a result of the Lisbon Treaty coming into force). Working on committees dedicated to specific themes or in plenary session, they participate in the European legislative process and oversee the work of the other Community institutions. They also vote through the European Union budget. The last European election in France was held in June 2009. In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the next round of elections, to be held in spring 2014, will elect 751 MEPs including 72 in France.

The French Parliament

Article 88-4 of the French Constitution lays down the provisions for Parliament to be informed of and to participate in European policy. Members of the National Assembly and Senate closely monitor developments in the building of Europe and in Community regulations, by means of special commissions. They are consulted by government on all Community acts of a legislative nature and may vote on resolutions, should they see fit. Under the constitutional law of 23 July 2008, a Commission of the National Assembly for the European Union and a Commission of the Senate for the European Union replaced the delegations for the European Union initially created in 1979.

In addition, the Lisbon Treaty recognises that national parliaments play a collective role in the Community decision-making process (article 12 of the Treaty). This article also:

The Committee of the Regions

The 24 French representatives are chosen from local and regional elected representatives. They give their opinion on all European projects affecting local and regional authorities: transport networks, planning, public health, etc. All the French regions have representative offices in Brussels, which are in constant contact with France’s Permanent Representation. See Offices of the French Regions in Brussels.

Social and professional organisations

They are consulted on draft Community legislation through the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), on which sit 24 French representatives of families, businesses, employees, farmers, etc.

The social partners negotiate agreements at the level of European organisations: European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Union of Industrial and Employer Federations of Europe (UNICE) and the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services (CEEP).

Further reading:

(Source: website of the Permanent Representation of France to the European Union)

Updated: April 2013