CONSTITUTION &

GOVERNMENT OF

FRANCE & THE

NEW EUROPEAN UNION

 

 

France 101

 

 

8 2009

by

CHRISTOPHER B. COHEN, ESQ.

444 Greenleaf

Glencoe, IL 60022-1908

847/867-8500


TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

Preface.......................................................................................................... 11

 

1.     Introduction......................................................................................... 15

 

2.     Constitution......................................................................................... 15

 

3.     Declaration of Rights......................................................................... 17

 

4.     French Republic................................................................................. 17

 

5.     Pre-1958 Weak Executive................................................................ 18

 

6.     The Constitution................................................................................. 18

 

7.     Constitutional Amendment............................................................... 19

 

8.     Presidential Characteristics............................................................. 20

 

9.     Emergency Powers............................................................................ 21

 

10.   Presidential Limitations.................................................................... 22

 

11.   President Directly Elected................................................................ 23

 

12.   Impeachment...................................................................................... 24

 

13.   Current President............................................................................... 24

 

14.   Previous President............................................................................ 25

 

15.   Presidential Elections....................................................................... 26

 

16.   Presidential Election Results........................................................... 27

 

17.   Council of Ministers........................................................................... 28

 

18.   Civil Service........................................................................................ 31

 

19.   Elected Officials................................................................................. 32

 

20.   The Government................................................................................ 33

 

21.   Government Control Techniques.................................................... 34

 

22.   Floor Rights........................................................................................ 35

 

23.   Contrary Legislative Texts............................................................... 36

 

24.   Official Misconduct............................................................................ 36

 

25.   May 1995 Government...................................................................... 37

 

26.   Life After The Presidency................................................................. 38

 

27.   Presidential Vacancy......................................................................... 38

 

28.   Countersignature............................................................................... 38

 

29.   No Countersignature......................................................................... 39

 

30.   Prime Minister.................................................................................... 39

 

31.   Ministers.............................................................................................. 41

 

32.   Fifth Republic Leaders...................................................................... 42

 

33.   Dual Executive................................................................................... 44

 

34.   Women's Issues................................................................................. 44

 

35.   Specialized Agencies........................................................................ 45

 

36.   Legislative Branch............................................................................. 46

 

37.   Parliamentary Operations................................................................. 46

 

38.   Legislative Authority.......................................................................... 47

 

39.   Parliamentary Bills............................................................................. 48

 

40.   L=Assemblée Nationale..................................................................... 49

 

41.   Assembly Elections........................................................................... 50

 

42.   National Assembly President........................................................... 51

 

43.   Assembly Administration.................................................................. 51

 

44.   Assembly Committees....................................................................... 52

 

45.   La Dissolution..................................................................................... 53

 

46.   La Censure.......................................................................................... 53

 

47.   Elections.............................................................................................. 56

 

48.   Parliamentary Elections.................................................................... 56

 

49.   Compensation..................................................................................... 57

 

50.   Assemblée Nationale Parties........................................................... 57

 

51.   Le Sénat.............................................................................................. 59

 

52.   Differing Texts.................................................................................... 60

 

53.   Question Periods............................................................................... 61

 

54.   Voting................................................................................................... 62

 

55.   Election Types.................................................................................... 63

 

56.   Incompatibility..................................................................................... 64

 

57.   Irresponsabilité................................................................................... 66

 

58.   Election Restrictions......................................................................... 67

 

59.   Campaign Disclosure........................................................................ 67

 

60.   Referenda............................................................................................ 68

 

61.   Voter Registration.............................................................................. 68

 

62.   Constitutional Council....................................................................... 69

 

63.   Dual Law System............................................................................... 71

 

64.   Les Cours Administratives............................................................... 73

 

65.   Conseil d'Etat..................................................................................... 73

 

66.   Civil Courts......................................................................................... 74

 

67.   Criminal Courts.................................................................................. 75

 

68.   Non-Professional Judges................................................................. 76

 

69.   Criminal Cases................................................................................... 77

 

70.   La Cour de Cassation....................................................................... 78

 

71.   High Council of the Judiciary........................................................... 78

 

72.   Lawyers............................................................................................... 79

 

73.   National Audit Courts........................................................................ 80

 

74.   Judicial Careers................................................................................. 80

 

75.   Government Levels............................................................................ 81

 

76.   Other Administrative Units............................................................... 82

 

77.   Les Cantons........................................................................................ 82

 

78.   Centralization..................................................................................... 82

 

79.   Decentralization................................................................................. 82

 

80.   La Police.............................................................................................. 83

 

81.   Interpol................................................................................................. 86

 

82.   La Police Nationale........................................................................... 86

 

83.   La Gendarmerie Nationale............................................................... 89

 

84.   Police Judiciare.................................................................................. 89

 

85.   Judicial Investigation......................................................................... 90

 

86.   Le Ministère de Justice..................................................................... 96

 

87.   Les Communes................................................................................... 97

 

88.   Les Conseils Municipaux.................................................................. 97

 

89.   Le Maire............................................................................................... 98

 

90.   City Populations................................................................................. 99

 

91.   Les Départements.............................................................................. 99

 

92.   Departmental Legislatures............................................................. 100

 

93.   Le Préfet............................................................................................ 101

 

94.   Regions.............................................................................................. 101

 

95.   Economic Committees.................................................................... 102

 

96.   Regions, Department and Principal Towns................................. 102

 

97.   Decentralized Power....................................................................... 106

 

98.   Local Taxes....................................................................................... 107

 

99.   Value Added Tax.............................................................................. 107

 

100.  New Communities............................................................................ 108

 

101.  Elementary and Secondary Education......................................... 109

 

102.  University.......................................................................................... 112

 

103.  Grandes Ecoles................................................................................ 116

 

104.  ENA.................................................................................................... 117

 

105.  Population......................................................................................... 118

 

106.  Alcohol and Tobacco....................................................................... 119

 

107.  Language........................................................................................... 120

 

108.  Religion.............................................................................................. 121

 

109.  Geography......................................................................................... 121

 

110.  Rivers................................................................................................. 122

 

111.  Andorra and Monaco....................................................................... 122

 

112.  Work Force........................................................................................ 123

 

113.  Recent Selected History................................................................. 123

 

114.  Social Classes.................................................................................. 125

 

115.  Unions................................................................................................ 126

 

116.  Social Security................................................................................. 127

 

117.  Economy............................................................................................ 129

 

118.  Industry.............................................................................................. 130

 

119.  Energy................................................................................................ 131

 

120.  Banking.............................................................................................. 132

 

121.  Bank Nationalization....................................................................... 133

 

122.  Bank Regulation............................................................................... 133

 

123.  Bank of France................................................................................. 134

 

124.  Economic Affairs Ministry............................................................... 135

 

125.  Television.......................................................................................... 135

 

126.  Daily Circulation Newspapers........................................................ 136

 

127.  Military............................................................................................... 136

 

128.  Minitel................................................................................................ 137

 

129.  Rails................................................................................................... 138

 

130.  Vichy Government........................................................................... 140

 

131.  European Union............................................................................... 140

 

132.  EU Applications................................................................................ 141

 

133.  EU Geography.................................................................................. 142

 

134.  European Governance.................................................................... 142

 

135.  Confederalism.................................................................................. 143

 

136.  EU Public View................................................................................. 143

 

137.  Maastricht Treaty............................................................................. 144

 

138.  EU Budget......................................................................................... 145

 

139.  The European Commission............................................................ 145

 

140.  Council of the European Union..................................................... 149

 

141.  European Parliament....................................................................... 151

 

142.  European Court of Auditors........................................................... 154

 

143.  European Court of Justice.............................................................. 154

 

144.  Human Rights Court........................................................................ 154

 

145.  European Economic and Social Committee................................ 154

 

146.  European Committee on Regions................................................. 155

 

147.  Nation of Europe.............................................................................. 155

 

148.  Schengen Agreement...................................................................... 156

 

149.  European Banking........................................................................... 157

 

150.  Trade.................................................................................................. 157

 

151.  Common Market............................................................................... 158

 

152.  Unified Europe.................................................................................. 158

 

153.  Foreign Investment.......................................................................... 159

 

154.  European Citizenship and Immigration........................................ 159

 

155.  Foreign Relations............................................................................. 159

 

156.  Treaties.............................................................................................. 160

 

157.  European Law................................................................................... 160

 

158.  European Convention on Human Rights...................................... 161

 

159.  International Organizations............................................................ 162

 

160.  French States Over Two Centuries.............................................. 162

 

161.  French Heads of State.................................................................... 163

 

162.  La France En Ligne......................................................................... 167

 

163.  World Population Percentage........................................................ 168

 

 

 

                                              CONSTITUTION &

                                      GOVERNMENT OF

                                        FRANCE & THE

                                 NEW EUROPEAN UNION

 

Preface

 

Since this writer's first trip to France in 1961, there have been major changes in the perception of this country and its denizens by Americans.  In the 50+ years since World War II, tendencies within French society have changed considerably.

 

$   Frequently changing Governments have been replaced by Government stability.

 

$   The French Communist Party has declined.

 

$   Polarizing ideological divisions between political parties of the Left and Right have lessened.

 

$   Political party discipline has decreased.

 

$   As in the US, identification by members of the public with a particular party has declined. 

 

$       Interest in the unification of Europe has increased.

 

What are the constitutional and institutional changes that have coincided with these changes in French politics and government?  How do France's current institutions and Constitution compare to those in the United States?

 

I wrote this text for students of France and also to familiarize tourists and businessmen who travel to and enjoy France but cannot figure out the political and governmental systems there.

 

French history has been significantly different than that in England and the United States.  For example, England has a Prime Minister.  Even though the Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers are members of the executive branch, they are also members of the legislative branch.  Ministers in the British Government are also members of the House of Commons.  Members of the French Conseil des Ministres can speak in debates on the Assembly floor but are prohibited from being a member of that body. 

In the United States, there is a President but no Prime Minister.  The President and his Cabinet Members are prohibited from being members of the legislative branch.  France has chosen neither of these two systems.  Instead, it has a President and a Prime Minister.  Under the prior constitution, the French presidency was mostly ceremonial.  Under the current Fifth Republic constitution, a President is the single most powerful governmental official.  Yet, there is no Vice President.

 

How can an Englishman or an American who travels to France on business or works there for an extended period understand such a system?  What do foreigners need to know to survive in a contest with the French government system?  It is these types of questions I pursue in this book.  Also, many texts are written like American insurance policies.  They are written by and for drafters of the documents, but not for readers.  It is difficult for readers to understand and to easily acquire the knowledge.  This book, on the other hand, is intended to be an overview with many bullet points and short, easy-to-grasp, factual details.

 

The intent is not to qualify readers for a Ph D, but to permit them to understand and thus increase their enjoyment of the French experience.  A second goal is to benefit executives of multi-national firms when they are transferred to France by giving them a head start in comprehending the new and complex system they are about to encounter. So many new and different words are used that it is often difficult to understand without a translation of the concepts as well as the words themselves.  A third goal is to assist foreigners in reading a French newspaper or accounts in English language newspapers about events in France. This is a self-help book to understand the French system.  Another title is AEverything You Always Wanted To Know About The French But Were Afraid To Ask@ or AThe French System Explained@ or AFrance Explained.@ 

 

Unlike American and British concepts, France's largest bank is owned, not by private enterprise, but by the Government.  Top French civil servants receive the equivalent of a masters degree in finance and public administration at a Government institution somewhat like the US Naval Academy or West Point.  These public employees owe Government service to their country, yet some transfer to private enterprise before returning to Government service.

 

Americans are used to operating in the United States which has a federal system with the national government having power in some areas and states having authority in others.  On the other hand, foreigners in France, thanks to Napoléon, will come up against a unitary national government with power centralized in Paris.  Recently, the country has experimented with some decentralization.

 

In addition, a supranational layer is being spread over the 15 European nations via the Common Market or European Union.

 

1.  Is this similar to the 13 U.S. colonies joining together and putting a layer of government over themselves 200 years ago?

 

2.  How do the institutions of and the European Union (common market) operate?

 

3.  How does one compensate formerly protectionist countries which exported agricultural goods to other countries from which they previously imported manufactured goods?

 

4.  When trade barriers fall, how does the EU cause winners to subsidize losers?

 

5.  When the European Union creates a new law, how is it implemented in each of the 15 countries?

 

6.  Will these 15 countries that speak 13 different languages actually create a single currency?

 

7.  How can this possibly be organized?

 

 

-o0O0o-

 

 

1.    Introduction

 

Two major systems of democratic government are the parliamentary and the presidential.  England has a Prime Minister elected by the legislative branch while the US has a president elected by the public.  France (la République Française) has both.  It is a "mixed presidential/parliamentary", "dual executive" or "semi-presidential" system.  The term semi-presidential was first used by French law professor, Maurice Duverger, to refer to a President elected by universal suffrage working with a Prime Minister and Cabinet responsible to Parliament.

 

In the US, the President is both head of the state and head of government.  In the United Kingdom, the monarch is head of state while the Prime Minister is head of government.  The British (parliamentary) system stopped having a dual executive at the dawn of the 19th century when the monarch lost all but symbolic powers.  In France, these roles are divided between President and Prime Minister.  The President is chef d'Etat (head of state).  He appoints the Prime Minister who is chef du gouvernement (head of government).  Both share executive leadership.  The French system permits the Prime Minister to direct the administration and bureaucracy while the President acts as the nation's leader.

 

2.    Constitution

 

France has had five republics, two empires and more than a dozen constitutions in two hundred years.  On the other hand, the 1787 American Constitution is still in effect while the 1791 French Constitution lasted less than one year.  Since adoption of the original US constitution in 1787, France has had 13 written constitutions.  During that time, there were three monarchies, two empires, the Vichy state and five republics.  The Third Republic had 110 governments from 1870-1940.  In the Fourth Republic, there were 23 governments in 13 years.  The history of France since 1789 has effectively been a very long constitutional convention.

 

 

until 1789

 

Ancien Régime

 

1789 - 1792

 

Revolutionary Regimes

 

1792 - 1804

 

First Republic

 

1804 - 1814

 

First Empire

 

1848 - 1852

 

Second Republic

 

1852 - 1871

 

Second Empire

 

1871 - 1940

 

Third Republic

 

1947 - 1958

 

Fourth Republic

 

1958 - present

 

Fifth Republic

 

The current constitution, adopted by a 1958 referendum, established la Cinquième République (Fifth Republic) and ended years of governmental instability.  It vastly expanded Presidential power.  Minority governments (those supported by fewer than half the members of Parliament) were prevalent during the Fourth Republic.  The high number of minority governments contributed to political instability.  In its short 12-year life (1946-1958), the Fourth Republic had 20 different Governments headed by 17 Prime Ministers.

 

The 1958 constitution was linked to the threat of civil war in France over whether to grant independence to the colony of Algeria and was adopted due to the need for a strong executive.  Some units of the French Army in Algeria had occupied the French Island of Corsica.

 

War hero General Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) was called out of retirement in June 1958 to rule by decree for six months, to write a new constitution and to serve as the of the Fourth Republic=s last Prime Minister.  At age 68, he proposed the new Constitution as a response to the inefficiency of earlier institutions and the need for the Government to win and hold a consensus.  In France before WW II, as well as during the subsequent Fourth Republic, executive highly dependent on Parliament.

 

The constitutional law of June 3, 1958 passed the National Assembly (lower house) 350 Yes, 160 No with 70 abstaining.  It was passed by the Conseil de la République (Council of the Republic--the name at that time for what is now l=Assemblée nationale (National Assembly or lower house) 260 Oui (Yes), 30 Non (No).  Voters approved the new constitution by referendum (79% "Oui" to 21% "Non" votes).  The vote in metropolitan France was 17,660,790 Yes, 4,624,511 No and 4,016,614 abstentions.

 

 

 

Yes

 

No

 

Abstain

 

Conseil de la République

 

260

 

30

 

--

 

All valid referendum votes

 

79%

 

21%

 

--

 

Metropolitan France vote

 

17,660,790

 

4,624,511

 

4,016,614

 

The new constitution was promulgated (became effective) October 4, 1958, four months after de Gaulle became Prime Minister.  It has been amended several times since.  The French Constitution incorporates into its text by reference:

 

$    the 1946 Constitution's preamble,

 

$    concepts of national sovereignty, representative government and universal suffrage from prior constitutions, including several specific laws and

 

$    the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man (la Declaration des Droits de l=homme et du citoyen) from the French Revolution.

 

3.    French Republic

 

France is a republic as distinguished from a monarchy because its Head of State is constitutionally and periodically elected as opposed to hereditary and because its Governmental functions are legally defined and limited.  Of 23 European nations existing in 1914, only France, Portugal and Switzerland were then republics.  Article 2 of the 1958 Constitution requires that the national:

 

$    Anthem is la Marseillaise.

$    Motto is Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

$    Emblem is the tricolore (3 vertical stripes of blue, white and red).

$    Principal is "government of the people, by the people and for the people."

 

4.    Pre-1958 Weak Executive

 


Empires created by the two Napoléons created fear among those who favored a republic and fear of a strong leader who could turn into a dictator.  In 1799, France's chief executive, Napoléon Bonaparte, staged a coup d'état and became Emperor Napoléon I in 1804.  In 1851, his cousin, Louis-Napoléon (previously elected as the Second Republic's President) staged a coup d'état and had himself installed as Emperor Napoléon III in 1852.

 

The Napoleonic legacy caused some to favor a strong parliament during the Third and Fourth Republics.  Constitutions prior to the Ve République (Fifth Republic) maintained a weak executive and strong legislature to prevent strong executives.  During the Third and Fourth Republics, the legislative branch was more powerful than the presidency.  Only once (in 1877) did a President (Marshall MacMahon) dissolve the l'Assemblée nationale.  Because the subsequent election delivered a National Assembly majority opposed to the President, no subsequent executive branch chose to act independently of the legislative branch.  After the 1877 attempt, presidents performed little more than ceremonial duties.  Prime Ministers and governments also were weak due to the minor powers granted them by the Constitution.  There were 108 Governments during the 70 years of the Third Republic and 25 in the 12 years of the Fourth Republic.  France had 60 Governments between 1870 and 1914.

 

5.    The Constitution

 

The 1958 Constitution:

 

$    strengthened executive power at the expense of the legislative branch.

$    allows Government to make some rules without Parliament.  (Article 37)

$       creates no clear line between roles of President and Prime Minister.

$    specifically recognizes political parties.  (Article 4)

$    establishes seven important institutions:

$    le Président de la République (President of France).  (Article 5)

$    l'Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly--lower house).  (Article 24)

$    le Sénat (Senate--upper house).  (Article 24)

$    le Premier ministre (Prime Minister).  (Article 21)

$    le Gouvernement (the Government).  (Article 20)

$    le Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional Council).  (Article 56)

$    le Conseil d'Etat (Council of State).  (Article 65)

 

Of the institutions listed above, only the first two are directly chosen by the electorate.

 


Article 92 (now obsolete) allowed the Government to establish new institutions, to create a system for elections and to rule by adopting ordinances during the first 4 months of the 1958 constitutions.

 

6.    Constitutional Amendment

 

A constitutional amendment can be adopted in one of several ways:

 

1.   identical language passes each house as a "constitutional law" and is approved by a national referendum,  (Article 89)

 

2.   identical language proposed by the Government passes each house and then passes a joint meeting of both houses by a 3/5 majority or  (Article 89)

 

3.   At the suggestion of Government or both Chambers of Parliament, the President submits a law directly to a national referendum.  (Article 11)

 

The constitution authorizes only the first two methods (Article 89) for constitutional amendments.  The third (Article 11) allows the President to pass by referendum laws which deal with (1.) "organization of the public authorities," (2.) which ratify a treaty or (3.) reform economic or social policy.  De Gaule used Article 11 but ignored the requirement that the Government suggest the language he sent to referenda.

 

The Constitution does not authorize constitutional amendments by referendum (#3) without their passage first by Parliament.  Nevertheless, in 1962, President de Gaulle initiated a referendum to do just that--amend the constitution.  He ignored Article 89 and used Article 11 to amend the Constitution.  This promoted a controversy about the proper method of amendment.  Both le Conseil d'Etat and le Conseil constitutionnel formally responded to Government inquiries prior to the referendum's passage that the procedure was unconstitutional.  Most legal scholars felt Article 11 was inappropriate to use for amending the constitution especially because it is the only one of the three methods for calling a referendum that bypasses Parliament.  On the other hand, legal opinion shifted due to the Senate's consistent road blocks to amendments of any kind by referendum.  The national majority vote in favor of the referendum's passage further reduced the intensity of the debate.  In response to a review request from the Senate President after the nation-wide vote, le Conseil constitutionnel decided it had no jurisdiction to review language directly passed by the voters.

 


In 1973, President Pompidou proposed a constitutional amendment to reduce the Presidential term of office from seven to five years.  It passed each of Parliament=s two chambers separately in identical language, as required by Article 89.  However, the Government did not submit it to the two houses sitting in joint Session (le Congrès).  Therefore, it failed to obtain the necessary 3/5 majority in  Congrès and could not be submitted to a referendum.

 

7.    Presidential Characteristics

 

The President of the Republic:

 

$    is elected for 7 years, longest term in any parliamentary system.  (Article 6)

$    must be 23 years old or older.

$    is directly elected by voters age 18 or older.  (Article 6)

$    must be a French citizen.

$    must have satisfied the nation=s military obligation.

$    may be re-elected indefinitely.

$    is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.  (Article 15)

$    has the right to pardon.  (Article 17)

$    appoints the Prime Minister.  (Article 8)

$    has no legal power to dismiss the Prime Minister but  (Article 8)

$    can pressure the Prime Minister to resign.

$    promulgates laws adopted by le Conseil des Ministres.  (Article 10)

$    is president of the Conseil des Ministres (Council of Ministers).  (Article 9)

$    signs ordinances and decrees.  (Article 13)

$    presides over the Cabinet or "Government."  (Article 9)

$    can dissolve the Assembly and cause new (early) elections.  (Article 12)

$    can dissolve National Assembly with advice (not necessarily consent) of PM. (Article 12)

$    cannot dissolve the Assembly for one year after a prior dissolution.  (Article 12)

$    cannot be forced to resign by Parliament (Le Parlement).

$    is president of interministerial councils.

$    presides over Conseil supérieur de la magistrature (Judiciary High Council).(Article 65)

$    appoints 3 of 9 members of the Constitutional Council, le Conseil constitutionnel.  (Article 56)

$    designates one of his 3 choices as Constitutional Council President.  (Article 56)


$    may ask Constitutional Council to review laws & treaties before promulgation. (Article 61)

$    is paramount in a "reserved domain" (any topic he chooses)

$    accredits but does not appoint ambassadors.  (Articles 13 & 14)

$    appoints upper-level civil servants.  (Article 13)

$    appoints higher-level military officers.  (Article 13)

$    negotiates and ratifies treaties.  (Article 52)

$    directs diplomacy.

$    must promulgate new laws 15 days from passage or  (Article 10)

$    can force Parliament to reconsider part or all of a bill.  (Article 10)

$    has no veto power other that reconsideration threat.  (Article 10)

$    can submit certain bills and treaties to national referenda.  (Article 11)

$    sends written messages to Parliament.  (Article 18)

$    may initiate constitutional amendments.  (Article 89)

$    can rule by decree in a national emergency.  (Article 16)

$    has discretion to decide when he can take emergency powers to rule by decree.

$    is designated guardian and arbiter of the basic law.  (Article 5)

$    can help Government outflank Parliament by putting legislation to referenda. (Article 11)

 

8.    Emergency Powers

 

In an emergency, Article 16 allows the French President to take significant powers.  When possessing these emergency powers, he may not dissolve the National Assembly.  Emergency powers under Article 16 should not be confused with l'état de siège (martial law or state of siege) which can be decreed by le conseil des ministres. (Article 36)

 

Emergency powers were used only once in 1961 when de Gaulle feared the French army would take over the French colony of Algeria.  President de Gaulle received emergency powers due to a 1962 attempted coup d=état (rebellion) by military officers opposed to Algerian independence.  It failed after 4 days but state of emergency stayed in effect for 5 months. The US Constitution has no special language for emergencies, however, Article II, sections 2 and 3, grants the American President broad powers which can be exercised in time of war, rebellion, strikes or natural disaster.  If exercised, these powers can be reviewed by the US Supreme Court.

 


9.    Presidential Limitations

 

The President of the Republic:

 

$    may hold no other public office.

$    has no power to veto legislation.

$    cannot dissolve Parliament within a year after dissolving it once before.

$    is prohibited from attending parliamentary debates.

$    is prohibited from speaking at parliamentary debates.

$    is prohibited from visiting Parliament even if invited.

$    has no Vice President.

$    has few powers on paper that can be exercised unilaterally without obtaining authority from some other person or source.

$    can dissolve the National Assembly but only once in 12 months

$    has no authority to fire the Prime Minister

$    can only fire ministers if the Prime Minister recommends it.

 

Observers familiar with the presidential and parliamentary models of structuring governments, sometimes ask why the French system is neither of the above.  If the goal was to move from the weak executive in the Fourth Republic to a strong executive in the Ve République (Fifth Republic), why weren't the President's powers clearly delineated?  One response is that although party leaders decided to solve the Algerian crisis by bringing de Gaulle back in 1958 as the Fourth Republic's last premier and to write a new constitution, these leaders extracted a promise that they participate in the new constitution's drafting.  On paper, the President's powers are vague except for when he takes power in a national emergency.  (Article 16)  The President can:

 

$    "arbitrate"  (Article 5)

$    assure "regular functioning" of the Government

$    assure continuity of the Nation

$    protect its independence

$    guard France's "territorial integrity" and

$    maintain "respect for treaties."

 

10.          President Directly Elected

 


In the Fourth Republic, the two houses of Parliament together--not the public--elected the President for 7 years.  From 1958-62, the President was elected via indirect suffrage by an electoral college of 80,000 notables (local leaders). It included members from Parliament, from general councils, from municipal councils and from overseas territorial assemblies.

 

Election of the President by direct universal suffrage was adopted by constitutional amendment following a 1962 referendum proposed by President de Gaulle (62% "Yes" and 38% "No" votes).  The vote was 12,809,363 "Pour" (pro) and 7,942,695 "Contre" (con) with 6,280,297 abstentions (people registered but not voting).

 

 

 

 

Pro

 

Con

 

Abstain

 

Registered Voters

 

12809363

 

7942695

 

6280297

 

Valid Ballots Cast

 

62%

 

38%

 

--

 

For the first time in 100 years, this 1962 amendment allowed the Head of State to draw authority directly from the public, not from Parliament.  (Article 7)  The President became the sole official with a majority mandate from all French voters.

 

So far in the Fifth Republic, no political party has won the majority to elect its Presidential candidate on the first tour (ballot; round of voting).  If no candidate receives a majority on this first ballot, only the top two are in the runoff.  (Article 7)  This encourages consolidation into two coalitions--one left and one right.  De Gaulle was elected both ways--by electoral college in 1958 and directly by the voters in 1965.

 

Presidential campaigns must make public their funding sources.  Once elected, a President must publicly declare his income.  The President's office is in the Elysée Palace (Palais de l=Elysée) which has a staff of 700.

 

11.          Impeachment

 


In the US, the President cannot be removed by the legislative branch except by impeachment.  In France, impeachment of a public official does not exist.  The word le empêchement refers to an impediment.  The President is not accountable for acts performed in his official capacity except that he can be indicted for haute trahison (high treason) by an absolute majority of each house of Parliament.  (Article 68)  Trial is by la Haute Cour de Justice (High Court of Justice).  It is composed of an equal number of members elected from among the membership of each house of Parliament.  (Article 67)  There are 24 judges plus 12 alternates in case some of the 24 recuse themselves due to conflicts of interest, being called as witnesses or other disqualifications.  The constitution is silent as to whether a French President must leave office if convicted of high treason.

 

La Haute Cour de Justice is not to be confused with la Cour de justice de la République (Court of Justice of the Republic) which tries members of the Government.  (Article 68-1).  It consists of 6 members of l=Assemblée Nationale, 6 members of le Sénat and 3 judges of la Cour de cassation, one of whom presides over la Cour de justice de la République.

 

 

12.          Presidential Elections

 

Using 1969's second ballot vote counts for President as an example, results are reported as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Votes

 

Inscrits

 

all registered voters

 

28,747,988

 

Abstentions

 

registered but not voting

 

8,896,260

 

Votants

 

total voting

 

19,851,728

 

Blancs or nuls

 

blank or invalid ballots cast

 

1,294,629

 

Suffrages expirimés

 

valid ballots

 

18,557,099

 

Georges Pompidou

 

votes for winner

 

10,686,498

 

Alain Poher

 

votes for loser

 

7,870,601

 

In France and the US, no law punishes citizens who chose not to vote. In France, those who are registered but do not come to vote are called "abstentions."  In a contrary tradition, Belgium has le vote obligatoire (government mandated voting).  Those who fail to vote are fined.

 


In the first round of 1995 balloting, almost 40% of those voting chose presidential candidates from parties not in the political mainstream.  The high amount (6%) of blank ballots were not counted in the total of votes cast.  Had they been counted, Chirac would be the first President elected by less than a majority of all votes cast.

 

A ballot which is Ablanc@ is blank with no marks on it.  It can also occur if the ballot envelope is put in the urn without a ballot in it.  A ballot which Anul@ is void.  This can occur if the voter marks two names for an office where only one can be elected or puts illegal distinguishing marks on the ballot that could be used to distinguish it for others.

 

13.          Presidential Election Results

 

                                                 First Round Sunday, April 23, 1995

 

 

Candidate

 

Party

 

Left

 

Right

 

Lionel Jospin

 

Socialist

 

23.30%

 

 

 

Jacques Chirac

 

Gaullist

 

 

 

20.84%

 

Edouard Balladur

 

Center Right

 

 

 

18.58%

 

Jean-Marie LePen

 

Extreme Right

 

 

 

15.00%

 

Robert Hue

 

Communist

 

8.64%

 

 

 

Arlette Laguillier

 

Trotskite

 

5.30%

 

 

 

Philippe de Villiers

 

Other Europe

 

 

 

4.74%

 

Dominique Voynet

 

Green/ecologist

 

3.32%

 

 

 

Jacques Cheminade

 

 

 

 

 

0.28%

 

 

 

 

 

40.00%

 

60.00%

 

Second Round Sunday, May 7, 1995

 

 

Candidate

 

Party

 

Left

 

Right

 

Jacques Chirac

 

conservative

 

 

 

52.7%

 

Lionel Jospin

 

Socialist

 

47.3%

 

 

 


14.          Council of Ministers

 

The Constitution's chief characteristic is dominance by the executive.  The Premier Ministre (Prime Minister) is appointed Head of Government by the President (head of state).  (Article 8)  The PM is not normally referred to as the premier as in some other parliamentary systems.  Collectively Ministers are referred to not as the ACabinet@ (as in the US) but as the AGovernment@.  The Government is le Premier Ministre plus a set of ministers.  It is referred to as le Conseil des Ministres (Council of Ministers) when it meets, usually each Wednesday.  Ministers are appointed by the President on the Prime Minister's recommendation.  (Article 8)

 

Le Conseil des Ministres:

 

$    is presided over by the President  (Article 9)

$    can decree martial law l'État de siège  (Article 36)

$    can adopt temporary legislation by ordinance to establish new Governmental institutions.

$    can decide which ordinances and decrees will be submitted to the President for signature  (Article 13)

$    discusses Government bills to be introduced into parliament  (Article 39)

$    is consulted by the Prime Minister before he pledges the Government's responsibility to the National Assembly.

$    appoints préfets (National Government officials) in each département  (Article 13)

$    appoints ambassadors  (Article 13)

$    appoints members of le Conseil d'Etat (Council of State) court  (Article 13)

$    appoints senior members of the National Audit Office  (Article 13)

$    appoints 27 regional educational superintendents (recteurs)  (Article 13)

$    enacts ordinances for limited periods on topics within the legislative sphere  (Article 38)

$    enacts such ordinances only after consultation with le Conseil d'Etat  (Article 38)

 


Members of the Government do not have to have been members of the National Assembly.  They need not even belong to the Prime Minister's party.  If they are Members of Parliament, they must resign to join the Government.  The Council of Ministers is mentioned in Articles 9, 13, 21, 36, 38, 39, 49 and 92.  These articles make the Council a body to be consulted by the Government and the President.  The Constitution does not authorize the Government or le Conseil des Ministres to debate and create policy collectively like a legislative body.  In the United Kingdom (UK) or the US, this group might be referred to as the Cabinet.

 

Each minister has a private staff or personal team of advisors called his cabinet ministériel.  Selection of members of un cabinet ministériel depends not on the Government but on the minister.  Some are likely to be civil servants personally chosen by the minister.  In France, civil service includes temporary political service via the cabinet ministériel system.  The head staff person (chief of staff) for a minster's cabinet ministériel is called the chef de cabinet or directeur de cabinet.  A member of a minister's staff watches over several of the ministry's sub-agencies (directions), each of which is headed by a directeur or a directeur général.  The French word cabinet means a minister's private staff.  It should not be confused with the American word "cabinet" which corresponds in France to "Government" or "Council of Ministers".

 

Le Conseil des Ministres is composed of the Prime Minister and senior Government members chaired by the President.  Although the President can refuse to sign decrees

from the Council of Ministers, this has never occurred because Presidents have dominated the Council.  Members of le Conseil des Ministres:

 

$    may not hold a seat in Parliament.  (Article 23)

$    may not be an active civil service employee.  (Article 23)

$    may not be employed in the private sector at the national level.  (Article 23)

$    may hold elected positions only at the regional or local level.  (Article 23)

 

Members of le Conseil des Ministres:

 

$    are criminally liable for their official acts.  (Article 68-1)

$    may introduce legislation into Parliament.  (Article 39)

$    may address Parliament.  (Article 48)

$    may be questioned by Members of Parliament.  (Article 48)

 


The Fifth Republic Constitution's incompatibility clause (Article 23) eliminates any incentive for Ministers voting to dissolve the Government and being able to return to their legislative seats.  The incompatability clause prohibits a member of the Government from also serving in l'Assemblée Nationale or in le Sénat or holding any national office in public employment, in professional activity or in a business, professional or union organization.  Prime Ministers have served longer in the Fifth Republic than in the Fourth Republic but cabinets have been reshuffled with PM's remaining at the helm.

 

Constitutions prior to 1959 allowed Ministers to also serve as members of Parliament.  Deputés could destabilize a Government by threatening to vote for a no confidence (censure) motion (motion de censure) in Parliament.  Sometimes a Minister in the Third or Fourth Republic would threaten to bring down a multi-party, coalition Government in which he served due to disputes with a PM from another party.  The hope was that a new Government would contain fewer supporters of the policy opposed by the person threatening censure.  Other times a Minister hoped a newly appointed Government would promote him to a more powerful post--even Prime Minister.  The Prime Minister:

 

$    may be dismissed by the National Assembly.

$    may not be dismissed by the President.

$    can introduce legislation into Parliament.  (Article 39)

$    has his office at the Hôtel Matignon.

 

In the United States, Department Secretaries (collectively the Cabinet) are chosen by the President.  Once confirmed by the US Senate, members of the Cabinet cannot be fired by the legislative branch but can be fired by the President.  In France, the Council of Ministers is chosen by the President and Prime Minister, however, Ministers can be removed from office collectively by the legislative branch's lower house (l'Assemblée Nationale) via a censure motion.

 

No French law restricts civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity contrary to the situation in the US and UK.  Thus the Council of Ministers may contain a higher percentage of civil servants than an American cabinet.

 

The Council of Ministers often includes people with little prior political experience.  This may be due to a president=s desire to pick competent technicians to make him look good or to minimize the roles of potential political rivals.  Presidents can pick political unknowns for prime minister as de Gaulle did when he selected George Pompideu in 1962.

 

15.          Civil Service

 


As in the United States, the Civil Service Law (Statut Général de la Fonction Publique) provides virtual lifetime employment for un fonctionnair, (a civil servant).  French civil servants are allowed to engage in political activity in their private capacities.  Civil servants are divided into a number of different corps including the grands corps.  Some have only a few members (préfets) while others have tens of thousands.  These include:

 

$    le corps diplomatique (diplomatic corps)

$    primary school teachers (the largest corps)

$       customs officers and l'inspection des finances tax inspectors in the Finance Ministry

$       national police (la police nationale) in the Interior Ministry (le Ministère de l=Intérieur)

$    gendarmerie in the Defense Ministry (le Ministère du Defense)

$    magistrates in the Justice Ministry

$    le corps prefectorial (préfets)

$    Conseil d'état (Council of State)

$    la Cour des comptes (Court of Accounts)

$    Ecole nationale des impôts (national tax college)

$    Ecole nationale de la magistrature (national judicial college) l=ENM

$       recteurs d'académie (regional directors of educational administration).  Des Académies include primary, secondary and university education but not grandes écoles.

$       other corps

 

Corps technique:

 

$    le corps des ingénieurs des mines mine engineers

$    le corps des ingénieurs des ponts et chaussées (highway engineers)

 

A civil servant can work outside his corps and then return to this corps d'origine (corps of origination) or ministry by:

 

$    mis en disponibilité (put on leave of absence from civil service without pay if elected a deputé or maire)

$    détachement (to go to a cabinet ministériel or to another corps or to work for a city's maire) paid by the receiving agency.


$    mis à disposition (loaned to another governmental unit for experience to spread its influence and eyes and ears) paid by the sending agency.

 

16.          The Government

 

In the US, laws are passed by the national legislature (Congress) and regulations to implement them are promulgated by the relevant cabinet department.  Similarly, in France, laws are passed by Parliament and décrets d'application (regulations) are promulgated by the minister who heads the relevant ministry--not from the President.  The Government is composed of le conseil des Ministres plus le premier Ministre.  It:

 

$    is housed at the Hôtel Matignon

$    may introduce legislation just as members of Parliament may

$    may amend legislation just as members of Parliament may

$    can decide when Parliament meets

$    can set the ordre du jour (agenda) in both the National Assembly and Senate.

$    can bar any legislation from the agenda it does not like.

$    can refuse a political asylum request previously rejected by another EU country.  (Article 53-1)

$    always resigns after legislative Assemblée Nationale elections whatever the outcome, although not required to.

$    can ask Parliament to delegate away its legislative authority in a specific policy area for a limited time period subject to Parliament's subsequent veto.

$    must consult with le conseil économique et social (Economic and Social Council) on economic or social plans.  (Article 70)

$    may ask le conseil économique et social for its opinion on any legislation, ordinance or decree.  (Article 69)

 

Members of the Government:

$    cannot also be members of the Assembly or Senate.  (Article 23)

$    cannot hold any public or private national position.  (Article 23)

 

Governments are coalitions of multiple parties even when the largest party has an absolute majority of seats in l'Assemblée Nationale.  On a censure motion to topple the Government:

 

$    a majority of all 577 Assembly seats (289 votes) is required for passage.

$    only "Yes" votes are counted.  (Article 49)


$    a vote "present" or "abstain" counts against the motion.

$    signatories of a censure motion are banned from signing another motion during the same session, except

$    when the Prime Minister pledges the Government's responsibility, any deputy may sign and file a censure motion.  (Article 49)

 

The Government's General Secretariat organizes the work of the Government including the agenda and minutes of Counsel of Ministers meetings.

 

 

-o0O0o-

 

17.          Fifth Republic Leaders

 

 

 

Year

 

 

President

 

Defeated Candidate

 

 

Prime Minister

 

1958

 

Charles de Gaulle

 

(None)

 

Michel Debré

 

1959

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1961

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1962

 

 

 

 

 

Georges Pompidou

 

1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1964

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1965

 

Charles de Gaulle

 

(Mitterrand)

 

 

 

1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1967

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1968

 

 

 

 

 

Maurice Couve de Murville

 

1969

 

Georges Pompidou

 

(Poher)

 

Jacques Chaban-Delmas

 

1970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1971

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1972

 

 

 

 

 

Pierre Messmer

 

1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1974

 

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing

 

(Mitterrand)

 

Jacques Chirac

 

1975

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1976

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond Barre

 

1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1979

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1980

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1981

 

François Mitterrand

 

(Giscard)

 

Pierre Mauroy

 

1982

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1983

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1984

 

 

 

 

 

Laurent Fabius

 

1985

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1986*

 

 

 

 

 

Jacques Chirac

 

1987*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1988

 

François Mitterrand

 

(Chirac)

 

Michel Rocard

 

1989

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1991

 

 

 

 

 

Edith Cresson

 

1992

 

 

 

 

 

Pierre Bérégovoy

 

1993*

 

 

 

 

 

Edouard Balladur

 

1994*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1995

 

Jacques Chirac

 

(Jospin)

 

Alain Juppé

 

1996

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1997*

 

 

 

 

 

Lionel Jospin

 

*    From 1986-1988 and again from 1993-1995, a Socialist President and a Conservative National Assembly "cohabited."  Beginning in 1997, a conservative President and a Socialist National Assembly cohabited.  Cohabitation is referred to as la République à deux têtes (the two-headed government).

 

18.          Dual Executive

 

When the National Assembly's majority supports the President (who is Head of State), he is also effectively the Head of Government.  When the National Assembly majority opposes the President, the Prime Minister is the real Head of Government both in law and in fact. The first case is the norm, the second (cohabitation) is the exception.

 

Besides France, there are five other countries that divide executive power between two official positions.  In France, Finland, Lebanon, Portugal and Sri Lanka the President and Prime Minister share executive powers.  In Morocco, it is shared by the King and the Prime Minister.

 

19.          Women's Issues

 


Edith Cresson was chosen as France's first female premier in 1991.  Twelve of the May 1995 Juppé Government's 42 members were women although 8 were junior ministers.  As in the US, the percentage of women in either House of the French legislature is far below its majority percentage in the population.  Women elected officials constitute 10% of all elected officials in France and are highest at the local level.  Article 3 guarantees both sexes the right to vote.  By way of comparison, Wyoming was the first state to permit women to vote in local elections (1890).  Women achieved the right to vote in the following years:

 

 

1890

 

Wyoming

 

1893

 

New Zealand

 

1906

 

Finland

 

1920

 

United States

 

1945

 

France

 

1950

 

Denmark

 

1971

 

Switzerland

 

After the demonstrations of May, 1968, Governments increased their interest in a number of social causes including what were referred to as "women's issues".  Laws regarding divorce were reformed.  However, a plan to create minimum quotas for female candidates on party lists for municipal elections was rejected by the Constitutional Council.

 

Abortion was allowed for the first time in 1975.  The Council of State reviewed the text passed by Parliament and issued an opinion saying the law did not violate human rights.  Abortion is legal for fetuses of up to 10 weeks in France and up to 24 weeks for foreigners in Britain.

 

 

-o0O0o-

 

20.          Judicial Investigation

 

When a crime occurs, a witness can dial the phone number 17 (instead of 911 in the US).  Response will be from a beat policeman who has a territory (un jurisdiction).  After checking the scene, he calls l=état majorie (assignment desk) in the prefecture. Une police judiciare team composed of investigators with the rank of officier takes over.  Unlike beat police, members of la police judiciaire can be invested with authority to arrest, to search private property and to interrogate witnesses.  In Paris there are several teams of 7 officiers, one of which is on duty at any given time. For major cases, the Crime Squad (la brigad criminal) from la police judiciare takes over the inquiry.  In a routine crime, the local police judiciaire will do the work and won=t escalate it to la brigade criminal.

 

There are 3 main ways start an investigation (un enqûet judiciaire or un information judiciaire):

 

1.   L=enqûete preliminaire.  For crimes not directly observed, police or gendarmes can conduct a preliminary investigation under a prosecutor=s direction to obtain information on the crime.  They believe an offense occurred but may only have a suspect or have no suspect at all.  They need to find evidence either to arrest or to clear the suspect.  Beat police cannot arrest a person on the street and put him in custody (une garde à vue), although they can ask the suspect to voluntarily come to the police station.

 


2.   Un flagrant délit.  Police can arrest an offender and bring that person before a prosecutor if they observe an offense in progress or that has just been committed.   They know an incident occurred but don=t know details of what happened.  This arrest can involve search and seizure of witnesses and suspects.  An example is a victim who runs up to report her purse was stolen. The crime has just happened.  In this instance, police are automatically allowed to exercise arrest power and to use la garde à vue (detention for questioning) but only for one week after the incident. Technically if police fill out at least one piece of paper every day to show that the investigation is continuing, the time period for this expanded authority is extended.  If police stop working on the case, the level of authority falls to l=enqûet preliminaire (limited power) status. If they need to start again and want the higher level of authority during the investigation, police must ask a judge for l=enqûet commission rogatoire.

 

3.   Un enqûete commission rogatoire or un commission rogatoire informationaire judiciaire.  A letter requesting authority for an investigation, if granted, gives la police judiciaire full investigational authority.  This commission or mandate to investigate includes the right to arrest, use of la garde a vue to question witnesses, plus the right to search a person, a house or other location if police can convince un juge d=instruction the crime is linked to that location.  In the written order, some judges list a limited number of specific locations that can be searched. Others grant authority to search anywhere police need so they don=t have to come back repeatedly.  The auto accident in which Princess died was un flagrant délit when police initially arrived.  It quickly moved to the third stage, because the accident clearly needed further investigation.

 

4.   Decouvert le cadavre.  In this infrequently used procedure, police have discovered a corpse and are initially investigating only to decide if it involves a homicide or not.  If the crime was committed more than a week previously, the rule is that police have no power to arrest, to search or to put a witness in la garde à vue for questioning.  Normally, to start an inquiry, they would request un enqûete commission rogatoire and appear before a judge to acquire this additional authority.  Under découvert le cadavre, police who do not yet want to go to the trouble of appearing before a judge, can requisition a doctor to come view the body and make a report but cannot, for example, requisition the victim=s bank account. They only have authority to establish if the death is a homicide.  If it is, they can ask for un enqûete commission rogatoire.

 


Not every police employee can receive authority to make searches, arrests or detention in une garde à vue.  Only upper level police officials of the rank of officiers can  handle criminal investigations and be given authority to search, arrest people and put witnesses and suspects in custody for questioning.  To be granted these additional powers, they must make a reasoned case before a prosecutor and a judge.  Un guardian de la paix (beat policeman) can stop and hold a suspect but must bring him to un officier in la police judiciaire who has authority to put him in un guard à vue.  To be granted this authority, a policeman must hold the rank of un officier de la police judiciare in la police nationale or un officier de la police judiciare in la gendarmarie nationale.  That means power to arrest and search. An officier in le renseignment généreaux (intelligence branch) needs no arrest power to do his job and therefore is not given it.

 

Regarding custody, as long as they inform the public prosecutor=s office, police can hold a suspect or witness for questioning for an initial 24 hours.  This can be increased to 96 hours in drug and terrorism cases.  For the initial 24-hour period, only police with the rank of officier decide if a person is placed in la garde à vue. However, police must inform the prosecutor.  After 24 hours, if officiers want to continue la garde à vue, they must justify continued detention by appearing before un juge d=instruction.

The prosecutor decides whether to allow police to ask the judge an extension.  The extension is a second 24 hours in normal cases.  For drug trafficking or terrorism, the second period is 48 hours with one additional 24-hour period possible. This means the maximum custody period for questioning is 2 days for normal cases and 4 days for drugs or terrorism.  After 24 hours, no matter what the potential charge, police must bring the detainee in front of un juge d=instruction who is a new, disinterested person.

 

At the beginning of la garde à vue, police must explain that the interviewee has rights to:

 

$    place a phone call to a lawyer or family member,

$    have a lawyer enter the room for up to 30 minutes after the 20th hour and

$   see a doctor.

 

Controle judiciare (bond), if any, is determined by le juge d=instruction who can set conditions on the released person.  A witness or suspect held in la garde à vue, can appeal the appropriateness of this preventative detention (le detention provisoire) or detention while awaiting trial to a 3-judge chambre d=accussion (Chamber of Accusation).  He has the right to ask the Chamber=s President to suspend the order of le juge d=instruction (thus releasing him from custody) until a decision is made on the appeal of custody.  The detainee has the right at a later time to sue for civil damages for being wrongfully held in custody.

 

There are several independent people watching over the propriety of a criminal case:

 

$   Policier

$   Procurer

$   Juge d=instruction

$   Chambre d=accusition


Un juge d=instruction is effectively a super policeman. He controls the police inquiry.  Sometimes he tells police just to go do the investigation and call if they have questions. Alternatively, the judge can ask police to investigate and to keep coming back to him for permission and instructions at the discovery of each new fact.

 

A prosecutor=s power is limited.  He can=t drop a murder or other serious charge.  He must go before un juge d=instruction--another independent person.

 

To aid them in procedural questions and in drafting forms and reports to be filed with le juge d=instruction, members of la police judiciaire (criminal investigators) are issued a hardback book of forms and procedures called le Traité de Procedure Penale Policiere with an updated pocket part in the back.

 

The underlying assumption of the French system is that it is hard to have malfeasance or corruption when 3 separate people are involved along with an overseeing body and that this process encourages a search for the truth.  None of the participants is encouraged or paid extra for a result one way or the other. French police claim that some police officers in other countries receive promotions based on the number of arrests or convictions. This does not occur in France where promotions are based on passage of exams and in some cases on seniority.  Promotion is only by passing an exam or seniority.  French police believe their system provides little incentive to charge innocent suspects.

 

No lawyer can assist the detained person until the 20th hour.  The Justice Ministry has recently proposed that the lawyer meeting occur at the beginning of la guard à view.

 

The US justice system is adversary.  The French justice system is inquisitorial.  It involves an inquiry not an inquisition.

 

In the US, police must find evidence against the suspect.  In France the police, a prosecutor and le juge d=instruction see themselves as assigned to find the truth of exactly what happened not merely to charge a suspect.  They must find evidence against or for the suspect.  That is why the lawyer may not assist the suspect (le guardie a vue) French officials believe that in the US, a policeman can say AI made the arrest.  if you aren=t quilty, go tell it to the Judge.@ The job of the judge is to be fair.  This is not how French police officers view their jobs.

 


In France, there is no cross examination in the court room because police have to write down all facts for the investigating judge=s dossier--not just those needed for prosecution.  There is no plea bargaining in France on the theory that one can=t bargain with the truth.  Suspects cannot plead guilty.  Some feel that in adversary systems, police and prosecutors are not seeking the truth.  They are seeking convictions and letting the neutral judge determine what the truth is based on what the defense brings forth.  If the prosecutor and defense want to plea bargain.

 

In France, there is one offense, one investigation, one arrest, one trial.  In the US, there in one offense, one investigation, then either plea bargaining (90%) and no trial or else there is no plea and a trial occurs (10%).  In France, wherever there are both an offense and a suspect, there is a trial in 100% of the casesBno plea bargaining.  The French lawyer can be with the suspect in front of the examining judge as well as in front of the trial judge.  At trial there is a new investigation. The trial judge has the files and other papers and wants to know exactly what happened.  He wants to recreate the investigation.

 

Un suspect is a suspect.  Police may investigate and collect evidence as to whether he or someone else is the offender.  At this point, the prosecutor has not asked that un juge d=instruction be appointed, or if one has been appointed for this crime, investigation of this particular person (the suspect) has not yet been assigned to le juge.

 

A person likely to be the perpetrator will be put under investigation (mis en examan).  The person being investigated is now called le mis en examan or la mise en examan  (the investigated one or the investigatee).  Il est mis en examan or elle est mise en examan means he or she is under investigation (by criminal policeBpolice judiciare-- under authority of an investigating magistrate).  Un mis en examan is a man (une mise en examan is a woman) who is being investigated --  Aput under investigation@ (but yet not charged) -- by un juge d=instruction.

 

Once the judge=s investigation is finished, the person can be innocent (un innocent) or accused (un accusé).  Contrary to some observers of the French inquisitorial system, even a person who is accused is supposed by the French justice system to be innocent. When on trial, un accusé is innocent until proven guilty. 

 


The defense lawyer is le defenseur for un accusé.  If convicted, he is le condamné.  If un accusé is found guilty, as occurs in 80% of French trials, he is referred to as condamé (convicted, guilty) or as le condamé (the convicted person).  In French, there is no difference between a defendant who has been Aconvicted@ and one who has been Asentenced@. The French judge hands down his or her decision regarding guilt and sentencing at the same time B at the conclusion of trial or sometime later if the decision was taken under advisement. Un condamé is no longer presumed innocent when sentenced after trial.

 

The differing decisions in the O.J. Simpson trials would not be possible in France.  No defendant in the justice system can be innocent in a criminal trial and receive a judgment to pay money to the victim=s family after a civil trial.  In France there is only a single trial for both criminal and civil issues arising out of the same incident.  The defendant is either guilty (coupable) or not guilty (non-coupable).  Un coupable can be ordered to pay damages to the victim or to the victim=s family. Un non-coupable has no guilt and therefore cannot be required to pay.

 

Assume that over a period of time, 100 offenses have been committed.  This means French police are aware of the offense and who the victim is. Obviously, if the perpetrator is not located, there can be no trial. For 100 cases, suspects are located in 30 of these cases.  In France and the US, the clearance rate is 30%--cases when police believe they have found the perpetrator.  The clearance rate for homicides is 95% in France and lower in the US.  Of the 30 cases with suspects, only 20 have enough evidence to go to trial.

 

At the end of a trial, the judge will say he will announce the sentence in 2 weeks or perhaps one month.  The decision could be the defendant is innocent.  A French judge is neutral.  The judge--not the--lawyers questions the accused and other witnesses.  His goal is to find the truth.  There is no conviction then sentence.  The French judge states the conviction and sentence at the same time.  When un decision est mise en delibere at the end of the trial, the judge does not immediately rule on the guilt or innocence of the defendant but instead takes the case under advisement.  He needs a period of time to deliberate before announcing a decision.  If guilty, the judge states the sentence at the same time.

 

One significant difference between the American and French criminal justice systems is that France abolished the death penalty in 1981.

 

21.          Le Ministère de Justice


 

Le Ministère de Justice (Justice Ministry) is headed by le Ministre de Justice (Justice Minister) who also holds the ex officio title le Garde des Sceaux (Keeper of the Seals).  The minister is the superior of le Procureur de la République and can decide whether or not to prosecute a criminal case.  In the US, the French Justice Minister would be called the Attorney General and le Procureur de la République for a region would be parallel to the US Attorney for a particular district.

 

These and all other ministers are appointed by the Prime Minister.  They are part of le Conseil des Ministers (Council of Ministers) which in France and the UK is called the Goverment and in the U.S. is called the Cabinet.

 

The Justice Ministry administers the prison system as the Justice Department does for federal prisons in the U.S.  French inmates can apply for early release based on:

 

$    good behavior, up to 3 months per year, or

$    exam passage or academic degree, up to 2 months per year.

 

22.          Les Communes

 

The 36,771 communes (cities and villages) in France, exceed the number of municipalities from all other European Union partners put together.  Eighty percent of communes have fewer than 1,000 residents.  Several very small communes can form an association called a syndicat de communes to share services.  229 French communes (cities) have populations exceeding 30,000.  Communes were instituted in 1789--the year the US Constitution became effective.  They were based on the parishes of l=ancien régime (the old, pre-revolution system).  Income to operate  commune in France comes from national block grants (income tax and Value Added Tax) and local real estate taxes.

 

$    public health

$    safety

$    local infrastructure, public works

$    local economic development, incentives to create jobs

$    construction and maintenance of nursery school buildings

$    construction and maintenance of primary school buildings

$    cultural facilities


$    car parking

$    garbage collection

$    water supply

$    sewage disposal

$    public libraries

$    traffic

$    social assistance for housing and elderly

$    museums

$    local road maintenance

$    street lighting

$    plan d'occupation des sols (zoning and land use)

 

23.          Les Conseils Municipaux

 

The region, department and municipality each have an executive and a legislative body.  Each commune is run by an elected municipal council of 9 to 37 members.  These municipal legislators are elected for six yearsBone from each canton--directly by the voters.  More than 510,000 city council seats (one for every 100 French persons) are up in each election.  Indirect elections for a of the French Senate were held on the last Sunday in September 1998.  A 1992 law authorized municipal referenda.

 

24.          Le Maire

 

At the commune level, the maire (mayor) is elected for six years by the municipal council from its membership by secret ballot.  If two candidates tie, the elder wins.  The mayor:

 

$    holds police powers (pouvoirs de police).

$    is the town magistrate (le magistrat de la commune).

$    presides at council meetings.

$    is the chief municipal administrator.

$    represents the nation in the municipality.

$    carries out the municipal council's decision.

$    represents the municipality on legal matters.

$    drafts and proposes budgets.

$    administers the municipality's property.

$    keeps the registry of births, marriages and deaths.


$    establishes the electoral roll.

$    keeps the military service draft list.

$    appoints municipal workers.

$    performs weddings.

 

All marriages must be performed by a mayor or his deputy prior to any religious ceremony.  Marriage by a cleric has no official effect.  In France, the maire (mayor) of a commune is elected as the municipal chief  executive, but becomes the local representative of the National Government.  French mayors can appoint an adjoint (assistant) to carry out administrative responsibilities. The maire is normally at the head of the party list that wins the majority of seats.  However, the maire is not elected by the public but instead by the members of the conseil municipal (city council).  Maire is derived from the Latin major, meaning a greater or superior official.  The office of the maire is in a building called either le mairie or l'hôtel de ville (city hall).

 

If the name of a newborn has never been used before or is viewed as ridiculous, silly or an acronym, the local mayor can refuse to register the birth.  Appeal is to a civil judge.  In the 1970s the name Mayorie was rejected because it wasn=t French. Now courts are more liberal with foreign names.

 

 

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Constitutional Council

 

France's three top courts are the Court of Cassation (civil and criminal law), Council of State (administrative law) and Constitutional Council (constitutional law).

 

Created for the first time in the 1958 Constitution (Article 56), Le Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional Council) is a court of nine members independent from both the executive and legislative branches.  It examines treaties and legislation and decides whether they conform to the constitution.  Unlike the US Supreme Court, it considers legislation referred to it by le Parlement (Parliament), le premier ministre or le Président.  After legislation has passed each house in an identical text, but prior to its being signed into law, public officials ask le Conseil constitutionnel to determine the legislation's constitutionality.  In addition, the Constitutional Council determines the fine line between laws which parliament must pass (Article 34) and regulations which the Government can promulgate (Article 37).  Regarding le Conseil:


$   9 members serve nine-year terms.  (Article 56)

$   3 are named by the President--one every 3 years.

$   3 are named by the National Assembly President--one every 3 years.

$   3 are named by the Senate President--one every 3 years.

$   terms are irrevocable and non-renewable.

$   no member may also be a member of Parliament.  (Article 57)

$   no member may also be a Cabinet Member.  (Article 57)

$   ex-French presidents can choose to be ex officio life members.  (Article 56)

$   no ex-president has chosen to serve on the Conseil.

 

The Latin phrase ex officio means de droit in French.  Giscard is currently the only living ex-president who could become an ex officio member of the Constitutional Council.  He did not want to be the tenth member.

 

Council attributes:

 

$   a law=s constitutionality is reviewed only before promulgation.  (Article 61)

$   decisions as to unconstitutional legislation cannot be appealed. (Article 61)

$   unconstitutional law decisions can be reversed only by Constitutional amendment.

$   le Conseil has no power to review Presidential actions.

 

It is not legal during litigation to argue that a statute is unconstitutional as US lawyers do.  Only before a law becomes effective (not afterwards) can its constitutionality be reviewed in France.  The Constitutional Council can void all or part of proposed legislation.  Members of the US Supreme Court are appointed for life while the maximum term for judges of France=s Constitutional Council is nine years.

 

Le Conseil constitutionnel rules on contested elections and vote fraud issues.  In the US Congress, each house makes the determination about the validity of the election for each of its Members.  In France this responsibility has been given to le Conseil constitutionnel.  It decides on:

 

$   constitutionality of laws (Article 61),

$   conflicting interpretations of the Constitution,

$   applicability of Article 34,

$   Presidential incapacity,

$   investment of the President with emergency powers,


$   every annual finance law,

$   appropriateness of budgetary riders,

$   Parliament's time limits for budget consideration under Article 47,

$   national referenda disputes (Article 60),

$   Presidential and legislative election disputes,

$   conduct of national elections (Articles 58 & 59),

$   election delay if a presidential candidate dies (Article 7),

$   candidate eligibility (Articles 58 & 59),

$   candidate compliance with incompatible offices law and

$   results within one month--or 8 days if urgent (Article 61).

 

Even prior to the 1958 Constitution, French law required judges to apply existing law even if they feel it violates the national Constitution.  The Fifth Republic's Constitution created le Conseil constitutionnel and gave it authority, if asked by appropriate entities listed in Article 61, to declare part or all of legislation passed by Parliament as unconstitutional.  If le Conseil constitutionnel is asked its opinion, legislation can only become law after the Council has ruled on its constitutionality.  Article 61 prohibits appeals from Council rulings.

 

Constitutional Council decisions limit the Government's authority.  In 1974, a joint session of both houses of Parliament amended the constitution to allow 60 senators or 60 deputies to ask le Conseil constitutionel for a constitutional review of legislation.  Since 1974, this provision has allowed legislative opponents of the Government to challenge legislation it passes.  Any one of the following can submit a law to le Conseil constitutionnel for a ruling:

 

$   le Président de la République,

$   le premier ministre,

$   le président de l' Assemblée Nationale,

$   le président du Sénat,

$   60 deputés or

$   60 senateurs

 

Referral of legislation to le Conseil constitutionnel postpones its going into effect temporarily (until the Council rules) or permanently (if the Council rules it unconstitutional).

 


In 1971, le Conseil constitutionnel ruled that the preamble to the 1946 constitution can be enforced as part of the 1958 constitution.

 

25.          Dual Law System

 

French law has been divided into administrative law and ordinary (civil and criminal) law.  Administrative courts are in the executive -- not the judicial -- branch.  Judicial (civil and criminal) courts are in the judicial branch.  Some courts will hear a case with multiple judges.  Because deliberations are secret and only one judgment is delivered, dissenting opinions are not allowed.

 

Administrative courts are concerned with the exercise of power by French governmental units and officials.  They can limit the power of the executive.  Judges are appointed by the le Garde des sceaux (keeper of the seals) who is also the Justice Minister.

 

Common law countries such as the United Kingdom and the US use the "legal integrationist" model--no distinction between public (administrative or governmental) law and private (civil and criminal) law.  In the US and UK, laws regulating the government and administration are integrated with those governing other topics of law.

 

France and many European countries use the "legal separationist" model--separate bodies of private and public law administered by two separate court systems.  Administrative law includes concepts governing the powers and functions of the administration of government and complaints against governments (but not the police).  In France, administrative law covers three general concepts of a government--its:

 

$    relations with the citizen.

$    internal organizations and

$    relations with other governmental units.

 

A citizen can appeal to the administrative courts when he or she is the object of administrative actions such as:

 

$    the grant of planning or zoning permission.

$    where a new highway effects his property.

$    eminent domain.


$    his employment relationship with a governmental unit.

 

A functionnaire objecting to a poor performance reviewby his boss after recourse within the relevant ministry, could appeal to an administrative court.  In each ministry un commission paritaire (peer review committee) hears employee grievances.  Its members are half labor, half management.  It reviews disputes over  promotion and discipline.  Its recommendation can be overruled by the minister.  The employee can appeal to le conseil d=Etate for abuse of power (l=abus de pouvoir).

 

The two categories which produce most litigation in administrative courts are:

 

$    abusive power by administrators in various governmental, and

$    administrators' liability

 

An example of administrators' liability would be a government car which damaged a citizens property or a wire of the government owned electric utility which fell and electrocuted a farmer's cow.  Administrative courts have special procedures regarding:

 

$    jurisdiction of the administrative courts,

$    jurisdiction of the governmental unit to make a decision,

$    standing of the petitioners, and

$    standards of proof.

 

The 35 cours d'appel administratives (administrative courts of appeal) are located throughout the country with at least one in each of Metropolitan France=s 22 regions. 

Le tribunal des conflits resolves jurisdictional disputes about which court a case belongs in.

 

26.          Les Cours Administratives

 

An administrative judge has power to annul or amend decisions taken by authorities in exercising prerogatives of public office.  The law applicable to private businesses is not the same as that which governs public administrations.  Administrative law has its own rules and its own courts.  For example, disputes regarding public employment, urban planning and public contracts are heard by administrative courts.

 


Administrative courts handle taxation, zoning, environmental and employment law for Government officials.  An injury to a pedestrian by a postal truck would be heard in an administrative court, while a similar injury by a privately owned truck would be heard by an ordinary (judicial) civil court.  There are 30 tribunaux administratifs (administrative trial courts).  Appeals are heard by les cours administratives d'appel (administrative courts of appeal) and then by the le Conseil d'Etat (Council of State) in Paris.

 

27.          Conseil d'Etat

 

Le Conseil d'Etat located in le Palais Royal performs two separate functions.  It is the Government's legal advisor and also the highest administrative court.  Le Conseil d'Etat must give its non-binding, secret advisory opinion on all proposed Government bills before legislation is discussed in le Conseil des Ministres or introduced into Parlement (Article 39).  As the Government=s legal advisor, le Conseil d'Etat:

 

$    is located in Paris

$    is the highest administrative appeals  court.

$    advises the Government on proposed legislation.

$    is the Government's legal advisor, examining bills before Cabinet debate.

$    only considers the first version of legislation.

$    is not asked about subsequent amendments passed by either chamber.

$    is not authorized to force its policies on public officials.

$    issues advisory opinions when the Government asks.

$    is one of the grand corps of the civil service.

$    issues opinions to the Government which are confidential.

$    advice can be disregarded by the Government.

$    its 200 members are independent.

 

Le Conseil d=Etat (Council of State) provides recourse to individual citizens who have claims against a governmental action or agency.  As the highest administrative court, le Conseil d=Etat:

 

$    has original jurisdiction on governmental acts affecting individuals.

$    hears appeals from administrative trial and appellate courts.

$    hears disputes between the national government and public entities.

$    can annul regulations signed by the President or Prime Minister.


$    provides recourse against government arbitrariness.

$    is low cost.

$    is procedurally easy.

$    takes several years to bring cases to trial.

 

The most important decisions are published in les Grandes Arrets du Conseil d=Etat.

 

28.          Civil Courts

 

Judicial or ordinary (non-administrative) trial courts are divided into two divisions--civil and criminal.  There are six types of civil trial courts:

 

$    473 Tribunaux d'instance.  These courts of first instance at the lowest level  hear lesser matters, small claims, loyer (rent), tutelle (guardianship) and civil cases up to 30,000 FF at the departmental level.  There is one tribunal d=instance for each arrondissement (administrative area).  In 1958, juges d=instance  replaced juges de paix (judges of the peace) which had existed since 1790.  A single judge delivers the judgment. When ruling on criminal issues, these courts are called tribunaux de police. 

$    181 Tribunaux de grande instance (TGI). These courts of first instance hear civil cases seeking more than 30,000 FF and civil cases not jugées (heard) by tribunaux spécialisés (special courts) such as divorce, real estate or adoption.  When these courts rule on criminal issues, they are called les tribunaux correctionnels.

$    229 Tribunaux de commerce.  Disputes between commerçants (merchants) are heard by 3,000 lay commercial judges (les conseillers) who are chosen by an electoral college of business representatives.  No other European country uses non-professional judges to decide commercial cases.  They rule on recovery of assets and liquidation procedures.  Liquidators appointed by judges are paid on a percentage of assets obtained from the liquidated firm or on a fixed fee for recovery plans.

$    270 Conseils de prud'hommes.  These labor conciliation courts decide disputes between employers and employees and issues involving apprentissage (apprenticeship) and contracts de travail (employment contracts). These courts are equally divided between representatives of employers (employeurs) and employees (salariés).


$    473 Tribunaux paritaires des baux ruraux.  These special courts hear farm landlord/tenant disputes.  Each is presided over by un juge d=instance who is assisted by two landlord representatives and two representatives of tenant farmers (Fermiers) or share croppers (Metayers).

$    113 Tribunaux des affaires de la Sécurité Sociale.  They hear litiges (disputes) with various Social Security organismes (agencies) regarding issues such as maladies or retraites (illness or pensions).

 

Appeals from these trial courts are to one of 35 cours d'appel (courts of appeal) located throughout the country and then to the one cour de cassation in Paris.

 

29.          Criminal Courts

 

Criminal offenses (les infractions) are divided into 3 categories:

 

 

$    petty offense.

 

contravention

 

tribunal de police

 

$    misdemeanor.

 

délit

 

tribunal correctionnel

 

$    felony, serious crime.

 

crime

 

cour d=assise

 

Criminal trial courts for adults are divided into three units:

 

$    Tribunaux de police.  Police courts hear contraventions (petty offenses) involving one or two days' imprisonment or amendes (fines) from 20 FF-6,000 FF or suspension of a driver=s license (permis de conduire); example: traffic ticket.  There is no jury.  They are called tribunaux d'instance when hearing civil matters.  Appeals go to la cour d=appeal and then to la cour de cassation.

$    Tribunaux correctionnels.  Usually three judges hear délits (criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment up to ten years).  An example of a délit is robbery without a gun.  There is no jury.  They are called tribunaux de grand instance when hearing civil issues.  Appeals go to la cour d=appeal and then to la cour de cassation.

$    Cours d'assises.  They hear serious criminal offenses (crimes).  Le président (presiding judge) and two assesseurs (assessors) all three of whom are magistrats professionels (professional judges) sit with nine jurors--citizens whose names are drawn by lot (tirés au sort) from registered voter rolls -- handle crimes such as rape, murder and those committed with guns.  Decisions to convict or acquit are by secret ballot and must receive at least 8 of the 12 total votes.  Appeals of its verdicts go directly to la Cour de cassation without a hearing at une cour d=appel.


$    Tribunaux pour enfants.  Trials in these juvenile courts are presided over by one judge (juge des enfants) chosen from le tribunal de grande instance sitting with two assesseurs chosen by the Justice Minister for renewable 3-year terms based on their ability. They hear all three types of infractions (offenses) -- contraventions, délits or crimes by those under age 18.  The public is excluded from listening to these cases.

 

30.          Non-Professional Judges

 

In addition to trained professional (sitting) judges who preside over trials (magistrats professionnels), in some instances French courts use citizens who sit with the judges to decide the results at trial.  Depending on the instance, these non-professional judges are appointed or elected.  They are called:

 

$    jurés (jurors) in la cour d=assises.

$    assesseurs  in la tribunal pour enfants.

$    juges consulaires  in le tribunal de commerce.

$    assesseurs in le tribunal des baux commerciaux.

$    assesseurs in le tribunal des affaires de Securité sociale.

$    conseilleurs in le conseil de prud=hommes.

 

31.          Criminal Cases

 

$    The prosecutor for an alleged criminal charge can detain suspects or possible witnesses for two successive 24-hour periods without filing charges.  During that time, the prosecutor decides whether to open a formal investigation or drop the case. Then he or she must release the person or ask for a magistrate to investigate the case.

$    If a formal investigation is opened, the prosecutor appoints an investigating judge.

$    The judge calls in suspects and decides whether to place them under formal judicial investigation Aon suspicion@ (mise en exam).  This is one step short of pressing charges (indictment).

$    The judge may release the suspects, with or without bail, or place them in pretrial detention if it is feared they might flee.

$    The investigating judge can hold a suspect for weeks, months or even years.


$    After the investigation, which may last months or years, the judge either orders the suspects to stand trial (mise en accusation) or drops the case by issuing a no bill (un non lieu).

$    Defendants are brought before a trial court -- either a lower criminal court of one or more judges or a higher court of judges and a jury.

$    No defendant may avoid trial by pleading guilty.

$    There is no plea bargaining.

 

Possible criminal sentences (peines):

 

$    amende.  fine

$    déportation. deportation

$    exilé. exile

$    peine de réclusion criminelle à perpétuité. life in jail

$    peine capitale. capital punishment (abolished in 1981)

$    peine de mort. death penalty (abolished in 1981)

$    travaux forcés. hard (forced) labor (abolished in 1939)

 

32.          La Cour de Cassation

 

The same cours d'appel (courts of appeal) that hear appeals from the lower civil courts also handle appeals from lower criminal courts.  The last appeal level for civil and criminal cases is to le Cour de cassation (Court of Cassation).  There are 35 cours d=appel but only one cour de cassation.  It:

 

$    is the highest judicial (non-administrative) court.

$    is superior to les cours d'appel (appellate courts).

$    reviews decisions in law (but not fact) issued by civil and criminal trial courts.

$    interprets law and procedural rules of lower courts.

$    has its court room in Paris.

$    may annul (casser means to break) judgments and order new trials.

 

33.          High Council of the Judiciary

 

The Conseil Supérieur de la magistrature (Judiciary High Council):

 

$    was created by Article 65

$    is nonpartisan

$    nominates cour de cassation judges


$    nominates First President of the Court of Appeals

$    nominates presidents of les tribunaux de grand instance (trial courts)

$    disciplines judges and prosecutors

$    gives its opinion to the Justice Ministry on appointment of prosecutors

$    gives its opinion on discipline of prosecutors.

$    includes 11 members:

$    Président de la République

$    le Garde des sceaux (the Justice Minister)

$    3 members of la Cour de cassation appointed by the President

$    3 magistrates from courts or tribunals appointed by the President

$    un conseiller de l=Etat appointed by the President

$    2 by the President in his unrestricted discretion.

 

34.          Lawyers

 

Titles for lawyers include:

 

$    un juriste licencié en droit.  a person possessing a law license.

$    un licencié.  a person who completed 3 years of (undergraduate university) law school.  (Also, a person fired or laid off from a job).

$    l=avocat.  civil litigator or criminal defense attorney; not a prosecutor; requires masters (four years after bac) + 1 year in special school + 2-5 years apprenticeship.

$    l=avoué.  until 1972, a solicitor (non-litigator); since merged into avocat.

$    le conseiller juridique.  legal advisor; merged into avocat.

$    le notaire.  not a government employee; transfers property due to probate or sale, prepares pre-nuptial agreements and marriage documents and registers estate sales.  Although not a government employee, the notaire is charged with collecting taxes.  An independent contractor who paid the national Government a one-time fee (une charge de notaire) to obtain this post.  The fee can exceed $2 million for the franchise in a territory. The notaire keeps a percentage of taxes he collects.

$    l=Avocat Général.  chief prosecuting counsel; under the Procureur Général.

$    le Procureur Général.  France's chief prosecutor; (in US) Attorney General

$    le procureur.  a prosecutor.

$    le Procureur de la République.  (US) District Attorney

$    le procureur substitut (substitut du procurer).  assistant prosecutor.

$    le magistrat.  magistrate.

$    la magistrature assise.  the bench; the judges


$    la magistrature debout.  the body of public prosecutors.

$    le Ministère public.  prosecutor's office represented by un procureur.

$    le parquet. prosecutors office

 

An avocat must become a member of the bar association for the cour d'appel district in which he or she practices.  There are 30 cour d'appel districts.  There is no examination nor fee for being allowed to join the bar association in any other cour d'appel districts.  Levels of law firm attorneys include:

 

$    un associé. law firm partner.

$    un collaborateur.  associate receiving salary and commission.

$    un salarié.  associate receiving salary only.

 

35.          National Audit Courts

 

La Cour des Comptes (National Audit Court)--literally Court of Accounts--is an independent court.  It reviews the Government's budget, audits accounts of all national government treasurers and paymasters.  It reviews all bodies that spent public funds including local governments, and national enterprises.  The press publishes the court's annual report to the President of France.  The court's members are magistrats (haut fonctionnaires).  One current member of cour des comptes, Jacques Chirac, was given leave (mis en disponibilité) to serve as Paris' maire (1977-1995) and as Président de la Républic (1995-    ).

 

La Cour des Comptes is far different than the US General Accounting Office -- an arm of Congress which conducts programatic audits (studies) evaluating effectiveness of government programs including spending.

 

36.          Judicial Careers

 

Judge is a career separate from being a lawyer.  Rarely do lawyers become judges.  Magistrates for the ordinary (civil and criminal) courts are trained at the specialized National Magistrates= University (l=Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature or l=ENM) in Bordeaux.  Judges for the administrative court system are trained at l=Ecole Nationale d=Administration in Paris and Strasbourg.  Members of la cour des comptes are also trained at l>ENA.

 


All of these court positions are filled by civil servants who graduated the special university training schools l=ENM or l=ENA.  Although there is no law against it, none of these court positions are filled by former practicing attorneys as is frequently the system in the US.  In France, career paths for practicing lawyers and judges (including prosecutors) are separate from each other.  In 1990, there were 5,796 judges of which 50% were women.

 

Of the 3 types of magistrates, trial judges (the bench) and are referred to as Asitting judges@ (la magistrature assise) while investigating judges (les juges d=instruction) and prosecutors (les procureurs) are referred to as Astanding judges@ (la magistrature debout).  Being a member of the judicial corps provides a lifetime job guarantee.  All 3 types of magistrates belong to the came corps of civil servants.

 

U.S. Federal judges stay in the same assignment for life.  French judges can ask for reassignment to another geographic jurisdiction and can move among the 3 types of magistrate assignments.  American judges are often experienced lawyers.  French judges can be youthful, recent graduates.

 

 

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37.          Economy

 

France is the world's fourth largest economy behind the US, Germany and Japan.  Prior to World War II, business was inefficient and often did not take entrepreneurial risks.  The goal had been status quo due to boundaries for legislative elections which gave greater influence to conservative rural and small town constituencies.  Urban businesses and workers were underrepresented.  A similar overrepresentation of rural congressional districts existed in many American states until the US Supreme Court=s landmark decision Baker v. Carr which enunciated the one man vote prinicple.  In the third French Republic, owners of small shops and small farms (peasants) slowed or prevented change and slowed industrialization that was occuring in other countries.  High tariffs protected inefficient businesses and discouraged modernization.  Defeat by the Germans caused leaders after the liberation in 1944 to embark on a modernization strategy.  The left which had been heavily involved in the wartime Resistance pressed to nationalize many businesses.

 


Government directed economic modernization begun by de Gaulle is called dirigisme.  Instead of relying on the free market, Government industrialized by encouraging mergers into larger firms by offering subsidies and tax credits to selected companies.  Centralized regional development (l=aménagement du territoire) was directed from Paris via le Délégation á l=Aménagement du Territoire et à l=Action Régionale (DATAR)  -- Government developed 5-year plans in cooperation with corporations and farm organizations but without consultation with labor unions and consumer groups.  Strikes were frequent.  Large numbers of people moved from farm areas to cities.  Living standards rose.  The percentage of employed workers increased.  Inequity between owners and workers increased.  Since the end of World War II, France's rural 19th Century economy has become modernized.  Over the last 20 years, in response to international competition, it has been evolving from a Government-run economy toward an open market economy.  France generated a trade surplus of 160 billion francs ($32 billion) in 1994.

 

In 1994, inflation fell to 1.6%.  In 1998, unemployment remained high at close to 12%.  The deficit is expected to reach 322 billion francs ($64 billion US) by 1996.  Unemployment stayed high as businesses using low skilled workers moved to countries with cheaper labor.  France began encouraging foreign investment to produce jobs and cut high unemployment.  Foreigners began investing.

 

                                          Foreign Investment In Each Country (1993)

 

 

UK

 

$195 billion

 

France

 

$125 billion

 

Canada

 

$110 billion

 

Holland

 

$81 billion

 

Germany

 

$63 billion

 

Belgium, Luxembourg

 

$57 billion

 

Even with the sale of some government enterprises, state-owned companies still account for half of French manufacturing.  American National Can Company was purchased by France's Government-owned Péchiney.  France is heavily dependent on imported petroleum.  The percentage of women in the work force has increased since 1968.  Unemployment benefits can be as high as 90% of laid-off employee=s wages.  Workers must be given advance notice of layoffs as well as of severance pay.  French workers enjoy a high minimum wage, five weeks of paid vacation and early retirement.  Each year, more young people enter the job market than older workers retire.

 

Unemployment is le chomage.

White-collar managers executive are les cadres.

La monnaie means change.

L'argent means money.

L'argent liquide means cash.

Each French franc (FF) contains 100 centimes.

 


Phones in protected locations such as bars and restaurants accept coins.  Some pay phones accept jetons (tokens).  A large number of pay phones on the streets take cards with embedded computer chips from which charges are deducted.  They also accept credit cards.

 

38.          Industry

 

Major French industry leaders include:

 

$    Aérospatiale.  Commercial airliner manufacturer

$    Alcatel Alsthom. Telephone equipment supplier

$    BIC.  Ballpoint pens, lighters & razors

$    Bouyges.  Road builder and public works

$    CapGemini Sogeti.  Computer service

$    Cartier.  Jewelry.

$    Cogema.  Nuclear fuel processing

$    Compagnie Générale des eaux.  Water sales

$    Compagnie Générale d=Electricité.  Electronics

$    Danone.  Dairy goods

$    Elf Aquitaine.  Petroleum & gasoline

$    Evian.  Water sales

$    Hennessy.  Cognac

$    Institut Merieux.  Vaccines producer

$    Louis Vuitton (LVMH).  Luggage, champagne, brandy & perfume

$    Lyonnaise des Eaux-Dumez.  Water sales & purification

$    Michelin.  Tire maker

$    Moet & Chandon.  Champagne

$    Moulinex.  Electrical appliances

$    L'Oréal.  Cosmetics

$    Péchiney.  Metal, packaging, chemicals

$    Perrier.  Water & food

$    Peugeot.  Automobiles

$    Renault.  Automobiles

$    Rhône-Pôulenc.  chemicals

$    Rossignol.  World=s largest producer of skis

$    Thomson.  Defense & consumer electronics

$    Total.  Petroleum & gasoline


$    Usinor-Sacilor.  Steel making

$    Yoplait.  Food products

 

39.          Energy

 

In 1946, natural gas and electricity were nationalized to form Gaz de France (GDF) and Electricité de France (EDF).  Both are government monopolies.  A homeowner receives a single bill for both electricity and gas.  In 1966, EDF put into service the world=s only tidal power dam and lock across the Rance River between St. Malo and Dinard in Brittany.  As the tide flows up the Rance River, and down it to the Atlantic Ocean, it drives turbines first in one direction, then in the other.  France imports gas from Algeria and Russia.  It has no domestic oil production and was badly chocked by the 1973 energy crisis precipitated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).  Undeterred by Three Miles Island and the Chernobyl disaster, French dirigsme developed 54 nuclear plants, which now produce 75% of the country's electrical energy.  EDF is the world's largest producer of electricity, some of which it exports to other countries.  EDF rates are the cheapest in Europe.  Nuclear waste is stored on site at reprocessing facilities.

 

40.          Banking

 

France has a universal banking system in which banks may sell securities and conduct deposit, lending, discount, safe custody, insurance and real estate activities either directly or through subsidiaries.  Banks may sell insurance products in their institutions.  The number of credit institutions is high compared to other countries, because French law defines banking and credit institutions broadly.  As of December 31, 1993, 1,674 credit institutions conducted banking operations in France and Monaco.  They include:

 

$    banks

$    savings banks are locally owned and non-profit.

$    municipal credit banks are locally owned and non-profit

$    finance companies (and securities houses) only finance a specific industry and receive no deposits less than 2 years in maturity.

$    specialized institutions perform public interest tasks, such as financing low-income housing and industrial equipment purchases.


$    mutual and cooperative banks owned by members (depositors) were established to provide credit to members (for example, farmers).  The biggest, Credit Agricole, is France's largest credit institution and one of the world's largest.

 

The five largest banks by assets are:

 

$    Banque Nationale de Paris: private, government owned.

$    Crédit Lyonnais: Government owned

$    Société Générale: privatized in 1989

$    Banque Paribas: private

$    Banque Indosuez: private

 

The deposit protection system is not an insurance fund, but a loss-sharing agreement among member banks that goes into effect when a member institution fails.  Administered by the Association Française des Banques (AFB) (French Association of Banks), it protects deposits up to FF 400,000.

 

41.          Bank Nationalization

 

Since World War II, French banks have undergone two nationalization and privatization cycles during which most banks were transferred to Government ownership and later sold back to the private sector.  Banks nationalized in 1945 were gradually privatized by the end of the 1970s under Conservative Governments.  Nationalization resumed in 1982 under a Socialist President and National Assembly and was followed by a privatization program implemented by a Conservative Government in 1986.  Government owned banks conflict with the premise of a free market--one of the cornerstones of the EU.  Crédit Lyonnais, the country's largest bank, remains the only large nationalized bank, although there are still a few small nationalized banks.

 

42.          Bank Regulation

 

Bank licensing, regulation, and supervision have been divided among three legally independent but interrelated committees to reduce potential conflicts of interest.

 

Le Comité des Etablissements de Crédit (Credit Institutions Committee), licenses credit institutions, must approve significant changes to a credit institution's structure or ownership and may disapprove of management changes.  CEC is chaired by the Governor of the Bank of France.


Le Comité de la Réglementation Bancaire (Bank Regulatory Committee) is chaired by the Minister of Economic Affairs.  It proposes regulations for credit institutions regarding:

 

$    minimum capital levels,

$    prudential standards,

$    ownership conditions,

$    branch openings,

$    bank equity in other companies,

$    transaction requirements,

$    accounting information and

$    management standards.

 

This is significant because in France most legal actions concerning credit institutions are taken by regulation rather than via laws passed by Parliament.  Regulations proposed by the CRB must be signed into force by the Minister of Economic Affairs.

 

La Commission Bancaire (Banking Commission) monitors the financial soundness of credit institutions and enforces legal and regulatory requirements.  Chaired by the Governor of the Bank of France, CB has authority to inspect subsidiaries, holding companies and overseas branches of French banks.

 

Decisions by CEC and CB may be appealed to the administrative high court, le Conseil d'État.  At least one of the two firms that annually audit each large bank will be:

 


$    Arthur Andersen

$    Coopers & Lybrand

$    Deloitte & Touche


$    Ernst & Young

$    KPMG Peat Marwick

$    Price Waterhouse


It is illegal to prohibit a customer from paying by check.

 

43.          Bank of France

 

La Banque de France (Bank of France) is France's central bank.  Established in 1800 as a private bank, it was nationalized in 1946 with its stock held by le Trésor (Treasury).

 


Before 1994, the Government determined monetary policy, which the Bank of France implemented.  This central bank is now independent of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in formulating and implementing monetary policy.  The recent independence of the Banque de France was due to a mandate that all 15 European Union member countries have independent central banks.

 

La Banque de France is managed by a Governor and two Deputy Governors.  All three are appointed by the French Government (Conseil des Ministres) Cabinet for irrevocable 6-year terms, which may be renewed once.  The Bank's responsibilities include:

 

$    issuing legal tender,

$    determining monetary policy,

$    regulating the franc's relationship to foreign currencies,

$    proper functioning of the banking and payments systems,

$    keeping treasury accounts,

$    (managing treasury bills) and

$    monitoring the economy's health.

 

La banque de France is authorized by law to demand financial assistance from the industry when another credit institution is in danger.

 

44.          Economic Affairs Ministry

 

La Banque de France and the Ministry of Economic Affairs have the most influence in supervising and regulating credit institutions.  The Ministry of Economic Affairs promotes economic growth, forecasts the French economy and manages public finances.  Within the Ministry, le Trésor (Treasury), is headed by a civil servant, not a political appointee.  The Economic Affairs Minister is influential because he or she:

 

$    is a member of the Government's Cabinet

$    appoints other members of CEC, CRB and CB

$    is a member or chair of CEC, CRB and CB committees

$    must sign credit institution regulations before they can take effect

$    is majority stockholder in every nationalized bank

$    can bail out public company losses using Government funds, for example, Crédit Lyonnais.


 

 

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45.          European Union

 

France was a founding member of the European Union (EU)--a community of nations attempting to create economic and political integration.  In 1951 France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg created the European Coal Steel Community (ECSC).  In 1957, the Six signed the Treaty of Rome creating the European Economic Community (EEC) or Communauté Economique Européenne (CEE) to implement a progressive customs union.

 

After Pompidou was elected President in 1969, he overturned de Gaulle's opposition to the United Kingdom's entry into le Marché Commun (Common Market, now the European Union).  In 1973, French voters agreed to the first enlargement of the EEC to include Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.  By a 1992 referendum, France approved the Maastricht Treaty defining new stages of political, economic and monetary integration.  The European Community (EC) then became the European Union (EU)  l=Union Européenne.  The EU is due to be completed in 1999 through implementation of a Monetary Union (a single European currency).

 

The EU and its predecessors succeeded in creating a historic reconciliation between France and Germany.  One goal of this Common Market is integration--insuring that goods, services, capital and persons can move freely throughout countries that make up the Union.  The intent is to create a system that is not "tribal."  Austria, Finland and Sweden joined in 1995.  The EU now consists of 15 member states.  They are:

 


$  Austria

$  Belgium

$  Denmark

$  Finland


$  France

$  Germany

$  Greece

$  Ireland


$  Italy

$  Luxembourg

$  Netherlands

$  Portugal


$  Spain

$  Sweden

$  United Kingdom


Norway voted against EU membership.  The only countries remaining in l=association européenne de libre échange--AELE the European Free Trade Association--EFTA are:

 


$    Iceland


$    Liechtenstein


$    Norway


$    Switzerland


46.          EU Applications

 

EU Membership application status:

 

$    Morocco: rejected "on geographic basis"; in Africa not Europe

$    Cyprus: waiting for settlement with Turkey and human rights reforms

$    Malta: held up for legal system reforms

$    Norway: 1994 referendum voted down EU membership

$    Switzerland: on hold

 

47.          EU Geography

 

The 15 members of the European Union (Common Market) occupy 16% of the Earth's surface.

 

 

Area

 

km2

 

%

 

Japan

 

372,000

 

0.3

 

European Union

 

2,253,000

 

1.7

 

India

 

3,287,000

 

2.4

 

Australia

 

7,686,000

 

5.7

 

USA

 

9,372,000

 

6.9

 

China

 

9,600,000

 

7.1

 

Canada

 

9,976,000

 

7.3

 

Former USSR

 

22,402,000

 

16.5

 

World

 

135,783,000

 

100.5

 

48.          European Governance


 

EU Institutions include:

 

1.   European Council (head of state or government from each member)

2.   Council of Ministers of European Union (also called Council of the European Union) includes all members; presidency rotates every 6 months among the 15 members in alphabetical order

3.   Commission on the European Communities (also called European Commission) includes 20 members

4.   European Parliament (626 elected MEP)

5.   Court of Auditors (15 members)

6.   European Monetary Institute (EU Central Bank Governors)

 

The EU is governed by four institutions, including the Counsel of Ministers/European Council, Commission, European Parliament and a Court of Justice.  A fifth, the Court of Auditors, monitors EU budget spending.  The EU has no constitution but is founded on international treaties among sovereign nations.  Unlike international organizations, the EU has power to enact laws that directly bind EU citizens throughout EU territory.  Under the principal of "subsidiarity" the Union receives jurisdiction only for policies that cannot be handled at national, regional or local levels of government.

 

49.          Confederalism

 

The EU is not governed by the concept of federalism as is the United States where the most important power is in the federal government.  The European Union is not intended to be the United States of Europe.  Each nation keeps its sovereignty unlike in the United States where each of the fifty states has given up sovereignty to the federal/national government in a number of areas.  The goal of European unification is not to merge the EU's members into a single nation, but to involve them in joint economic and political projects.  In the European Union, the power is in the Council of Ministers.

 

Rather than being Afederal,@ the European Union system is a confederal system because member states are in a confederation.  Each maintains its own sovereignty but in those areas where the EU takes action, members act in concert with one another.

 

50.          EU Public View


 

The European Commission sometimes acts like a federal government, but blocks of public opinion in the 15 member states oppose this concept.  The French Government does not favor creation of a federal government over and controlling member nations of the European Union.

 

Many French cannot recognize individual Commissioners= faces or names.  Commissioners do not run for office and generate little or no publicity individually.  Many citizens do not understand that their respective national governments have less power than in the past.

 

While news articles appear to show some Europeans oppose the Common Market/European Union, it is often because they cannot easily grasp the EU's complicated structure and do not know the commissioners who operate this supranational organization.

 

France favors a simplified structure, especially if the EU is expanded to include many more nations including the former Soviet bloc countries.

 

51.          Maastricht Treaty

 

The 1991 Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty) supplements the Treaty of Rome by broadening powers in several important areas:  the environment, consumer protection, education, occupational training and social policy.  It established the principle of "subsidiarity" according to which the European Union should not address questions that can be satisfactorily resolved at the national level.  In addition, the European Union Treaty allows citizens of the Union to vote in municipal and European elections wherever they reside, regardless of country of origin.  French voters ratified the treaty in a 1992 nation-wide referendum by a 51%-49% vote.

 

The Treaty created two new concepts -- a common foreign and security policy setting up a European defense system, and cooperation in justice and internal affairs.  The Economic and Monetary Union plans to create a single currency by the end of the century.  The intent is to transform Europe from an economic and commercial power into a monetary and political power.

 


The Maastricht Treaty expanded the concept of an economic and monetary union and created a common security policy.  It:

 

$    authorized a single currency by 1999.

$    created a European Central Bank in Frankfort, Germany.

$    created a Common Foreign and Security Policy.

$    renamed the "European Community" the "European Union".

$    created European citizenship.

$    was signed in Maastricht, Netherlands.

 

The EU has a population 40% greater than the US and three times Japan's.  The EU's GDP is 10% higher than the US and 64% higher than Japan.  130 countries maintain diplomatic relations with the EU.  It has 100 delegations around the world, including in Washington, DC.  The EU has observer status at the United Nations.

 

                                                           1994 COMPARISONS

 

 

 

 

EU-15

 

US

 

Area (1,000 square miles)

 

1249

 

3732

 

Population (millions)

 

370

 

258

 

Unemployed

 

11.2%

 

6.1%

 

Gross Domestic Product (Billions)

 

$7,294

 

$6,638

 

GDP increase 94-95

 

2.5%

 

3.9%

 

52.          EU Budget

 

The EU budget is 1.2% of the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the 15 member states.  The Union has its own revenue sources which include:

 

$    part of the Value Added Tax (TVA) collected by member states.

$    custom duties on industrial products.

$    levies on agricultural products.

$    member contributions based on Gross National Product.

 

The $109 billion budget (1995) finances:


$    common policies

$    single market programs

$    oversees assistance and

$    redistribution of wealth from richer to poorer EU countries.

 

53.          The European Commission

 

The 20 members of the Commission are drawn from each of the 15 EU countries.  They swear an oath of independence distancing themselves from partisan influence.  The European Commission President from 1985-94 was Jacques Delors.  Delors had previously served as Socialist Minister of Finance under French President Mitterrand.  The EU President for 1995-2000 is Jacques Santer.

 

The European Commission:

 

$    is the EU's executive body

$    proposes policies

$    proposes legislation

$    manages the EU budget

$    has investigatory powers

$    is responsible for administration

$    implements treaties

$    implements decisions of EU institutions

$    consists of 20 commissioners, including the president

$    commissioners are appointed by unanimity of member states

$    commissioners are approved in a block by European Parliament

$    commissioners hold portfolios of responsibility

$    commissioners act independently of national governments

$    can sue persons, companies or entities violating EU rules

$    represents the EU in trade negotiation

$    five-year terms are same as Parliament (1995-2000)

$    has 13,000 staffers headquartered in Brussels

 


The 20 member European Commission is required to include at least one but not more than two people from each EU country.  Two commissioners come from each of the larger Member States (Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom) and one each from Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland and Sweden.  Commission members are approved or rejected by the European Parliament.  They are prohibited by treaty from accepting instructions from their own country.

 

The Commission uses its right of initiative to propose new legislation.  Commission decisions are usually by consensus, however, the law requires only a majority vote. Pursuant to the principle of subsidiarity, it initiates legislation only on topics where the EU can take more effective action than individual Member States.  Subsidiarity is enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty.  Commission (executive power) proposals are submitted to the Council of Ministers (legislative policy) and to the European Parliament.  If the Commission agrees, the Council can amend a proposal by a qualified majority.  If the Commission disagrees, the change requires unanimity in the Council.  The European Parliament shares co-decision power with the Council in several policy areas and has the right of amendment in others.  When revising its proposals, the Commission must take Parliament's amendments into consideration.  If the Commission can only obtain the Council's agreement by making "unacceptable" amendments, the Commission can withdraw the proposal rather than accept an agreement the Commission opposes.

 

The real power in this complex European Union system is the Council of Ministers.  The European Commission carries out decisions made by the member states collectively when their senior representatives meet as the Council of Ministers.  The main lobbying efforts by companies are in Brussels because most economic rules are made by the European Commission there.  In 1992, Jacques Delors said 70% of economic rules were made in Brussels.

 

The Commission upholds EU treaties by ensuring that EU legislation is correctly applied by Member States and that all citizens in the single market benefit from the new level playing field. The Commission can sue those in the public or private sector who fail to respect treaties.  It can sue member states in the European Court of Justice when they fail to adopt EU directives.

 

The Commission reviews subsidies paid by national governments to their industries.  It authorizes national subsidies where allowed under EU law.  In 1994, the Commission fined a group of firms $2.8 million ecus for running an illegal market-rigging cartel.  (The EU has since changed the name of its currency from ecu to euro). The Commission manages the Union's budget and the EU's program to subsidize poorer countries in parts of the Union.

 

In agriculture, trade and competition policy, the Commission can take action without submitting proposals to the Council of Ministers.  The Commission negotiates trade and other agreements with outside countries.   The Commission has few powers of coercion, but its depth of specialized knowledge gives it powers of persuasion.  Because of its expertise and neutral role, the Commission often acts as mediator between conflicting interests of Member States.  Commission successes include:

 

$    Completion of the European single market on 1/1/93;

$    Creation of a monetary union and single currency by 1/1/99.

 

Commission staff numbers 13,000 people--twice that of all other EU institutions put together.  On the other hand, this is small for a Union of 370 million citizens.

 

The Union has 11 official languages.  One-fifth of Commission staffers  work in translation and interpretation.  Because laws adopted in Brussels are often directly applicable in Member States, texts must be available to citizens in all 11 of the Union's official languages. 

 

The Commission consists of approximately 38 departments called Directorats-Généraux (DG's).  Each is headed by a director-general equivalent in rank to the top civil servant in a government ministry.  Each director-general reports to a specific commissioner, who has the political and operational responsibility for one or more DGs.

 

The Commission meets once a week.  Each item is presented by the Commissioner responsible for the policy sector in question.  Decisions are by majority vote.

 

In addition to DG staff for which the Commissioner is responsible, each has a private office or "un cabinet."  This consists of seven officials plus support staff.  The Commission president is chosen by EU Heads of State meeting in the European Council.  The choice of a President must be endorsed by the European Parliament.  The other 19 Commission Members are nominated by the 15 member States.  The 20 Commissioners must be approved by Parliament collectively before they can take office.  Parliament has never used its power to force the resignation of the whole Commission through a censure vote.

 

The Commission President participates with the 15 Heads of State at the twice-yearly European Council meeting.  He participates as the Union's representative at the annual economic summit of the group of 7 leading industrialized nations (G-7).  The Commission must explain its policies if requested by MEPs.  The Court of Auditors reviews the Commission's management of the EU budget.  The Commission works with the Union's two consultative bodies--the economic and social committee and the committee of regions--on most draft legislation.  The Commission is preparing for expansion of the EU or Central and East European countries.

 

Because terms of office for Parliament and the Commission are the same (5 years) and because each newly elected Parliament must endorse the appointment of the new Commission, the Commission's make-up will be an issue in each European election campaign.

 

 

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