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France: Evaluation of Summit Performance
(1997 Denver Summit)

France's performance at the Denver Summit of the Eight has been significantly influenced by it's current domestic situation. With Lionel Jospin installed as the new Prime Minister, he and Chirac are at ideological odds. This situation allows Chirac extremely little room to act freely and independently in committing his country to objectives that he cannot guarantee Jospin and his parliament will support. As a result, ambition on the part of the French delegation and President Chirac was not as high as in recent years, when he was unaffected by the limitations of France's present 'cohabitation'. With this in mind, Chirac was still able to make significant progress in some specific areas of concern to France.

1. Unemployment and Job Creation A-

The subject of employment and job creation is mentioned or alluded to over seven times in the first ten points of the Denver Communiqué of the Eight. This indicates the high priority that all members at the table attach to employment issues in the context of overall economic growth. A strong link has also been established between economic stability and current social issues, including unemployment and job creation strategies. The Statement by Seven made it clear that accelerating economic growth is the short and long term objective for all, but went further to take into consideration the individual circumstances of those present. This is what France wanted; to be identified as having a unique set of problems hindering growth that call for a unique set of solutions. Fiscal austerity is no longer given such great precedence over the fight against unemployment and the need to develop sound social policies.

2. Development in Africa A

As expected, Chirac led discussions on this topic. The leaders built upon the Global Partnership for Development initiative that was launched in Lyon. The S8 avoided making any pledges for increased aid dollars by employing the vague term "substantial flows", Recognizing that years of allocating development assistance to inefficient and corrupt governments has not produced encouraging results, the S8 turned its attention to improving the effectiveness of aid. This is to be achieved through broad based reforms that promote good governance, anti- corruption, human rights, and program quality. Support was given by the Heads of State for the integration of developing nations into the global economy through trade liberalization. Increased trade with and within the Third World was seen as a better solution. The S8 chose a joint aid-trade policy that acknowledges the need to continue aid flows but also seeks to make developing nations more self sufficient and active members of the world economy. This is a policy that France supports and was instrumental in advancing.

3. The Environment - Fresh Water B+

Despite the newly streamlined version if the Communiqué this year, a whole paragraph was devoted to this new issue. Furthermore, fresh water is given a separate sub-category under the Environment heading in the document. Due to the fact that fresh water is a 'safe' issue that would not arouse tension back home in France, Chirac pushed to have it specifically addressed. The S8 called upon the appropriate body, the CSD, to develop a "practical plan of action" and listed fresh water as the first of four priority areas for the CSD to address. No mention was made of the problems surrounding the control and exploitation of water; two potential sources of conflict. Nevertheless, the stature accorded this new issue in the Communiqué remains a significant achievement for the French delegation.

4. European Monetary Union C+

In the Denver Communiqué, unlike other years, the specific macroeconomic problems of each country at the table are identified, and the necessity of having governments address these immediate economic weaknesses along with pursuing common structural goals is highlighted. The direct mention of France's high unemployment situation in the Statement by Seven indicates that the leaders clearly accept the unique economic structures and thus requirements of each country. Talking to the press following the reading of the Communiqué, Chirac made it clear that although there was discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the American and European economic structures, there was no desire for leaders to intervene in the economic policy decisions of another. The EMU and the Euro are not mentioned at all in the Communiqué at Eight, and appear only briefly in the Statement at Seven. Chirac was successful in gaining the inclusion of wording that supported the outcome of the Amsterdam EU summit just prior to Denver, addressing not only sound macroeconomic policies, but structural ones as well.

5. Russian Participation in the Summit A-

The official statement released by the Summit of the Eight regarding Russian participation states that "we are committed to continue the trend of increased Russian participation in the work of our officials between summits.". It is clear that Russia's continued membership in the S8 as created by Clinton is no longer in question; it is fact. There is, however, no clear statement regarding the extent of Russian involvement in the process of G7 economic and finance meetings in the Summit process. Paragraph Two indicates the intention of the Eight to work together to assist and support Russia in the strengthening of its economy.

The Denver Communiqué specifically outlines a series of steps that Russia must undertake to improve its economy. A recently admitted member of the Paris Club of creditor nations, it must still gain entrance into the WTO and the OECD. The document does not specifically state that fulfillment of these requirements would automatically qualify Russia for full membership in a new G8 partnership.

For France, this result is a victory. Russia is now included in discussion on all issues to which it can productively and responsibly contribute. The concerns of the French government that the integrity of the Finance Ministers meetings might be compromised were adequately addressed. The course has been set for full Russian membership, but this will be accomplished in a timely and responsible fashion as Russia becomes an economically acceptable candidate.

Contributors: Charlotte Warren, Suzanne Murphy and Zaria Shaw

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