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France: Objectives for the Summit
(1997 Denver Summit)

1. Unemployment and Job Creation

This issue has monopolized the attention of the Chirac government since it assumed office, and the unemployment rate now stands at 12.8 percent. Failure to make progress in this area greatly contributed to Juppe's fall from power. In his address to the Assemblee Nationale on June 19, Lionel Jospin announced jobs as his government's top priority. Jospin has promised the creation of 700,000 new jobs for youth; ambitious in light of the conflict between job creation and the need for fiscal restraint in the race for the 1999 Maastricht deadline. He has further proposed an EU jobs conference for the fall of 1997. At Amsterdam, Jospin was able to get an agreement to place the fight against unemployment on par with the Maastricht budget requirements. The subject is a priority for all S8 participants, particularly the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany, and thus, despite different perspectives on possible remedies, there is much to discuss. Chirac will be looking for a G7 approach to the problem that is less strict on fiscal austerity and more supportive combating unemployment.

2. Development in Africa

President Chirac is aware that Bill Clinton, driven by U.S. Congressional interests, is planning to raise the issue of African development. This subject was discussed to a significant degree at the Lyon summit. Chirac considers this subject to be of great importance as France seeks to realize gains from its traditionally close economic and political ties with its former colonies as well as their English-speaking African neighbors. At the same time, the French government in recent years has proposed no new initiatives and its aid levels continue to decline. France, still one of the leading financial aid donors, will stress the need to make donor dollars more effective and at the same time avoid committing itself to increased aid flows. The French government is concerned that President Clinton's trade initiatives will not sufficiently benefit the African nations most in need of G7 assistance. France is particularly preoccupied with the United States' increased interest and stature in Africa and will attempt to retain a dominant position in the area by taking a leading role in discussions on this subject. However, since Lionel Jospin, France's newly elected socialist Prime Minister has stated that he feels France's aid policy has been a failure and is in dire need of reinvention, Chirac will not lead the G7 to any new aid commitments.

3. The Environment - Fresh Water

France's Minister of the Environment has been quite vocal on the subject of the severity of the threat posed by the abusive or uncontrolled use of water. France, with its European Union partners, plans to make the preservation of fresh water supplies a central theme at the 1998 Commission on Durable Development meeting. Chirac will push for a G7 agreement on the need to support the development of a ten-year action plan on fresh water resources at the UNGA Special Session next week in New York. This meeting was designed as an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of members to Rio and to assess their successes and shortcomings in implementing its provisions. The UNGA Special Session will highlight forests, fresh water, and energy as top priority issues. At the Summit of the Eight table, Chirac will outline the contents of the speech he will deliver in New York, which will include an initiative for the protection of fresh waters. He will also take the opportunity to reinforce his government's commitment to the concept of Durable Development and the essential interrelationships between industry and the environment.

4. European Monetary Union

As the impending 1999 deadline for EMU looms, EMU has become the hottest topic of debate in Western Europe. Chirac, with the support of Germany, will seek to avoid any in depth discussions of macroeconomic policy coordination amongst the G7 in Denver, The French government has recently been consumed with ironing out the details of the stability pact and is not anxious to re-open this contentious debate in a non- European forum. The issue of European monetary integration has traditionally not been brought to the G7 table. Both France and Germany will try to adhere to this trend, particularly in light of the recent tensions between the new French Government and Germany. These tensions manifested themselves in Amsterdam over the issues of job creation schemes and the severity of fiscal restraint. Official French rhetoric has indicated that France is seeking more compassionate, and thus less ambitious fiscal, monetary and social policy limits, with a focus instead on employment issues.

5. Russian Participation in the Summit

There is concern among some of the G7 members that the U.S. is moving too quickly in welcoming Russia into the now “group of 8” summit process. This is because Russia has not yet achieved the economic stability and prosperity that would make it an equal partner at an expanded table of 8. France continues to support Yeltsin and the Russian reform process, condoning as it did in Lyon, the country's valuable participation in the discussion of summit issues. Russia's involvement is increasingly essential on subjects such as nuclear safety, international crime, and the Bosnian peace initiative. In Denver, Chirac will continue to encourage Yeltin's participation at the Summit, while maintaining the integrity of the G7 Finance Ministers meetings outside the Summit proper.

Prepared by Charlotte Warren, Suzanne Murphy and Zaria Shaw

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