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Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

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The term 'Seven Power Summits', often utilised to describe the annual conclaves which bring together the heads of State and Government of the world's leading industrialised democracies, is a misnomer. In fact, there are eight (and sometimes nine) leaders who negotiate at the economic summits. Since 1977, the Presidents of the European Council and of the EC Commission have been admitted to summit discussions in an increasingly comprehensive manner.

The Commission considers the annual summit meetings as an important pillar of the 'external policy' of the Community. Symbolically and substantively, the summits give the Commission President an unequalled opportunity to interact on the international stage at the highest political level, in concert with the other leaders of the 'western world'.

The Community's role in economic summitry has grown incrementally,from the Commission President' s admission to some economic discussions in 1977, to inclusion in all economic and monetary summit sessions in 1978, to admittance to all political summit negotiations in 1981.

This pattern of increased scope of interests and influence for the Community in the context of international summitry has reflected the pattern of EC internal system growth over the past fifteen years. It encompasses the extensive and expanding involvement of the EC Commission's supranational bureaucracy in all dimensions of Community activity. This has occurred through the creation of the European Monetary System (EMS) in 1978, the consolidation of the European Political Cooperation (EPC) machinery, and particularly since the ratification of the 1986 Single European Act (SEA) that provided the legal framework for the launching of the ambitious '1992' single market initiative.

A significant consequence brought to light by this evolution in the EC system has been the firm platform for the development of a West European 'external identity'. The summits of the 'Seven-Plus' provide an excellent case study for the examination of the EC's increasingly defined presence in the international arena. The dominant trend in EC summit participation has been one of ascending involvement and influence in summit negotiations and results as Community competence has increased within the EC system.

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