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Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

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5. The EC and summit issues in the late 1980's

The success of the European Community in asserting and defending its own initiatives and view points has varied from summit to summit,depending upon the content of the summit discussions and upon the degree of involvement the Commission has been granted by the other summiteers.

The Commission's role in issues covered at the summit has evolved parallel to the growth of the EC system, and the broadening of Community competence which has occurred over the past fifteen years. This system growth has transpired through developments such as the European Council, the European Monetary System (EMS),European Political Cooperation (EPC), and most recently by the ratification of the SEA which gave legal expression to the 1992 internal market initiative and expanded EC competence into new realms. These include research and development, social policy, regional policy, economic and monetary policy and environmental policy.

Because the Community's competence differs according to the specific area involved, its margin of manoeuvre and bargaining leverage in summit deliberations are dictated to a large degree by the issue area itself. Since the EC's debut onto the summit stage,a progressive convergence of Community competence with issues treated at summits has occurred. This progressive convergence of Community competence and summit issues has in part been due to the realisation that collective management of transnational issues in international frameworks (i.e. in the EC system and through economic summitry) has become an undisputed necessity in an interdependent world. Too, a spill-over of the effects of the EC's '1992' aspiration into the international arena -- and consequently onto the summit agenda -- has occurred as the implications of this extensive initiative begin to affect the EC's summit partners, particularly in the realms of structural adjustment, technology, international trade, monetary affairs, environmental policy and international political issues. Naturally, this convergence has lead to increased Community involvement in these areas of summit exchanges, and has enhanced Commission influence in numerous domains in both an internal and international context. In general, the trend of Commission effectiveness has gone from relatively low or weak in the early years of its summit involvement, with a marked increase in its summitry 'success' in the mid and late 1980s which is due to the dynamism, increased legal capability, and more cohesive institutional structure granted by the SEA.

In areas such as international trade and North-South issues, the Commission had legal competence which was established and acknowledged before the economic summits began in the mid-1970's. In these issue-areas, the Commission's role in the process of summitry has consistently been high.

A discrepancy between political and institutional competence of the EC and its corresponding influence in summitry is apparent in the field of macroeconomic and monetary policy, where the Commission has been excluded from the work of the Group of Seven Finance Ministers (G7) despite its involvement in the EMS, despite a clause in the SEA (Article 102a) which adds an explicit monetary dimension to the EC, and despite the fact that the December 1989 Strasbourg European Council called for an intergovernmental conference to shape the future dimensions of a European Central Bank. However, this discrepancy becomes less severe when it is considered that at present such a Central Bank does not, and may never, exist,and that monetary decisions in the Community, while co-ordinated among member-states, are still fashioned at the national level. Thus, real political and institutional developments within the EC have actually been translated to the scene of international economic summitry in that the EC has been admitted to all monetary discussions at summits themselves since 1978, due to the creation of the EMS. This accomplishment, however, has seemingly been over shadowed by the non-participation of the Commission in the G7 process, an exclusion which drastically reduces the Commission's overall influence in this domain.

Having established that the EC Commission's competence and authority in the international arena have been enhanced in particular issue-areas in recent years due to internal political and institutional development within the EC system, this next section will briefly examine the competence and consequent performance of the EC Commission with regard to its recent participation in summitry. Ongoing developments which affect its performance and influence in the following issues that have been treated at recent summits will be examined: international trade, North-South issues, environmental issues, macroeconomic and monetary issues, and East-West economic relations. The Community's role in summit debates on political issues will also be examined.

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