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Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

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1989: PARIS (JULY 14-16)

The 1989 Paris Economic Summit was held simultaneously with the Bicentennial Celebrations of the French Republic, and offered an unparalleled opportunity for President Mitterand to unfurl and display the grandiose and rich ceremoniousness of the French historical and cultural tapestry before the people of the world. An estimated 6,000 journalists were present. In addition to playing the influential role as economic summit host, and the symbolic leader of its republic into its third century of existence, France also held the Presidency of the European Council: a combination of positions of power and symbolism of which President Mitterand took full advantage to make his summit a successful and harmonious one. President Delors once again attended as Commission President, this being the first Western Summit in his renewed four-year mandate as head of the Commission (which had commenced in January 1989).

For the EC, the Paris Summit was indubitably the most successful in the history of its participation in the elite forum. Progress toward the completion of the internal market by 1992 within the EC received relatively more attention than ever in the final communiqué. References to the increased economic efficiency in Western Europe due to '1992' were also made: "In the EC, the progress implemented to achieve by the end of 1992 the programme contained in the SEA have already strongly increased economic efficiency".

In the domain of international trade, the leaders avoided conflict and as in Toronto a year earlier endorsed the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Internal Market initiative, while stressing the importance of abiding by the GATT. The EC underlined this intention by including in the final communiqué the following statement: "The EC has the firm intention to carry out the internal market, in its commercial domains, and will also promote and enhance multilateral liberalisation". At the Paris Summit, fears of a monolithic "Fortress Europe" appeared to have subsided somewhat among the U.S., Japanese, and Canadian delegations, a trend which was primarily caused by the "satisfactory" progress underway in the Uruguay Round of MTN under the GATT 87. The atmosphere in the summit deliberations was more relaxed and amenable to summit cooperation in this sphere. As one Japanese official stated: "We are no longer frightened of this new Europe; interested, yes, but not frightened."

The importance and strength of the EC in the international trading system was emphasised as well by a communiqué reference to the positive nature of the increasingly intense economic and commercial interaction and cooperation between the EC and the countries of the EFTA.

At the Paris meeting, the leaders glossed over problematic macroeconomic issues which divided them and which had been the cause of so much G7 discord in the interim period between Toronto and Paris. These included trade imbalances, interest rates and exchange rates. They talked only generally about Third World debt, stressing the success of the debt-reduction initiative which had been implemented by the 1988 Toronto Summit and the fact that thirteen LLDC's had already benefited from the arrangement. They endorsed the Brady Plan for debt and debt service reduction, and generally supported the work of the IMF and IBRD in this area. For the most part, the leaders concentrated on two topics which were not strictly economic, but which occupied salient positions on the international agenda: the global environment on which the leaders were more voluminous in their discussions than substantive in their decisions -- and East-West economic relations, where the leaders were spontaneous and very constructive. In both of these issue-areas, and particularly in the latter, the EC and the EC Commission played an instrumental role in summit discussions and results.

The 1989 summit meeting was heralded as the first 'green' summit, with environmental issues and rhetoric occupying a full third of the rather unusually lengthy 23-page final communiqué document. Indeed, at an American press conference convened during the summit, William Reilly, head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated:

"If, as the President said, 1988 was the year in which the Earth cried "Enough", I think 1989 and the Paris Summit will be seen as the year in which the leaders of the industrialised world heard that cry." That Reilly was present at Paris, and that he gave the first environmental press conference ever given by the head of the EPA in the history of economic summitry was a testimony to the priority and seriousness which the U.S. attributed to environmental issues in 1989.

A similar trend towards high-level representation for the environment was apparent in the EC Commission delegation at the 1989 Paris Summit. The first official EC press conference to the awaiting hoardes of international media was given by L. von Brinkhorst, the head of the EC Commission's Environmental Directorate General. The fact that L. von Brinkhorst officially inaugurated the Commission's media and public relations process at Paris 1989 indicated two things. First, it showed the degree of importance and priority which the Community attributed to the international collective management of environmental issues. Second, it demonstrated the level of expertise and knowledge required to cope with the scientific and economic complexities of environmental policy. The Director-General's coverage of the environmental issues and questions which were discussed at the summit was necessarily comprehensive, detailed and technical. More than anything else, he emphasised that the EC must contribute to international agreements and be a strong factor in them, because the environment is a domain where the EC has a grand strategic opportunity -- backed by adequate scientific and technical expertise and resources -- to bolster its position and status within the international arena.

Despite great public expectations for substantial and innovative progress in the domain of environmental management at the Paris Summit, the leaders were more verbose than specifically constructive in their lengthy passage on the environment in the final communiqué. However, they decisively added momentum and political impetus to the recent trend toward international agreements to deal with the problems which existing global interdependence dictates. The EC Commission influenced many facets of the Summit debate: it exerted moral pressure upon the summit leaders to live up to and surpass the Montreal Protocol CFC-reduction commitments which all the leaders had endorsed one year earlier in Toronto; it supported the work currently being executed in the OECD framework towards the development of environmental indicators and surveillance facilities; it supported the West German Tropical Forest action plan for the conservation of the rain forests; it submitted in overall policy options plan for improved cooperation for technology transfers to the South for consideration by the summit nations; and it insisted upon the inclusion of environmental protection measures in any aid or relief efforts to Third World countries (based upon its re-negotiation of the Lome Convention which included increased environmental requirements). All these factors pointed towards a strong and effective Community presence, founded upon cohesion among the four EC member states and a leading role played by the President of the Commission.

In the domain of East-West political and economic relations, events of considerable import transpired: one of the unexpected and highly publicised documents to reach Paris on 14 July 1989 was an extensive letter from Soviet leader Gorbachev to French President Mitterand as host of the Paris Economic Summit. In this missive, Gorbachev offered a comprehensive outline of his basic vision for the future role of the Soviet Union in the international system, and advocated and supported the concept of integrating the Soviet Union into the global economic system. He wrote: "Our perestroika is inseparable from a policy aiming at our full participation in the world economy." There was even informal and off-the-record contemplation that the Soviet Union might join the ranks of economic summitry before the end of the century. The delegations present at the Paris Summit meeting made no official statement regarding this letter, stressing that there was no necessity for a collective response. As spokesperson for the Summit group, Mitterand's reply to the letter was unilateral.

Another remarkable occurrence in the realm of East-West economic relations was the decision on the part of the summiteers to arrange to coordinate their economic emergency cooperation and food aid and relief efforts to the countries of Eastern Europe which had renounced Soviet-dominated communist orthodoxy. The summit consensus was that swift and decisive action had to be initiated lest the reform efforts in the eastern bloc fail, and economic and political turbulence worsen. Here, at Paris, the Commission 'came of age' in the context of international economic summitry.

Acknowledging the bureaucratic expertise, experience and competence of the EC Commission in co-ordinating multilateral and international efforts such as this, as well as the unparalleled historical and geopolitical situation of the Commission, the summit seven nations delegated this exceedingly complex, delicate and crucial task to the Commission.

In their political declaration on East-West relations -- an annex to the main communiqué -- they stated:

At the final press conferences, the United States, West Germany and the Commission all took credit for this unprecedented initiative in East-West economic cooperation. When asked more precisely to state who had actually been responsible for proposing that the Commission control the co-ordination aspect of the effort, the press spokesperson for the EC responded: "The Commission President was mainly responsible; but then, great ideas frequently have more than one author, don't they?"

However, it would appear that when President Bush and President Delors met prior to the Paris Summit, on June 14, 1989 the head of the EC Commission suggested that Western efforts to Eastern Europe should be coordinated, stressing the importance of the EC Commission in maintaining the crucial political and economic balance between East and West within Europe. The U.S. President concurred with Delors' evaluation of the situation. At the Paris Summit itself, it would appear that Delors proposed that the Commission be delegated the special mandate for the delineation of the concerted food aid and economic cooperation package at the morning session of July 15, 1989. The Chancellor of the Federal Republic and the President of France gave the motion strong support, and the President of the United States also endorsed the concept.

Along with the Political Declaration on East-West Relations, the summiteers also released political declarations on human rights, terrorism and the situation in China in the aftermath of the bloodshed in Tiananmen Square. At the Madrid European Council meeting just prior to the Paris Summit, European leaders -- acting in their capacity as head of the EPC -- had issued the most stringent and comprehensive list of restrictions and sanctions which had yet been placed by any member of the world community upon China after the June massacre. Many expected the Western Summit to produce an even stronger statement. However, this EPC stance was watered down considerably at the Paris meeting, due to Japanese insistence upon the maintenance of special links such as cultural, scientific and technical cooperation with the People's Republic. This was due to Japan's special strategic interests in the Asian region, and Japan's refusal to have the Chinese bloodshed brought up as a human rights grievance in international fora.

At the concluding press conference of the Paris Summit, President Delors expressed his satisfaction -- verging on delight -- with the performance of the Commission and the EC at the summit. He stressed that the recent apparent rifts within the EC -- which had surfaced again at the Madrid meeting concerning progress towards Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the ratification of a Social Charter within the Community -- were not serious and had not impeded a powerful and unified Community presence at the summit table. Indeed, he stressed, "la situation psychologique s'est amelioree: la cohesion entre la Commission et les Quatre n'a jamais paru aussi forte, sauf peutetre a Toronto...".

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