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Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

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Political Issues and European Political Cooperation

Although the summits of the Seven-Plus were originally conceived to concentrate upon macroeconomic issues, international political questions have assumed a considerable importance in summit exchanges. The leaders devote up to half of their time at each annual conference to exchange personal and national positions upon the contemporary world situation. The areas most frequently discussed have been East-West relations, arms control and international terrorism.

Often, summits have occurred in the immediate aftermath of international crises such as the Chernobyl nuclear accident which occurred just before the 1986 Tokyo Summit. Western leaders use the summit to consider the event and to issue a joint political declaration to demonstrate their collective solidarity. The growing presence of political issues on the summit agenda can be attributed to the fact that consensus among the Seven-Plus is relatively more easily attained upon general political principles than upon sensitive and contentious macroeconomic and commercial issues. Importantly, most of the summit leaders appear to be more comfortable and familiar with political issues, rather than with technical and problematic economic affairs. Highly symbolic in value, joint political statements at the summits serve as useful ammunition for appeasing the insatiable appetite of the international media.

Most political topics treated in the economic summitry process fall within the jurisdiction of European Political Cooperation (EPC), which is officially represented in debates at the economic summits exclusively by the Council Presidency, due to its intergovernmental character. Over the years, European solidarity on foreign policy issues has been fortified, paralleling the political and institutional consolidation of the EPC within the Community system. The most recent example of the importance of the EPC within the EC system, and of the highly-developed nature of foreign policy concertation of EC members, was the November 1989 Paris meeting of the European leaders. Mitterand, as President in Office of the European Council and thus head of the EPC, convened this strategic meeting at extremely short notice to discuss and decide upon the European Community's reactions to the epoch-making events transpiring in central and eastern Europe at the time. The necessity of a cohesive and strong EC and EPC response was sufficiently urgent to merit the calling of this reunion, just two weeks in advance of the Strasbourg European Council Summit.

In the early years of summitry, the Western Economic Summit provided an alternate forum for the larger European states, where multilateral political cooperation could be pursued outside the EPC framework. The 'Big Four' European summit participants acted nationally, with the French in particular pursuing an independent line.125 The Presidency also usually preferred to stress the position of his own national government rather than any collective Community stance. 126

However, significant developments within the EC system -- such as the 1981 affirmation of the role of the Commission as an essential element in the EP -- Chave strengthened the EPC framework and have consequently enhanced EPC summit solidarity. The London Report of 1981 states that the EPC had become a 'central element' in the foreign policies of member states, and it created the troika system -- of past, present and upcoming Presidencies -- to ensure better coordination and consistency between Presidencies, which rotate every six months. The 1981 Report eradicated what lingered of the Presidency's margin of manoeuvre to exclude the Commission from participation in EPC activities. Accordingly, the Commission was finally admitted to political discussions at the Economic Summit in 1981. It now contributes where possible to the formulation of common Community decisions regarding the political and economic aspects of security. The Commission has no competence where NATO (i.e. defense) issues are concerned.

The full association of the Commission with EPC affairs was confirmed in the 1983 Stuttgart Solemn Declaration, which also codified and enshrined the convention of member state consultation and concertation on matters of foreign policy.

The Single European Act (SEA) gave legal codification to EPC structures and processes, created a permanent EPC secretariat, and alluded to the intention of member states to endeavour jointly to formulate and implement a 'European foreign policy'. In addition, the SEA gave full legal endorsement to Commission involvement in the EPC, which was intended to give substantive and tangible support to the guidelines set out in Article 30(5) SEA. This article pledges the EPC and the Community institutions to ensure consistency between foreign policy activities, and the Community's external economic relations. 127 The extensive and more compelling nature of the EPC as a mechanism for unified representation at the level of international summitry (and other international fora) is revealed in its Article 30(7), which declares: "in international institutions and at international conferences in which not all the High Contracting Parties participate, those who do participate shall take full account of positions agreed in European Political Cooperation."

The Commission's status as a permanent member of the summit club has fortified the trend towards its assimilation into the EPC framework in the context of the summit, where its authority and presence have been enlarged. Indeed, one author notes:

The strengthening of EPC procedures and mechanisms within the EC system, and the consolidation of the Commission's position in the EPC process, have led to an increased capacity to extend European cohesiveness and solidarity onto the summit stage. The Community has been influential, and at times even instrumental, in political deliberations at the summit. In 1980 and 1982, the Europeans were united in their opposition to U.S. proposals for the imposition of economic sanctions against the Soviet Union to achieve political ends. 129

The pinnacle of European foreign policy solidarity in the context of economic summitry, however, occurred at the Tokyo Summit of 1986 in the political debate concerning terrorism. In this case,the united European preference for anti-terrorist strategies founded upon diplomatic and police sanctions prevailed over the American preference for economic sanctions or military action. The European position upon this issue, which had been previously consolidated within the EPC framework, was transposed virtually verbatim into the final summit political declaration. West European EPC activities and expertise and policies have continued to exert a powerful influence upon the activities of the summiteers in this area.

Because of its extensive experience and experimentation with international co-operative efforts to counter terrorism, drug-trafficking and money-laundering within the borders of the Community, the EPC can recommend the adoption of harmonized rules for the treatment of these problematic contemporary issues: EPC offers a model after which other international policing and tracing efforts can be fashioned. 130 Therefore, in the realms of terrorism and international drug-related and money-laundering issues, the EPC is a useful and valuable instrument for this component of summit exchanges. A working group established at the 1989 Paris Summit to devise a more effective and unified strategy to combat the burgeoning international drug trade has profited from the experiences and information network which has been established under the EPC banner.131

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