Scholarly Publications and Papers
Help | Free Search | Search by Year | Search by Country | Search by Issue (Subject) | G8 Centre

Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

[Previous] [Document Contents] [Next]

The representation of EC non-participant member-states by the European Council Presidency and the Commission:

In general, Community procedure has adapted effectively to the demands of the economic summitry process. Although the Presidents of the Council and Commission are constrained to some extent by the lack of a fixed negotiating mandate in a clear legal sense, in most domains some degree of concertation has been evident among EC member states participating at the summit. Despite the lack of mandate, Community governments have frequently adhered to common positions which reflect basic Community positions. 93

However, the representation of the Community by the Council Presidency and the Commission President only partially resolves the question of the representation of the interests of the non-participating EC member states. The Commission, in areas of its competence, promotes and defends collective Community positions, not strictly the views of the eight smaller member states who are not present at the summit table. Therefore, the preponderance of the Big Four -- U.K., West Germany, France, and Italy -- is perpetuated to some degree in the summitry process.

Indeed, in the early years of EC attendance at the summit, the four larger member states attempted to preserve their pre-eminence by ensuring that the scheduling of the "Seven Power" meeting coincided with the tenure of one of the four regular European participants in the Presidency of the European Council, which rotates every six months according to alphabetical order by country name in its national language. Although this practice was denied officially, it is generally believed to be the case.94 This convention had to be broken in 1982, as the Council Presidency in that year was divided between two smaller states: Belgium and Denmark. Accordingly, at the Versailles summit of 1982, the Community was represented for the first time by a European Council President from a non-participant nation, Belgian Premier Wilfried Martens. With the increase of European Community membership to twelve in 1986, through the accession of Spain and Portugal, the practice of ensuring that the summit occurs during the Presidency of one of the Big Four has become next to impossible, as there will inevitably be an increased number of years where the Presidency is split between two smaller EC states.

Through the Presidency of the European Council, then, smaller member states can gain periodic direct access to the summit process. Indeed, the establishment by the 1981 London Report of the 'troika' system which entails the close collaboration of past present and upcoming Presidencies and its extension to encompass five member states through the provisions codified in the SEA for European Political Cooperation, has consolidated participation of smaller EC member states in the preparatory phases of the summit, and has integrated them more fully into the overall linkage between the EC and the Western Economic Summit.

An important element for consideration relates to the size and relative capability and status within the Community of the member state holding the office of the European Council Presidency. If the Presidency is held by a smaller and non participant EC member state, it is to the advantage of the Presidency to utilise the technical expertise and facilities of the Community institutions in preparing for the summit (this may also be a technical necessity, as smaller or newer EC member states may lack the capability and knowledge to execute proper preparations). Thus, more consultation between the Commission and the Presidency is necessary in this case in EC preparations for the annual gatherings as it is in the member state's interest to promote cooperation and coordination among the Commission,the Presidency, and the participating European nations in order to enhance its own bargaining position in the elite club.95

Generally speaking, the Council Presidency delineates the Community stance in preparatory sessions and at the actual summit deliberations. However, the Presidency does not exclusively adhere to EC positions, and also promotes and defends individual national priorities, if representing one the four large regular participants of the EC.96

In addition to the access gained through the Presidency, smaller non-participant European nations are involved in the preparatory phases of the summit through COREPER, the permanent national bureaucracies in Brussels which provide ongoing administrative and executive support for the Council of Ministers. Here national orientations and preferences are discussed and proposals from the national governments are concretised. Too, the Council of Ministers, in all its various compositions, is kept abreast of all relevant developments through reports from the Commission.97

The European Parliament is also been informed of the Council Presidency's activities -- as well as those of the Commission President -- through addressess made to the European Parliament by the Presidency (a practice instituted by the London Report of 1981, and reconfirmed in the Stuttgart Solemn Declaration in 1983). Parliamentary questions are also directed the President of the Commission and to the Presidency of the European Council, which are responded to either in written form in the Official Journal, or in person. 98

[Previous] [Document Contents] [Next]

G8 Centre
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to:
This page was last updated .

All contents copyright © 1995-99. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.