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Bissell Paper Number Five
Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto
March, 1988

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III. Why should the European Community be present?

There are three principal reasons why the European Community participates at the Economic Summits.

The first and most important reason is that the European Community has taken over powers from its member states in a number of areas which are also treated by the Summits. In this regard the European Community is unique. It is not an international organization.

It is a supranational decision-making body which can, and does, make decisions which are legally binding in its member states. Under the Treaty of Rome, some economic subjects -- principally international trade but also agriculture fall within Community competence. Member states have renounced the right to act alone. They act together on the basis of a joint Community position presented by the Commission on their behalf. In the GATT therefore it is the Commission which alone represents its member states.

The second reason is that the process of political co-operation is becoming increasingly important within the European Community; and Summits which were initially confined to economic issues have also to a growing extent turned their attention to international political questions. Where the Commission takes a common position on a given political issue, it does so in an intergovernmental framework separate from the usual Community institutional system. As the Commission does not play the same role in this framework as it does in the usual Community framework, the Presidency of the Council represents the Community for these issues. Clearly the Presidency cannot take a different position in the Summit from the position decided by the twelve member states.

The third reason is that its participation allows it to represent the eight smaller member states that are not included in their own right. These eight European industrial economies have a combined population of about 90 million, somewhat more than the separate populations of each of the four European countries that are present in their own right. They also have a combined GNP comparable to that of the United Kingdom and Italy: and are extremely open economies, contributing in many cases considerably more to world trade than their economic weight would suggest.

Community competence and summit issues overlap, but summits are necessary precisely because of the interaction between major issues. It is therefore not possible to draw strict boundary lines demarking issues on which the Community has competence.

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