France and Europe (#2)
  • The building of Europe
  • More to come...
The building of Europe

  Successful moves

  Successful moves (contnd)

  Serious problems

  Major crises "L'Europe se construit dans les crises" (Europe is building itself through crisis") (Jean Monnet)
  • April 18, 1951 : creation of Communauté Européenne Charbon Acier (CECA) : the pooling of coal and steel policies between 6 countries, including France and Germany ("Plan Schuman")
     Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet
  • March 25, 1957 : signature of the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Community of 6 countries France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)
  • January 22, 1972 : U.K., Ireland and Denmark join the EU
  • 1978 : "Système Monetaire Européen" and the creation of a (fiduciary) monetary unit (ECU)
  • June 1979 : the first elected European Parliament is elected (410 members)
  • January 1981 : admission of Greece
  • January 1986 : admission of Spain and Portugal
  • February 1986 : signature of the "Acte Unique", a very significant extension of European powers
  • See next column
  • February 7, 1992 : Treaty of Maastricht, creation of a Central Bank and orientation toward a common monetary unit, the Euro
  • January 1995 : admission of Austria, Sweden and Finland
  • October 2, 1997: signature of the Treaty of Amsterdam : improvement of common economic policies, human rights and security againts crime and terrorism
  • December 2000 : signature of the Treaty of Nice : organizes the admission of new members and reduces the weight of big countries (France, Germany, to the benefit of Poland and Spain)
  • January 2002 : the Euro circulates in "Euroland" (11 countries)
  • May 1, 2004 : admission of ten new members (Poland, Hungary, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lituania, Estonia, Cyprus, Malta)
  • 2008-2010 : after the financial crisis, the European plan to salvage banks proved very successful
  • Nov.20, 2009 : after the final approval of the Lisbon Treaty, the first President (Herman van Rompuy) is appointed for a two and a half term along with the first minister of Foreign Affairs (Catherine Ashton).
  • 2020 : during the terrible economic crisis created by the Covid pandemic, mutualizing the debt of the member states at the UE level is a major move of European integration
  • More to come !
  • July 1, 1965 : the "empty chair" policy of de Gaulle, refusing the extension of the powers of European institutions (for 6 months)
  • November 1972 : Norway votes "no" to the EU
  • June 2, 1992 : Denmark votes "no" to the Treaty of Maastricht
  • November 1994 : Norway votes "no" to the EU
  • September 28, 2000 : Denmark refuses the Euro
  • June 2001 : Ireland votes "no" to the Treaty of Nice (and votes "yes" eventually, October 2002)
  • September 14, 2003 : Sweden refuses the Euro
  • July 2006 : Poland declares they might re-consider the abolition of death penalty (in 1997) : declared a European value, it is a condition for admission to the Union
  • following the 2008 crisis, a strong feeling of disappointment all over Europe
  • 2016-2020 : of course the Brexit and UK kingdom leaving Europe on Jan.1, 2021
  • More to come !
  • August 30, 1954 : the French Parliament refuses the project of Communauté Européenne de Défense (CED), a common European army under the command of NATO ; the project is dropped
  • November 30, 1979 : "I want my money back" : UK refuses to pay more than it receives and it wins after 5 years (see budget)
  • March 15, 1999 : the European Commission (J.Santer) is forced to resign
  • May 29, 2005 : France rejects the project of Constitution by a 55% "no" vote, immediately followed by the Netherlands and the decision by UK to postpone its referendum.
  • June 2008 : another crisis with the "no" vote of Ireland to the new treaty (already approved by 18 countries, including France!)
  • from May 2010 : the euro crisis, following the financial turmoil in Greece then Ireland challenges the capacity of Europe to coordinate economic policies
  • ... with the apex of the crisis of "Euroland" in November-December 2011 and UK stepping aside (read my column)
  • ... and of course the major crisis with Greece in 2015 and the "migrant crisis" in 2015-2016 (and probably more)
  • but the worst is, of course, the Brexit victory after the June 23, 2016 referendum (visit the page : Europe after the Brexit)
  • After 2016, with President Trump, the policy of the US governement has been consistently and openly anti-European. Read more.
  • More to come !
 The French and Europe...   In an (excellent) column (I.H.T., May 28, 2005), Roger Cohen listed 10 points to illustrate the position of the French regarding Europe :
  • All surveys before the 2014 European elections showed in France (as well as in the other European countries) :
    • a mediocre level of satisfaction toward the European Union : 49% Eurosceptics (major reasons for them : too high level of the Euro 53%, too many new members 38%, too many migrants from less developped members states 33%, etc)
    • the least favorable to Europe are people between 25 and 65 (i.e. the actives are afraid) and people voting for the Extreme Right (Front National) or Extreme Left (Front de Gauche) (i.e. the moderates are still optimistic).
  • A project for an European constitution had to be approved by all 25 countries forming Europe in 2005. France chose to submit it to a referendum. Each of the 42 million voters received a copy of it (448 articles !). People read it and discussed it passionately, in a deeply divided country. Finally, it was rejected by nearly 55%, creating major turmoil in France and in Europe (May 29, 2005). Reasons for voting "Yes" or "No" on the referendum about the European Constitution, (May 2005) according to a poll (source : le Monde April 2005) are illustrated on the chart.
  • Read about the European institutions
  • Click here for comparative figures


  • 1 - The enlargement to 25 countries has never been fully accepted
  • 2 - Further enlargement to Turkey, a Muslim nation, causes profound unease
  • 3 - Modern capitalism (free markets, open borders, mobile labor) has not been entirely accepted or digested
  • 4 - The French Socialist party appealed for a Yes vote to the European Constitution but its supporters did not follow it
  •  5 - The French-German alliance remains more an affair of the head than the heart
  • 6 - The leadership of President Chirac is weakened after 10 years of unsuccessful government
  • 7 - The project of European Constitution is not felt like coming from the people ("We the people...") but more from the governments
Reasons for voting "NO" : this constitution will...   Reasons for voting "YES" : this constitution will...  
make Europe too market-driven ("libérale") and threaten social protection

 30 %
re-inforce the weight of Europe in world affairs

 31 %
favour delocalisation and unemployment

 28 %
improve the functionning of the European Union

 21 %
open the door to the admission of Turkey

 25 %
favour growth and employment

 19 %
    a "NO" would jeopardize the building of Europe

 17 %
  • 8 - The European Union has evolved without adequate discussion among the citizens
  • 9 - The idea of Europe as a political power and a counterweight to the USA is important to the French
  • 10 - France in unsure of its place in the World.

DID YOU KNOW THAT. ? Sometimes, Europe does work well! Everybody knows the joke : the dream is to have a German chauffeur, a British butler, an Italian stylist and a French cook and the nightmare is to have ... (just permute the nations!). At the peak of the financial crisis in October 2008, the European plan to salvage banks was built on a British pragmatic idea, with German seriousness and it was sold convincingly to the other European countries and to the USA by the French presidency. Each country played the best of its national virtues and it was a success.

 European values    


DID YOU KNOW THAT.... ? To characterize the French economy, remember the "rule" "6-5-4-3-2-1" : in the world, France is the 6th economic power, the 5th exporter, the 4th exporter of services, the 3rd receiver of foreign investments, with the 2nd hourly productivity and the 1st touristic destination in the world!


Read more about the European dreams, the European institutions and why the building of Europe is so difficult.


 This chart was established with the classical tool of statistical analysis (analyse factorielle) to illustrate how close different countries can be regarding a set of cultural values. The two axes represent one modernity vs. tradition ; the other, market vs. control. The result is spectacular :

  • All European countries are close to each other and the USA clearly apart : Europe and USA are really different !
  • This difference is mostly on values associated with "market" : all European countries, some more than others, believe that some form of public regulation is better than market regulation alone
  • Within Europe, certain countries (Poland, Portugal, UK) are closer to the USA than others, France being clearly the most distant
  • Reminder : This is based on economic and social values : it does not mean that Europe and the USA do not share other values (democracy, human rights, etc) (source : Le Figaro May 20, 2005)

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? The Euro bills and coins circulate in 15 countries in Europe (except UK, Sweden and Denmark and recently admitted countries except Slovenia).

  • The bills represent symbols of typically European architecture (but all invented : no actual monument, to discourage any nationalist vision of them) : bridges, gates, windows, They illustrate the common past, the common values and the need to communicate.
  • The coins have one face identical all over Europe (the face which bears the number) and one face which depends on the country where they were minted and represents the symbol the country chose (an owl = Greece, the King = Spain or Belgium, Leonardo da Vinci = Italy, a harp = Ireland, etc sometimes it is difficult to guess!).
  • If you have a coin with the Pope (=Vatican), you are richer than you think : it is a collector's item!
  • For France, the symbol is the " Semeuse " (i.e. the woman who sows), a symbol of agriculture (and prosperity, and future, etc..) ; cynical people like me see in it the symbol of the State wasting public money by throwing it to the wind....
To related pages : more facts (#1), institutions(#3), more Europe(#4), Europe after the Brexit (#5), issues and achievements (#6), etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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