Making and Breaking the Rules: French policy on EU 'gouvernement économique' and the Stability and Growth Pact
Howarth, David J.
The failure of the Raffarin Government to respect the Stability and Growth Pact (Stability Pact, SP), its call for the Pact's reconceptualisation, reform of the management of the Euro-zone's monetary policy and EU-level reflation should be seen not as a significant change in French policy on 'gouvernement économique' (that is, EU-level economic governance (GE) but as a reassertion of long standing but contradictory French preferences. French policy-makers have been caught in a dilemma with regard to the construction of the Economic dimension of EMU between two strong preferences: on the one hand the supranational consequences of a dirigiste approach to macro-economic policy and, on the other hand, a Gaullist reflex to retain sovereignty as much as possible and to insist upon intergovernmentalism in EU-level macroeconomic policy-making. The 'price stability' function of GE as embodied by the Maastricht Treaty rules on convergence and the SP has been consistently marginalized in the discourse of French governments of both the Right and Left. Rather EG has been presented in five overlapping ways which can all be seen in terms of the paradox of the French pursuit of both reinforced macroeconomic policy coordination at the EU level yet also national margin of manoeuvre through intergovernmental policy making. Crucially, this paradox also explains the lack of clarity and inconsistency in French pronouncements on GE. Most elements of the 2002 Commission and Ecofin SP reform proposals and the precise elements of the Pact reform finally agreed in March 2005 met with French approval given that they render the SP more flexible allowing greater margin of manoeuvre in the development and implementation of the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPG) and the application of the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP), thus better meeting French intergovernmentalist preferences on EG but undermining the coordination of national macroeconomic policies that could contribute to an effective policy mix with the ECB's monetary policy.
EMU; economic integration; stability pact; intergovernmentalism; policy coordination; European Central Bank; political science
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