France and the European Union

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Course Information
International Relations
Political Science
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 

Over the past 200 years, the destiny of Europe has witnessed spectacular ups and downs. Once an imperial power controlling some 1/3 of the planet, the Europe of 1945 shrivelled in stature and in strength. At pains with its own reconstruction, it also had to renounce control of its colonial empire. The Cold War, following the Second World War, divided Europe into two hostile camps thus adding to its insecurity and humiliation.

Europe's upheavals in the twentieth century however gave birth to a new vision; a vision that became sensitive to the dangers of ethno-nationalism and over-protective economies and strove to surpass national boundaries. The shattering experience of two world wars that tore Europe apart, gave birth to 'an ever closer union between the peoples of Europe', in other words, the European Union. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the bipolar world, this relatively young institution has come to play a continuously greater role in world affairs. Consequently it has undergone numerous important changes in a short period of time. Today the European Union brings together 27 nations and 455 million people.

France's role in the initial creation and the subsequent evolution of this union has been far from minimal. The very idea of unity was announced in a speech by Jean Monnet, a member of the French Committee of National Liberation, back in 1943. The Plan that led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Economic Community, which eventually became the European Union was named after France's foreign minister, Robert Schuman. It was under the presidency of a Frenchman, Jacques Delors, that the European Union launched the common currency, the Euro. Though significant, France's contributions have however not always been constructive. On many occasions France has been accused of putting her national interests before those of Europe. Their general stance can be summed in President Mitterrand's ambiguous phrase: ' France is our homeland, but Europe is our future'.

The aim of this class is to provide a general introduction to the history, the structure and the current developments of the European Union, with a specific focus on France. We shall start first with a historical examination of the reasons that led to the creation of the union, we will then turn to its evolution over the years and finally look at the recent events and discuss what lies ahead in the future for the European Union.