Extract of the televised press conference given by de Gaulle on 5 September 1960 (starting at 42 minutes and 9 seconds):
« ... Or quelles sont les réalités de l'Europe ? Quels sont les piliers sur lesquels on peut la bâtir ? En vérité, ce sont les Etats. Des Etats qui sont, certes, très différents les uns des autres, qui ont, chacun, son âme à lui, son histoire à lui, sa langue à lui, ses malheurs, ses gloires et ses ambitions à lui. Mais des Etats qui sont les seules entités qui aient le droit d'ordonner et le pouvoir d'être obéis.
... il est vrai qu'on a pu instituer certains organismes plus ou moins extra ou supra nationaux. Ces organismes ont leur valeur technique. Mais ils n'ont pas, ils ne peuvent pas avoir d'autorité, et par conséquent, d'efficacité politique.
... Assurer la coopération régulière des Etats de l'Europe occidentale, c'est ce que la France considère comme étant souhaitable, comme étant possible et comme étant pratique dans le domaine politique, dans le domaine économique, dans le domaine culturel et dans celui de la défense. Cela comporte quoi ? Cela comporte un concert organisé, régulier des gouvernements responsables. Et puis alors, le travail, l'organisme spécialisé dans chacun des domaines communs est subordonné au gouvernement. Cela comporte la délibération périodique d'une assemblée qui soit formée par les délégués des parlements nationaux.
... Alors, cette coopération organisée entre eux, voilà ce que la France propose. Bien sûr, si l'on entre dans cette voie, et l'on peut espérer que l'on va y rentrer, les liens se multiplieront, et les habitudes se prendront. Et alors, le temps faisant son œuvre, peu à peu, il est possible que l'on en vienne à des pas plus avancés vers l'unité européenne. »
According to the above quotes from de Gaulle’s press conference, the General considered that:
- only the state has any legitimacy;
- supranational institutions are useful but cannot have any real power;
- cooperation between the states of Europe was necessary regarding political, economic, military and cultural matters, and that there should be regular meetings between representatives of governments;
- step by step, greater unity would be achieved.
The EEC, set up two years previously, is alluded to (“certains organismes plus ou moins extra ou supra nationaux”) but not in positive terms. De Gaulle envisaged Europe as a confederation, in which power lies with the states and not with supranational institutions. He thought cooperation between independent states was necessary and he recognized the economic advantages brought by the common market, but he did he did not want France to lose its autonomy - sovereignty - to a supranational European institution.
Charles de Gaulle was elected President of the French Republic and took office in January 1959. He did not, in the context of the Cold War, want France to be dependent on the USA. France got the nuclear bomb in 1960, and left NATO in 1966. He thought cooperation between European countries could make the continent stronger and better able to face the USSR without the help of the USA.
The June 1962 cartoon above by the German Fritz Behrendt mocks the oversized ego of General de Gaulle, who says: “I am Europe!” Many leaders in Europe also thought that de Gaulle was overbearing in wanting to impose his vision of things. He wanted an intergovernmental structure to run Europe whereas the five other countries of the EEC did not. He came up in 1961 with the Fouchet Plan to counter what he saw as the increasing supranational power of the Communities (ECSC, EEC, Euratom) and to give France more power in negotiations (namely on agricultural issues). The other EEC countries rejected both the first (1961) and second (1962) drafts of the Fouchet Plan, because the common market was a success and because they did not want de Gaulle to dominate the EEC.
The "empty chair" crisis in 1965-66 was due to the fact that de Gaulle was unhappy with the proposal for the financing of the common agricultural policy (CAP), with budgetary powers being given to the European Parliament, with the greater role being given to the Commission, and with majority voting in the Council of Ministers. On 1 July 1965, the French Government announced France’s intention not to take its seat in the Council of Ministers. The crisis only ended when, on 30 January 1966, the Luxembourg Compromise was signed; it stipulates that a unanimous vote should be reached when the "very important interests" of one or more partners are at stake.
De Gaulle and Adenauer in 1962
De Gaulle worked hard for closer ties between France and Germany. This is because Germany was becoming a powerful industrial nation, so it was in France's economic interest to get on well with its neighbour. Also, de Gaulle could be seen in a positive light both in France and in German since the Germans wanted to be better accepted by other nations and the French were pleased that there was reconciliation. Following de Gaulle's state visit to Germany, and Adenauer's to France, the Elysée Treaty of friendship between France and Germany was signed on the 22 January 1962. It marked reconciliation between the two countries and aimed at increased cooperation on matters of international relations, defence and education. The success of the Treaty (it still applies today) shows that the Franco-German relationship is the hub of European construction.
De Gaulle rejected the UK's application to join the EEC in both 1963 and 1967 because he thought the British were not economically or even culturally ready to do so. He considered the UK to be too dependent militarily on the USA.