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Empty chair crisis

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Empty chair crisis

The Hallstein Commission is the European Commission that held office from 7 January 1958 to 30 June 1967. Its President was Walter Hallstein and held two separate mandates.

Work

Part of a series on the
History of the European Union
European Union portal

It was the first Commission on the European Economic Community and held its first formal meeting on 16 January 1958 at the Castle of the Valley of the Duchess. It was succeeded by the Rey Commission. It served two terms and had 9 members (two each from France, Italy and Germany, one each from Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands). It began work on the European single market and the Common Agricultural Policy.[1] The Commission enjoyed a number of successes, such as the cereal prices accord which it managed to achieve in the wake of de Gaulle's veto of Britain's membership. De Gaulle was a major opponent to the Commission, and proposals such as the cereal prices accord were designed to bind France closer to the EEC to make it harder to break it up. Its work gained it esteem and prestige not only from the member states, but from outside the Community when the Commission made its debut at a Kennedy Round.[2]

Agricultural proposals

In 1965 president Hallstein put forward the Commission's proposals for financing the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The proposals would have allowed the Community to develop its own financial resources, independently of the states, and given more budgetary powers to Parliament. Furthermore though, it applied the majority voting into the Council, which the French government stated it could not agree to.[3] Hallstein knew of the risky nature of the proposals and was unusually active in drafting them (they would normally have been drafted by the Agriculture Commissioner). The tone of internal deliberations at the time also show the institution was aware of what they would cause and some Commissioners (notably both the French Commissioners) were opposing the plans. However they were also seen as vital for the Commission's long term goals.[2]

The legislation would increase not only the Commission's powers, but also the Parliament's in an attempt to build a supranational structure and be rid of the power of veto. Because of this president Hallstein won support from the Parliament who had long been campaigning for more powers. Indeed Hallstein played to the Parliament by presenting his policy to the Parliament on 24 March, a week before he presented them to the Council. By this he associated himself with the Parliament's cause and demonstrated how he thought the Community ought to be run, in the hopes of generating a wave of pro-Europeanism big enough to get past the objections of member states. However in this it proved that, despite its past successes, Hallstein was overconfident in his risky proposals.[2] When Hallstein put forward his proposals, the Council was already troubled.[2] Then-French President, Charles de Gaulle, was sceptical of the rising supranational power of the Commission and accused Hallstein of acting as if he were a head of state. France was particularly concerned about protecting the CAP as it was only accepted by the other states after difficult negotiations and under a majority system it may be challenged by the other members.[3]

Empty chair crisis

This, and similar differences between France and the Commission, were exacerbated when France took on the Presidency,[3] thereby losing the normal system of mediation. Furthermore the Commission became marginalised as the debate became one between France and the other members, making the Council the centre of debate. Thus any chance of using the expertise of the Commission to come up with proposals was lost.[2] Finally on 30 June 1965 Paris recalled its representative in Brussels stating it would not take its seat in the Council until it had its way. This "empty chair crisis" was the first time that the operation of the EEC had failed because of a member state[3] and it exposed failures in the Council's workings.[2]

Paris continued its policy for six months until the impact upon its economy forced it back into negotiations. Meetings were held in Luxembourg during January 1966 where an agreement was reached. Under the "Luxembourg compromise" a member could veto a decision that it believed would affect its national interests – but it did not detail what kind of national interests or how to resolve a dispute. However since then it had been used so often it became a veto making unanimity in the Council the norm and was removed under the Single European Act.[4] After the crisis, the commission became a scapegoat for the Council, with Hallstein being the only person to lose his job over what happened when the Council refused to renew his term, despite being the most 'dynamic' leader until Jacques Delors.[2]

First college

The first college served from 1 January 1958 to 9 January 1962.

Political leanings:   [ 3 ] left leaning – [ 1 ] centrist – [ 5 ] right leaning – [ 0 unknown

Portfolio(s) Commissioner State Party
President Walter Hallstein
West Germany
CDU
Vice-President;
Agriculture
Sicco Mansholt
Netherlands
PvdA
Vice-President;
Economics and Finance
Robert Marjolin
France
independent
later: SFIO
Vice-President;
Internal Market
Piero Malvestiti
Served until 1959-09-15[5]
Italy
DC
Internal Market Giuseppe Caron
Served from 1959-11-24
Italy
DC
Overseas Development Robert Lemaignen
France
independent
External Relations Jean Rey
Belgium
PRL
Competition Hans von der Groeben
West Germany
independent
Social Affairs Giuseppe Petrilli
Served until 1961-02-08
Italy
independent
Social Affairs Lionello Levi Sandri
Served from 1961-02-08
Italy
PSI
Transport Michel Rasquin
Served until 1958-04-27[6]
Luxembourg
LSAP
Transport Lambert Schaus
Served from 1958-06-18
Luxembourg
CSV

Second college

The second college served from 9 January 1962 to 30 June 1967.

Political leanings:   [ 3 ] left leaning – [ 1 ] centrist – [ 5 ] right leaning – [ 0 unknown

Portfolio(s) Commissioner State Party
President Walter Hallstein
West Germany
CDU
Vice-President;
Agriculture
Sicco Mansholt
Netherlands
PvdA
Vice-President;
Economics and Finance
Robert Marjolin
France
independent
later: SFIO
Vice-President;
Internal Market
Giuseppe Caron
Served until 1963-05-15
Italy
DC
Internal Market Guido Colonna di Paliano
Served from 1964-07-30
Italy
independent
Overseas Development Henri Rochereau
France
independent
External Relations Jean Rey
Belgium
PRL
Competition Hans von der Groeben
West Germany
independent
Social Affairs
Vice-President from 1965-07-30
Lionello Levi Sandri
Italy
PSI
Transport Lambert Schaus
Luxembourg
CSV

See also

References

External links

  • Europa (web portal)
  • European Commission Website
  • PDF Archive of Commission Membership (both Hallstein commissions combined into one term)
  • Centre for Policy Studies
  • NATIONAL BANK OF BELGIUM, August 2004 Working Paper on Macroeconomic and Monetary policy-making at the European Commission 1957 to 1969

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