France

III - Changes to Constitutional Law

Nature national instruments  
III.1
What is the character of the legal instruments adopted at national level to implement Euro-crisis law (constitutional amendment, organic laws, ordinary legislation, etc)?

No constitutional amendment has taken place to implement Euro-crisis law in French national law, despite two attempts by the former right-wing government to introduce a “Golden Rule” in the Constitution, either through Constitutional amendment (in March 2011 – see also question III.2) or following the ratification of the Fiscal Compact. Therefore, only ordinary legislation and organic laws were used throughout the period.

 It is to be noted that the main effects of the organic law implementing the requirements of the Fiscal Compact bore on multiannual Programming Acts that are not, by themselves, superior to Budget Acts and Social Security Financing Acts in the hierarchy of norms (see also question II.1).

Constitutional amendment          
III.2    
Have there been any constitutional amendments in response to the Euro-crisis or related to Euro-crisis law? Or have any amendments been proposed?

President Sarkozy proposed to amend the Constitution in order to comply with the Fiscal Compact Treaty. The new majority, however, interpreted the Treaty as not requiring a Constitutional amendment (see section IX).

Constitutional context   
III.3
If national constitutional law already contained relevant elements, such as a balanced budget rule or independent budgetary councils, before the crisis that are now part of Euro-crisis law, what is the background of these rules?

Please see question II.1.

Purpose constitutional amendment      
III.4
What is the purpose of the constitutional amendment and what is its position in the constitution?

Not applicable.

Relationship with EU law           
III.5
Is the constitutional amendment seen as changing the relationship between national and European constitutional law?

Not applicable.

Organic law      
III.6
Have there been changes to organic laws or other types of legislation that are of a different nature or level than ordinary legislation, in relation to Euro-crisis law or the budgetary process?

An Organic Law for the Programming and Governance of Public Finances was adopted pursuant to the ratification of the Fiscal Compact Treaty, as well as relatively minor changes to the Organic Law on Budget Acts (see also question II.1, and section IX on the Fiscal Compact).

Constitutional amendment and ordinary law    
III.7
If ordinary legislation was adopted in conjunction with a constitutional amendment, what is the relationship between the two?

Not applicable.

Perception source of legal change          
III.8
In the public and political discussions on the adoption of ordinary legislation, what was the perception on the appropriate legal framework? Was the ordinary legislation seen as implementing national constitutional law, or Euro-crisis law?

The parliamentary debates tend to show that this question is linked to the perception of the role of France as one of the driving forces of the creation of Euro-crisis law. As long as France is said to have proposed substantial parts of the crisis measures (especially for the EFSF and part of the ESM), the debates do not focus so much on the distinction between Euro-crisis law and national (constitutional) law.

Moreover, the French governments consistently tended to present the need for budgetary balance as national rather than being imposed by European commitments. For instance, the proposal for ratification of the Fiscal Compact only came after President Sarkozy attempted (but failed) to introduce a “golden rule” in the Constitution in 2011. Later, President Hollande would affirm that the reduction of public deficit was not so much a European obligation but rather a national necessity[1].

Alternatively, criticism on crisis management in Europe could be interpreted, in several instances of the discourse of the far left,  along lines of division that are also relevant in the national debate –  in particular, between orthodox and unorthodox economic policies in times of crisis and the relevance of austerity measures.

This entanglement between European and national issues and objectives is most vivid in France on the point of the Fiscal Compact. Indeed, the “golden rule” had been a proposal by former President Sarkozy for a reform of the Constitution as soon as 2011. However, it failed to gather the required majority in Parliament. Thus, with the Fiscal Compact, a Treaty appeared for a time to allow for a circumvention of this lack of majority, and for the introduction of the “golden rule” through another route[2].

Miscellaneous
III.9
What other information is relevant with regard to France and to changes to national (constitutional) law?

Not applicable.

[1] http://discours.vie-publique.fr/notices/127001260.html

[2] Eric Oliva, « Le pacte de stabilité devant les juridictions constitutionnelles », RFDA 2013, p.1043.