Grand Designs and Visions of Unity: The Atlantic Powers and the Reorganization of Western Europe, 1955-1963

By Jeffrey Glen Giauque | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

DE GAULLE AND THE RISE AND FALL
OF THE FOUCHET PLAN, 1958-1963

Politics embraces everything. In the beginning there was God, then nothing, then
politics. Economics and defense depend on politics, but the inverse is not true.
— Charles de Gaulle, comments to Italian foreign minister Antonio Segni, 4 April 1962


The Gaullist Design

Between 1958 and 1963, Charles de Gaulle promoted the centerpiece of his European program, a plan to organize the Six into a political union that would make Europe an independent actor on the international stage. 1 This political union would be led by France and become the equal of the two superpowers. Although this effort ultimately failed, the goal of creating a more self-reliant, influential Europe seemed within reach in the early 1960s. Had it succeeded, the plan could have reshaped the entire Western European and Atlantic political landscape.

Because de Gaulle's conception was frequently altered and because he dropped his proposals completely after 1963, there is considerable debate on the significance of his plans. Some observers have argued that de Gaulle always preferred a bilateral relationship with Germany and used his efforts with the Six as a cover. 2 Others, including the present author, view the Fouchet plan, named after the chief French negotiator, as the ultimate expression of de Gaulle's vision and its failure as a major setback for the French leader. 3 The growing historiography centers on the roles of individual European countries, but there is no comprehensive multinational study of the Fouchet plan and little attention to the British and American roles. 4 This chapter will examine the goals, means, and development of de Gaulle's Western European agenda and its impact on his three main Atlantic allies.

There was no separation between de Gaulle's tripartite ideas for the Atlantic alliance and his efforts to organize political relations among the Six. He pursued both goals simultaneously as two sides of the same coin. From 1958 onward he viewed the Six as a vehicle that would enable France to attain equality with the

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