Volume #23 - 444.|
FRANCE: VISIT OF PRIME MINISTER GUY MOLLET, MARCH 2-4, 1957
March 2nd-4th, 1957|
INTRODUCTION TO THE PRIME MINISTER'S BRIEF
VISIT OF PREMIER GUY MOLLET AND FOREIGN MINISTER PINEAU,|
The tentative agenda for the Ministerial discussions with the Premier and Foreign Minister of France this weekend reflects M. Mollet's desire to devote his time with you to a general tour d'horizon on most of the major international questions affecting France and Canada. Fortunately, there are at present hardly any controversial questions directly affecting Franco-Canadian relations, and we have had no indication from French official sources that their Ministers wish to raise such questions with the Canadian Government at this time, on what is essentially a mission of friendship and goodwill.
Most of the topics so far suggested for discussion have come from the French side. They are dealt with in greater (though we hope not too great) detail in the various annexes? to this brief. It is of course understood that the agenda should in no way confine the scope of the talks. It does, however, afford a framework which we have followed in the preparation of the brief. In addition, we have added some background notes? on certain topics (such as our anti-dumping duty exemption and the sale of uranium on special terms)70 which might well come up since they are of considerable interest to the French Government, although French officials have disclaimed any knowledge of their Ministers' intentions in this regard.
During the past few years, France has been passing through a difficult but extremely interesting period of transition. When M. Mendès-France was here as Premier in November 1954, he was hopeful that he would be given the time and authority needed to set the French economy in order, modernize industry and agriculture, and curtail the traditional and often wholly irrational French protectionism, while applying to North Africa the vigorous methods of conciliation with which he had - at a price - bought peace in Indo-China. His positive methods and aggressive personality brought about his downfall; and since that time French Governments have tended to revert to the immobilisme which has kept so many post war coalitions in power because inaction ranged fewer forces against them than action.
This statement, however, cannot, in all fairness, be applied to the Mollet Government which, within a few days will have held power for longer than any French Government since the war. First and foremost, it has been a European and a Socialist Government, although (with its Radical Party component) it has not been able to be as socialist as it would have wished in North Africa, nor as European as it would have wished in its negotiations on the common market.
At the heart of French politics throughout M. Mollet's period in office has been Algeria. One of M. Mollet's first official actions was his visit to Algeria. As the conflict deepened, France's position, both internationally and internally, deteriorated. With right wing support M. Mollet sent 60% of French troops under NATO command to deal with the rebellion. At the same time his Government has elaborated a plan for the political and administrative reorganization of Algeria which is a good deal more liberal than the French settlers in Algeria and the right wing in France would like.
Even France's tragic Suez venture has its roots in Algeria. M. Mollet saw in Egypt a serious threat in terms of political and material assistance to the Algerian rebels. In Colonel Nasser he saw another Hitler whose removal would permit France to reassert herself as an African power - a position she lost very largely following the independence so generously granted to Tunisia and Morocco by the Mollet Government, on the foundations laid by M. Mendès-France.
But while the French public has had its attention focussed on outside developments, within France a very serious economic situation has been coming to a head. This too, to a large extent, can be attributed to the Algerian conflict. The expenditure of $5 million per day on the endless pursuit of Algerian terrorists, coupled with a serious spring crop failure in 1956 have done much to turn the French trade, balance of payments and budgetary position from highly satisfactory in 1955 to thoroughly alarming in 1957.
It had been thought that the present Government would stand or fail on its Algerian policy. It seems successfully to have weathered that storm - at least for the time being. However as attention drifts away from France's external problems which have had a unifying influence on the parties from which M. Mollet has drawn most of his support, there is likely to be serious criticism of the financial measures that M. Mollet and M. Ramadier will have to take to prevent either a state of external bankruptcy or serious internal inflation. It would seem therefore that it is on economic and financial policy that the Government will face its most severe test in the not too distant future.
It is as a good European, however, that M. Mollet would like to be remembered. If, as is now confidently expected, the common market and Euratom treaties are signed in Rome about mid-March, the Mollet Government can claim a good deal of credit for the achievement. It must also bear the responsibility for having put more water in the wine of the original conception of a Western European customs union than history may judge wise for the ultimate success of that venture. But any French Government faced with the almost insuperable problem of getting such treaties ratified would have been compelled to do the same, and it is doubtful whether any other French Government could have carried the scheme so near to a successful launching as has the Government of M. Mollet.
Now that he is within sight of this objective, M. Mollet has already outlined an imaginative next step which may lead to a partnership among the common market countries for the more rapid development of their African territories, with the assistance of Germany's important investment resources. It remains to be seen, however, how the Africans themselves - and particularly the North Africans - will react to this idea. One Moroccan official, in private conversation with Mr. Robertson in London, has recently dubbed the scheme collective colonialism. But it could be made into something more promising for the future relations of Western Europe and the emerging countries of Black Africa, as well as of North Africa, which will have to find vast sums for their economic development if they are to become viable independent countries.
It is precisely because M. Mollet's heart is in the European idea that those on this side of the Atlantic must temper their praise for his accomplishments by some sober stock-taking of where Europeanization of the Mollet brand may take us. It cannot but have a profound effect on NATO, one way or the other. If it is genuinely conceived and developed as a movement within the framework of the Atlantic idea, it could lead to that strengthening of the Western European nucleus of NATO that we hope for. But, should it take a different course, under the impact of Middle Eastern differences and misunderstandings, it could conceivably provide the Europeans with what might seem to them a plausible alternative to NATO as the main pillar of their policy, if not of their final security in the event of a major war.
The visit of M. Mollet and of Pineau gives us an opportunity to take the measure both of these opportunities and their possible dangers. We may expect that our distinguished visitors will be most unmindful of the shadows for the future inherent in any reversion to Continentalism on either side of the Atlantic. Presumably they have not embarked on their visit to North America only to explain or excuse or justify their Middle Eastern and North African policies - to patch up the damage done by Suez. It is to be hoped that they have also the more basic aim of keeping the Atlantic idea not only alive but growing, to keep pace with the growth they have done so much to foster in the European integration.
For our part, we can see little hope for Western Europe as an independent force between the United States and the Soviet Union. There is no reason to doubt that M. Mollet remains convinced that Western Europe must of necessity continue to rely on the military power of the United States and therefore on NATO. Whatever assessment we make of Soviet intentions, and whatever degree of confidence we may place in the renunciation of major war by the Soviet leadership, it is surely axiomatic for us that Western Europe should develop and integrate as part of the Atlantic community, not only militarily but in every major field of policy. For an Atlantic basis of military security can hardly be expected to endure if every other main aspect of policy is fundamentally European. This does not mean that a Western Europe relatively more independent of the United States is undesirable. It does mean that the consequences of the drying up or withering of the Atlantic idea would probably be as damaging to M. Mollet's objectives as they would be to those of the Canadian Government. The problem is much bigger than the risk of military continentalism.
The French side have not raised the related question of
European security and the future of Germany, and we have not
sought to add this topic to the agenda. There may, however, be an
opportunity for some exchange of views on this question, possibly
in the context of the review of Soviet policy or of the work of
the Disarmament Sub-Committee which is to meet in London on