France History - Economic and International Policy of De Gaulle

France History – Economic and International Policy of De Gaulle

According to, the Minister of Finance Pinay implemented a liberal program based on two fundamental principles: 1) respect for the commitments made towards the European Common Market and towards the freeing of exchanges; 2) devaluation of the currency of 17.55% in order to favor foreign trade: at the same time creation of a “new franc” (equal to the previous one hundred francs) in order to better stabilize the currency.

However, the government had to resort to new fiscal pressures and a loan to cope with an increased budget, compared to the previous one, of over six hundred billion (for a total of 6.189 billion). For the first time in France’s post-war history, the trade balance reversed its trend, and exports balanced imports. The almost exhausted reserves of gold and foreign exchange increased considerably. Throughout 1959, the expansion of production maintained a satisfactory pace: the most promising advances were in the chemical, automotive, oil and construction sectors.

It should be added, however, that a constant, albeit modest increase in the cost of living (due in part to the abolition of government subsidies), and a real economic crisis in the countryside, towards the end of 1959, spread a certain discontent. A part of the experts, including Finance Minister Pinay, who soon resigned from the government, became convinced of the impossibility for the French economy to bear the costs of an expansion program, those of the Algerian war and of a policy of “grandeur”.

In fact, in the context of international politics, the action of gen. De Gaulle and his well-known tendency for a politics of prestige and grandeur made themselves felt immediately. If he accepted to respect the commitments made by his country regarding the European Economic Community and the Atlantic Pact, he did not hide his aversion to a military policy based on “integration” into the commands of the allied armed forces. To this he opposed his confidence in a close collaboration between France and West Germany, in the hope perhaps of obtaining recognition from the latter of European leadership. Between September 1958 and December 1959 there were four meetings between De Gaulle and Adenauer.

In truth, since September 24, 1958, the gen. De Gaulle had addressed a personal letter (the text of which has not yet been disclosed) to President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Macmillan, asking essentially: 1) the participation of France, on an equal footing with the USA and the Great Brittany, to consultations on all the problems of world politics; 2) the reorganization of the Atlantic alliance, so as to take into account, on the political level, the above request and on the military level, the French preference for “associative” over “integrative” formulas. De Gaulle again claimed from the allies and especially from the USA, greater assistance in the field of nuclear research and a more favorable and understanding attitude on the Algerian problem.

Despite some attempts at compromise, despite the cordiality that marked the Parisian talks of President Eisenhower (2-4 September 1959), the French requests were not accepted also due to the opposite reaction from the other allies, and in particular from Canada, against the creation in within the Atlantic Pact of a triunvirate or a directory of the great powers. In turn, gen. De Gaulle refused the creation of missile and nuclear weapons depots on French soil; he denied the integration of the French fighter aviation with the allied one, and took the Mediterranean fleet away from the Allied command due to the case of war. Furthermore, De Gaulle felt entitled to greater autonomy vis-à-vis his allies: on 21 October the Elysée announced that Russian President Khrushchev would come to Paris. The French capital was chosen as the site of the Western conference, which brought together President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Macmillan, gen. De Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer (December 19-21), and in which it was decided to accept a summit meeting with the USSR, to be held also in Paris.

On the occasion of the centenary of the Franco-Piedmontese war of 1859 against Austria, gen. De Gaulle made an official visit to the battlefields of Lombardy, accompanied by President Gronchi, and to Rome, where he was received at the Quirinale and in the Vatican.

France History - Economic and International Policy of De Gaulle