France

   

Executive Capacity

#11
Key Findings
With the Macron administration bringing about significant improvements, France receives high rankings (rank 11) in terms of executive capacity. Its score in this area has improved by 0.4 points since 2014.

The Hollande administration’s hesitations have been replaced by an energetic, decisive government under Macron. The powerful presidential and prime ministerial offices continue to supervise and control policymaking and interministerial coordination, but cabinet and communication cohesion have improved significantly.

New policy directions have been largely been communicated clearly. The new administration consults intensely with stakeholders, but leaves little room for change once a proposal has been drafted. Ministry monitoring is rigorous.

The defeat of the traditional parties has changed the political landscape, with Macron depending on support from parliamentarians from outside the older parties. The administration has an avowedly pro-EU and global approach, with strong domestic reform ambitions that have yet to be fully tested.

Strategic Capacity

#33

How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

10
 9

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
 5
 4
 3


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
 2
 1

In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Strategic Planning
5
French governments commonly refer to ad hoc committees tasked with providing information on crucial issues. In some cases, a report is requested from a single individual. Committee members are mainly high-level civil servants, former or active politicians and academics, and often are chosen on the basis of their sympathy to the government in office at the time. This situation raises the concern that opportunism may prevail over real strategic planning.

The only bodies that take a long-term view in terms of strategic planning are bureaucratic departments such as those that are part of the finance or foreign affairs ministries. The committee of economic advisers attached to the prime minister’s office produces reports on its own initiative or at the office’s request. Its impact on actual policymaking is limited, however.

France Stratégie, an interesting think tank attached to the prime minister, has recently developed into a body of strategic planning and policy evaluation, although its impact on governmental policy is uncertain for the time being.

How influential are non-governmental academic experts for government decisionmaking?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with a panel of non-governmental academic experts at an early stage of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental academic experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Scholarly Advice
4
In contrast to some other European countries, the French government does not rely much on academic advice, even though the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office frequently consult economists, and though outstanding non-governmental academics may be chosen to sit in national reflection councils covering various policy fields (integration, education, etc.). But the influence of academics is not comparable to what can be found in many other political settings. High-level civil servants tend to consider themselves self-sufficient. Once the government has chosen a policy strategy, it tends to stick to it without significant discussion over the appropriateness or effectiveness of choices made. There is nothing comparable in France to the economic institutes in Germany, for example, the opinions of which serve to guide the government and offer a platform for public debates.

Interministerial Coordination

#6

Does the government office / prime minister’s office (GO / PMO) have the expertise to evaluate ministerial draft bills substantively?

10
 9

The GO / PMO has comprehensive sectoral policy expertise and provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s strategic and budgetary priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO has sectoral policy expertise and evaluates important draft bills.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO can rely on some sectoral policy expertise, but does not evaluate draft bills.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not have any sectoral policy expertise. Its role is limited to collecting, registering and circulating documents submitted for cabinet meetings.
GO Expertise
7
There are three main loci of policy evaluation once a policy proposal has been forwarded to the prime minister. The first is the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the second is the President’s Office, and the third, in cases of legislation or regulation, the Council of State. This hierarchical organization gives the prime minister the option of modifying ministers’ draft bills. In important cases, this steering function is located in the President’s Office. Both the president and the prime minister appoint adviser from all ministries as policy adviser in a given sector. All ministerial domains are covered. Several hundred people are involved in government steering, checking, controlling and advising functions.

However, it would probably be overstated to consider these various checks a method of evaluation. The PMO mainly coordinates and arbitrates between ministries, takes into consideration opinions and criticisms from involved interests and from the majority coalition, and balances political benefits and risks. The President’s Office does more or less the same in coordination with the PMO. More than offering a thorough policy evaluation, these two institutions serve as a place where the ultimate arbitrations between bureaucrats, party activists and vested interests are made.

Can the government office / prime minister’s office return items envisaged for the cabinet meeting on the basis of policy considerations?

10
 9

The GO/PMO can return all/most items on policy grounds.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO can return some items on policy grounds.
 5
 4
 3


The GO/PMO can return items on technical, formal grounds only.
 2
 1

The GO/PMO has no authority to return items.
GO Gatekeeping
10
The Prime Minister’s Office has strong powers vis-à-vis line ministers. Since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, the authority of the prime minister has been indisputable. President Hollande’s reluctance to impose a strong line weakened the prime minister vis-à-vis the ministers during the term of the first prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault. His successor, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, has imposed a return to strict discipline and forced dissenting ministers to resign. This turmoil has shown that beyond the formal rules, it is political leadership that enables the full application of the prime minister’s powers. Returning to the tradition of the Fifth Republic, President Macron has fully restored the hierarchy and the gatekeeping role of the prime minister.

To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

10
 9

There are inter-related capacities for coordination in the GO/PMO and line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
 5
 4
 3


Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
 2
 1

Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
Line Ministries
9
Line ministers have to inform the prime minister of all their projects. Strong discipline, even at the public communication level, is imposed, and this rule is reinforced by the attitude of the media, which tend to cover any slight policy difference as the expression of political tension or party divergence. Not only the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) oversees the policy process but also his cabinet assistants, in each area, supervise, liaise and coordinate with their counterparts in line ministries about the content, timing and political sequences of a project. The secretary-general of the PMO (as well as his counterpart at the Elysée) operates in the shadow, but he is one of the most powerful actors within that machinery. He can step in if the coordination or control process at that level has failed to stem the expression of differences within the government. Traditionally the secretary-general is a member of the Conseil d’État and – in spite of the fact that he could be fired at any time for any reason – there is a tradition of continuity and stability beyond the fluctuation and vagaries of political life.

How effectively do ministerial or cabinet committees coordinate cabinet proposals?

10
 9

The large majority of cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated first by committees.
 8
 7
 6


Most cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated by committees, in particular proposals of political or strategic importance.
 5
 4
 3


There is little review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees.
 2
 1

There is no review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees. Or: There is no ministerial or cabinet committee.
Cabinet Committees
8
Coordination is strong within the French government, and is in the hands of the PMO and the President’s Office, which constantly liaise and decide on issues. Coordination takes place at several levels. First at the level of specialized civil servants who work as political appointees in the PMO (members of the cabinet, that is political appointees belonging to the staff of the prime minister), then in meetings chaired by the secretary-general and finally by the prime minister himself, in case of permanent conflicts between ministers or over important issues. In many instances, conflicts pit the powerful ministers of budget or finance against other ministries. Appeals to the prime minister require either a powerful convincing argument or that the appealing party is a key member of the government coalition, as it is understood that the prime minister should not be bothered by anything but the highest-level issues. A powerful instrument in the hands of the prime minister is his capacity to decide which texts will be presented to the parliament with priority. Given the frequent bottlenecks in the process, ministerial bills can end up indefinitely postponed.

The new government has introduced the practice of “government seminars” to ensure better cohesion and harmonization. The team spirit seems to have improved a lot in comparison with the past.

How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

10
 9

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 8
 7
 6


Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 5
 4
 3


There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
 2
 1

There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Ministerial Bureaucracy
8
If a ministry wishes to get its proposals accepted or passed, there are no other options than to liaise and coordinate with other ministries or agencies involved. For instance, the Macron Law on the economy (2015) had to be co-signed by 13 ministers. In case this consultation has not taken place, objections expressed by other ministers or by the Council of State might deliver a fatal blow to a proposal. All ministries are equal, but some are more equal than others: for example, the finance minister is a crucial, omnipresent and indispensable actor. Usually the coordination and consultation process is placed under the responsibility of a “rapporteur,” usually a lawyer from the ministry bureaucracy. The dossier is always followed as well by a member of the minister’s staff who communicates with his/her counterparts and tries to smooth the process as much as possible. In the most difficult cases (when ministers back up strongly the positions of their respective civil servants), the prime minister has to step in and settle the matter.

How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

10
 9

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Informal Coordination
8
A crucial factor and essentially an invisible coordination mechanism is the “old-boy network” of former students from the grandes écoles (École nationale d’administration (ENA), École Polytechnique, Mines, ParisTech and so on) or membership in the same “grands corps” (prestigious bureaucracies such as Inspection générale des Finances, Diplomatie, Conseil d’Etat and so on). Most ministries (except perhaps the least powerful or those considered as marginal) include one or several persons from this high civil servant super-elite who know each other or are bound by an informal solidarity. These high civil servants (especially “énarques” from ENA) also work in the PMO or the president’s office, further strengthening this informal connection. The system is both efficient and not transparent, from a procedural point of view. It is striking, for instance, how much former President Hollande relied on people who trained with him at ENA and to whom he offered key positions in the political administration – ranging from ministerial positions or the chair of the central bank to many other high offices.

Evidence-based Instruments

#31

To what extent does the government assess the potential impacts of existing and prepared legal acts (regulatory impact assessments, RIA)?

10
 9

RIA are applied to all new regulations and to existing regulations which are characterized by complex impact paths. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 8
 7
 6


RIA are applied systematically to most new regulations. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 5
 4
 3


RIA are applied in some cases. There is no common RIA methodology guaranteeing common minimum standards.
 2
 1

RIA are not applied or do not exist.
RIA Application
5
The practice of compiling regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) has been followed since 1995, notably under the supervision of the PMO. However, there is still no systematic RIA process with comparable rules and methodologies; this is just one reason why there is an excess of legislation with an insufficient analysis of regulatory impact. There are partial substitutes, however. The finance and budget ministries try to systematically evaluate the fiscal impact of any new measure. This evaluation might be biased, however, as considerations may be exclusively motivated by financial and budgetary concerns. In some ministries (such as industry, agriculture and social affairs) there is also a tradition of analyzing the impact of planned policies. In other sectors, the law might impose these assessments (such as with the environmental and industry ministries, for instance). A legal assessment is systematically practiced by the Conseil d’Etat before the adoption of a regulation or governmental bill. Parliamentary committees also often do an excellent job of regulatory assessment.

However, what is lacking is a systematic cross-examination involving all the main stakeholders. Former President Sarkozy, with the goal of trimming bureaucratic costs, instituted the so-called RGPP (Revue Générale des Politiques Publiques). It has permitted the cutting of around 100,000 positions, but the process has been highly criticized by the opposition and by the unions. President Hollande has decided to move to another type of review (Modernisation de l’Action Publique) but little, aside from a reduction of regions from 22 to 13, has changed so far.

More recently, the government think tank France Stratégie has been charged with the impact evaluation of public policies (i.e., the impact of the Macron law, innovation policy, or subsidies for companies). It also has delivered methodological guidelines for the evaluation of public policies. There is, however, a notable lack of evaluation of new bills under discussion. Macron’s election might constitute a U-turn if his ambitious reform plans are implemented. In line with this strategy, it is planned that parliament should take a much more active role in evaluating past and future policies.

Does the RIA process ensure participation, transparency and quality evaluation?

10
 9

RIA analyses consistently involve stakeholders by means of consultation or collaboration, results are transparently communicated to the public and assessments are effectively evaluated by an independent body on a regular basis.
 8
 7
 6


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to one of the three objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to two of the three objectives.
 2
 1

RIA analyses do not exist or the RIA process fails to achieve any of the three objectives of process quality.
Quality of RIA Process
4
Studies analyzing the impact of RIA have stated that, although the initial skepticism of administrative bodies toward RIA has been overcome, the content of assessments has been too general and often tended to justify the need for action rather than attempt a critical, well-grounded, assessment. In addition, there are few international comparisons when examining possible alternatives. The assessments are conducted by stakeholders with a perspective of fighting for or against a policy measure. Thus, in general, such assessments have little to recommend them. It remains to be seen if the recommendations for conducting independent assessment by the think tank France Stratégie will be followed. A more thorough analysis (“étude d’impact”) is done in case of large public investments (train tracks, highways, airports etc.) and the final decision as well as the process is submitted to judicial control.

Citations:
France Stratége: Comment evaluer l’impact des politiques publiques? Document de travail, 16 September 2016
(http://www.strategie.gouv.fr/publications/evaluer-limpact-politiques-publiques)

Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

10
 9

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
 8
 7
 6


Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
 2
 1

Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
Sustainability Check
3
There is no real systematic sustainability strategy except in those cases where EU regulations require such an examination. In most instances, political jockeying tends to prevail over policy analysis. In many instances, decisions are mainly based on political arguments regardless of social, financial or environmental costs. The sustainability argument is mainly used by opponents of a policy or envisaged equipment (the Nantes airport is an acute example of this). It has to be seen if the intentions of Macron’s administration to improve the situation will materialize.

Societal Consultation

#18

To what extent does the government consult with societal actors to support its policy?

10
 9

The government successfully motivates societal actors to support its policy.
 8
 7
 6


The government facilitates the acceptance of its policy among societal actors.
 5
 4
 3


The government consults with societal actors.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Negotiating Public Support
6
The traditional distrust regarding “lobbyists,” not seen as legitimate political actors, and the difficult social relations in France that hinder effective social dialog, have limited the capacity of governments to seamlessly or successfully find avenues of negotiation and cooperation. There are thousands of official or semi-official commissions that are supposed to give opinions on a given issue or area; however, governments tend to prefer negotiations with selected partners, excluding some considered as not being “representative.” Consultations are often rather formal, and interested parties very often have no willingness to find a compromise. For these reasons, the temptation to govern top-down has always been strong, provoking in many cases severe, repeated conflicts and protest movements that have often successfully vetoed governmental action.

This being said, things are beginning to change. In recent years, governments have sought the consultation of interest groups more systematically, and these practices have partly been adopted as legal obligations. Moreover, the rules of social negotiations have been modernized to encourage social contracts between employers and trade unions. Notably, the Larcher Law of 2007 invited the government to present plans for legislation in social and labor matters to the social partners, and to give the social partners an opportunity to negotiate and agree on possible solutions that could then be transformed into law. Nonetheless, given persistent distrust between the social actors, especially on the part of some unions, progress has been slow. There are positive cases, such as the 2013 reform bill on the labor market. This reform bill followed an agreement between three (out of five) trade unions and the employers’ organization, which was then transformed into law. But have been setbacks, too. In 2016, the first draft of a new labor law was put forward by the government without consultation, provoking massive social protest. In panic, the government withdrew its draft to negotiate a new one. This erratic method of government left unions and employers totally frustrated. So far, President Macron has followed a different path, proceeding with intensive consultations first while leaving little room for change once a government proposal is drafted. An illustration of this method has been the ordinances for reforming labor law in 2017: intense negotiations with the social partners took place in July and August but the ordinances, while taking into account some trade union grievances, were presented to the social partners as non-negotiable decisions once drafted. After the government signed them on 22 September 2017 they were immediately applicable. As the unions were divided, the protests of the most radical forces (CGT) have been unable to slow down or impede their implementation.

Policy Communication

#1

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

The government effectively coordinates the communication of ministries; ministries closely align their communication with government strategy. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 8
 7
 6


The government coordinates the communication of ministries. Contradictory statements are rare, but do occur. Messages are factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries are responsible for informing the public within their own particular areas of competence; their statements occasionally contradict each other. Messages are sometimes not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually coherent with the government’s plans.
Coherent Communication
9
Government policy communication is usually subject to centralized control by the executive branch. One of the preoccupations of the executive branch as part of the Fifth Republic is to avoid disagreement or contradiction within the ministerial team, even when coalition governments are in power. There have been situations in which ministers expressing divergent views in the media have been forced to resign.

Hollande’s government communication was poor and messy. In contrast, Macron has defined a new strategy: precise indications about his program during the presidential campaign, a commitment to fully and speedily implement these policy measures, and strict control over the communication policy under the tight supervision of the Élysée staff. This has conferred a significantly higher degree of coherence on governmental communication.

Implementation

#9

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

10
 9

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
 8
 7
 6


The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
 2
 1

The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Government Efficiency
6
The government is efficient in implementing its programs, as it can rely on a relatively disciplined cabinet, an obedient majority and a competent bureaucracy. Resistance, if any, comes from social actors. The question whether government policies are effective is another matter. One of the major issues that the Hollande government faced was a lack of credibility concerning its commitments to economic growth, unemployment and the reduction of the public deficit. Optimistic forecasts have been disappointed by poor results on all fronts. Most international organizations (the IMF, OECD and the European Union), think tanks or even national organizations (the French central bank, the statistical institute and the Court of Auditors) have pointed out the impossibility of reaching set targets based on over-optimistic data or forecasts. However, the election of President Macron represents a radical change at the top. The main improvement has been the capacity of the Macron government to combine its policy commitments with intense stakeholder concertation before finalizing legislative proposals. Until now, this method of policymaking has been quite successful. Though it is still rather early to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy, and its likely success in the medium- to long-term.

To what extent does the organization of government provide incentives to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

10
 9

The organization of government successfully provides strong incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 8
 7
 6


The organization of government provides some incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 5
 4
 3


The organization of government provides weak incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 2
 1

The organization of government does not provide any incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Ministerial Compliance
9
Compliance by ministers, when compared internationally, is good, as a minister can be dismissed at any time and without explanation. In the French majority system and in the absence of real coalition governments, the ministers, who are nominated by the president, are largely loyal to him. Together with the effective hierarchical steering of governmental action, ministers have strong incentives to implement the government’s program, following guidelines set up by the president and prime minister. This statement remains true but is highly dependent on the leadership capacities of the president and prime minister. Unlike his predecessor, Macron has made clear that strict compliance is expected from ministers, and there is no doubt that his leadership and policy choices will be supported by ministers who, for most, are not professional politicians.

How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
Monitoring Ministries
9
Line ministry activities are generally well monitored, but several factors influence the impact of oversight, including: the strength of the prime minister; the relationship of the minister with the president; the political position of the minister within the majority or as a local notable; media attention; and political pressure. This traditional pattern under the Fifth Republic failed to work during the first 30 months of the Hollande presidency due to the president’s weakness and reluctance to arbiter between ministers and divergent preferences. After the September 2014 crisis and the forced resignation of the dissident ministers, Prime Minister Manuel Valls was able to exercise improved oversight of the ministries. The monitoring of ministers by Macron and his prime minister is even tighter.

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 8
 7
 6


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 2
 1

The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Monitoring Agencies, Bureaucracies
7
In a centralized system like France’s, the central machinery is unable to monitor fully and constantly the implementation of government policies. There exist huge sectoral and geographical variations. In some areas, decisions are not implemented or instead are badly implemented or flexibly interpreted. For instance, education is one of the most centralized policy fields in France, but implementation varies so starkly that parents have adopted strategies (such as the crucial choice of where to live) to register their children in the “best” schools. Implementing centrally designed policies requires local or regional adaptation of rigid rules that are applicable to all. Even the prefects, supposedly the arm of central government, refer to this practice, as may be witnessed for instance in the absent, or insufficient, implementation of water directives in some regions.

To what extent does the central government ensure that tasks delegated to subnational self-governments are adequately funded?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to fulfill all their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 8
 7
 6


The central government enables subnational governments to fulfill most of their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 5
 4
 3


The central government sometimes and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational governments.
 2
 1

The central government often and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational self-governments.
Task Funding
7
Over the past 30 to 40 years, the powers of communes, provinces (départements) and regions, delegated by central authorities or taken over de facto by local entities, have increased considerably. Normally a delegation of powers was accompanied by corresponding funding. However, as formerly centralized policies were notably badly managed or insufficiently funded, local units had to face huge expenditure increases that were not fully covered by the central government. Thus, more than two-thirds of non-military public monies are spent by local/regional actors, a figure comparable to the situation in federal states. While in theory local authorities are in some areas acting as agents of the central government, they have, actually, secured ample discretion. The recent regional reform reducing the number of regions from 22 to 13 has had quite an important consequence: the new regions will benefit from a fraction of the VAT, whereas before they did not receive taxes but only transfers from the central government.

On the other hand, the piecemeal and ad hoc reforms of local taxation, such as the elimination of the local business tax (taxe professionnelle) and its compensation by national state allocations in 2009 have not improved the situation. Growing tension between central government and local authorities has been fueled by President Macron’s decision to exempt 80% of local taxpayers from paying the “taxe d’habitation” (a rather unfair tax paid by all local residents, owners and tenants). The local tax will be replaced by a financial compensation from central government, which local authorities will have no direct influence over, meaning that local authorities have lost control over this part of their resources. Moreover, local authorities fear that the state subsidy will not evolve over time according to needs. In addition, further savings have been imposed, forcing local authorities to improve their budgetary policies.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments may use their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to make full use of their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 8
 7
 6


Central government policies inadvertently limit the subnational self-governments’ scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 5
 4
 3


The central government formally respects the constitutional autonomy of subnational self-governments, but de facto narrows their scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 2
 1

The central government deliberately precludes subnational self-governments from making use of their constitutionally provided implementation autonomy.
Constitutional Discretion
6
Some instances of recentralization have occurred through fiscal or administrative means, but despite the usual stereotypes about French hyper-centralization, it is fair to say that subnational government enjoys much freedom of maneuver. Legally, subnational government is subordinate. Politically, the influence of local elites in parliament and in particular in the Senate is decisive. The most efficient but contested instruments of control derive from the legal, technical or economic standards imposed by the Brussels and Paris bureaucracies. Violating such standards can involve high political, monetary and legal costs for local politicians. As local taxes and spending have grown beyond control over the past 30 years, and the myriad of local units make the steering of policymaking difficult, central government has failed to find more effective tools than reducing central government financial contributions to force local authorities to reduce their spending.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

10
 9

Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 8
 7
 6


Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 5
 4
 3


Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
 2
 1

Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
National Standards
9
Policymakers in France share a common interest in ensuring national cohesion. This is the basis for a large number of national standards and rules that canalize local and regional policies. National standards are determined by national regulations and constitutional and administrative courts serve as arbiters in disputes over whether these standards are met. The application of national standards is facilitated by the fact that most public utilities are provided by large private or semi-public companies with a vested interest in having the same rules and standards across the country. Services such as energy supply, water distribution or garbage collection are run by many different companies, most of which belong to two or three holding companies. Following the protest of business and local politicians against a flood of norms and standards, the government has started an enquiry and taken a few measures of “simplification.” However, to date, no significant results have been observed with the exception of the construction sector where norms have been simplified, after imposing extremely cumbersome rules and standards.

Adaptability

#4

To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

10
 9

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 8
 7
 6


In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures no matter how useful adaptation might be.
Domestic Adaptability
8
The French government has a good track record in adapting national institutions to European and international challenges. This can be attributed to the bureaucratic elite’s awareness of international issues. This contrasts vividly with the government parties’ weakened ability to adapt national policies to the challenges stemming from the globalization of the economy, as there is often fierce resistance from trade unions, most political parties and public opinion at large. The defeat of the traditional party government system in 2017 has radically transformed the political landscape. New parliamentarians, most selected from outside the traditional political party framework, fully support Macron’s new vision. Macro’s declared European and global approach is a radical departure from the past orientations of both the right and the left. Though it remains to be seen if this shift will be accepted by the public, social actors and state bureaucracy.

To what extent is the government able to collaborate effectively in international efforts to foster global public goods?

10
 9

The government can take a leading role in shaping and implementing collective efforts to provide global public goods. It is able to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
 8
 7
 6


The government is largely able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Existing processes enabling the government to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress are, for the most part, effective.
 5
 4
 3


The government is partially able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Processes designed to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress show deficiencies.
 2
 1

The government does not have sufficient institutional capacities to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. It does not have effective processes to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
International Coordination
8
France plays an active role in the international coordination of joint reform initiatives. The country contributes to the provision of global public goods. It has a long tradition of acting on an international level to take part in security/military missions, combat climate change (for instance hosting the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21)), provide humanitarian and development aid, and promote health, education programs and fiscal cooperation. This being said, the French government, as other governments, often takes positions that advance French (economic) interests.

Striking examples are the French government’s attitude toward free trade discussions, in particular, concerning agricultural products and environmental issues, such as air and water pollution, where France has failed to implement supranational recommendations at the national level. On development assistance, there is still a big gap between official commitments and actual spending (0.37% instead of 0.70% of gross national product).

Concerning the European Monetary Union, French proposals contribute to defining EU policies and often serve as a basis for compromise. However, the credibility of these initiatives was damaged by the French government’s inability to respect common rules France had signed, such as the stability rules of the EMU. This has considerably limited the government’s success in steering or influencing decision-making at the European level, with France lacking credibility and political support.

President Macron has adopted a fundamentally different method. Having led an openly pro-European presidential campaign, Macron has declared his full commitment to EU rules, as well as his willingness to reduce the government’s budget deficits and realize structural reforms. In doing so, he seeks not only to enhance the country’s competitiveness but also to regain lost confidence and credibility in Europe, which is seen as a prerequisite for France’s EU partners to seriously consider his ambitious ideas on European renewal and further integration. Under Macron, France has shown a new willingness and capacity to contribute to the European Union, as well as a new coherence between European ambitions and domestic policies.

Organizational Reform

#20

To what extent do actors within the government monitor whether institutional arrangements of governing are appropriate?

10
 9

The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly and effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly.
 5
 4
 3


The institutional arrangements of governing are selectively and sporadically monitored.
 2
 1

There is no monitoring.
Self-monitoring
5
There are plenty of reports prepared at the request of governmental authorities in view of reforming rules, procedures and structures. The Court of Accounts plays a very active and stimulating role in this regard. However, only a few of these recommendations are implemented. Resistance by interested ministries or agencies is usually fierce and often supported by opposition parties or even by part of the majority coalition. The issue is complicated by the fact that ministerial structures can be set up and changed by the government in charge. The most ambitious recent attempt has been the general assessment of public policies launched in 2007, which ordered an assessment of all policies and institutions to rationalize their makeup and to find savings. This process was canceled by President Hollande and replaced by a new procedure named the Modernization of Public Action (Modernisation de l’Action Publique), which has produced very modest results over the past five years. Among the government bodies least adaptable to structural change is local government, a system that is multilayered, complex, and no longer in line with the challenges of the modern economy and society. Most serious attempts at reform have failed. However, some elements of the 2015 reform on territorial reorganization may trigger more change (new powers to metropolitan areas, organized cooperation/fusion of the numerous and often too small municipalities). The initial measures taken by President Macron seem to indicate that he has chosen the indirect but powerful instrument of state subsidies to force local governments to make changes. In addition, his government is preparing ambitious reforms concerning Paris’ municipal government. These projects are not yet known in detail, but they will undoubtedly trigger fierce resistance from all fronts if they materialize.

To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

10
 9

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
 8
 7
 6


The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 5
 4
 3


The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 2
 1

The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
Institutional Reform
7
French governments are usually reactive to the need to adapt and adjust to new challenges and pressures. These adaptations are not always based on a thorough evaluation of the benefits and drawbacks of the foreseen changes, however. A case in point is the reluctance of most governments to take seriously into consideration the recommendations of international organizations, if they do not fit with the views and short-term interests of the governing coalition. Resistance from vested interests also limits the quality and depth of reforms. Too often the changes, even if initially ambitious, become merely cosmetic or messy adjustments (when not dropped altogether). This triggers hostility to change, while in fact very little has been done. The new Macron administration is reminiscent of the Gaullist period at the beginning of the Fifth Republic, with its strong commitment to radical reforms (“heroic” rather than “incremental” style). The initial months of the presidency have already attained considerable achievements, but one might wonder if French society’s deep-rooted reluctance to change will not put a brake to this “bonapartist” storm.
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