Government of France
|Gouvernement de la République française|
|Established||1958 (Fifth Republic)|
|Appointed by||President of the Republic|
|Main organ||Council of Ministers|
|Responsible to||National Assembly|
The Government of the French Republic (French: Gouvernement de la République française) exercises executive power in the French Republic. It is composed of the Prime Minister of the French Republic, who is the head of government, and both junior and senior ministers. Senior ministers are titled as Ministers (French: Ministres), whereas junior ministers are titled as Secretaries of State (French: Secrétaires d'État). A smaller and more powerful executive body, called the Council of Ministers (French: Conseil des ministres), is composed only of the senior ministers, though some Secretaries of State may attend Council meetings. The Council of Ministers is chaired by the President of the Republic, unlike the government, but is still led by Prime Minister, who was officially titled as the President of the Council of Ministers (French: Président du Conseil des ministres) during the Third and Fourth Republics. By comparison, the Government of France is equivalent to Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, whereas the Council of Ministers is equivalent to the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.
Composition and formation
All members of the French government are nominated by the President of the Republic on the advice of the Prime Minister. Members of the government are ranked in a precise order, which is established at the time of government formation. In this hierarchy, the Prime Minister is the head of government. He is nominated by the President of the Republic. Whilst the President is constitutionally free to nominate whoever he likes, in practice he must nominate a candidate that reflects the will of the majority of the National Assembly, as the government is responsible to parliament. After being nominated to lead a government, the Prime Minister nominee must propose a list of ministers to the President. The President can either accept or reject these proposed ministers. Ministers are ranked by importance:
- Ministers of State (French: Ministres d'État) are senior ministers, and are members of the Council of Ministers. It is an honorary rank, granted to some Ministers as a sign of prestige.
- Ministers (French: Ministres) are senior ministers, and are members of the Council of Ministers. They lead government ministries.
- Secretaries of State (French: Secrétaires d'État) are junior ministers. This is the lowest rank in the French ministerial hierarchy. Secretaries work directly under a Minister, or sometimes directly under the Prime Minister. While the Council of Ministers does not include Secretaries of State as members, Secretaries may attend meetings of the Council if their portfolio is up for discussion.
According to the Constitution of the French Fifth Republic, the government directs and decides the policy of the nation. In practice, the government writes bills to be introduced to parliament, and also writes and issues decrees. All political decisions made by the government must be registered in the government gazette. All bills and some decrees must be approved by the Council of Ministers. Furthermore, it is the Council of Ministers that defines the collective political and policy direction of the government, and takes practical steps to implement that direction. In addition to writing and implementing policy, the government is responsible for national defence, and directs the actions of the French Armed Forces. The workings of the government of France are based on the principle of collegiality.
Meetings of the Council of Ministers take place every Wednesday morning at the Élysée Palace. They are presided over by the President of the Republic, who promotes solidarity and collegiality amongst government ministers. These meetings follow a set format. In the first part of a meeting, the Council deliberates over general interest bills, ordinances, and decrees. In the second part, the Council discusses individual decisions by each Minister regarding the appointment of senior civil servants. In the third part, usually either one Minister will give a presentation about some reform or project that he or she is directing, or the President will ask for advice on some subject from the Ministers. In addition, the Minister of Foreign Affairs provides the Council with weekly updates on important international issues.
Most government work, however, is done elsewhere. Much of it is done by each individual ministry, under the direction of the Minister responsible for that ministry. Ministers each have their own staff, called a "ministerial cabinet" (French: Cabinet ministériel). Each ministerial cabinet consists of around ten to twenty members, who are political appointees. Cabinet members assist the Minister in running a ministry. Members of ministerial cabinets are powerful figures within the government, and work in both the political and administrative spheres. The hierarchy in each ministerial cabinet is determined by the Minister. Working groups consisting of representatives from several ministries are commonplace. It is the duty of the Prime Minister to oversee these inter-ministry meetings, and to ensure that governmental work is done effectively and efficiently.
The government is responsible for the economic and financial policy of the French Republic, must authorise all expenditures made by each ministry, and also manage all revenue. Expenditures are made through what is called a "finance law" (French: Loi des Finances), which is equivalent to an appropriation bill. Each minister must prepare a list of requests for funds annually, and submit it to the Budget Ministry. This ministry decides whether to grant or deny requests for funding by ministers. The ministry also calculates the state budget for the coming year. The parliament must vote on all applications of finance law.
Separation of powers
Members of the French government cannot occupy any parliamentary office, any position of occupational or trade leadership at the national level, any public employment, or any professional activity. These restrictions are in place to alleviate external pressure and influence on ministers, and to enable them to focus on their governmental work. Despite these restrictions, members of government are allowed to keep local elected positions, such as those of city mayor or regional councillor. Whilst the Constitution of the French Republic does not prohibit ministers from being the leader of a political party, it is customary that ministers should not occupy such a post.
Relations with Parliament
The government is responsible to the French Parliament. In particular, the government must assume responsibility for its actions before the National Assembly, and the National Assembly can dismiss the government with a motion of censure. The government cannot function during the tenure of an acting (interim) president, as that position is granted either to the President of the Senate or the Prime Minister, compromising separation of powers. If the government decides to launch an armed operation with a duration of longer than four months, it must first consult parliament and request an authorisation. The Prime Minister may convene parliament for extraordinary sessions, or add additional sitting days to the legislative calendar.
The names of ministries change often in France. This is a list of currently extant ministries:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development
- Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy
- Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Finance and Public Accounts
- Ministry of Defence
- Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Women's Rights
- Ministry of Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue
- Ministry of the Interior
- Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry
- Ministry of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector
- Ministry of Housing, Regional Equality and Rural Affairs
- Ministry for Decentralization and the Civil Service
- Ministry of Culture and Communication
- Ministry of Urban Affairs, Youth and Sport
- Ministry for Overseas France
- "A SHORT GUIDE TO THE FRENCH POLITICAL SYSTEM". 19 October 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- Constitution of the French Republic (Title II, Article 8)
- "France: The role of the president". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
- Constitution of the French Republic (Title III, Article 20)
- Constitution of the French Republic (Title II, Article 9)
- "How Government works". Government of France. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
- A. DUTHEILLET DE LAMOTHE (December 1965). "Ministerial Cabinets in France". Public Administration 43 (4): 365–475.
- Constitution of the French Republic (Title III, Article 23)
- Constitution of the French Republic (Title V, Article 49)
- Constitution of the French Republic (Title V, Article 35)
- Constitution of the French Republic (Title IV, Articles 28 and 29)