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Big Four (Western Europe)

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Big Four

The Big Four, also known as G4, refers to France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.[1] France and the United Kingdom are official nuclear-weapon states and are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power of veto, which enables any one of them to prevent the adoption of any "substantive" draft Council resolution, regardless of its level of international support.[2] The United Kingdom is the only country of the Big Four which is not a member state of the European Union, having ended its membership in 2020, pursuant to a referendum held in 2016. France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom are considered major European economic powers[3] and they are the Western European countries individually represented as full members of the G7 and the G20. They have been referred to as the "Big Four of Europe" since the interwar period.[4]

The term G4 was used for the first time when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a meeting in Paris[5] with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to consider the response to the financial crisis during the Great Recession. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development describes them as the "Four Big European Countries".[6]



The leaders of the four countries usually have a series of joint video conference calls with the US president (see NATO Quint), or with other leaders, on international issues. With US President Barack Obama, for example, they discussed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Syrian civil war and the use of chemical weapons during the conflict,[7] the Crimean Crisis and international sanctions against Russia,[8] the post-civil war violence in Libya,[9] the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,[10] the 2014 American intervention in Iraq and the Ebola virus disease.[11] With Russian President Vladimir Putin, they discussed, for example, the Vienna peace talks for Syria.[12]


Big Four
Country Population Share of EU population[A][13] Contribution to EU budget (2014-2020) (€ mil)[14] MEPs
 France 66,616,416 14.97% 19,573.6 27.52% 79
 Germany 80,716,000 18.54% 25,815.9 36.30% 96
 Italy 60,782,668 13.58% 14,368.2 20.20% 76
 United Kingdom 67,791,400 N/A 11,341.6 15.95% N/A
Total 272,215,084 47.09% 71,099.3 64.24% 251

A Council of EU voting, where procedure indicates a qualified majority vote, requires a double majority of at least 55% of EU member states and 65% of EU population to adopt Commission proposals. This increases to 72% of EU member states and 65% of EU population when the proposal originates from a member state.



France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy have been referred to as the "Big Four of Europe" since the interwar period (1919–1939), when the four countries signed the Four-Power Pact and the Munich Agreement.[4] Britain and France, permanent members of the League of Nations' executive council along with Italy and Japan, were involved in a policy of appeasement towards Germany. World War II (1939–1945) saw the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and China fighting against Germany, Italy and Japan. The defeat of the Axis powers resulted in the formation of the United Nations, where the five victorious countries of the Allied powers were granted a permanent seat in the Security Council. Germany, Italy and Japan experienced a post-war economic miracle and took part in the 1st G6 summit along with France, the United Kingdom and the United States in 1975.

Since 1945, France and Great Britain have often acted alone in defence policy matters while Germany and Italy have preferred to act within the framework of international organisations. For example, France, Germany, Italy and the UK were the EU countries represented in the Syria peace talks, but only France and the UK are directly bombing ISIS in Syria, while Germany and Italy prefer to give military aid and to send training troops.

US President Barack Obama with EU4 leaders Hollande, Cameron, Merkel and Renzi during the 2014 Wales summit



The Quint (or NATO Quint) is an informal decision-making group consisting of five Western powers: the United States and the Big Four (France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom).[15][16] It operates as a "directoire" of various entities such as NATO and the G7/G20.[17]



A European Union membership referendum took place on Thursday 23 June 2016 in the UK and resulted in an overall vote to leave the EU, by 51.9%. The British government triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to begin the process to leave the EU, which concluded on 31 January 2020. The G4 now consists of the UK and the new EU big three (Germany, France and Italy), the large founding members of the European Communities that have retaken a leading role in Europe following the decision of the UK to leave the EU.[18][19][20]

Current government leaders


See also



  1. ^
    • Mallinder, Lorraine (30 January 2008). "EU's 'big four' speak as one ahead of G7 in Tokyo". Politico.
    • Jørgensen, Knud Erik; Laatikainen, Katie Verlin (1 January 2013). Routledge Handbook on the European Union and International Institutions: Performance, Policy, Power. Routledge. ISBN 9780415539463.
    • "Leading indicators and tendency surveys". Oecd.org. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
    • Debaere, Peter (11 August 2015). EU Coordination in International Institutions: Policy and Process in Gx Forums. Springer. ISBN 9781137517302.
    • Lichfield, John (3 October 2008). "EU 'Big Four' in bailout row". The Independent. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  2. ^ [1] Archived 20 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Kirchner, Emil J.; Sperling, James (2007). Global Security Governance: Competing Perceptions of Security in the Twenty-First Century. Routledge. p. 265. ISBN 9781134222223.
  4. ^ a b Hillman, William (30 September 1938). "Big Four of Europe Sign Munich Pact". news.google.com. The Milwaukee Sentinel. International News Service. pp. 1–2.
  5. ^ "RFI - Rescue of German bank falls through, G4 summit closes". Rfi.fr. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  6. ^ "OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms - Composite leading indicator zones Definition". Stats.oecd.org. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  7. ^ Martinez, Michael (16 June 2013). "Obama discusses further Syrian intervention with European leaders". CNN. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  8. ^ McCain-Nelson, Colleen; Meichtry, Stacy; Thomas, Andrea (25 April 2014). "Obama, Europe Leaders to Impose More Russia Sanctions -- Update". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  9. ^ "Renzi calls for ceasefire as Italians flee Libya". M.thelocal.it. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Telefonata Renzi-Obama-Merkel-Cameron-Hollande su Gaza, Ucraina, Libia". Europa Quotidiano. Archived from the original on 19 October 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  11. ^ Woodcock, Andrew (15 October 2014). "British PM Cameron joins Ebola talks with US President Obama". Independent. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  12. ^ Stewart, Heather; Wintour, Patrick (4 March 2016). "European leaders urge Russia to maintain Syria ceasefire". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  13. ^ "Voting calculator - Consilium". www.consilium.europa.eu. General Secretariat of the Council. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  14. ^ "EU budget".
  15. ^ The Quint Acknowledging the Existence of a Big Four-US Directoire at the Heart of the European Union
  16. ^ Nolan, Janne (1 December 2010). Global Engagement: Cooperation and Security in the 21st Century. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0815716723.
  17. ^ Goldstein, Joshua S. (2011). Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide. Penguin. ISBN 9781101549087.
  18. ^ "EU divided on answer to Brexit 'wake up call'". Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  19. ^ "Meet the (divided) committee to save Europe". POLITICO. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  20. ^ "Brexit: Germany, France, Italy vow no talks before Britain makes formal decision on EU - Brexit: UK EU Referendum". mobile.abc.net.au. ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 27 June 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016.