159. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- State’s Assessment of French EC Referendum
Attached (Tab A) is a memorandum from State covering an analysis of the outcome of last Sunday’s referendum2 in France on the European Community (EC). State points that:
—because of the high abstention rate (almost 40% of the eligible) only 36% of those eligible voted “yes,”
—32% of those actually voting, voted “no.” The Communists, who campaigned for “no,” are hailing this result as a victory for them, since they usually get only 18–24% of the national vote.
From the results, State concludes that:
—the outcome was clearly disappointing to Pompidou;
—it should not, however, be regarded as a major defeat for him or his European policy;
—the non-contentious nature of the EC enlargement issue for most Frenchmen (except Communists) accounted for voter apathy, and Pompidou was unable to overcome this apathy;[Page 577]
—Pompidou’s critics within his party will be emboldened, as will the Communists and Socialists;
—Pompidou may reshuffle his cabinet, including Chaban-Delmas;
—Internationally, the consequences may be more serious, with Pompidou’s aspirations as a leader of Europe having perhaps been dealt a severe blow;
—There is no reason, however, to think that the President will significantly change his European policy.
Comment: We do not entirely share the emphasis on this assessment that for Pompidou the more serious consequences will be international. To the degree that the President expected to utilize a pro-Europe result to assert his sway over his party, he has lost a great deal domestically. He will have to reconsider any plans which he may have had for dumping Chaban-Delmas or Debré or moving elections up to this summer or autumn. The authority vested in the French presidency under the Fifth Republic, however, makes its incumbent relatively independent of the electorate’s views as far as bold departures in international politics are concerned, if he has the will to make them.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 678, Country Files—Europe, France, Vol. IX. Confidential. Sent for information. A handwritten note reads: “Thru Haig.” Kissinger initialed the memorandum.↩
- April 23. Tab A was transmitted with a covering memorandum dated April 25 from Eliot to Kissinger.↩