Big Four (European Union)
The Big Four in the European Union, also known as G4 or EU4, refers to France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. These countries are considered major European powers and they are the EU countries individually represented as full members of the G7, the G8 and the G20. France, Britain, Italy and Germany have been referred to as the big four of Europe since the Interwar period while the term G4 was used for the first time when French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for a meeting in Paris with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to consider the response to the financial crisis during the Great Recession. The OECD describes them as the "The Four Big European Countries".
The Big Four leaders attempt to lead both European domestic policy (as well as the G6 interior ministers) and European foreign policy (as well as the EU3 foreign ministers). 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 Barack Obama they discussed for example the TTIP, the Syrian civil war and the use of chemical weapons during the conflict, the Crimean Crisis and international sanctions against Russia, the post-civil war violence in Libya, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the 2014 American intervention in Iraq and the Ebola virus disease.
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France, Britain, Italy and Germany 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. 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 Britain, France, Russia, China and the US 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 were granted a permanent seat in the Security Council. Italy, Germany and Japan experienced a post-war economic miracle and took part in the 1st G6 summit along with France, the US and the UK in 1975.
Since 1945, France and Britain have often acted alone in defence policy matters while Italy and Germany have preferred to act within the framework of international organisations. For example, Britain, France, Italy and Germany are 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.
View of Europe
Germany, France, Italy and Britain are net contributors to the EU budget.
France and Germany are the main proponents of an intergovernmental Europe led by the "Franco-German motor". Especially in the context of the European Union, the cooperation between the two countries reaches immense coordination and collaboration. The notion of intergovernmentalism is opposed by both European federalists, the ones looking for greater political integration, and free-traders, notably sceptics about the concept of an "ever closer union".
Italy has been the leading proponent of European federalism since the Ventotene Manifesto and the Treaty of Rome, while Britain has been referred to as a "peculiar" member of the EU, due to its often strained relations with the organisation. For this reason, the UK and Italy stand together on EU reform and support the idea of a two-speed Europe where both free-traders and federalists can be accommodated. Writing for The Telegraph, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni declared:
Italy and the UK have two very different views of Europe. While the UK holds the single market as its main focus, Italy’s position is inspired by the vision of a federal EU and ever-closer integration, both economically and politically....A successful EU will be on which can combine these different visions of Europe and embrace that diversity. We need a flexible, reformed EU in which different paths of integration can coexist successfully to build a Europe fit for the future. This is what we are working together to achieve.
- France–Italy relations
- France–Germany relations
- France–United Kingdom relations
- Germany–Italy relations
- Germany–United Kingdom relations
- Italy–United Kingdom relations
- EU three
- G6 (EU)
- EU's Big Four speak as one ahead of G7 in Tokyo
- Europe's Big Four
- The Quint Acknowledging the Existence of a Big Four-US Directoire at the Heart of the European Union
- "Leading indicators and tendency surveys". Oecd.org. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
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- Major European powers
- Major European nations
- Big Four of Europe sign Munich pact
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- "OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms - Composite leading indicator zones Definition". Stats.oecd.org. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
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- "Obama, European chiefs discuss Syria". The Washingtion Times. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
- "Obama discusses further Syrian intervention with European leaders". CNN. 15 June 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
- https://web.archive.org/20140530130103/http://online.wsj.com:80/article/BT-CO-20140425-713026.html. Archived from the original on May 30, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2015. Missing or empty
- "Renzi calls for ceasefire as Italians flee Libya". M.thelocal.it. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
- "Telefonata Renzi-Obama-Merkel-Cameron-Hollande su Gaza, Ucraina, Libia". Europa Quotidiano. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
- Big Four of Europe sign Munich pact