Contemporary European History

Challenging French Leadership in Europe: Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Outbreak of the Empty Chair Crisis of 1965–1966



The Empty Chair Crisis of 1965–66 has traditionally been seen as a constitutional crisis, caused by the different European visions of General de Gaulle and the Commission president, Hallstein. This article will argue, however, that the root cause of the crisis was a clash over the programme of the EEC and, at a deeper level, about the leadership of the Community. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, it will suggest, used the 1965 common agricultural policy negotiations to challenge the traditionally prominent position of the French. In response, de Gaulle had little choice other than to escalate the crisis and launch a six-month boycott of Community institutions.