Summoned by the President of the Republic, the parliamentarians are summoned to express their opinion. Tuesday March 12, deputies will debate the Franco-Ukrainian security agreement – signed on February 16 at the Élysée during a visit by Volodymyr Zelensky – and the situation in Ukraine, where the war against Russia is entering its third year. This agreement, concluded for “a period of ten years”, reaffirms Paris’ commitment to “counteract the war of aggression” led by Moscow and provides for “the provision of global assistance to Ukraine” for ” the restoration of its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

The discussions will be followed by a symbolic vote, in application of article 50-1 of the Constitution, which does not bind the government. “Before one or other of the assemblies, the Government may, on its own initiative or at the request of a parliamentary group (…), make, on a specific subject, a declaration which gives rise to debate and may, if it decides, be the subject of a vote without incurring liability,” the law provides. The same will happen in the Senate on Wednesday.

At the end of February, Hubert Védrine, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Jean-Pierre Chevènement, former Minister, notably of Defense, published a joint declaration urging the parliament to “take up” the debate on the war in Ukraine and to have “a political debate on the merits

The vote takes place two weeks after Emmanuel Macron declared, at the end of an international conference of support for Kiev bringing together 21 heads of state in Paris, that sending Western troops on the ground to support Ukraine was “mentioned among the options”. A hypothesis dismissed by France’s allies and castigated by the opposition, but which should loom large over most of the debates.

“This article, resulting from the constitutional revision of July 23, 2008 under Nicolas Sarkozy, was created to avoid the use of article 49.3 which allows the executive to adopt a text without a vote with commitment of government responsibility . The votes on Tuesday and Wednesday will be symbolic because they will be scrutinized,” explains Guillaume Lagane, specialist in defense issues.

“There is therefore no legal issue, the negative vote will just mean the disapproval of a chamber with regard to the government’s position. It’s a simple policy debate. On the other hand, this device illustrates the Fifth Republic in what it can be most caricatured with regard to the weight of executive power, agrees Benjamin Morel, lecturer in public law at the University of Paris II Panthéon Assas and doctor in political science. . It’s reminiscent of the Covid-19 period: Emmanuel Macron made announcements and then let parliamentarians debate them. In most other European countries, presidents do not have such a strong role politically.”

The votes of Tuesday and Wednesday may vaguely recall the legislative process in force if the President of the French Republic decided to intervene militarily, in Ukraine for example. The decision to send troops as part of an external operation is taken by the President of the Republic in the Defense Council. If the government decides to initiate armed intervention, it must inform Parliament within three days of its decision. A parliamentary debate without a vote can then take place.

On the other hand, if the external intervention extends beyond four months, the government must submit this extension to the authorization of Parliament, or ask the National Assembly to decide as a last resort. Concretely, the President of the Republic would need the agreement of Matignon and the Ministry of Defense to send his troops.