French law – The central administration

Title 2 – The State Administration

Chapter 1 – The central administration

Section 1 – Central administrative authorities

The 1958 Constitution gives central administrative powers to both the President and the Prime Minister.

The President of the Republic

The Constitution confers several powers on the President:

  • The President of the Republic signs all the decrees issued by the Council of Ministers (the intervention of the ministers is not obligatory).
  • The President of the Republic appoints to civil and military posts (Article 13 of the Constitution). However, the Constitution also provides for the possibility of delegation.
  • Some acts of the President of the Republic are not subject to the countersignature requirement (Article 19 of the Constitution)
  • The President of the Republic may exceptionally have recourse to Article 16 of the Constitution, which gives him full powers and allows him to take, “the measures required by the circumstances”. Since the constitutional law of July 23, 2008, the Constitutional Council can be seized after 30 days to verify that the conditions of article 16 are still met.

The Prime Minister

Similarly, the Constitution also gives powers to the Prime Minister:

  • The Prime Minister directs the action of the government (article 21 of the Constitution) and ensures the execution of laws. He thus exercises regulatory power.
  • The government he heads has the administration and the armed forces at its disposal (Article 20 of the constitution)
  • The Prime Minister may appoint to civil and military posts

However, the acts of the Prime Minister must be countersigned by the ministers who are responsible for their execution.

The Ministers

The powers of the ministers are as follows:

  • The minister decides on the internal organization of his department
  • The minister is the superior of all members attached to his department.
  • The minister is the representative of the State in all the attributions of his department.
  • The Minister may appoint to certain posts.
  • The minister manages the expenses of his department.
  • The minister prepares decrees and countersigns them.

The minister, on the other hand, has no regulatory power. However, this power may be conferred by law.

The decisions taken by ministers may be ministerial orders or ministerial circulars.

Section 2 – Staff of central administrative authorities

The principal collaborators

  • Secretaries of State: they assist the minister.
  • The directorates attached to the Prime Minister: their missions are diverse.
  • The ministerial cabinet: they are linked to the minister and replaced at the same time as the minister. The typical organization is that of the director of the cabinet, chief of cabinet, attachés, technical advisers, mission managers. In the words of Paul Morant, the ministerial cabinet is a“flexible bridge that links the administration to politics“.

The offices

The offices embody continuity.

The General Secretariat of the Government, linked to the Prime Minister, prepares decrees, deliberations of the government, and follows their execution.

Unlike the ministers, who take office and disappear in a limited time, the ministers’ offices do not change and thus embody the continuity of the ministries. They are responsible for administrative work, preparing and executing decisions.

Each office is divided into directorates, headed by a director and a director general.
Each directorate is divided into offices, composed of civil administrators, attachés, a central administration, and administrative secretaries.

Advisory bodies and inspection bodies

The advisory bodies give an opinion before each decision. But the administration is not obliged to follow this advice. (e.g. the Superior Council of the Civil Service, the Superior Council of National Defence, etc.)

The inspection bodies intervene to inspect the external services of the ministries only.

Section 3 – Independent Administrative Authorities (AAI)

The development of IaaS

The term Independent Administrative Authority (AAI) was born in 1978, at the same time as the creation of the National Commission on Information Technology and Freedom (CNIL).

Before 1978, in 1973, the Mediator of the Republic was already considered as an AAI.

Many other AAIs have been created since then:

  • The Commission for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA) (law of July 17, 1978)
  • The Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) (law of January 17, 1989)
  • The National Commission for campaign accounts and political financing (law of January 15, 1990)
  • The Consultative Commission on National Defense Secrecy (Act of July 8, 1998)
  • The Competition Authority (law of August 4, 2008 on the modernization of the economy)
  • Numerous other AAIs, such as on telecommunications, doping, public debate, financial markets, etc.

Most of these AAIs have decision-making powers and even the power to impose sanctions. They can also give opinions.

The control of the AAI is done by the Council of State and the administrative jurisdiction. Some AAIs are under the control of the judicial judge, such as the Competition Authority.

→ Chapter 2 – Local agents of the state administration

→ Lesson Sheets – Administrative Organization

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One thought on “French law – The central administration

  1. please I would like the explanation of the following expression: the cabinet is a flexible gateway that connects politics to administration-thank you-

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