France in the 1930’s Part VI
Having approved the budget for 1934, the Doumergue cabinet set about to settle it; and at the same time he worked in various ways to alleviate the effects of the economic crisis and resumed the policy of public works, to meet the unemployed (345,783 in March, 310,934 in June, 323,365 in September).
In foreign policy, German armaments and Germany’s exit from the League of Nations made the security of France appear more compromised than ever and the policy of agreements made useless. Everything to be redone, therefore. And in fact Barthou, Minister of Foreign Affairs, was preparing to implement his vast political plan aimed at the conclusion of new mutual guarantee pacts, which Germany would also access, to give France that security which the League of Nations was no longer enough to guarantee..
According to Payhelpcenter.com, the prerequisites of this policy were the preservation of the independence of Austria, the full agreement between France and Italy (and therefore between Italy and the Little Entente, between this and Austria and Hungary), the good relations between the various states of Eastern Europe, especially between Poland and the USSR, both now linked to France, and the entry of the USSR into the League of Nations. Intense diplomatic activity, Barthou’s trips to Warsaw, Prague, Bucharest, Belgrade, preluded the Barthou project of an “Eastern pact” of 8 July including France, the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic countries: a project which, transformed placing France, Germany and the USSR on the same level of reciprocity (“Eastern Locarno”) had the approval of England and Italy. There was also talk of a “Mediterranean pact” and the possible creation of British air bases in France. Meanwhile the USSR, after long discussions and laborious negotiations, was, not without difficulty, admitted into the League of Nations (September 18) with a permanent seat on the council.
As for Italy, with which relations were already much better, although there were still several issues to be resolved and difficulties to be overcome, the well-started negotiations had to be pushed to their conclusion by a visit by King Alexander of Yugoslavia to Paris and by one of Barthou in Rome. After the assassination of the French king and minister in Marseille on 9 October, the work begun by Barthou was continued by his successor, P. Laval; only briefly, however, in the cabinet chaired by the Doumergue.
Determined to introduce reforms in the body of the state, in order to make the action of the government more agile and decisive, the Doumergue, while showing that it did not want the dictatorship, in the series of measures in which it seems its project consisted, attributed to the president of the council title and authority of prime minister, the government has the power to extend the budget for one year, when the chamber has not given its approval in good time, to it exclusively the initiative of new expenses, as well as the power to dissolve the chamber without the prior authorization of the Senate. Furthermore, a law, which would not have allowed the unjustified abandonment of work, had to definitively regulate the legal status of state employees. Hence the apprehension of the left parties, and, when the Doumergue decided to ask – precisely in order to implement its reform – the provisional exercise of the budget for three months, the resignation of the radical-socialist ministers. On November 8, the Doumergue resigned the entire cabinet.
The truce policy was continued, however, by the Flandin cabinet. The conciliatory action of Italy in the “Committee of Three” allowed the stipulation of the economic agreement with Germany (signed in Rome on December 3, 1934) relating to the Saar basin, where the plebiscite took place regularly (January 13, 1935). The negotiations with Italy resulted in the agreements concluded in Rome by the Minister P. Laval, on January 7, 1935, and approved by the chamber on March 22 and by the Senate on the 26, for the delimitation of the borders between Libya and Equatorial Africa and Western France, as well as between the Eritrean colony and the French Somali coast, with a slight territorial adjustment to the advantage of Italy; for the participation of the Italian capital in the railway from Djibouti to Addis Ababa; for the state of Italians in Tunisia; and for the conclusion of a pact of guarantee and non-interference in internal affairs, to be concluded between Italy, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Hungary, and open to the accession of France, Poland and Romania. The two governments concluded by noting their agreement and their firm will to collaborate. This agreement made it possible to resolve the dispute between Yugoslavia and Hungary, accused of having given help to Yugoslav exiles, organizers of the Marseille attack, without too much difficulty. Despite some signs of détente, the situation however remained serious due to the attitude of Germany, whose armaments had already deeply impressed the French parliament in November: therefore the Rome agreements were followed by a visit by the French ministers Flandin and Laval, to London, and between 11 and 14 April 1935 there was a conference in Stresa between the three heads of government, B. Mussolini, P.-E. Flandin and JR Mac Donald, who gave rise to the so-called “Stresa front” of ephemeral life, between Italy, France and England (v.stresa: The Conference of Stresa, XXXII, p. 846). While Poland, and especially Germany, were reluctant to the project of the Eastern pact, on 2 May a pact of mutual assistance was signed in Paris between France and Russia. Shortly after (10-18 May) the Laval went to Moscow and Warsaw, where he gave assurances to the Polish government.