France’s Foreign Policy

France’s Foreign Policy

France’s foreign policy is founded on several centuries of diplomatic tradition and some fundamental principles: the right of peoples to self-determination, respect for human rights and democratic principles, respect for the rule of law and co-operation among nations. Within this framework, France’s concern is to preserve its national independence while at the same time working to foster regional and international solidarity.

The construction of Europe

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Photo : F. de La Mure / M.A.E.
Ministère des Affaires
étrangères, quai d’Orsay (Paris)

From as early as 1945 European construction has been at the heart of French foreign policy. There have been several major reasons for this: the desire to restore peace and guarantee the security of the States, strengthen democratic government and build an integrated economic and monetary area able to ensure prosperity for the peoples of Europe.

Given this, General de Gaulle and Presidents Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterrand and Chirac have striven unceasingly to make the European edifice a reality and develop it into an economic power and respected political forum.

With its GDP of €9,710 billion in 2003, the European Union is the equal of the North American continent and leads Asia.

On 1 May 2004, ten new members joined the European Union. Strengthened by twenty-five countries, the European Union forms the third largest grouping on the planet, occupying 3% of its dry land and holding 7.5% of its population and a quarter of global wealth.

International security

In the area of security, the Cold War years and the succeeding period of instability have placed heavy responsibilities on all the democratic nations, including France. Party to the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), France also belongs to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Eurocorps, in which France has nearly 13,000 troops.

As one of the five nuclear powers - alongside the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and China - France is ensuring the maintenance of its deterrent force and its adaptation to the new strategic realities, taking into account the European dimension of its defence, while working towards a total ban on nuclear testing and committing itself to arms control and disarmament.

Action at the UN

France’s foreign policy is conducted in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations, purposes and principles which in fact comply with the ideals underlying France’s republican tradition.

Thus, since 1945 France has constantly supported the UN, to which it is the fourth largest contributor. In 2004, it contributed a total of €84.35 million to the UN’s regular budget and €107.57 million to the UN system’s specialised agencies.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, France has participated directly in many UN peacekeeping operations (in the Middle East, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, etc.). French contributions to peacekeeping operations stood at €140.34 million in 2003.

France also supports the action of the UN in the area of development aid, in particular through contributions and technical assistance that it provides to the main programmes for fighting poverty (UNDP), child protection (UNICEF) or fighting drugs (UNDCP).

International co-operation

France’s international co-operation policy relies on the exercise of both influence and solidarity.

The Directorate-General for Development and International Co-operation (DGCID) implements this policy around four main lines:

  • Development aid through co-operation

France intends to continue its effort of solidarity towards the poorest countries and in 2003 devoted €6.4 billion to official development assistance. This sum represents 0.41% of French GDP.

The major part of the funds provided by France for development aid is devoted to bilateral assistance provided directly to the beneficiary countries by French government departments or those acting for them.

In 2003, development in Africa continued to be a priority for French foreign policy. The proportion of bilateral aid going to sub-Saharan Africa thus rose from 49% in 2002 to 57% in 2003.

  • Encouraging cultural exchanges and the use of the French language

France has 151 French cultural establishments abroad, located in 91 countries, and a network of 283 Alliances françaises.

The policy of promoting the French language concerns 82 million learners in 130 countries and relies on 900,000 teachers. The Agency for French Studies Abroad (AEFE) co-ordinates the activities of the 268 French schools in the world.

  • Promoting scientific and academic co-operation

France intends to both support the internationalisation of French research and to disseminate information on the scientific systems of partner countries.

The Science and Technology Observatory and the 28 French research centres abroad are responsible for implementing these objectives.

As regards academic co-operation, France manages more than 200 French-speaking degree courses throughout the world and reinforces in particular its relations with partners such as Germany and the United States. An increasing number of foreign students are welcomed to France: they total 220,000.

  • Ensuring a French presence on the world audiovisual scene

The French audiovisual presence abroad is increasingly strong and support for major operators in this sector, such as the French-speaking channel TV5 and Radio France International (RFI), is now a government priority.

France also supports the distribution of French films and documentaries.

Humanitarian action

France gives humanitarian action a specific place in its foreign policy, and also demonstrates its loyalty to the values it has inspired. France has played a vital role in the development of humanitarian action and international humanitarian law.

The French Foreign Ministry’s Humanitarian Action Delegation implements the emergency humanitarian relief actions abroad decided by the government. The Delegation therefore co-ordinates the action of its various institutional partners such as the Sécurité civile (emergency services dealing with natural disasters, bomb disposal, etc), Samu mondial (mobile emergency medical service - international branch), the French Defence Ministry, Emergency NGOs, and so on. The funds earmarked for these programmes totalled €9.3 million in 2004. French NGOs working abroad receive about 40% of these funds in the form of grants.

In this area France also provides support to the activities of multilateral organisations. In 2004, €49 million was paid to various UN humanitarian agencies: Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and so on.

Finally France’s contribution to programmes implemented within the European framework amounts to more than €100 million. Through ECHO (European Community Humanitarian Office), France assists countries or peoples in need, suffering the effects of natural disasters or political crises.

French-speaking world (Francophony)

At the same time as promoting cultural, scientific and technical exchanges, France is keen to increase the use of the French language.

Through Francophony it intends to make the Francophone community (131 million people or 2.5% of the world’s population) into a genuine forum for co-operation.

Since 1986, there have been eight Francophone Summits. The summit of Heads of State and Government of the countries having the French language in common, held in Hanoi (Vietnam) in November 1997, endorsed the Francophone community’s political dimension with the appointment of a Secretary-General, a political spokesman for the community and co-ordinator of its economic, cultural and linguistic co-operation programmes.

Now including 51 States, the Francophone Community held its nine summit in October 2002 in Beirut (Lebanon).

The French in the world

Half are temporary overseas residents (average stay four years). In most cases they are employees of French companies, civil servants on overseas assignment or members of humanitarian organisations.

Nearly 2 million French citizens live abroad:

      • 52,9 % in Europe
      • 19,1 % in America
      • 12,5 % in North Africa and the Middle East
      • 10,3 % in sub-Saharan Africa
      • 5,3 % in Asia and Oceania

The other half are permanent residents, among them those with dual French and foreign citizenship, whose numbers swelled by 85% between 1984 and 2002.

Dernière modification : 12/01/2010

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