France’s foreign policy

France’s foreign policy is based on certain fundamental principles: the right of peoples to self-determination, respect for human rights and democratic principles, respect for the rule of law and cooperation 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.

European construction

Ever since 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. Since then, General de Gaulle and Presidents Pompidou, Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterrand and Chirac have constantly worked to make the European edifice a reality and develop it into an economic power and respected political forum.

On the economic side, the achievements first of the six, then the twelve and today the fifteen member States testify to the success of this policy: in 1998, the European Union’s GDP of 8,346.3 billion dollars (6112 billion euros) equalled that of the North American countries and exceeded Asia’s.

The challenge today is to provide Europe with a genuine political and monetary identity and to prepare its institutions for the enlargement bringing in the many States which have applied for accession. France strove towards this goal throughout the Intergovernmental Conference which ended with the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty on 2 October 1997, which also, as a result of its endeavours, strengthened Community measures in the spheres of social policy and employment.

On 1 January 1999, the euro became a fully-fledged currency for financial markets, banks and firms. Today, like its euro area partners, France is preparing for the introduction of banknotes and coins denominated in euros on 1 January 2002, the fourth step in the establishment of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

World 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 Western European Union (WEU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation 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 2001, it contributed a total of 68.85 million euros to the UN’s regular budget and 125.55 million euros to the UN system’s specialized 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, etc.). French contributions to peacekeeping operations should reach 261.75 million euros in 2001.

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

International cooperation

France’s international cooperation policy relies on the exercise of both influence and solidarity. The Directorate-General for Development and International Cooperation (DGCID) implements this policy around four main lines:

Development aid through cooperation

France intends to continue its effort of solidarity towards the poorest countries and in 2000 devoted 4.42 billion euros to official development assistance. This sum represents 0.33% of French GDP, compared to an average 0.22% for member countries of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.

Within the framework of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, France committed itself to an additional bilateral effort amounting to 4.7 billion euros for the implementation of debt-freeing and development contracts.

Encouraging cultural exchanges and the use of the French language

France has 224 French cultural establishments abroad, located in 91 countries, and a network of 263 Alliances françaises.

The policy for promoting the French language concerns 70 million learners in 166 countries and relies on 680 000 teachers.
The Agency for French Studies Abroad (AEFE) coordinates the activities of the 270 French schools in the world.

Promoting scientific and academic cooperation

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 26 French research centres abroad are responsible for implementing these objectives.

As regards academic cooperation, France manages 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, today they total 172,000.

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: in 1999 export revenue from French films increased by 60%.

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 Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinates the action of French State agencies such as the Sécurité civile (emergency services dealing with natural disasters, bomb disposal, etc), Samu mondial (mobile emergency medical service - international branch) and the armed forces’ health services.

In this area France also provides support to the activities of multilateral organisations. In 2000, 52 million euros were allocated to the programmes of international organizations and to different 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), etc.

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


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 cooperation.

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 coordinator of its economic, cultural and linguistic cooperation programmes.

Now including 51 States, the Francophone Community held its eighth summit in 1999 in Moncton (Canada). The next summit will take place in Beirut in October 2001.

Online 29/09/2005

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