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 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.

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.

On January 1st, 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU. With 27 members, the European Union is the third group in the world. Strengthened by twenty-five countries, the European Union forms the third largest grouping on the planet, occupying 3% of its dry land and holding 7.6% of its population and a quarter of global wealth.

With its GDP of €10,817 billion in 2006, the European Union is the equal of the North American continent and leads Asia.

Enlargement: a historical dynamic
Accessions to the European Communities and subsequently to the European Union...

  Une The Europe of ...
25 march 1957 6 The Treaty of Rome is signed by France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg
1st January 1973 9 Denmark, Ireland, the United Kingdom
1st January 1981 10 Greece
1st January 1986 12 Spain, Portugal
1st January 1995 15 Austria, Finland, Sweden
1st May 2004 25 Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia
1st January 2007 27 Bulgaria, Romania

Milestones in European enlargement

9 november 1989 The Fall of the Berlin Wall
21-22 june 1993 The Copenhagen European Council: approval in principle for the enlargement of the European Union and definition of the criteria to be met by candidates for accession.
30 march 1998 Negotiations begin for the accession of the first candidates
24-25 march 1999 Berlin European Council: definition of the financial timetable for enlargement.
7-9 december 2000 Nice European Council: changes to European institutions with a view to the functioning of an enlarged Union.
12-13 december 2002 Copenhagen European Council: conclusion of the negotiations for the ten candidate countries.
16 april 2003 The accession treaty is signed in Athens.
Throughout 2003 The accession treaty is ratified in the 25 countries
1st of May 2004 The ten new members join the European Union.
June 2004 Elections for the European Parliament in the 25 countries of the European Union

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 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 United Nations

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56e Assemblée Générale
des Nations Unies (New York)
© F. de La Mure / M.A.E.

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 2005, it contributed a total of €81.36 million to the UN’s regular budget and €79.89 million 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, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, etc.). French contributions to peacekeeping operations stood at €240 million in 2006.

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 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 2007 devoted €9.1 billion to official development assistance. This sum represents 0.5 of French GDP, a step towards the 2012 aim : 0.7%.

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 2006, development in Africa continued to be a priority for French foreign policy. The proportion of bilateral aid going to sub-Saharan Africa rose to 53% in 2006.

Encouraging cultural exchanges and the use of the French language

France has 144 French cultural establishments abroad, located in 90 countries, and a network of 283 Alliances françaises.

The policy of promoting the French language concerns 110 million learners in 13 0countries and relies on 850,000 teachers. The Agency for French Studies Abroad (AEFE) coordinates the activities of the 252 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 28 French research centres abroad are responsible for implementing these objectives.

As regards academic cooperation, 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 250,000.

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 coordinates 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 €8.8 million in 2006. French NGOs working abroad receive about 75% of these funds in the form of grants.

In this area France also provides support to the activities of multilateral organisations.

In 2006, €50 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.

The fight against terrorism

As a victim of international terrorism both at home and abroad, France has for many years shown its determination to combat terrorism in all its forms and irrespective of its source.

France, which considers that an uncompromising fight to eliminate terrorism must be conducted without prejudice to human rights and public freedoms, has put in place specific anti-terrorism legislation.

The United Nations resolutions adopted following the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States stepped up international cooperation against terrorism.

France is an active participant in the work of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC).

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 organizations.

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 & Oceania

The other half are permanent residents, among them those with dual French and foreign citizenship, whose numbers swelled by 87% between 1984 and 2004.

Updated on July 2007

Dernière modification : 11/09/2007

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