French foreign policy faced the challenge right after the World War Second, when colonies started to gain their independence. France suffered greatly from the effects of World War Second and could no longer to afford maintain colonies. Economic collapse concentrated all efforts on reconstruction which was totally dependent from Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program) of United States.
The failure of French Europe
On the other hand Marshall Plan of United States was inevitable chance for France to realize unification of Europe which was one of the main missions of French foreign policy since Napoleonic wars. European integrated area was an attempt to prevent another war similar to those two devastated Europe. Establishment of this entity made France political, economic, and military power of Europe. French hegemony in European Economic Community was threatened after accession of United Kingdom in 1973. But political confrontation between these two European states started before than UK accession, when French President Charles de Gaulle left military structure of NATO in 1966. He explained his decision with preserving independence of France but it was an attempt to forestall Anglo-American dominance over Europe. Although both countries united their political course against the danger from Eastern Block, but claims for full lordship over Europe resulted with political polarization of Western Europe. Both powers enjoyed their hegemony over Europe until unification of Germany. United Germany automatically became the biggest country for its population and economic reforms within the short period in the Eastern part allowed Germany to quit French and British superiority over Europe.
French international policy continued to decline outside the borders of European continent. France lost the control over Indo-China, Middle East and African states and only started restoration of political influence in 2007 when Nicolas Sarkozy became the president of France. In 2009 after 43 years under his presidency France rejoined the military command of NATO. Nicolas Sarkozy pursued rescue plan of French foreign policy and determined international political priorities of France. EU policy and relation of France with other 27 member states is the first priority of French foreign policy and this is the only policy that linked to home policy of France. But difficulties with structural reforms at home have decreased the position of France inside European Union. Public debt of France estimated 90% of total GDP, unemployment increased up to 20%. Economic problems inside France strengthened de facto leadership of Germany and when it comes to financial and economic issues France has accepted to be a junior partner of Germany. Last elections to European Parliament in 2014 also weakened role of France inside the European Union. The victory of Eurosceptic French National Front at the elections increased concerns of French Government and EU leadership. EU policy of France disappointed for the second time after European Constitution referendum in 2005. The results of last EU Parliament elections have strengthened the position of far-right and nationalistic opposition which struggles against globalization and EU in particular. The chairman of National Front Marine Le Pen pledges France out of European Union and NATO.
Scramble over former colonies
French foreign policy towards former colonies also has been renewed during the last decade. In order to remain relevant and influential, France has entered new competition with China and United States of America. France holds national reserves of 14 African states in its central bank and France considered the source of stability in Africa. French companies also have deep roots in Africa and especially crude oil exploration and production in Africa is mainly led by French companies. But increasing role of China in Africa has become the nightmare of France. To preclude China’s increasing ascendancy and win the scramble over Africa, France has been imitating U.S foreign policy. France backed coup d’états and realized military interventions in African states for keeping its allies in power. Another challenge that France has confronted in Africa is growing extremism and radical Islam. Current president of France Francois Hollande has set counter terrorism as the main priority of French international policy. Fight against terrorism and extremism in former colonies showed France would not allow committing same mistakes as in Ruanda. Military intervention in Libya was another case where France supported democratic transition and fought against long term ally.
Current foreign policy of France described as lost in the crowd, where official Paris suffers from the lack of scenarios in international politics. International policy of France doomed to failure in Syria, where policy makers of France along with other Western allies condemned ruling regime with committing oppressive actions and persecutions against its own population. A year later, nowadays France mentions transnational jihadist organizations such as ISIS that has been able to establish a full operational control over the regions in Iraq and Syria as the biggest threat directly endangering national interests of France and other Western countries. Although official Paris has said that its military involvement against ISIS would be limited to Iraq but there is now thinking that France and other Western countries are de facto allies with Syrian regime because they have a common enemy.
The role of France in UN Security Council
UN Security Council is the most influential political mean and core of French foreign policy. France is one of the 5 permanent member states in UN Security Council and holds veto right. Recent developments in Syria and Libya, also negotiations over nuclear program of Iran showed that capability of UN Security Council paralyzed. Veto right of P5 countries puts obstacles in issues of vital importance. Important issues relating to human rights, rule of law, democracy and etc., submitted to UN Security Council cannot move forward from dead end. To increase the capability and legitimacy of UN Security Council, France and UK together proposed structural reforms to UN Security Council. Reforms embrace extension of UN Security Council with the accession of African, Arab and Latin America states. France also proposed to adopt a “code of conduct” which would oblige P5 countries to refrain from exercising their veto right in cases where a mass atrocity is involved.
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Soft policy as a new mean of foreign policy
Also to maintain its sphere of influence France reintroduced the new way of diplomacy. Soft diplomacy by cultural and educational influence enables to expand the French values. Once French used to be the most widespread international language over the world but alongside with political influence it has lost its prestige. In North Africa French lost competition with Arabic language, in the Central Africa French has been challenging by English and in Indo-China it lost the ground to English and Chinese. To interrupt the shrinking and restore the primacy of French in the world, President Francois Hollande emphasized soft policy as the new national security strategy. And to promote French and French speaking world, the advocates of French diplomacy have established multilateral policy for bringing French speaking states together as a political community.
Way out of situation
Although the external image of France is better than image of French government at home but to preserve its scope of influence France should overcome the major economic problems faced inside the country. The government is blamed for being the prisoner of EU policy and globalization. One of the biggest accusations towards the government is migration policy. France is one of the biggest victims of illegal migration in Europe. Illegal migration has increased the rate of unemployment and number of serious crimes in France. Rising security risks and continuity of economical decline has caused the raise of extreme right National Front’s popularity.
According to analysts French government has two options to deal with economic recession. Continue economic reforms by cutting public spending or pursue social economic policy by applying Keynesian economic formula (state intervention to economy during recession). French foreign policy could gain momentum and resume its international importance only after successful internal economic recovery.