The French Perspective on European and Global Affairs

Maintaining Independence: The Costs of Prestige

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4. Maintaining Independence: The Costs of Prestige
In the post-war period, several aspects of government policy tried to ensure that France remained a diversified economy with a strong technological base and the prestige of a great nation. One of the main areas was in the military sector, where France maintained a range of industries, including the production of advanced aircraft and nuclear weapons (see below). These were supplemented by efforts in heavy industry, automobile production, telecommunications, and strong engagement in the aeronautic and space industries.
There were several key areas where France tried to ensure that it could keep up with new developments, either alone, or as part of joint European Union ventures. These included the development of commercial aircraft, beginning with the Caravelle airliner (1950s), and then going on to the Concorde (the first and only commercially used supersonic airliner), and then the Airbus consortium (Price 1993, p281) which remains one of the most successful jet airliners today and a major competitor for U.S. firms such as Boeing. Other areas include scientific and commercial aerospace ventures such as the Ariane rockets, some of which proved to reliable and cost-effective satellite launchers, with such launchers contributing to the International Space Station refuelling program (see Boniface 2000). Over the last several years France has made a major contribution to the European space program, as well as new satellites and satellite imagery analysis systems. As of 2002-2003, France’s major trading partners include Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the US, with trade quite strongly focused with EU partners (see DFAT 2003). In part due to sluggishness in the world economy, GDP growth was only 0.2% in 2003, with estimates of low inflation at 1.4% but relatively high unemployment, in developed country terms, of 9.2-9.4%, a trend continued in 2004 even as growth heads towards 1.8% of GDP (DFAT 2003; DFAT 2004).
Another area of particular concern to France had been its energy supply industry, which was largely reliant on imported oil. As of 1973, 74.5% of energy requirements relied on imported oil (Price 1993, p284), leaving the country vulnerable to the oil crises of 1973 and 1979. More efficient energy usage, and the strong development of nuclear power stations (which in 1987 provided 70% of domestic electricity), helped alleviate this problem (Price 1993, p284). It also meant that France developed an advanced nuclear power production industry, in spite of the controversial nature of this system. Likewise, France has developed controversial methods of nuclear waste disposal that have been challenged both within Europe and by other countries.
Serious troubles in the French economy were slowly overcome. After slow growth in the 1990-1996 period, GDP growth was 2.3% in 1997 and almost 3% in 1999 (Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry 2000). By this time the economic system had reached close convergence with that of Germany, allowing it to fit into the European monetary system and soon the European Monetary Union (Price 1993, p287). However, during the period 1990-1995 unemployment remained high (9.3-12.3%), with a rise to 12.8% in 1997, and in general France has not been able to retain a leading place in areas such as computers, information technology, or even machine tools (Price 1993, p287; Pierre & Quandt 1995, p140). There is also a need for continued investment in infrastructure and education. Nonetheless, France's economy is one of the largest in Europe after Germany's, and remains one of the strongest on the world scene (Price 1993, p288). Through 1999-2000, France had the fourth largest economy in the world, and was the fourth largest exporter, with a GDP of US$1,261 billion (Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry 2000). The French economy experienced a period of strong relative growth at the very end of the 1990s, with some rebalancing of relative economic power in relation to Germany. It has also allowed her to continue supporting a range of strong labour, educational and welfare provisions that are at times criticised from the neo-liberal capitalist point of view. This has led to ongoing tensions both with the U.S. (see for example Menéndez Weidman 2001; Frank 1998), and with provisions for competitive agreements run through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD (Wallach 1998).
France also has an interesting relationship with other nations within the European Union. Certain traditional tensions have remained between France and Britain (who were in many ways imperial competitors down till accords for separate zones of influence established in 1904 and 1912, Kupchan 1994, p210). President de Gaulle had at first in 1963 vetoed British entry into the European Community, though this was largely on the basis of too strong an alignment of British and U.S. interests (Price 1993, p326). Moreover, after initial caution, the EC process has largely been driven by reconciliation between France and Germany, at first relying the shared interests and nations needs as viewed by President de Gaulle and Chancellor Adenaeuer from 1962 onwards (Adréani 1998, p22; Price 1993, p326). In large measure, similar relations between Germany and France have continued through the 1990s, with a surprising measure of concord between the French leadership and former Chancellor Kohl through the 1990s. On this basis, the Franco-German understanding is seen as the basis of deepening integration in the European system over the last four decades (see Guyomarch et al. 1998). Relations improved in general terms between France and the UK under the early Blair government, but underwent increasing tensions through 2002-2003 over how the war on terror should be conducted, and the degree of UK alignment with US policy in relation to Iraq and the UN Security Council, with only some reduction of these tensions through 2004, even though there have been efforts to rebuild cooperation with the UK.
Aside from past unemployment, other stresses have been placed on French society. These include a large number of immigrants, and resident foreigners, largely coming in from former French colonies, especially Africa. Resident foreigners were 1.7 million in 1954, and rose to 4.1 million in 1975 (Price 1993, p288). In a strong economy, such immigration can be sustained. This is much harder when unemployment is high, when tensions existed over politics within Algeria, and when many of these groups are Islamic, a religion which was not always understood in France (Pierre & Quandt 1995, p140) and is sometimes stereotyped as associated with 'fundamentalist' violence. We can sense the complications for France when we note that Islam is now France's second largest active religion, with over 4 million Muslims in the country (see Caldwell 2000). Likewise, this can lead to real clashes in values. In 1989 the 'Islamic Scarf' case was concerned with the refusal of a junior high-school principal to allow three Islamic girls to wear scarves in school, basically on the basis of secularism in schools and egality in education, a debate that continued through the 1990s down to 2004 (Milner & Parsons 2003, p12; Wieviorka 1994, p250).
This ban was also part of the 'upholding of the highly valued laicité, or separation of church and state' (Pierre & Quandt 1995, p140), which has an important place in modern French history. Research has suggested that in fact the Muslim minority can adapt well in France so long as they have jobs in the mainstream community, but it is exactly this which is often lacking. Ironically, this climate of mistrust can create the very thing it fears. This minority 'fears being scapegoated and confined in a ghetto of suspicion and xenophobia, which fuels fundamentalist currents that today are only marginal' (Moïsi 1995, p11). For instance, by the mid-1990s there were some 800,000 Algerians in France (less than two thirds with documentation), and many lacked employment or had only low paying jobs, helping account for the showing in opinion polls that the 16-24 year-old group were showing increased signs of 'Muslim self-identification' (Pierre & Quandt 1995, p140). In the worst case scenario such tensions might make militant Muslim identities more attractive, and at the least undermines affiliation to French republican values, may generate anti-social behaviour and patterns of negative discrimination (Milner & Parsons 2003, p13). Instead, France in particular and Europe in general may need to rethink a more positive vision of the role of Muslims within their communities, allowing these groups to make a more positive contribution to the new European scene (see Ramadan 1998).
There have been some positive changes in French government policy showing greater sensitivity to Islamic communities through 2000-2004. However, these trends were thrown into tension after September 2001, with a continuation of strong anti-terrorist laws and enhanced policing measures through the reinforced 'Vigipirate Plan' (Xinhua 2002). At the same time, President Chirac that emphasised that military means alone are not sufficient to cope with the problem of terrorism, and rejected the very term 'war' on terror.
Certain extreme minority political parties, usually from the far right, are also willing to use such facts to capitalise on xenophobic nationalism or outright racism, e.g. Jean Le Pen's (and the National Front party’s) approach relied on French solidarity and nationalism in the face of some 'other'. Jean Le Pen has called for the expulsion of some 3 million immigrants (Pierre & Quandt 1995, p141) and his rhetoric may have forced mainstream governments to take a somewhat more nationalistic stance than would have otherwise been the case. In this context, it should be noted that a widening gap seemed to emerge between the rich and middle class on the one hand, and a deskilled group whose position in French society seemed to be getting worse during the 1980s - up to 29% of families at that time were classified as relatively poor (Price 1993, p348). This is one of the grounds on which intolerance has been bred, along with stereotyping and race prejudice.
Recent debates on immigration policy, ironically, have also given some of these extreme groups an opportunity to publicise their views (de Brie 1997). The recent strength of the French economy (1998-2001) has not yet solved this problem. This was seen in the 2002 French presidential elections, where in a surprise play-off Jean Le Pen emerged as the second runner against President Chirac. Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin, favoured beforehand as a strong runner, 'obtained only 16.18 per cent of the vote, with a loss of 2.5 million votes over seven years' (Miguet 2002). Although in the second round President Chirac won a crushing victory (82% voted for him), these events did suggest that a pool of discontent and division exists within the socialist left from which the right can draw electoral advantage (Moulson 2002) on particular issues (this was only a partial 'swing to the right' in European affairs). Likewise, pools of xenophobia and narrow nationalism can be mobilised by popularist leaders (see De Angelis 2003).
Table 1: THE FRENCH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 1997 & 2002 ( Miguet 2002)

2002 1997

Seats Seats

PCF 21 38

PS 140 240

PRG 7 12

Other Left 6 21

Les Verts 3 7

UDF 29 64

UMP 355 135 (RPR only)

DL 2 44

Other Right 12 14

Other 2 1

FN 0 1

Total Left (incl. PCF, Verts) - 177 318

Total Right (incl. FN) - 398 258

Glossary: -
DL = Democratie Liberale/Liberals : FN = Front National/Extreme Right : PRG = Parti Radical de gauche/Radical Left Party : PS = Parti Socialiste/Socialist Party : UDF Union pour la Democratie Francaise/Centre Right : UMP = Union pour la majorite Presidentielle/Union for the Presidential Majority : RPR Rassemblement pour la Republique/Gaullist Party (after Miguet 2002)
However, in the following June 2002 National Assembly elections the far right also lost out strongly, with the moderate right winning 'decisively' (see Pfaff 2002; Wilson 2002; see Table 1 below). It was expected that the Socialists and Communists might lose up to half of their prior 283 seats (Wilson 2002), with a resulting total of 177 left-oriented seats (Miguet 2002). However, this will not necessarily translate into a new, widespread conservative mandate - about 40% of registered voters did not bother to case a vote, indicating a widespread disillusionment with normal electoral politics (Vinocur 2002).
Through June 2004 there was some sign again of a turn back to the left at European level elections, though voter turnout was once again quite low: -
The Socialists took 28.89 pct of the vote, according to final results, up from 21.95 pct in the last election in 1999. Chirac's conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) won 16.64 pct, up from 12.8 pct, and its junior partner in the government, the center-right Union for French Democracy, took 11.95 pct.

The far-right National Front was fourth with 9.81 pct, up from 5.7 pct in 1999.

Turnout was just 43 pct, down from 47 pct in 1999. (AFX 2004)
Another aspect of modern France has been a certain alignment of nationalist, republican, socialist and cultural ideas. I will not be able to do justice to this today, but will only touch on a few themes. The first of these is the issue of social justice and socialism, a theme which has been taken with great seriousness by French workers, intellectuals and students, and which has led to much more vigorous political culture than is found in Anglo-American culture. Although the communist party was dealt a severe blow with the Constitutional structure of the Fifth Republic, this did not mean that there was an end to political discontent. On the contrary, frustration and discontent led to an outbreak of political activity which is sometimes called the Revolution of 1968 in which students and workers for a time challenged to power of the French states (Price 1993, pp239-330).
It must be remembered, of course, that France has a long revolutionary tradition (e.g. 1789, 1848, 1871). In large part, of course, the events of 1968 reflected a trend for French intellectuals to play an active part in political mobilisation, e.g. as was the case for Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, and André Malraux. This involvement was still largely structured by Marxist theory - one was either a Marxist, a fellow traveller, or a non-Marxist or anti-Marxist (Wieviorka 1994, p248). However, counter-demonstrations on the 30th May 1968 suggested that most ordinary people were not keen on a new revolution, and De Gaulle ordered a new election in order to secure a mandate. The result was a victory for centrist and moderate parties, though De Gaulle's subsequent failed attempt to find a 'third way' between capitalism and communism would result in his retiring from office in 1969 (Price 1993, pp333-4). In 1981, a moderate socialist government came into office for the first time in the Fifth Republic under François Mitterand. Aside from his personal ambition (finding a place in history), Mitterand has attempted to balance modernisation and socialism, the role of France as a great power, and 'a humanitarian commitment to greater social justice and equity' (Price 1993, p344). At first this seemed to focus on national and international justice, and a more radical foreign policy, but by the 1990s had adopted a more pragmatic tone.
Another aspect of this national and republican policy has been a particular attitude towards the role of culture. The height of this policy is demonstrated in Mitterand’s bold declaration: ‘I propose to the French people that with me they be the inventors of a culture, an art of living, in other words, a French model of civilization’ (in Sadran 2003, p57; bold added) France has always been rightly proud of its contribution to the fine arts, scholarship and philosophy of Europe, as well as aware of the strengthen of its literary tradition. However, since World War II, as part of its national rebirth, French policy has also taken a particularly vigorous stand in using culture at two levels: encouraging the fine arts, and developing policies impacting on the mass media and publishing industry (see Forbes 1987). Since the 1960s, there has also been an attempt to resist Americanization and globalisation of French artistic and intellectual life. This can be seen in several policies, e.g. the effort to reject random borrowings of American or English words (e.g. ‘L’ Hot Dog’ is not permitted), a conscious attempt to promote French language throughout the world, efforts top sustain special exemptions from GATT for French cultural products (Wieviorka 1994, p252) including French film, and a desire to promote French culture as a unifying force (particularly notable under the Mitterand government). The French government has a Minister for Culture, whose budget was considerable (in the early 1980s, some 0.75-0.8% of the government budget, Forbes 1987, p139). This has resulted in certain tensions over language, cultural and broadcasting policies which make French involvement in a shared European culture rather difficult (see Field 1996). These cultural factors have to some degree flowed in a robust foreign policy that at time clashes with UK and US perceptions.
This also involved strong support for French culture, linguistic and economic influence on former colonial and French speaking areas, i.e. the idea of a Francophone cultural space that includes large parts of central and central-west Africa. This trend is mainly cultural, but at times see to take on a political and economic benefit for France. This view is summarised: -
French policy makers sought first and foremost to consolidate and promote rayonnement (spread) of the most notable aspects of French culture, including the French language and intellectual traditions. Also referred to as the promotion of francophonie (a greater French-speaking community), this policy is best represented by the biennial Franco-African summit attended by the leaders of France and francophone Africa . . . . Economic interests were perceived by French policy makers as both parallel and integral to the promotion of French culture, as witnessed by the organization of thirteen former French colonies and Equatorial Guinea into the "franc zone," a supranational financial system in which France serves as the central bank and provides a common currency, the Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) franc, is tied to the French franc and guaranteed by the French treasury. (Schraeder 2000)
This has led for a time to tensions with the U.S. over growing American economic interest in cental and francophone Africa, as well as controversial engagement by France with the problems in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region (for detail, see Schraeder 2000). Through 2000-2003, France has been extending its trade and contact with many African nations, as noted in the most recent Franco-African Summit: -
The latest Franco-African summit in Paris was further confirmation of a fresh trend reflecting new geopolitical realities. The bi-annual summit can no longer be viewed simply as a French-speaking club meeting. Two Anglophone countries, South Africa and Nigeria are now France's largest sub-Saharan markets and Nigeria's exports to France outstrip those of Cote d'Ivoire - formerly France's top trading partner in Africa. The language divide is becoming less relevant by the week.

As the international geopolitical power structure is in flux, it was not surprising that all African nations, with the exception of Somalia, were present in Paris. (Misser 2003)

Less controversially, France sent in small numbers of peace keepers and protection forces operating into several parts of Africa, including Liberia (short-term evacutation), Cote d'Ivoire and Congo in 2003, the latter as part of a joint European force, operating out the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). France has a total of 'some 6,000 troops in five ex-colonies in Africa to intervene in crises, join multilateral peacekeeping forces, and ensure that defense pacts are adhered to' (Xinhua 2003), indicating a serious commitment to an extended foreign policy in the region. However, in recent years France seems to have tried to shift this towards a more European, multilateral orientation, rather than unilateral interventions based on neo-colonial policies (Hayward 2003, p40).
From the late 1990s, the French government has often followed policies that reflect this particular French tradition rather than the so-called liberal capitalist norms favoured by the U.S. Thus France has wished to assert a strong willingness to promote higher levels of employment through government and EU spending (with limited success), has maintained its own unique education system that focuses on a traditional examination system combined with an organised curriculum, has recently supported stronger equality of access for the sexes in political representation, and also legislated a 35 hour working week (Bulard 1999), to the enormous surprise of the U.S. These factors mean that the rift between Washington and Paris can be quite strong on occasion, and French policy often receives negative assessment in U.S. based media (see Frank 1998). Indeed, it has been argued that France has been resisting the global dominance of the U.S. in a number of areas, a game which it has found hard to sustain into the 21st century. From this point of view, the particular use of culture in foreign policy may be seen as a way of reducing vulnerability to external patterns of globalisation, and more directly, the strong influence of the United States via various multilateral institutions (see Meunier 2000). This reached a peak in tensions of French criticism of the US-led intervention into Iraq, and it desire to the UNSC remain as the main source of legitimation, and for the UN to have a strong role in monitoring the administration of Iraq in the post-war period. Tensions began to fade through mid-2003, with France keen to rebuild bridges with the US and to regain cohesion in the Security Council. In part this was driven by French concerns over loss of trade with the US, and a serious drop of 15-20% of American tourism into France. This resulted in a large advertising campaign promoting France as 'friendly' launched in June 2003, including videos featuring stars such as Woody Allen and Wynton Marsalis, among others (IHT 2003).

5. France as an Independent Global Power
France's development and testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific was designed to support a credible nuclear deterrence. This strategic policy is run as part of an independent command structure, and although France is part of the NATO alliance, since 1967 her military and nuclear forces are not directly integrated into the NATO command structure. This has been largely due to fear of U.S. domination of her military posture, though France in 1991 approved NATO's Strategic concept with minor reservations (Yost 1994, p127). As we shall see, France for the first time considered joining an integrated NATO command structure from 1996, but only on the basis of it becoming much more European-centred and responsive to European needs (see Grant 1996). Between 1996-2001 France moved closer in its NATO cooperation, but also supported a new European defence force that would have a separate identity and its own rapid reaction forces (the European defence initiative, see Howorth 2000). Renewed tensions through 2001-2003once ag ain tempted France to view towards more European-centred policies.
This historical attachment by France to a strong and independent military is not supported by all French citizens, but it has become deeply entrenched in French government thinking. The following will underline the importance to France of this independent capability: -
A. France has experienced considerable vulnerability in the last 150 years. In the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war, in which France lost the region of Alsace-Lorraine, while in the 1914-18 war France and her allies won but with huge manpower losses to the French. Most important of all, France suffered a humiliating defeat by the German in 1940 and was occupied down to 1944. This defeat emphasised a sense of vulnerability, and a recognition that France would not be able to sustain dominance of Germany without a serious revision of France's role in world affairs, militarily, economically, and diplomatically.
B. Past European wars led President Charles de Gaulle in the post-war period and his supporters to declare that an occupation of France would never happen again. This was the basis of French military planning during the 1960s and 70s, though the threat was then focused more on the Soviet union, and not on Germany.
C. During the 1960s a concept of France as a nuclear sanctuary develops, i.e. a country made inviolable to nuclear attack by having a sizeable nuclear deterrence under its own direct command, as well as cooperating with the nuclear armed U.S. and Great Britain.
D. France therefore developed strategic nuclear force based on: -
* long-range bombers (now also equipped with stand-off missiles),

* 18 IRBMs (Intermediate range ballistic missiles) based on the Plateau d'Albion (south-east France, as of 1997 no longer operational),

* and 5-6 submarines each equipped with 16 SLBMs (Sea-launched Ballistic Missiles). These were equipped with singe megaton warheads, but are being replaced with MIRVs (Multiple Independently-Targetable Re-entry Vehicles) with six warheads per missile (Palmer 1991, pp6-7). This force will stabilise down to four new advanced submarines (Yost 1994, p116). Thus as of 1999 France had some 64 SLBMs in four submarines (Chipman 2000, p53)
E. This nuclear force is support by a sizeable and diversified conventional defence force. It includes a sizeable Rapid Action Force, while as of 1991 France kept up to 35,000 troops (out of a total of circa 460,000, see Palmer 1991, p14) abroad at any given time. By 1999, these numbers had been trimmed slightly to an active defence force (excluding reserves) of 317,300, of whom 103,500 were then conscripts (Chipman 1999). These forces have often played an interventionist role, especially in Africa, in support of friendly governments (e.g. aside from the war in Algeria in 1962, later involvements include Djibouti, Chad, Zaire, Togo, Comoro Islands, with other operations of interposition in Lebanon, Sinai, Beruit, the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, a large peace-keeping force in Bosnia, plus a special safe-zone operation in Rwanda). French troops also intervened in the Central African Republic, largely in support of French interests and French citizens in the unstable Republic (for France's wider African policy, see Mouradian 1998). However, limited ability to support a large force was shown in the small forces deployed with the Alliance in the Gulf War, indicating the financial strains of maintaining advanced conventional as well as nuclear forces (Price 1993, p360). From 1997-2001, France has slightly downsized its deployments to overseas bases and has also moved to stop conscription, and now moved to a fully professional force structure.
F. These nuclear and conventional forces are seen as a background support for France's claim to great power status, and to play a significant global role. De Gaulle in particular was interested in restoring 'France's honor and international status' (Yost 1994, p129). France's interests are often conceived of in three circles - France, then her immediate economic and security interests embracing Europe and the Mediterranean, then a wide-ranging global role. She has attempted to maintain a political, cultural and some military presence in the Mediterranean, Francophone Africa, the Indian Ocean, South Pacific, and in the Caribbean.
G. Strong military forces have been backed up by maintaining an independent technological base – in the 1980s 96% of French military procurements were built in France (Palmer 1991, p40). This has avoided what the French call britannise, i.e. a humiliating reliance on the U.S. for technology (Yost 1994, p123). France does use some U.S. derived intelligence, and has access to her own as well as the Skynet satellite communications system, but is otherwise largely independent in its military operations. It is feared that if France does not continue to develop nuclear weapons, she will loose this technological expertise and infrastructure (Palmer 1991, p34). Yet in the end, military planners have realised that for very advanced systems (e.g. the Cray supercomputers needed to solve multiple warhead targeting problems), cooperation with advanced industrial nations including the U.S. and Germany is essential. Closer cooperation between France and the U.S. over NATO and Bosnia, has allowed France access to U.S. simulation testing technology. This was outlined in a report of a secret deal between the U.S. and France, which would allow the sharing of nuclear simulation data (Australian 1996). Since 1996 France has begun to scale down some of this military Research and Development, and in 1997 gained help from the U.S. in developing the computer simulations need to do away with the underground testing of nuclear weapons. Through 2000-2004 France has joined a European effort to improve its own satellite surveillance abilities, as well as to continue research into aeronautics and space industries. It also plans to develop its own integrated 'electronic battlefield' concepts, though these are more than a decade away from application to combat situations.
H. This military and technological independence helps provides a psychological balance in the special Franco-German relationship which is at the heart of the EU process. This included the creation of a Franco-German military brigade, that would be later on expanded in the Eurocorps (Adréani 1998, p26). Today, such military cooperation is also one way of ensuring a balance of involvement among France, Germany and Britain, and in the long run offers the possibility of offering a stronger burden-sharing partner for the U.S. (see Kupchan 2000).
I. It can be seen that France, with a credible but not huge deterrence, is suspicious of moves which would undermine that deterrence. Moves at arms control, as distinct from total disarmament, have been viewed with suspicion (Palmer 1991, p28). A minimum force level of 500-600 warheads might need to maintained to avoid a purely symbolic nuclear arsenal (Palmer 1991, p30). This has been argued as essential in a 'fluid world' environment, with non-European power potentially being able to retain or develop a small nuclear weapons capability (the idea of the defence of the strong against the weak, e.g. developing nations with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or via the use of international terrorism). Here the issue of small nuclear weapons 'for operational use', verses strategic deterrence (non-use through fear of mutual destruction, i.e. demanding a less operational approach) affects policy planning (Yost 1994, pp114-5). France, like the U.S., has implied that in times of dire need it might be willing to consider first use of such small nuclear weapons. President Chirac argued in January 1996 that ‘in an ever-dangerous world, it acts as a weapon of dissuasion, a weapon in the service of peace’ (One World News Service 1996). France joined the nuclear NPT (non-proliferation treaty) during 1991-2. The then President François Mitterand was willing to allow France to stop testing in the South Pacific in the interim test ban. However, France did go ahead with tests again in 1995 before finally coming to support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, this process was in part dependent on the idea that all nuclear states, and all 'threshold' states (those about to be able to build a bomb) become a party to the CTBT (Yost 1994, p123), a fact which did not eventuate with India and then Pakistan refusing to sign on, and then challenging the treaty with their own tests in 1998.
J. All this factors, however, have not guaranteed France’s security against new ‘transnational’ and ‘non-conventional’ threats. This includes issues such as uncontrolled, non-documented flows of migrants, organized crime networks, and the problem of international terrorism, a problem for France over some two decades. France had had first tried to isolate itself from international terrorism via the ‘sanctuary doctrine’ where France would try to take a neutral stance, and thereby not be a direct target (Shapiro & Suzan 2003, p69). This policy was abandoned in 1986, with a move to suppression of extremist groups, then a preventive policy based on heightened use of intelligence serves, policing and a strict legal code that has allowed the active monitoring, prevention and pursuit of supposed terrorists (Shapiro and Suzan 2003, p92). This is an area where the US and France have some shared interests, and through May 2003, President Bush praised France for its anti-terrorism efforts (Washington Post 2003).
In summary, it can be seen that a relatively strong defence force with power projection capabilities and nuclear weapons are part of a strongly committed diplomatic and security posture by France. Begun by de Gaulle (see Gordon 1993), this posture has been largely maintained by Mitterand and if anything reinforced by the President Jacques Chirac. France has established herself 'as an influential second-tier power with substantial European and limited global ambitions' (Zic 2000). Elements of this policy began to deepen through 1996: in particular, conscription was totally phased out by 2002, and France moved more closely into a European-coordinated defence identity. Likewise, in 1999 the French government was willing to support the NATO move to use air-power to intervene in Kosovo, a move which provoked strong criticism from the socialist movement within France (Ramonet 1999).
Yet behind the externals of this policy we can sense a particular concern with the Mediterranean and African worlds. In part, this is also a concern with a new perceived threat - that of radical Islam. Traditional French policy is concerned about the possibility of long-term instability in the Balkans, in central and North Africa and the Middle East. All these areas seem quite close, in terms of the direct impact on French interests both at home and abroad. It is unfortunate that debate sometimes conceived in terms of a war between civilisations, not a dialogue between them (Aguirre 1994). France has also tried to mitigate and reduce conflict in the Middle East, as well as providing sizeable aid flows to the region. Most recently, France has called for greater EU mediation in the Middle-East conflict, as well as for a more moderated role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

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