The Vienna Convention of 18 April 1961 states that protecting the interests of a state extends in practice to promoting national interests
Preventive diplomacy: The 1995 European Stability Pact, repeated in 1999 for the Balkans is a typical example.
The word "political" should obviously not be understood in its electoral sense. As in the case of "political direction" it means the things that affect the basic options of a country, and is in contrast to things that are "professional". Nonetheless, any specialist matter that reaches a certain degree of seriousness becomes political. These political matters have lost none of their significance. Most are handled in a multilateral context, one of the major changes of our time being that differences of opinion are no longer accepted as inevitable. Preventive diplomacy, which tries to detect and defuse crises, has been developed. When prevention is not enough, we see, in Bosnia and subsequently in Kosovo, what could be termed punitive diplomacy. For all that, bilateral diplomacy has not lost its position as multilateral initiatives are accompanied by direct approaches in the capitals of the countries concerned.
French Interests: The protection of French nationals either resident or passing through, is one of the principal aspects of protecting national interests. It is predominately a consular mission, but in the last instance is the responsibility of the ambassador.
Commercial, economic and financial interests
The rules of the game are increasingly subject to international norms negotiated in the WTO, the European Union, the OECD etc. It is the responsibility of France’s permanent representatives to these organisations to protect our interests there. In capital cities, they are replaced by their bilateral colleagues who also have their own special fields, for example agreements on protecting investments. However, at a bilateral level, support for French enterprises is the particular territory of the ambassador. Of course, the ambassador should not interfere in the management of their businesses, but should respond to their requests and even take the initiative of offering assistance. He should put his ability to influence and to obtain information at their service. In countries where the economy is more or less controlled, decisions relating to major contracts are often taken at the highest level: the ambassador is therefore required to intervene with the authorities. In countries with a market economy, intervention of this nature is not necessarily excluded, but the role of the embassy is essentially one of advice and information.
French speaking world: There are 140 million French speakers in the world; 52 countries were represented at the last French speaking summit in Moncton in 1999.
Cultural, scientific, technical and other interests
France spends more than any other country on cultural action and development aid - nearly 5 billion. Promoting the French language is a priority. Offering French teaching to nationals and foreigners is the responsibility of AEFE, which has 279 schools and secondary schools with 16,000 pupils in 125 countries, cultural centres and institutes with more than 200,000 students and pupils, and the French Association, which has about the same number in its 1,000 local associations throughout the world. Protecting cultural interests also means valorising our artistic and literary heritage as well as contemporary works. Scientific and technical co-operation aims to present a France that is not as well known as it should be, that of the 6 French holders of the Fields medal (the Nobel prize for mathematics) out of 36 prize winners. This co-operation trains foreign executives who continue their French working practices. Finally, in 1999, external audio-visual policy took a high priority.
Nowadays all forms of human activity have international repercussions and open up new fields requiring diplomatic protection.
- A tour of the Quai d’Orsay
- A tour of the Quai d'Orsay