Faced with a growing diversity in foreign affairs and the increasing number of participants, maintaining the consistency of external action requires a daily effort of co-ordination.
"Accredited foreigners only have links with the Ministry of External Affairs."
The Directoire decree of 22 Messidor, year VII. It meant that foreigners in France would have a single point of contact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign affairs is diversifying
The Balkans, Central Africa, Kashmir... the classic political problems continue to make the headlines in the media. France, a permanent member of the Security Council, with interests throughout the world, is nearly always involved in dealing with these crises; it is no less involved in economic diplomacy whether it is a question of setting the framework for the actions of enterprises, as the WTO and the European Union do, or a question of supporting French enterprises. As far as spreading French culture and international co-operation are concerned, they are essential components in French external policy. Other fields of action open up all the time: there is diplomacy related to space, science and sport. Interconnected problems abound: the environment, drugs, criminality. Most of the time, these issue are related and the way in which they interact has to be understood. The number of those involved is increasing. Within the Ministry itself, most of the affairs concern several services. Furthermore, because of the diversification, at least twenty other Ministries act outside France. There are 28 budgetary sections contributing to external actions. Other players are involved: Parliament, regional authorities, large enterprises, the media and non-governmental organisations (NGO). Many French voices are making themselves heard on the international scene; to be heard, it is more effective to consult each other and sing from the same hymn sheet.
The Quai d’Orsay consults, confers and co-ordinates
The Directoire and Napoleon had already identified the problem and, through laws that are still in force, gave the Ministry of "External Relations", a monopoly on contacts with foreigners. Nowadays, it is more a question of co-ordinating. Within the Ministry, consultation between services is continuous, now made easier by using electronic mail. The "co-ordination groups" bring together those departments concerned by a particular subject, a department head being made responsible for exchanging views on positions. The Secretary General, or as a last resort, the Minister arbitrates via his office. Externally, the Ministry maintains regular contact with the Ministries of Defence, Economy Finance and Industry, Culture, the Interior, Justice and others. It co-operates in parliamentary action and is in contact with the business world.
- A tour of the Quai d’Orsay
- A tour of the Quai d'Orsay