Roadmap for France’s soft power

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Jean-Yves Le Drian presents the roadmap for France’s soft power (14 Dec. 2021)

Editorial, Roadmap for France’s soft power, by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs

“In an overly competitive world, where the line that once separated soft power from traditional expressions of power is gradually fading, there is a pressing need to rethink the meaning, aims and tools of our cultural diplomacy and soft power.

It is evident that our country has considerable experience and very valuable assets in this area. But the zeal, if not aggressiveness, shown by our competitors reminds us that nothing can be taken for granted. Most of all, it is time to acknowledge the truly strategic nature of new soft power battles. With our diplomatic and economic interests, these battles jeopardize our ability to sustain the French and European model today and give it a role in the construction of the new humanism that the 21st century needs ; a humanism that can address the technological, environmental and geopolitical upheaval surrounding us today, and which remains true to its historic foundations : the universal need to respect human beings and their dignity and rights.

Because those who hasten the brutalization of the world by acting as if anything goes are also those who would have us believe that everything is relative. To counter them, everywhere we must exploit the power balance to defend all we hold dear, including our values and ideas.

That is why, since 2017, under the authority of the President of the Republic, we have striven to transmit French academic excellence to African young people, by setting up the French-Senegalese university campus and the regional Franco-Ivorian Hub for education, structuring an export activity for our cultural and creative industries, giving new impetus to our inclusive development policy, implementing the first returns of African cultural goods, supporting our French high schools abroad in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and redefining the cultural presence of France in the United States by creating Villa Albertine, a new concept offering French residency programmes across the whole country. Our ministry and its cultural and soft power network can be proud of these great achievements, which have shown our determination to stay on course.

I did however hope that we would go even further, by giving ourselves the means to invent French soft power of tomorrow. That is the meaning of this roadmap, the result of joint reflection initiated at the French Foreign Ministry in late 2019 and further addressed throughout the hiccups of recent months. I wish to thank all those who contributed.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the serious commitment of the many parliament members who, since the beginning of the president’s term, have made very structuring proposals and thereby fuelled the Ministry’s work on the challenges of soft power.

Based on an analysis of various manifestations of soft power on the international stage, a stocktake of our own levers of influence and lessons learned from the pandemic, this document lays out an action plan for the years to come. It sets out, in ten guidelines, the modernization we must undertake so that we are not outpaced and to enable us to win new positions. It establishes six strategic priorities for our network. It outlines tangible ways to place soft power at the heart of our Ministry’s organization and diplomatic careers. In a word, it is the first consolidated doctrine that we have in terms of soft power.

However, let there be no illusions : in this field, like in so many others, our diplomacy is firmly focused on the European horizon. That is why this roadmap is being published on the eve of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in the first semester of 2022. Because, strengthened by the model we share, it is as Europeans that we intend to reach out our hand towards our partners in the Mediterranean, Africa, the Indo-Pacific and every continent to build, with them, human-centred globalization.”

Address by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs - Cooperation and Cultural Action Counsellor networking days – Paris, 14 December 2021 (FR)

Roadmap for France’s soft power - (PDF, 19 Mo)