Posted: November 7th, 2023
France and International Relations
France and International Relations
Throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, France took an active role in spreading Christian faith and politics in greater Europe. The country would assume another active role during the colonization of Africa. Nowadays, the fifth-largest economy in the world is less visible in foreign politics or relations. France has been a member of the United Nations since its establishment in 1945 and holds a permanent seat in the Security Council. Therefore, the country plays a leading role in many international subjects. People consider France a ‘soft-power’ due to its use of culture, political values and foreign policy to influence the global stage, but none can refute its importance to global leadership. France has an unrivalled diplomatic network that plays a key role in the European Union and United Nations. While France is facing several socioeconomic problems, the country boasts of a strong history of human development, taking centre stage in international relations, mostly in promoting human rights and the fight against global warming.
France is the biggest country in western Europe. The republic consists mostly of flat terrain with plains and relatively small hills in the north and west (Fort & Andre, 2014). The south is mountainous due to the Pyrenees ranges, with the East having the highest points in the Alps. France has an ample landmass to offer habitat to various plants and animals. Nearly twenty-five percent of the country is covered in forests, while another fifty percent is rural farmland (Fort & Andre, 2014). Lowland forests provide wild boars and deer habitat, while the Alpine woodlands are home to the rare Chamois antelope and ibex. The warmer woodland forests consist of pine, birch, poplar and willow trees, whereas the cooler Massif Central has chestnut, beech, juniper and various oak trees (Mann, 2018). France might be known for its art and iconic architecture, but its natural landscape still contains an interesting range of plant and animal life.
France has a fascinating history; as important events span from political to cultural. The Celtics were the first people to settle down in modern France during the Iron Age (800 BCE) (Vorst, 2015). The Romans believed the region of Gaul, which includes modern France, had over sixty Celtic groups. It was not until 500 BCE when France was established under Clovis 1, who is known for uniting all Celtic and Frankish tribes in the region (Vorst, 2015). France would become a big regional power in 800 BCE when Charlemagne was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor. Under Charlemagne, France became a mighty advocate of the Christian faith, ensuring that most of Western Europe were Christian. King Louis the Fourth’s family line would centralize political power at the Palace of Versailles throughout the 15th and 16th centuries (Vorst, 2015). Such a form of dictatorial governance would continue until the French Revolution of 1789.
France is a relatively populous country with over sixty-five million residents. The country accounts for 0.84% of the global population, ranking 22 (Vorst, 2015). The life expectancy for both sexes is 83 years, with females projected to reach 85 years and men 80 years. France has a very low infant mortality rate, standing at 2.7 deaths per 1000 live births. Most people live in urban areas, as the rural population accounts for only nineteen percent of the total citizenry. According to Eurostat data, over 387000 immigrants moved to the country in the last twelve months (European Commission, 2021). France has been struggling with an influx of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East.
U.N. Human Development Index
France belongs to the category of high human development. As of 2019, the country had a human development index of 0.901, putting it at number 26 out of 189 countries (UNDP, 2020). The country’s development index has improved by 0.2 since the late 90s, which equally France at a high pace for human progression. Within the same period, France has developed faster than Finland, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom (UNDP, 2020). However, while the HDI is 0.901, it falls to 0.802 when adjusted for inequality. The overall loss is greater than that of Belgium and the United Kingdom, suggesting a higher income inequality between the wealthy and poor in France.
Retrieved from UNDP (2020)
Economic and Resource Characteristics
Over the last five years, France has recorded an economic slowdown despite the increase in economic freedom. The country’s diversified economy is dominated by tourism, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals (Vorst, 2015). The government partially or completely privatizes large companies while maintaining a strong presence in public sectors, such as energy, defence and transportation. World-class infrastructure, communications and an effective regulatory system help France earn high scores for business freedom. The country’s varied soils and climatic conditions enhance its agricultural potential. As of 2019, agriculture accounted for three percent of the national labour force (UNDP, 2020). Compared to agricultural resources, France is also abundant in energy resources and minerals. The country has over 140 million tons of coal reserves (Vorst, 2015). Over twenty percent of energy consumption is renewable. While oil is the country’s primary energy export, France has invested considerably in nuclear power.
Major Internal Issues
Religious extremism sits at the heart of France’s national security problem. According to a Huff Post article, neighbourhoods within the outskirts of Paris, where many Muslim European residents reside, have developed into security problems due to a lack of government intervention and increasing youth unemployment (Frum, 2016). Such areas have become hotspots for ISIS operatives seeking to recruit young foreign fighters. In November 2016, Paris experienced a wave of ISIS attacks, resulting in many residents having fears over personal liberties (Frum, 2016). The French government needs to address its increasing youth unemployment to avoid a generational problem of extremism.
Defence funding is a major internal issue for President Macron and his regime. Following the 2015-2016 terrorist attacks, the updated 2019 military planning law ended a decade-long defence budgeting decline (Frum, 2016). France’s defence budget accounts for nearly two percent of the total GDP, a number smaller only than that of the United States and the United Kingdom. The military planning law has been raising public concern over the sustainability of Macron’s budget. While it is possible for France to achieve its defence targets, the expenditure erodes funding for other economic sectors.
France plays a major role in international relations. The country was present during the formation of the E.U., NATO, the U.N. and the U.N. Security Council. The nation has a long history of global peacekeeping and disarmament. Human rights are the founding principles of France’s foreign policy. However, in recent years, the county’s overseas strategy has focused on renewing relations between Paris and Berlin (Frum, 2016). Reconciling France and Germany’s bilateral interests seem like an approach to enable Macron to replace Markel’s position in the E.U. France is seeking to renew its influential role in European politics and foreign policy. Strong bilateral relations with Germany are increasingly becoming important following Russia’s increasing economic and political presence in Europe.
Reasons for Development
France is Europe’s present-day development leader. However, the country was not always evident as a developed economy. France’s major development began in the 18th century following close U.S.-French commercial alliances, such as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (International Trade Administration, 2021). France shares the same political, economic and security issues as the United States, which is why the two countries have remained close trade allies for many years. France also has a highly educated population and an innovative workforce (International Trade Administration, 2021). The two factors combine to create an attractive business environment, explaining why France is the ninth-ranked country in foreign direct investments. France is also home to 29 top 500 Fortune companies (International Trade Administration, 2021). With such a vibrant workforce and close trade and investment ties with the U.S., France’s economic development is bound to continue leapfrogging other E.U. member states.
France contains enormous historical, cultural and financial importance in international relations. The country is associated with art, fashion and wine, but its main significance lies in the role it plays in the E.U. and U.N. As a soft-power, France likes to operate on the sidelines, demonstrating self-containment, self-sufficiency and a preference for diplomacy. The republic can behave so because of its wealth in natural resources and human capital. France is bound to become more visible on the global stage with the decline of Germany’s influence on the E.U. Under Macron’s rule, France’s foreign policy will prioritize the fight against Islamist terrorism, renewable energy, climate change and the monetary strength of the E.U. Overall, the French will remain influential in global relations, taking an active role in major foreign policies set by inter-governmental organizations.
Vorst, B. A. (2015). A popular history of France. Fb&c Limited.
European Commission. (2021). France: population demographic situation, languages and religions. Eurydice, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/france/population-demographic-situation-languages-and-religions_en
Fort, M. & Andre, M. (2014). Landscapes and landforms of France. Springer.
UNDP. (2020). Human development report: France. UNDP Press.
Frum, M. (2015, November 24). France has an internal problem. Huff Post, https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/france-has-internal-problem_b_8621830
Mann, T. (2018, March 9). Plant and animal life in France. USA Today, https://traveltips.usatoday.com/plant-animal-life-france-63283.html
International Trade Administration. (2021, October 10). France country commercial guide. ITA, https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/france-market-overview
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