In the context of the French Presidency of the European Union
Jacques Andréani was born in Paris where he completed his studies. A graduate of Paris’s Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences-Po), he was admitted to the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA).
Upon graduation from ENA, he chose the Foreign Service and was assigned to the French Embassy in Washington, where he served for five years as Embassy Secretary.
From there, after working one year in Paris to learn Russian and to study Eastern European problems, he was assigned to Moscow, where he stayed during some of the most difficult periods of the Cold War – the construction of the Berlin wall and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
After his time in Moscow, he spent six years in Paris, where he was first in charge of relations with the Soviet Union, and then later of relations with all Communist countries of Europe. In 1970, he joined the French NATO Delegation as Assistant Permanent Representative. From November 1972 to August 1975, he headed the French delegation, first to the preliminary consultations for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Helsinki, and then to the CSCE itself in Geneva.
From 1975 to 1979, he was Director of European Affairs in the French Foreign Ministry. In 1979, President Giscard d’Estaing appointed him Ambassador to Egypt.
In 1981, President Mitterrand asked him to take the post of Director of Political Affairs in the Foreign Ministry, an assignment he kept three years before being named Ambassador to Italy. After four years in Rome, he returned to Paris to become the Chief of Staff to Foreign Minister Roland Dumas. In 1989, President Mitterrand made him Ambassador to Washington, where he remained until October 1995. He retired in 1997.
After he retired, M. Andréani was entrusted with a series of missions by the President of the Republic or the Foreign Minister, particularly in the Middle Eastern countries. In 2000, he was also in charge of negotiating with the U.S. government an agreement on the compensation of the despoliation of Jewish banking assets during the Nazi occupation of France.
M. Andréani taught international relations at the University of Clermont-Ferrand (1996-1997), at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University Bologna Center (1997-1998), and at LUISS, Rome (2000 -2005).
He is the President of the U.S. section of the Association France-Amériques, Honorary Chairman of the Dante-Alighieri Society, Paris chapter, Chairman of the Amis de l’Institut Dominicain d’Etudes Orientales du Caire, Honorary Chairman of the Alumni of Science-Po, member of the Board of the Foundation for the Memory of the Holocaust, Member of the Trilateral Commission, and he belongs to the “Monaco Club”, a private organization which brings together political, diplomatic and media personalities from countries on both sides of the Mediterranean.
He’s Commander of the Légion d’Honneur and Commander of the Ordre national du Mérite and published L’Amérique et nous (Odile Jacob, 2000) and Le Piège: Helsinki et la chute du communisme (Odile Jacob, 2005).
The French Difference
Why is France so different from other nations? What are the historical and cultural roots of that difference? France and the U.S. share the same values – their common belief in human rights and democracy, a sort of messianic desire to widely disseminate their ideals, a certain similarity in their respective definitions of the Nation - but they don’t always interpret these values in the same way. Each country has its own experience with the world.
Do the French like to be different? They do indeed. Does that mean that they are “arrogant”, as is sometimes said? Of course, they don’t think they are. It’s a subject on which reasonable people can agree to disagree.
Should other people, Americans in particular, be critical of the fact that French have their own ways of doing things, their own preferences? A peaceful world is a world of cooperation, and cooperation must be based on recognition of the specific character of each people.
From Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman to François Mitterrand and Jacques Delors, France has been in the forefront of the plan for an ever closer union between European peoples, and was instrumental in its advancement. How can this French role in European unification be reconciled with the devotion of the French to their specific characteristics as a nation that differs from others, even from other European countries? Some of the French may have naively seen the future united Europe as a large-scale reproduction of French virtues and particularities. Others realized that, in order to maintain what was most valuable in French identity, it was necessary to sacrifice the less essential aspects and incorporate the experience and preferences of others. To a large extent, France’s future lies in this reconciliation of the European spirit and French specificity.
The fact that France is attached to its particular characteristics as a nation does not in any way prevent it from adjusting to a changing world, nor even from adopting, if need be, the ways in which other nations work.
Free Trade, Market Economy and Globalization
Do the French accept free trade and the market economy? Strangely, in France today, the word “liberal” carries a less positive meaning than in other countries. In fact, the French are more irked by the word than the idea, which, basically, they do accept, albeit without any great enthusiasm.
Contemporary French people realize that free trade and the market economy represent the necessary path towards economic progress, but it is a rational and not an emotional choice.
There is no doubt that we see a certain fear of change in France. But there is also the memory of the positive role played by the government in the past to build the nation, to secure its cultural and political unity, to create the infrastructures of its economy and protect citizens and business against the risks in the market when competition was becoming too stiff. There is also some uneasiness about the idea of globalization. However, the French are more able than before to reconcile acceptance of free trade and the market in a global world with the role of government in the economy. They are also more ready to acquiesce to the reforms which are essential if France is to adapt to a free market and globalization. It was no accident that in 2007 they chose as President a man whose entire program hinges on the idea of reform.
Most French people accept free trade, the market economy and globalization, but also believe that the market must be regulated in order to avoid injustices and risks of destabilization. And they are far from being the only ones who hold this view. Many people, including in the U.S., would agree, especially when they see the various imbalances that can be attributed to excesses of the capitalist system.
Contrary to certain false perceptions, the French of today do not cling at all to a vain belief in the “grandeur” of their nation. They have a high opinion of their country, of its role in history, of its dedication to ideals and of its ability to understand the world and interact with other peoples. They want France to be present and effective in working toward a better world. They have no illusion about the relative power of different players on the world scene.
What kind of global governance does France favor today?
It wants a world with rules:
- rules governing the use of force;
- the gradual development of an international system of law;
- a balance between several centers of power.
Americans sometimes refer to the U.S. is “the indispensable nation.” We do not deny that it is. But problems are so complex that the world could easily do with several “indispensable nations” – or groups of nations. Obviously the European Union must be one of them.
- progress towards equality of rights between nations, towards the end of this feeling of injustice, of suffering from a “double standard”, which currently fuels the anger of many people against the West.
What does the building of a United Europe mean for France?
A plus for the prosperity and the material and moral well-being of each member state, first of all for France herself. A guarantee for peace in Europe, through reconciliation between member states, especially France and Germany, and the dissemination throughout the European continent of a way of thinking based on the refusal of violence as a means of attaining national goals. A key element in world balance. An unequalled and valuable experiment in consensus building and the search for compromise. An additional chance offered to the West to settle on a common language with the peoples of the South, alleviating the risk of a “clash of civilizations.”
A true union requires that nations should pool together traditional state powers that they often have difficulty in relinquishing. This process has been underway for a long time, and transfers of sovereignty from national governments to the Union have already produced immediate results in the everyday lives of Europeans. We can cite numerous examples of this observation. This process of erosion of national sovereignty is running up against resistance in all EU countries, even in those where the official discourse is very much in favour of a supranational European Union. This resistance is being expressed in a particular way in France, where national identity is highly valued. But national resistance to European unification is no stronger in France than elsewhere in Europe. Though some French leaders speak in terms of “economic patriotism”, in a tone that may at times sound protectionist, an objective observer would probably say that the European spirit is rather more entrenched in France than in a number of other EU nations.
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