COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
Print this Page
EN DE FR  ||  About Us | Contact | Legal Notice Council of Europe LOGO  ERICarts LOGO
Print this Page
EN DE FR  Council of Europe LOGO  ERICarts LOGO

France/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.2 Public actors and cultural diplomacy

French cultural network and institutions abroad

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up operating institutions to pilot and coordinate the different departments and bodies of the French cultural network abroad, under the supervision of the Directorate-General of Global Affairs, Development and Partnerships:

  • the French Institute, a public institution (établissement public) created in 2011 to succeed the association Culturesfrance with a widened scope of activity and reinforced resources;
  • the Foundation Alliance Française, which took over in 2007 the international activities of the Alliance Française of Paris to promote the teaching of the French language;
  • the Agency for French Education Abroad (Agence pour l'enseignement français à l'étranger, AEFE), a public institution created in 1990 to supervise the French schools network in the world; and
  • the Agency Campus France, which is responsible since 2010 for the promotion of the French Higher Education system, and of the international mobility of students, teachers and researchers.

The French Institute is responsible for the promotion of French external cultural policy regarding artistic exchanges – performing and visual arts and architecture –, for the worldwide diffusion of French literature, cinema, language, knowledge and ideas. Its activity is organised around two main axes:

  • the realisation of great operations: cultural seasons, multi-annual programmes, etc.; and
  • the support of the French cultural network abroad.

The Institute is experimenting with the unification of French agencies abroad (institutes, centres, departments in embassies) under the single label "French Institute", to achieve a more coherent and more effective policy.

A closer collaboration is also planned between the Institute and the Foundation Alliance Française and the establishments of the Foundation's network, the primary concern of which is teaching French abroad and delivering specific diplomas or those defined by the French Ministry of Education (DELF and DALF). Each Alliance Française is a local non-profit organisation operating autonomously with no political or religious commitments. They are independent and work towards the Foundation as franchises. The Foundation is the owner of the brand Alliance Française and allocates the right to use it after examination of the statutes and the announced objectives. There are no financial relations between the Foundation and the Alliances Françaises established abroad, which have their own funding system. One example is in New York, where the French Institute Alliance Française sources sponsorship according to practise in the United States.

Some institutions are specifically focused on the promotion of French cultural industries abroad:

  • the Bureau international de l'édition française (International Bureau of French publishing) for the books and publishing industry. This association exists since 1873 and is supported by the French Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs, and the International Organisation of La Francophonie. It works in close collaboration with professional organisations and unions as the national labour union of publishing (SNE) or the Centrale de l'édition;
  • Unifrance films, an association created in 1949 to promote French cinema in the world. Placed under the supervision of the National Centre of Cinema (Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée, CNC); Unifrance has 600 members, producers of films and short movies, exporters, actors, directors, scriptwriters and artistic agents; and
  • Bureau export, which represents the whole of the French music industry since 1993 (production of records and disks, publishers, show producers, etc.). It is half financed by the public authorities (Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Culture and Foreign Trade) and by professional organisations (copyright societies and unions, etc.).

These institutions collaborate with the establishment of the cultural network and sometimes have antennae or offices abroad.

Some figures on the French cultural network abroad (on July 15th 2015):

  • 6 000 persons working in the 161 cooperation and cultural action departments in embassies;
  • 98 Instituts français;
  • 50 000 artistic events a year;
  • 384 subsidised Alliances Françaises
  • 620 000 learners in French Institutes and Alliance Française schools and classes;
  • 213 Campus France offices;
  • 27 French institutes for research abroad (IFRE): Centre d'études et de documentation économique, juridique et sociale (Cairo); Centre d'études français sur la Chine contemporaine (Hong Kong), Centre français d'études mexicaines et centraméricaines (Mexico); Centre franco-russe de recherches en sciences humaines et sociales (Moscow); Centre Jacques Berque pour les études en sciences humaines et sociales (Rabat); Centre franco-allemand de recherches en sciences sociales (Berlin), etc.;
  • 137 French archaeological missions abroad;
  • the French Academy in Rome-Villa Medici, founded in 1666, which is supervised by the Ministry of Culture. It proposes residence scholarships to artists and organises cultural and artistic events;

Education and international relations

  • 494 French schools abroad, which train 340 000 pupils in 136 countries, from primary to high school;
  • 5 French Higher Schools abroad that are supervised by the Ministry of Higher Education: these historical institutions were created between 1846 and 1928 to develop exchanges between researchers and promote French science: École française d'Athènes, École française de Rome, Institut français d'archéologie orientale (Cairo), École française d'Extrême-Orient (different establishments in the Far East) and Casa de Velázquez in Madrid. The Casa de Velázquez also proposes scholarships for artistic residencies, like at the French Academy in Rome
  • 1 700 000 pupils in the national bilingual sections (cf. chapter 8.3.3);
  • 299 000 foreign students in France in 2014-15, which ranks France 3rd in the world in terms of attracting foreign students (according to UNESCO figures).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up an information and news website about the activities of the French cultural network abroad: http://latitudefrance.diplomatie.gouv.fr

The French Institute is responsible for the promotion of French external cultural policy regarding artistic exchanges – performing and visual arts and architecture –, for the worldwide diffusion of French literature, cinema, language, knowledge and ideas. Its activity is organised around two main axes:

  • the realisation of great operations: cultural seasons, multi-annual programmes, etc.; and
  • the support of the French cultural network abroad.

The Institute is experimenting with the unification of French agencies abroad (institutes, centres, departments in embassies) under the single label "French Institute", to achieve a more coherent and more effective policy.

A closer collaboration is also planned between the Institute and the Foundation Alliance Française and the establishments of the Foundation's network, the primary concern of which is teaching French abroad and delivering specific diplomas or those defined by the French Ministry of Education (DELF and DALF). Each Alliance Française is a local non-profit organisation operating autonomously with no political or religious commitments. They are independent and work towards the Foundation as franchises. The Foundation is the owner of the brand Alliance Française and allocates the right to use it after examination of the statutes and the announced objectives. There are no financial relations between the Foundation and the Alliances Françaises established abroad, which have their own funding system. One example is in New York, where the French Institute Alliance Française sources sponsorship according to practise in the United States.

The European framework

France has ratified several treaties of the Council of Europe in the cultural field: the European Cultural Convention in 1955, the Convention for the Protection of Architectural Heritage of Europe in 1987, the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) in 1995, and the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production in 2001. In 1999, France signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and in 2008, a modification of the Constitution introduced article 75-1: "Regional languages are part of France's heritage".

The Ministry of Culture participates in works of the Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape (CDCPP): European cultural routes (with the signature in 2010 of Enlarged Partial Agreement to facilitate and strengthen the cooperation on these routes, there are 12 routes in France), European Heritage Days established in 1991 based on the model of the Heritage Days created in France in 1984. The Ministry also participates in the other cultural works of the Council: cultural governance observatory "CultureWatchEurope", the programme "Intercultural Cities" (Paris, Lyon and Strasbourg in France), etc. Through the CNC, the Ministry also contributes to Eurimages, the Council of Europe support fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works. Set up in 1988 as a Partial Agreement it currently has 36 member States. In 2014, the Ministry organised the Forum de Chaillot in Paris (http://forum-chaillot.fr) to reopen and dynamise the debate on the role of culture in Europe.

Since the recognition of culture in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the cultural actions of the European Union developed. The Minister of Culture represents France in the meetings of the Council of the European Union. The Ministry of Culture has been very active, besides the successive presidencies, in promoting the place of culture in EU policies.

The EU leads a dedicated policy for the broadcasting and audiovisual sectors, in particular with the programme MEDIA that was included in the Europe Creative programme for 2014-2020. In this framework, the Ministry of Culture helps to ensure that the cultural specifics of the member States are taken into account, based on the principle that an optimal functioning of the European single market needs a minimal set of common rules that cover, among others, advertising, broadcasting of programmes, protection of children on the Internet, as well as the major digital mutations.

In the field of heritage, the Ministry of Culture participates in the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), which is a non-restrictive and quite flexible means of governance based on the voluntary cooperation of the member States. Within this framework, the European Commission launched a workgroup on the mobility of collections to facilitate a better harmonisation of the national legislations in this domain (definition of common guidelines and indicators, sharing of best practice, peer evaluation, etc.). Eventually, the EU plans to widen the OMC to other sectors of cultural policy and other working groups have been set up.

From 2008 to 2013, the French government created the Conseil culturel de l'Union pour la Méditerranée to raise and to encourage any public and private initiatives to promote the cultural dimension of the Mediterranean policy of France, in particular within the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean and of the event "Marseille Provence 2013, European Capital of Culture".

The Ministry of Culture supports the Relais Culture Europe, which is a resource centre created in 1998 to inform and accompany the French and European cultural and artistic actors on issues linking Europe and culture, on the European cultural objectives, policies and programmes, and their meaning in terms of strategies, practices and projects. The Relais has a global objective of Europeanisation of the practices of the French cultural actors and it is also the national contact point for the Culture programme (2007-2013) of the European Union.

The Ministry of Culture also supports European networks. The Cultural Exchange Centres (Centres culturels de rencontre) emerged in 1972 in France, based on six emblematic monuments (Abbey of Fontevraud, Chartreuse of Villeneuve-lèz-Avignon, Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans…). The label "Cultural Exchange Centre" distinguishes an artistic, cultural and intellectual project developed in synergy with a major heritage site. The purpose of these centres is to provide public, cultural and social services by creating and developing new modes of cultural action and creation. The European network was established in 1991 in Dublin. It gathers 15 members in France, 27 in the rest of Europe and 5 from other parts of the world. The network is recognised for its expertise especially by European organisations. The Ministry also supports the network Banlieues d'Europe that federates 300 partners, whose joint objective is to exchange practices and information and to reduce isolation in order to valorise cultural action projects in deprived neighbourhoods with excluded communities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Institute are members of the network EUNIC-European Union National Institutes for Culture. The network groups the institutions from the member States of the European Union responsible for cultural action abroad. Established in 2006, it counts 29 members from 24 countries. The members are present in more than 150 countries, and represent more than 2 000 establishments. They deal with arts, languages, youth, education, sciences, intercultural dialogue and development. The members of EUNIC wish to favour cultural cooperation, to create sustainable partnerships between professionals, to encourage a mutual understanding and a rise in awareness for the various cultures of Europe. This network embodies a first step towards a common European cultural diplomacy.

International organisations

The French Commission for UNESCO must insure the intellectual influence of France within UNESCO and, mutually, it is responsible for promoting the influence of UNESCO and its values in French society, for informing and advocating the programmes of UNESCO, which is the only UN specialised agency in France. The Commission works together with the Permanent Representation of France to UNESCO, and collaborates with various ministries (Foreign and European Affairs, Education, Higher Education and Research, Culture and Communication, Ecology, Sustainable development and Energy), to organise events and foster expertise to renew the programmes of UNESCO. In 1997, the Ministry of Culture co-signed, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement (Convention France-Unesco, CFU), which allows France to give UNESCO and its members technical and financial support to safeguard the natural and cultural world heritage. The defence of cultural diversity is also one of the major priorities of the French authorities, especially the former President of the Republic Jacques Chirac, which actively worked to advocate the adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2005. Since 1997, the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity federates the professional cultural organisations (cinema, television, performing arts, music, graphic arts and multimedia) and defends cultural diversity in the context of international trade negotiations and agreements (http://www.coalitionfrancaise.org). The French Coalition is a founding member of the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD) created in September 2007, and it is the permanent representative of the Federation to UNESCO.

The International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) is also especially concerned with the defence of cultural diversity. A workgroup on the implementation of the Convention of 2005 was set up within the Organisation. The OIF conducts several actions and programmes to develop cultural policies and has a fund to support the mobility of artists, and another fund dedicated to French-speaking Southern cinema and audiovisual production. The OIF set up four specialised operating bodies: the Academic Agency of La Francophonie, the International Association of Francophone Mayors, the Senghor University in Alexandria and TV5Monde, the worldwide Francophone broadcasting network. The OIF signed cooperation agreements with numerous international or regional organisations (United Nations, European Union and African Union). It is a major partner of the international cultural cooperation of France.

Besides, the Ministry of Culture works with professional and sectoral international organisations such as the International Council of museums (ICOM), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in the field of museums; the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) for heritage; the International Council of Archives (ICA), the International Union of Architects (IUA), the International Commission of Francophone Theatre (CITF), etc.

Decentralised cooperation

Territorial authorities also participate in the external cultural action of France, in particular since the introduction of the guidance law (loi d'orientation) of 6 February 1992 on the territorial administration of the Republic, which sanctioned the naming of "decentralised cooperation" and formalised the practical law for it, and which is recorded in the articles L. 1115-1 - 7 of the general code on regional and local authorities (Code général des collectivités territoriales, CGCT). The identity projection and the cultural promotion revealed to be important components of the external relations of territorial authorities, even if the cultural projects are often only a part of cross-cutting programmes mainly focused on communication or economic issues for instance. A report commissioned in 2013 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs identifies 800 territorial cooperation projects in the field of culture. But the report also indicates that there are many more projects that contain a cultural part next to educational, touristic or even institutional cooperation. The atlas of the decentralised cooperation available on the site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs counts 6 700 ongoing projects in the section "Culture" (http://www.cncd.fr/frontoffice/bdd-monde.asp). In April, 2013 a conference was held in Toulouse under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the theme "Culture and international action of territorial authorities", organised by Cités Unies France, the federation of French territorial authorities involved in international cooperation.

Since 1995, the section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for cultural policy (AFAA, then Culturefrance and currently the Institut français) developed agreements with territorial authorities. These partnerships have several objectives:

  • reinforcement of territorial cultural diplomacy: through coordinated policies between the departments of external relations and the departments of culture of territorial authorities;
  • promotion of the artistic and creative resources and performers from the whole national territory; and
  • support to several hundred projects every year worldwide.

They are based on two major principles:

  • the parity between partners, and the support to creators and professionals in their international development project, in synergy with the French cultural network abroad. The agreements generally determine a geographical and / or artistic frame(s). They are open to all fields of creation and the arts and to all the programmes and projects of the French Institute; and
  • the sharing of skills and best practices regarding international development, cultural promotion and branding, or expertise and cultural engineering.

The independent NGO LIKE Culture, European cities and regions for Culture, based in Lille, gathers European territorial authorities (small and medium cities, capitals and metropolises, départements, regions, provinces, counties, etc.) to collaborate on their external cultural policy. The association constitutes a platform for cooperation, debates and common actions in the field of decentralised cultural policy (http://www.likeculture.eu).

Hosting and dialogue with foreign cultures

The promotion of foreign cultures is a tradition rooted in the history of France, which contributes to the advocacy of cultural diversity.

The Cité Internationale des Arts of Paris was created in 1965 to provide short or long stays (2 months to 1 year) to professional artists who want to develop artistic work in France. The Ministry of Culture, the City of Paris and the Academy of Arts support this foundation, among others. The city of Paris joined with the French Institute to renovate the Récollets Convent, a historical building in Paris on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin and, since 2003, to make it a residency for artists and researchers from all over the world.

A non-profit organisation, the Onda - Office national de diffusion artistique (French office for contemporary performing arts circulation), was established in 1975. It is funded by the Ministry of Culture. Onda is strongly involved in European cooperation and networks. To encourage the hosting of foreign productions, Onda uses the following forms of aid:

  • financial guarantees;
  • financial assistance for touring foreign productions; and
  • financial support for the creation of surtitles (translated or transcribed lyrics / dialogue projected above a stage or displayed on a screen, commonly used in opera, theatre or other musical performances).

The World Cultures Institute (Maison des Cultures du Monde) was created in 1982 to host foreign cultural expressions. It is open to all horizons and civilisations and is committed to protecting cultural diversity. Since 1997, it organises each year the Festival of Imagination (Festival de l'Imaginaire), which is open to the peoples and the civilisations of the contemporary world and their forms of expression in the domains of music, dance, theatre and ritual performances. The Institute received several prizes:

  • Prize Diderot Universalis in 1989 for its promotion of the traditional and modern theatrical forms;
  • Cultural Prize France-Korea 1999 for the promotion of Korean arts and performances; and
  • Prize of the French-Taiwanese cultural Foundation in 2004 for the promotion of the cultures of Taiwan.

The Institute of the Arab World (Institut du monde arabe, IMA) was created in 1987 to develop the knowledge of the Arab world and to promote its culture in France and Europe. The building was designed by a group of architects (Jean Nouvel and Architecture-Studio) who tried to create a synthesis between Arabian and Western cultures, with in particular the stylisation of the geometrical figure of the Mashrabiya, one of the historical themes of Arabian architecture. IMA is based on a partnership between France and twenty-two Arab countries: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. The Institute has become a "cultural bridge" between France, Europe and the Arab world.

The national theatre of the Odéon, which was always international-oriented (it was the first theatre in France to present Shakespeare in English, by a British theatre company in 1827), became in 1990 the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe with the mission of "fostering joint projects with stage directors, actors, playwrights and other figures involved in the dramatic arts in Europe, to present new works and breathe new life into Europe's artistic heritage" (decree of 1 June 1990). The Odéon hosted the head office of the Union of Theatres of Europe (and of the Mediterranean) (UTE), which was elected Cultural Ambassador by the EU Commission in 2012. The head office of the UTE is now in Bobigny on the outskirts of Paris.

For several years a foreign country has been invited to France to present the various facets of its culture during "cultural seasons" or "cultural years", which are co-piloted by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Seasons Department of the French Institute is in charge of organising these events, with numerous partnerships with various stakeholders: institutions and establishments, territorial authorities, firms and companies. The selected projects are hosted and presented by diverse cultural structures (theatres, cinemas, museums, etc.) throughout France. "French seasons" abroad are regularly organised with partner countries and constitute multidisciplinary showcases for French arts and culture (see chapter 3.4.3).

The hosting policies are also operated by the DRAC (Regional Directorates for Cultural Affairs), in particular in overseas territories. According to the recommendations of the General Conference for Overseas in 2009 (États généraux de l'outre-mer), the DRAC must orient their action towards the regional environment, by supporting the distribution of regional works and the mobility of artists, and by financing exchanges and international events (festivals, cultural meetings, conferences…).

Some territorial authorities support entities that promote foreign cultures. For instance the city of Nantes created a European Cultural Centre, which also hosts four bi-national cultural centres: a French-German Cultural Centre, a French-Italian Cultural Centre, a French-Spanish Cultural Centre and a French-British Cultural Centre. Different territorial authorities of the region Poitou-Charentes support the Centre of European Culture in Saint-Jean-d'Angély. This non profit-making association is dedicated to the promotion of European citizenship and construction, in particular through programming professional and amateur master classes and workshops in various artistic disciplines (song, dance, visual arts). Since 1998, it manages a network of 7 centres in Europe and beyond, based on a common charter. The network aims for a transfer of cultural and educational engineering, and at an exchange of best practices in organisation and management.

Moreover, numerous cultural festivals in many artistic domains host foreign artists, and allow the promotion of foreign cultures throughout the territories.


Chapter published: 18-05-2017

Your Comments on this Chapter?