Beyond the debate on France’s decline and French “exceptionalism,” a question remains. Can France, and other countries of its stature, play a significant world role in the future?
In his October 25 lecture at Boston University, Nicolas Tenzer, author of The World in 2030 and When France Disappears from the World, claimed that a significant role is possible for France, but it will require major changes in the country’s organization and attitude towards diplomacy, the transparency of its political and civil institutions and its presence in developing countries and market.
Presently, said Tenzer, the risk of France disappearing from world stage is very real: France is a declining power, faced with trade deficits, and competition from emerging market – to say nothing of the limited place of the French language and France’s limited presence in academic networks.
But there’s another side to the story: as a nuclear power and a member of the UN Security Council, France plays a leading role in the G7, G8, and G20. France has the third largest network of embassies and permanent missions around world, an impressive record of pubic service, and is home to a number of leading international companies.
The truth, Tenzer stated, lies between the two assessments. He went on to list the eleven criteria on which he assessed France’s power and potential. Among the most salient were France’s presence in “expertise markets” around the world; its presence in academic networks, especially in emerging countries; shifting anticipations of power in tomorrow’s world; the presence of civil society experts in state level decision making; the end of delimited zones of influence, especially in former colonies; the rise of the international technical organizations (e.g. World Bank); the capacity of Europe, and France’s power within Europe; and finally, the capacity of France to develop an “international mind set.”
His “to do” list for France included the following advice: France must reinforce its strategic capacity, increase the number of international circles within France (where, for example, there are no departments of “international relations”), and continue work in area of international development. France must improve its capacity for activity, especially through information sharing, partnerships with international organizations, and university networks. It must pursue bilateral relations with key countries, especially Asian countries. A better strategy in Africa, not just in the former colonies, is also necessary.
As for Jean Monnet’s predication that France would “disappear from the world” and leverage its power through Europe, Tenzer said, in response to a question, that a federal Europe is not in the immediate or even near distant future.