France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States of America have been on the forefront when it comes to the enactment of policies in the European Union. However, France remains at the helm of most of the foreign policies in the European Union (David, Gower & Haukkala, 2013). Its participations in several diplomatic forums, in EU have given France an avenue for it to shape the European Union’s decisions regarding its foreign policies.
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Evidently, France is a key player in EU’s activities. This paper analyzes the role and the status of France in policies of the European Union, as well as scrutinizes the Franco-Russian relationship. In the analysis, the primary focus will be on the role of France in EU-especially the objectives that France has for the EU, France’s strategy towards Russia’s sanctions, and the Franco-Russian relations, as well as on the stance taken by France with respect to the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU.
France’s role/status in the European Union
According to Kennan (2009), France has been actively involved in the activities of the European Union. As much as the country has been participating in European Union’s foreign policies, it has had a number of objectives and aims in its role as a major player in the region. Its role in the EU, as well as its status is faced with competition from other countries such as the Germany. As seen from its activities in NATO and the European Union, France has since tried to show its significance both in political and economic arenas (Kennan, 2009).
However, the country has a lot of things to cover before it achieves such objectives owing to the stiff competition from other large and powerful countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Over time, France has been enjoying a significant role regarding its place in the EU, in spite of the many other countries that are involved. For example, France has played a major role in the history of EU. Through its historical role, France has been able to steer development activities within the present day EU.
Moreover, France has been active in the Coal Community, as well as in the European Steel (Sebina, Moahi, & Bwalya, n.d). The alliance involving coal and steel was highly instrumental in ensuring the success of the European Union integration, and the stabilization of the Western Europe. As such, France has contributed highly in integrating the European Union to ensure that it grows both politically and economically (Stimson, Thiebaut & Tiberj, 2014).
Therefore, France is in a position to achieve its integration objectives since the country has strong diplomatic tactics added to its vision regarding a region that is integrated and free from threats of war. As such, along with the above objectives, France aims to broaden the European Union’s sphere of influence. Why then is France best suited to steer the EU into the realization of its international, as well as the national objectives?
To begin with, France has placed itself in a nationalistic atmosphere. As such, it is able to achieve both its objectives and those of the EU considering that it allows itself to be politically integrated fully into the European Union. Thus, France has the potential to influence the development of European Union in terms of politics and economy.
France’s strategy towards Russia and the Franco-Russian relations
France and Russia have been known to have a historical bond link for a long time (Stimson et al., 2014). Franco-Russian relations can be traced back to the early modern period, whereby evidence of erratic contact can be seen from earlier years considering that these two countries experienced a monarchial leadership.
Historical ties and common interests
France and Russia have had strong historical ties, as well as shared common interests. The two countries have shared a friendly relation for a long time, with both countries having similar interests in international politics. For example, both France and Russia adopted an economic cooperation and bilateral security exchanges that were aimed at the promotion of big powers within the region. In addition, these countries share a number of ideologies in the struggle for a dynamic cooperation.
Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, France and Russia exhibited similar interests whereby their role in the creation of a multi-polar world was evident. In the same context, they show asymmetries as opposed to common traits in terms of both countries’ political, social, and economic structures. Such disparity is also evident in both France and Russia’s approaches to foreign policies. In spite of the many years of cordial relationship between these two countries, a number of conflicts have been evident in their activities and around each country’s interests. These conflicts have thus have led to the deterioration of their relationship.
Even though the government of France was trying to ensure that there was an economic relationship between France and Russia, it was evident that the French society was focused on enhancing authoritarianism in Russia (David et al., 2013).
Moreover, the two countries had a strained relationship following a number of issues such as the resolutions that were reached by United Nations with respect to the indiscriminate violence that was experienced in Syria, the relationship of the European Union with the countries such as Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, and Ukraine. As well, the relationship between France and Russia got strained further due to their energy differences and a number of defense policies.
France’s stance on EU’s sanctions against Russia
The Ukrainian crisis was a major reason that led to the sanctioning of several Russian officials, businesses, as well as individuals. The sanctions therefore, led to the financial crisis in Russia that started in 2014 (Wright, 2000). However, the European Union’s sanctions against Russia received different opinion from different countries and individuals.
Following the first round of the sanctions, other countries such as Japan, as well joined in the sanctioning. Japan’s sanctions involved the denial of Japan from participating in any form of talks related to visa requirements, investment, space, as well as military matters with Russia. With time, the European Union imposed second and third rounds of sanctions against Russia.
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The fact that many countries joined in the sanctions and supported EU and other participating countries, does not overrule the point that there were other countries and individuals that advocated for the end of the sanctions. However, most of these countries had their own interests (Marie, n.d). For instance, France experienced conflict of interests between its delivery of the mistral ship as agreed and its stance regarding Russian sanctions by the European Union.
The European Union and the United States of America pressured Hollande of France to postpone its indented delivery of the Mistrial helicopter carriers on basis that Russia was actively involved in the Crimea and Ukraine conflicts. This followed talks about sinking the ship in an event that the contract was not honored, which implied that France was destined to incur numerous losses in terms of money, image, and employment opportunities (Wright, 2000).
However, according to Hollande, there was a need for the West to stop any plans to put sanctions on Russia and instead, aim at offering avenues to lift any existing types of bans as a means of ensuring that the Ukrainian peace process was successful. As showed by Stimson et al., (2014) Hollande was quoted saying, “I’m not for the policy of attaining goals by making things worse…the sanctions must stop now…” (p. 294).
According to France, in the light of Hollande, the position of Russia in the Ukraine crisis had been misunderstood. As such, France’s stand was that the existing sanctions against Russia be eased off; since such a strategy would restore back peace and economic growth.
From the foregoing, it suffices that France has been an active player in the activities and policies of the European Union. The Crimea wars and the Ukrainian crisis were a major blow to the development of the EU. This was because the war and the conflicts affected most of the member states of EU following the EU’s sanctions against Russia that were accompanied by several counter sanctions, which led to economic stain. It has steered the Union into stable political, as well as economical structures. In addition, France has also been involved in the success of the Franco-Russian relations.
However, it is evident that conflicting interests have been instrumental in deteriorating the robust relationship that existed between Russia and France. In addition, the country was a key player in easing off the European Union’s sanctions against Russia. Evidently, even though the European Union has several powerful countries, France has contributed the most in the policies of the EU.
David, M., Gower, J., & Haukkala, H. (2013). National perspectives on Russia. New York: Routledge.
Kennan, G. (2009). The decline of Bismarck’s European order. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Marie, M. (n.d). Russia-France: A Strained Political Relationships. Paris: Flammarion.
Sebina, P., Moahi, K., & Bwalya, K. (n.d). Digital access and e-government. Russian Economic Trends, 3 (4), 2.
Stimson, J., Thiebaut, C., & Tiberj, V. (2014). The evolution of policy attitudes in France. European Union Politics, 13 (2), 293-316.
Wright, R. (2000). The Future of EU-Russia Economic Relations. Russian Economic Trends, 9 (4), 8-10.