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After the Terror Attacks of 2015

A French Activist Foreign Policy Here to Stay?

After the Terror Attacks of 2015 by Alexandra de Hoop Sheffer
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The shock over the attacks in Paris has triggered a turning-point in both France’s domestic and international policies, and more specifically in its military engagement in the Syrian crisis and the fight against jihadist terrorism. Yet deeper trends in French foreign and security policy frame its recent initiatives on the international stage, accompanying President François Hollande’s diplomatic activism and France’s strategic priorities in the European neighborhoods and at the global level. This paper analyzes the shaping and the implementation of France’s recent diplomatic and military actions in light of shifts in the strategic environment and blurring lines between domestic and foreign policies. First, it highlights the main geopolitical developments influencing France’s foreign policy: the redefinition of U.S. global leadership, the numerous security challenges in Europe and the European neighborhoods, and the emergence of new state and non-state security actors at the global level. The paper also focuses on the interests behind current French engagement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the French ability to exercise credible leadership in foreign and security affairs in Europe and beyond — as well as influence regional balance of power — and the implications for France’s “special” role in the transatlantic security partnership. Indeed, French-U.S. military cooperation has recently reached a new high, with France and the United States working closely together in Libya, Mali, the Sahel, and now in Iraq and Syria. Paris has become Washington’s most reliable European partner for power projection operations; the deepening of the French-U.S. strategic partnership parallels the relative decline of the U.K. strategic influence. Finally, the paper shows how Hollande’s activism on the international scene and the unique centrality of security policy are shaping the changing French political context. It highlights the current softening of the traditional political divides on strategic issues, as well as of the long-established demarcation between foreign and domestic policies.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States; February 2016
ISBN 9781621175193
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Title: After the Terror Attacks of 2015
Author: Alexandra de Hoop Sheffer; Martin Michelot; Martin Quencez