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Cablegate: France Strengthens Push for "Cultural Exception"

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Paris 2231



1. (SBU) France has ramped up its efforts to influence
UNESCO-sponsored discussions on a Convention on the
Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and
Artistic Expressions ("Cultural Diversity Convention"),
which it apparently sees as a vehicle to strengthen the
"cultural exception" to international trade law. First,
France will host the EU Council and Commission Presidents
for a two-day conference on May 2-3 to promote a Charter for
a Cultural Europe (and the French "cultural exception).
Next, France will support NGOs and other professional groups
at the Fourth International Meeting of Cultural Professional
Organizations in Madrid, May 9-11, which will be attended by
members of the cultural lobby, key negotiators in the UNESCO
talks as well as political leaders and government officials.
Finally, in a move that caused some discomfort in EU
circles, France will co-host a meeting of Culture Ministers
in Madrid, June 11-12, at which it plans to press for
special treatment of "cultural goods." The GOF continues to
look for allies wherever it can find them in its drive to
get a Convention adopted at the October 2005 UNESCO General
Conference. END SUMMARY.

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2. (SBU) The GOF will continue to promote aggressively its
longstanding support for a "cultural exception" in trade
matters at the EU Culture Ministers' meeting in June. The
GOF is expected to push for an EU public document that:
--Affirms the allegedly special nature of "cultural
goods and services." Previous UNESCO normative documents
contend that "cultural goods and services" play a dual role
in that they have economic importance, but also serve as
transmitters of cultural values. ;
--Emphasizes the sovereign right of States to adopt
measures to protect and promote "cultural diversity" (
--Reiterates the fundamental role of "cultural
diversity" to support sustainable development, particularly
in developing countries; and
--Urges that rights and obligations of the UNESCO-
sponsored Cultural Diversity Convention should be superior
to those in other international legal instruments.

3. (SBU) Comment: The UNESCO-sponsored discussions have not
produced a definition of "cultural diversity." Some,
including the United States, stress the important role of
cultural diversity within a country, while others seem to
view national culture as unitary and contained within
national boundaries. Despite the presence of a sizeable
Muslim minority, largely of North African descent, the GOF
seems to tend toward the latter view. End comment.

4. (SBU) France will take this same message to the Fourth
International Meeting of Culture Professional Organizations
to be held May 9-11 in Madrid. The meeting's panels will
feature members of the cultural lobby, NGO representatives,
key negotiators in the UNESCO cultural diversity talks, as
well as political leaders and government officials. France
previously hosted a meeting of the International Liaison
Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ILC) January
26 and 27. The second UNESCO meeting to discuss the
"cultural diversity" Convention took place January 31-
February 11. The dates of the Spanish meeting, organized
by the Spanish Coalition (i.e., the Spanish chapter of the
ILC) have been "deliberately chosen," according to a press
release by the Spanish coalition, apparently to attract
maximum media and political attention in the run up to the
third UNESCO meeting to discuss the Cultural Diversity
Convention, which is scheduled for May 23-June 4.

5. (SBU) The ILC meetings have gained in international
stature over the years. Previous ILC meetings were held in
Montreal in 2001, in Paris in 2003, and in Seoul in 2004.
These meetings attract culture professionals from 21
national member countries, including Argentina, Australia,
Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Republic of Korea,
Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and, recently, Slovakia. Other
members are in the process of joining: Hungary, Mali,
Cameroon, and the EU.

6. (SBU) The French, Spanish and Brazilian governments are
coordinating on the organization of the Culture Ministers'
meeting on the UNESCO Convention in Madrid, June 11-12,
2005. The Ministers of Culture from France, Spain and
Brazil issued the invitations from Paris on March 21. We
understand some EU member states were upset that they were
not consulted about French participation in the meeting. At
the meeting, France will call for greater "cooperation and
solidarity" with developing countries.

7. (SBU) In addition to its commitment to the adoption of
the UNESCO Convention by the fall of 2005, France favors a
"Charter for a Cultural Europe," to be discussed during a
meeting in Paris May 2-3, in the presence of European
Council President Jean-Claude Junker, and EU Commission
President Jose Manuel Barroso. French Culture Minister
Donnedieu de Vabre regards this meeting as another
opportunity for the EU to reaffirm its support for cultural
diversity, "a commitment which is also a written obligation
in the current Treaty on the European Union, and which is
addressed in the European Constitution." The meeting,
announced March 31, was not coordinated through EU channels,
though several member states are participating.


8. (U) Less publicized but equally important to the French
strategy is the steady efforts to promote the use of French
in international fora. France works through the
International Organization of Francophonie (IOF) and its
permanent representatives in the U.N. in New York and
Geneva, in the African Union, in Addis-Ababa, and in the EU
in Brussels. In the last two years, it has revitalized the
IOF, which now claims a membership of over 50 countries in
five continents. France also works to maintain French as a
working language in the European Union.

9. (U) The budget of the IOF remains modest at 227.1
million euros. Over 86 million euros finance TV5, while
another 83 million go to the Intergovernmental Agency of
Francophonie, which promotes the use of the French language.
Although there are 175 million French-speaking people in the
world, they report the use of French is increasing on the
African continent and in the Middle East but stagnating
elsewhere, or even declining in the Caribbean, particularly
in Haiti. The IOF reports that the French international
television network TV5 is the second largest global network
behind MTV but ahead of CNN. With 40 million listeners,
Radio France Internationale is the world's third largest
station behind BBC World and voice of America. French-
speaking countries represent 15 percent of global trade.


10. (U) The 10th Summit of Francophonie in November 2004
adopted a road map over the next decade, which lays out the
promotion of the French language and cultural and linguistic
diversity as the first of four priorities over the next
decade. In 2001, five international organizations,
including the Organization of Spanish-American States, the
Community of Portuguese-speaking countries and the Latin
American Union, took part in the Third Ministerial
Conference on Culture organized by the IOF in Cotonou,
Benin. The conference, attended by government officials,
artists and members of civil society, also served to rally
members on the French "cultural exception". The conference
produced a book entitled "Cultural diversity and
globalization," which, in turn, inspired the Universal
Declaration on cultural Diversity adopted in UNESCO in
November 2001


11. (U) The French also have pressed hard this year and
last on the use of French in the EU, focusing on the new
member states such as Poland, Slovakia and the Czech
Republic, and a web site on Francophonie specifically aimed
at those countries was launched (
In preparing the enlargement of the European Union, the
IOF's main operating body, the Intergovernmental Agency of
Francophonie (IAF), developed a plan signed by France,
Belgium and Luxembourg to provide French-language training
to some 6,255 civil servants from new member states between
2003 and 2004. Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have
joined the IOF as "observers," the first of three stages
towards membership. The need to maintain French as an
official and working language in the EU was strengthened by
several meetings in July 2004 with EU Foreign Affairs
Ministers and potential candidates to the membership of the
IOF. Since early 2000, the IOF has also reached out to the
Arab world and the Spanish and Portuguese "linguistic areas"
to achieve greater cultural diversity.

12. (U) Current membership stands at 53 associate members
and 10 observers. Greece and Andorra have recently become
associate members, and Armenia, Croatia, Austria, Georgia,
Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have
observer status. The GOF is said to be pushing for Israel
to join ranks, but Lebanon opposes such a move. Israel is a
large market for French media exports, such as books and

13. (SBU) COMMENT. The UNESCO-sponsored negotiations over
the "Cultural Diversity" Convention have seemingly sparked
the GOF to become better organized and financed in its
efforts to promote its views on cultural matters. The GOF
does not want to include language issues in the Cultural
Diversity Convention, perhaps in accord with its apparent
view that cultural diversity is something that happens
between nations, not within them. Nonetheless, its
language and culture programs are also benefiting from a
more dynamic effort.

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