SC130 Field Study Paris, 27.3.17
Starting the second week of its European Field Study, SC130 stopped in Paris. On Monday, in the impressive facilities of “Les Invalides”, Course Members received a series of briefings about the French Armed Forces and their relations with NATO. The whole session was moderated by Navy Captain Paul Gelly, the French SNR at the College.
The course was welcomed by Brigadier General Clament, Head of the Regional Affairs Service in the International Relations and Strategy Directorate (DGRIS). He spoke about the different threats and challenges for Europe and, in particular, terrorism, Islamic State and failed states, using different examples like Syria and some other states in Central Africa and the Horn of Africa. He underlined the role of international institutions, especially NATO, and the essential role of the Armed Forces in this context.
Navy Captain Moreau from the Europe and North America Service in DGRIS then took the floor and spoke about France-NATO relations. He started with historical perspectives, continued with the present status of France-NATO relations and gave a French view of currently topical questions for NATO, like Enhanced Forward Presence. He was followed by Col Chambaz, from the Command and Control Centre in the Armed Forces Staff, who illustrated the different operations France is leading or participating in around the world, as well as homeland operations. He showed very well, for example, the French presence in Africa and the Middle East, but also the geographical spread of sea operations – off the coast of Africa, in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.
After the coffee break, there was a briefing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr de Gonneville, Deputy Director for Strategic Affairs, presented the role of international organizations from a French perspective. He underlined that the commitment of France to NATO is fully compatible with the preservation of the country's decision-making autonomy and freedom of action, and repeated that France’s defence and national security strategy cannot be conceived outside the framework of NATO and French engagement in the European Union.
A panel with all the speakers concluded the session. The briefings were very useful to understand not only the strategic priorities of France but also the reasons behind them, offering insight into why France is so involved in Africa and in the world and how it can at the same time stay committed to NATO and the EU.