France 1944-1949
Foreign Policy

France 1959-1968
Foreign Policy
France 1949-1959
Intellectual Life

Fourth Republic, 1949-1959 : Foreign Policy

The European integration progressed, to the benefit of France, the ECSC was established in 1951, the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1957. The AXIS PARIS-BONN strengthened France's claim to a leading role within the community, as Germany, for historical reasons, preferred to keep a low profile.
France's policy was to pursue a number of ambitious policies, one of which was to try to hold on to its colonial empire. Only on colonial soil had the Free French administration been able to hold out against Nazi occupation; in the control of the colonies' resources France saw a major asset allowing it to claim the rank of a great power.
France joined the UN forces in the KOREAN WAR.
In INDOCHINA, the Fench war effort was massively supported by the US which financed 80 % of the costs. In 1954 the Vietcong annihilated a French column in the BATTLE OF DIEN BIEN PHU. France could no longer hold on to Indochina; in the peace conference at Paris, the country, split into the kingdoms of Cambodia, Laos and the two states of North and South Vietnam, were released into independence - a result much different from the unified socialist Vietnam Ho Chi Minh had envisioned, the result of French diplomacy.
In 1956, Egypt's president Nasser nationalized the SUEZ CANAL. The French joined the British and Israelis in launching an invasion, which was aborted when the US spoke out in favour of Egypt.
In 1951 French troops evacuated the FEZZAN, and Libya became independent. In 1957 MOROCCO and TUNISIA were released into independence; yet France was holding on to Algeria, a French colony since 1830/1848 with a considerable population element of descendants of European (French, Italian, Spanish) immigrants. Here, since 1954, it faced a guerilla campaign by the FLN which strove for independence.
France's offer to the colonies of further integration into the French state was widely rejected as many African politician sensed that full independence now was a realistic option. In 1958 France proposed the COMMUNAUTE FRANCAISE which was joined by many countries; GUINEA, under Sekou Toure, rejected this too and found itself under a French embargo. In Algeria, independence-minded organizations began a campaign of terror against the French administration.
France pursued its own nuclear arms development program; the nuclear force is called FORCE DE FRAPPE. The MURUROA ATOLL in French Polynesia was used as a testing site.
In 1955 a plebiscite was held in the SAARLAND, since World War II under French administration. The clear majority opted for integration into the FRG, which was conducted in 1957.

France's relation to the US was ambiguous; it supported the US in Cold War conflicts such as the Berlin crisis and the Korean War, received US support in Indochina. Yet her French participation in the Suez Canal campaign of 1956 irritated the US, as did a domestic ruling barring COCA COLA from the French market. French policy of promoting European intregration was intended to reduce European dependence on the USA.

Timeline French Foreign Policy : 4th Republic, 1945-1958, from France Diplomatie
DOCUMENTS Indochina - Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Viet-Nam, July 20, 1954 (1), from the Avalon Project
TEXTES sur la Guerre d'Algerie (1954-1962), from cliotexte
La guerre d'Algerie et la television française, from Voir et Revoir, posted by Institut National de l'Audiovisuel
REFERENCE Roger Price, A Concise History of France, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, pp.228-246
Article : France, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1950 pp.300-303, 1951 pp.306-309, 1952 pp.298-301, 1953 pp.293-297, 1954 pp.292-296, 1955 pp.339-342, 1956 pp.277-280, 1957 pp.339-342, 1958 pp.274-278, 1959 pp.270-275, 1960 pp.271-274 [G]
Article : France, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1952 pp.167-170 [G]
Article : France, in : Americana Annual 1957 pp.296-302 (on events of 1956) [G]

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First posted in 2001, last revised on March 30th 2007

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