Francophonie Summit – ‘French Commonwealth’ heads east

With the 11th Summit of Francophonie being held in Bucharest, Romania states its case for becoming an active voice of the Francophonie within the EU.

By devoting this 11th summit to the theme of information technologies in education, the Francophonie wants to speed up movement towards one of the most important of the millennium goals: education for all. Democratising access to the TIC (Information and Communication Technologies) and reducing the numerical fracture between north and south are concerted efforts in this direction. 

The summit’s final objective is to participate fully in achieving the strategic objective of the Lisbon Agenda: to make the European Union “the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world”. Today, the international Organization of Francophonie (OIF) accounts for 21 European members or observers, including 11 members of the EU.

In the next years, the OIF will be increasingly making its presence felt in the EU, where its member states will be soon 13 out of 27. This evolution seems logical when one takes into account the fact that a large proportion of the world’s government development aid (APD) goes to the least-advanced countries, of which around half are members of the OIF. 

The OIF aims to ensure that French retains its place as an EU working language, alongside English and German. It as also adopted a plan for the revival of French in European institutions. Thus, in Romania, 1,300 specialised frameworks receive French courses financed by the OIF. 

Because of its historical attachment to the French language, Romania also wishes to become an active voice of the Francophonie within the EU. Today, one Romanian in five understands French.

For Abdou Diouf, secretary-general of the Francophonie, "the summit of Bucharest will be a major political achievement. This will be the occasion to clarify our designs and our prospects and to contribute to the revival of intergovernmental co-operation in the field of education." He also stresses that the event "will be an occasion to testify to the vitality and the richness of the Francophonie in Eastern Europe". 

Secretary of State for the Francophonie, Cristian Preda, evokes the political dimension of the summit. He stresses that Bucharest would be hosting not only the first summit of its kind outside of France, but also the first summit after the adoption of the new Francophonie Charter. The Romanian secretary of state said that the OIF wants to become an organisation with greater political influence and that the summit of Bucharest would be chance to confirm this intention. 

Speaking at the press conference on 26 September, Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu recalled "the francophile bonds woven for centuries by our country and the historical anchoring of the French language" in Romania, adding: "We will have to put forward concrete measures to assist the growing insertion of new information technologies in education."

Dominique Wolton, director of research at CNRS and member of the Francophonie High Council: "To maintain the Francophonie ideology is to develop the training of four languages: mother tongues, regional and two international languages. It is to admit that there is no universalisation of communication without an enormous translation effort to be undertaken in all languages, in all directions. There is no future without translation!"

The 11th Francophonie Summit will be taking place in central and eastern Europe and is also commemorating its 20th anniversary. 

The fact that the summit is being held in Bucharest is a reminder of the growth of the Francophonie in recent years. Bulgaria and Romania were the first two eastern-European states present as observers at the 1991 summit, followed by Moldavia in 1995, Albania, the Yugoslav ex-Republic of Macedonia and Poland in 1997, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Lithuania in 1999, Slovakia in 2001, and finally Hungary and Croatia in 2004. Three other European countries joined the Francophonie in 2004: Austria, Greece and Andorra.

Today, the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) accounts for 21 European members or observers, including 11 members of the EU.

  • 28 September 2006: 20-year anniversary concert, in homage to Léopold Sédar Senghor. 
  • 28-29 September 2006: Francophonie conference of heads of state and government.

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