France is the oldest ally of the United States, with U.S.-French diplomatic relations stretching back more than 225 years. France is an important U.S. partner in promoting such common foreign policy objectives as greater democracy, stability, economic growth and prosperity throughout the world.
Prior to this century, French embassies were essentially "personal" missions: A high official, accompanied by a few aides, was sent abroad to represent his country, often for a limited period of time and with a particular political objective in mind. In recent decades, however, embassies have become permanent "institutional" missions reflecting the complexity and continuity of modern international relations. Today's ambassador has a large staff engaged in a wide variety of activities.
France currently has ambassadors posted in the capitals of all the countries with which it maintains diplomatic relations. They are appointed by the President of the Republic during the weekly meetings of the Council of Ministers. Ambassadors are accredited to the host country's head of state, to whom they present their credentials upon arrival.
France also maintains diplomatic missions in such international organizations as the United Nations. Each mission is headed by an ambassador, who functions as a permanent representative. Throughout the world, France has a total of 138 embassies, 124 consulates and 13 permanent missions.
The French Embassy in Washington is the largest French diplomatic mission in the world. A staff of about 400 persons, divided in 15 offices engaged in a wide variety of activities, works under the direction of the Ambassador.
The political advisors, with the help of the press section of French Embassy, analyze American foreign policy as well as the political, economic and social situation in the United States. They also track public opinion trends and draft most of the reports sent to the Foreign Ministry in France. Working closely with the Ambassador, the political advisors maintain constant contact with American officials and deal with matters not directly handled by the Ambassador.
French Embassy press section acts as the Embassy spokesperson. This office works closely with the American press to ensure accurate representation of French policy and current events in U.S. media. One of its functions is to answer journalists' questions and provide them with documentation. Another responsibility is to analyze the American press and submit press reviews to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris.
An important part of this office is the Documentation Center, which each year answers 25, OOO telephone and mail requests for information about France and France embassy. This center also maintains a 4,000-volume reference library for use by French Embassy staff and the general public (by appointment only).
In addition, the Press and Information Service produces several publications, including a semi-monthly newsletter (News from France), a quarterly magazine (FRANCE Magazine) and various documents addressing specific topics.