Over the years, France, a member of the European Union (EU), has used cultural diplomacy to win over countries and spread her influence around the world. In French-speaking Africa, the European economic powerhouse has sustained her ties, through cultural programmes, whether in cinema theatre, music or fashion.

Many in France see the country as open to the world and a champion of human rights, a nation bound by liberty, equality and brotherhood. But tough government law-and-order policies including crackdowns on Gypsies and a ban on Islamic veils are causing trouble for France's image abroad. A report handed this week to President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative party says the country should use stronger public diplomacy to better explain itself.

Move over Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. Lay witness to yet another Arabic 24/7 television news channel to enter the high-stakes game of international broadcasting in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

The United States doesn't always do the best job of promoting itself abroad. Lots of people in lots of different places like to burn American flags and chant anti-U.S. slogans. It's stock footage at this point. But yesterday the New York Times highlighted an encouraging U.S. cultural diplomacy effort in a pretty unexpected area: French banlieues.

September 23, 2010

IT WAS operation damage control this week, as the Elysée tried to revive the president’s standing abroad after sharp criticism of his expulsion of Romanies...For all the president’s defiance, the French have been knocked by the response to the Romani row. Fully 71% of respondents to one poll said that they thought France’s image abroad had been tainted.

How might the Republic portray itself to European audiences as a dynamic global city through arts and culture or forge relationships through cultural diplomacy? With Finger Players' puppet theatre skits, Royston Tan's film 881, Peranakan artefacts and a Singapore Chinese Orchestra performance, among others.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday that the European Union needs a continent-wide plan for illegal Gypsy camps and children beggars that he described as plagues of the 19th century. At the same time, the EU justice commissioner maintained her concerns about France's expulsions of more than 1,000 Gypsies, or Roma, in recent weeks