Anglo-French cultural ties, 1971
Catalogue reference: FCO 26/859

[official crest]
Prime Minister's
10, Downing Street,
Personal Minute
[handwritten] M. 39/71


In my conversations with the President of the French Republic last week, we discussed the future of the French language in the Community institutions, and the possibilities for increasing knowledge of France and the French language in this country.
On the first point, I said that, while English would become one of the official languages of the Community if we entered it, we had no wish to displace French as a main working language. I assured him that British officials appointed to the Communities would be fully competent to negotiate and transact business in French.
I said that French was already by far the commonest second language in the British educational system; and he told me that English was the second language for over 80 per cent of French school children.
I went on to say that I should like to see a substantial increase in exchanges between France and Britain, on the line of what had been achieved between France and Germany following the Franco-German Treaty
negotiated by President de Gaulle and Dr. Adenauer. I hoped that we could jointly consider exchanges of civil servants; exchanges of teachers; exchanges of students; and other cultural exchanges of all kinds. I suggested that it might be possible to invite the responsible Ministers in both countries to meet and discuss these possibilities.
President Pompidou agreed that we should ask the Ministers concerned to discuss these questions, and was prepared to consider the possibility of a formal agreement, if that seemed desirable.
I should be grateful if these possibilities could now be urgently pursued, so that we may be in a position to make definite proposals to the French Government without delay. One of the possibilities which I think we should examine is that of a European discussion centre corresponding to Ditchley. [handwritten in margin] Wilton Park.
I assume that the facilities for language training for members of the Civil Service and the Foreign Service are sufficiently well developed to enable us without difficulty to ensure that any public servant sent to Brussels can be made fully competent to transact business in French; but I should be grateful if this assumption could be confirmed.
I am sending copies of this minute to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Lord Privy Seal, the Paymaster General, Sir William Armstrong and Sir Burke Trend.

[signature] E.H.
27 May 1971

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