The Assembly of French Citizens Abroad (French: Assemblée des Français de l'étranger; AFE) is the political body that represents French citizens living outside France. The assembly advises the government on issues involving French nationals living outside France, as well as the role of France in overseas developments. Membership consists of directly elected representatives, senators representing French citizens abroad and officials appointed by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.
The issue of representation for French nationals abroad was first addressed in the French Fourth Republic (1946–1958). Three seats were allocated to the Council of the Republic (the then-upper legislative house), representing citizens residing in Europe, America and Asia-Oceania. In addition, there were four agencies based in Paris also representing French interests abroad: the Union of French Chambers of Commerce Abroad, the Federation of French Teachers Abroad, the Federation of French Veterans Residing Outside France, and the Union of French Citizens Abroad (UFE). The conflict between these organization and the National Assembly in appointing the three members of the Council of the Republic led to the decision to form an entirely new body to represent French citizens abroad.
Foreign minister Georges Bidault signed the decree establishing the High Council of French Citizens Abroad (French: Conseil supérieur des Français de l’étranger, CSFE) in July 1948. The CSFE consisted of 55 members: the three Councillors of the Republic representing French nationals abroad, the presidents of the four organizations above, 42 elected members, and five members appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The first elections were held in 1970 in 70 countries.
Turnout in these elections suffered a decline from 1997, which prompted efforts to extensively reform the CSFE. It was renamed the Assembly of French Citizens Abroad. The proportion of elected members was further increased. In addition, the electoral boundaries were revised to account for the changing demographics of French nationals abroad.
The assembly is tasked with protecting the interests of French citizens abroad on issues such as the teaching of French, rights as citizens, social and economic problems, and taxation. They advise the French government on issues concerning French nationals living outside France and the role of France in overseas developments. The assembly also appoints representatives to various public agencies in France, including the National Stock Exchange, Permanent Commission for Employment and Vocational Training of French Citizens Abroad, etc.
The assembly meets four times a year. Bureau meetings take place in June and December, while plenary sessions are held in March and September.
The AFE is composed of 179 members:155 members elected by universal suffrage from 52 districts around the world who serve six-year terms
12 ex-officio members of the Senate representing French citizens abroad
12 members appointed by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs known for their expertise in French expatriate matters.
Day-to-day affairs are run by a general secretariat. The secretary general is appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The council is presided over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is the council's president, and is assisted by three vice presidents elected by the council.President: Laurent Fabius (Minister of Foreign Affairs; since 2011)
Members also join committees which prepare reports on specific issues which are submitted to the council's sessions. The permanent committees include:Cultural Affairs and Education
Finance and Economic Affairs
Laws and Regulations
Elections to the assembly are staggered based on geographical location. Electoral districts are divided into two "zones". Elections in each zone are held three years apart. Zone A (last election in 2009) consists of electoral districts in the Americas and Africa. Zone B (last election in 2006) consists of districts in Europe and Asia.
The 155 elected seats are distributed among 52 electoral districts proportional to population. The districts are as follows:
Members organize themselves into political groups. A minimum of 18 members is required to form a group. The assembly currently consists of four groups.