The culture minister said on Friday that France does not aim to sever cultural ties with Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger in response to criticism from the entertainment business of a move this week to prohibit any partnerships with artists from these African countries.
Regardless of political tensions, she argued, France has always been open and willing to host artists from all over the world.
This is hardly a change in policy for France, which has long been a welcome and open country for artists. Rima Abdul-Malak, the culture minister, told RTL radio that it was a response to the severely deteriorating security situation.
The government of Niger was deposed in a military coup in July, while Burkina Faso has been occupied by hardline insurgents for years.
Since August, Mali’s military has been fighting a rebel alliance, prompting France to suspend visas and development funding to all three nations.
Abdul-Malak’s comments appeared to be meant to settle a conflict with the SYNDEAC union of creative and cultural firms, which had demanded a meeting with her after her ministry issued an order prohibiting all cooperation and financial support to institutions from the three nations.
SYNDEAC had called the ban “completely unprecedented”.
“This total ban on three countries experiencing very serious crises makes no sense from an artistic point of view and is a major mistake from a political point of view”, the union said in a statement.
Following the backlash, Abdul-Malak said she has requested her ministry to provide “clarifications” to the entertainment industry, stressing that the prohibition would not affect current relationships, only new ventures that would require travel permits for artists.
There is a sizable population in France with ties to the three African nations, and festival-goers frequently request artists and other performances from the area.