14 juillet : Discours de l’Ambassadeur [is]
Madame la présidente, Fru Vigdis,
Seðlabankastjóri, Dear Mar
Chère Jona Solveig
Ambassadors, dear colleagues
Ég býð ykkur innilega velkomin hingað í dag.
Við Séverine, konan mín, erum mjög ánægð að halda aftur upp á Bastilludaginn með ykkur hér í Reykjavík. Þetta er í þriðja og síðasta skipti af því að störfum minum hér á landi lýkur fyrir áramót.
Í lok þriggja ára dvalar minnar á Íslandi, get ég ekki annað en tekið eftir því að Ísland hefur aldrei áður haft það eins gott og nú, og að samband landa okkar hefur aldrei verið betra.
Traditionally, a national day speech is the opportunity to check the level of Icelandic of the Ambassador, but also to assess the evolution of the bilateral relations. ; we must recognize that since last Bastille Day, we have seen big changes of our environment :
There is a new President and a new Government in Reykjavik and in Paris as well. In France elections have delivered results that few people, at least not me, were anticipating…
In Europe, which seemed weakened and shaken a few months ago, a new feeling has emerged, a mixture of confidence and reformism. It may have some links with the clear victory in France of a candidate who had campaigned on a strongly pro-European platform. It may be the consequence of an improved economic situation. It is above all a reaction to new challenges and threats which need to be addressed united.
Some of our closest and oldest allies have made, on climate change, or on EU membership, choices that we don’t share, while still remaining among our best friends, as shown by the presence of President Trump in Paris today for the military parade.
A growing number of our democracies remain confronted with new form of terrorism, more unpredictable, but have managed to remain united, and faithful to their values. And, in that day anniversary of the terrorist attack in Nice, it is difficult not to have a thought for the 86 victims of the terrorism exactly one year ago.
In this changing, and more threatening, environment, our bilateral relations remain stable, strong and friendly : it becomes nearly boring to repeat, once again, that they have never been so good.
Our friendship was even strong enough to survive difficult times : the Euro 2016 in Paris, when we had the painful task to put our national interests above our sympathy for your team, then the Handball World championship in Paris January 2017, when we faced the same obligation. Fortunately, this national day takes place a few days before the match between our two female football teams on the 18th of July…
To exemplify the development of our relations I could mention the big development of our trade exchanges : since I arrived, French exports have increased by 70% and Icelandic exports by nearly 60% (and thanks to links established between Airbus and Wow Air, this trend should continue). Unfortunately, I cannot claim credit for that even though I have done my part by eating as much fresh cod as I could, and reading as many Icelandic novelists as possible. Clearly, Icelandic writers and artists –and I recognize some of them here present - have largely contributed to this passion for Iceland drawing here so many French tourists, attracted not only by your landscapes but by the “nights of Reykjavik” Reykjavikurnaetur painted by Arnaldur Indridason or more far away places as Siglufjördur described by Ragnar Jonasson.
Exchanges are not only based on figures but are built on history and culture, and I am quite happy, and moved, to see on both sides a common will to perpetuate old memories : to mention just a few symbolic events, we have recently unveiled, with the support of the Municipality and of Decaux, a memorial sign on the Reykjavik’s building which used to be a French hospital, more than a century ago ; we have also been able to launch a prize, in memory to director Solveig Anspach, to support young female directors shooting films in Icelandic or French ; this would not have been possible without the support of the Municipality, again, but also of the distributors and producers of Solveig, and of the Canadian ambassador.
I have mentioned the Municipality and mayor of Reykjavik, always very supportive of our projects, including recently in their support to Paris bid to host the Olympic games in 2024. Speaking of exchanges between culture I must of course here pay tribute to former President Vigdis, recently made docteur honoris causa de la Sorbonne, and thank her publicly for the role she is playing in promoting Icelandic culture and strengthening exchanges between languages.
With the Icelandic Government, the close relationship is based on shared values and common interests : you would be surprised if I did not particularly mention the Paris agreement, and the continued commitment of the Icelandic Government to fulfill all its promises concerning the fight against climate change. We are all aware of the urgent need, not only to implement, but also to deepen what we have pledged in December 2015 : we must cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, and we know how big the challenge is for Iceland, and we must increase the green funds for developing countries. We also know that Iceland has a special role, a model role, to play by promoting the renewable technologies it has developed : I am especially happy of the partnership created between the two “geothermal” clusters in Iceland and France, with the strong support of Kristjan, my Icelandic colleague in Paris and of this Embassy.
Mes chers compatriotes, tout ce qui a été construit, par mes prédécesseurs et moi-même, repose sur quelques piliers :
Une communauté française, qui ne cesse de grossir, puisque notre communauté, encore modeste, a doublé en 5 ans, passant de 268 Français début 2012 à 556 aujourd’hui. À ce noyau dur s’ajoute un nombre croissant d’étudiants et bien sûr de touristes : avec quelque 85 000 touristes en 2016, la France est la quatrième source de touristes. La caractéristique de notre communauté est qu’elle est parfaitement intégrée dans son environnement islandais tout en restant exceptionnellement attachée à la France, comme le montrent les taux de participation aux présidentielles puis aux législatives, très largement supérieurs aux chiffres observés dans les autres pays. Je tiens à remercier à nouveau mes collègues de l’ambassade pour leur mobilisation et tous nos compatriotes qui nous ont aidés à l’organisation et au dépouillement de ces votes.
Nos deux principaux relais restent, dans le domaine linguistique et culturel, l’Alliance Française, et dans le domaine économique, la chambre de commerce bilatérale, la FRIS.
L’Alliance française s’appuie sur un nouveau directeur, Jean-François Rochard, qui a pris ses fonctions en fin d’année 2016. La FRIS, après avoir donné la priorité à la géothermie en 2015 et à l’Euro en 2016, s’est concentré cette année sur les échanges d’expérience dans le tourisme, avec beaucoup de succès.
J’ai eu le privilège de décorer du Mérite national les Présidents de la FRIS, Baldvin, et de l’Alliance, Einar, voilà quelques mois : ces deux décorations venaient reconnaitre leurs mérites propres, mais aussi saluer les activités des institutions qu’ils dirigent. J’ai le plaisir de saluer ces deux amis ici présents…
Autres relais précieux : l’association des parents francophones dirigée par Marion Herrera, l’association des professeurs de français et le groupe d’anciens boursiers islandais en France animé par Tryggvi qui s’enrichit chaque année de 4 à 6 nouveaux membres. Avec chaque année un succès croissant et un nombre toujours plus important de dossiers de candidatures.
L’Ambassade, de son côté, a connu quelques changements depuis l’an dernier : Roxane Girard, VIA, qui s’occupe surtout des questions économiques et arctiques, et Étienne Jean, qui vient juste de nous rejoindre. Le tour d’horizon ne serait pas complet sans la mention des trois consuls honoraires à Akureyri, Olafur Olafsson, à Egilsstadir, Hulda Gudnadottir, et à Isafjördur, Elisabet Gunnarsdottir.
To finish on a lighter note a few words on the events of tonight.
After 3 years, I am becoming used to this kind of ceremony, and I know that we must offer the right balance of tradition and novelty, of formal events and more down to earth attraction.
On the tradition side, you will have the expected amount of French cheese and wine, and of French style pâté.
I can also confirm that, as previous years, our national anthems will be interpreted by Bergthor accompanied by Kjartan : I suspect that their performance is more attractive than the Ambassador’s speech. Later on in the evening, we will also be entertained, as last year, with French songs by Hlin accompanied by Marie Huby.
You will have recognized our usual sponsors, Decaux and its chairman Einar, always supportive, BL, importer of Renault and Brimborg importer of Peugeot and Citroën, that I thank for their fidelity, and congratulate for their success. Also you will have a new opportunity to try the products of l’Occitane.
We are also happy to count on the support of new sponsors : Hyalin the new French shop recently opened in Hverfisgata, which will present some of its products, of Airbus, best known for the airplanes of Wow Air and the helicopters of the Coast Guard, and of Air France, the French airline : we owe to the generosity of Air France two tickets from Paris to any place in France which will be offered on a draw near the (end) of the ceremony.
But, before that, please stay silent for the national anthems by Bergthor and Kjartan.