Ambassadors Address at France’s National Day Celebrations 2012
Bonjour, Bula, Namasté, Good evening.
His Excellency the Président of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau,
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola,
The Ministers and Permanent Secretaries,
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corp,
The Heads of Diplomatic Missions,
The International Organizations Representatives,
We are here tonight for the second time since taking office; and my wife, Virginia, and I, thank you for accepting this invitation to be here to celebrate France’s National Day.
As I explained to you last year - on July 14, we do not celebrate the storming of the Bastille, that fortress symbolic of absolute monarchy, but the celebration of the federation that took place one year after the storming of the Bastille and which signified the end of the revolution and the reconciliation of all French people in a new society marked by the abolition of social classes.
We have all come a long way since then yet now, more than two centuries later; it is not freedom, equality, and fraternity; to quote the motto of our Republic; that prevails on earth - far from it.
The year 2011 saw the continuation of violence at the hands of those who refuse to hear the cries of protest of their people for justice, freedom, dignity, and quite simply, for more democracy.
As we speak; local tyrants, assisted by their allies who pursue their own selfish interests; continue to terrorize their local populations. The most extreme example is that of Syria, where a madman is massacring his own people with complete impunity. But other examples could be given; certainly less shocking but still worrying.
Fortunately neither Fiji nor France is in such a situation, which does not mean of course that our two countries do not have their own challenges. France and Europe are facing a major crisis with global consequences - the crisis of the euro, which is also the crisis of Europe.
The recent presidential election was won by François Hollande. The legislative elections that followed gave him a large majority in parliament. The victory in both elections was widely a result of the solutions to this crisis, proposed by each candidate. On one hand, the outgoing president with the choice of continued rigidity; on the other, the belief that one cannot emerge from this crisis unless every effort is made to revive growth in all the 27 member countries of the European Union. The first steps of the President are quite encouraging as his ideas receive overwhelming support, not only in Europe but also in the G8 and G20; including officials who do not share his political beliefs.
Fiji does not face the same economic difficulties, with a growth rate of 2.5%; which may seem low but which is something that we would like to have in France. Here, there are other challenges.
And that is to continue, with patience and determination, down the path toward democracy - which is what we all expect.
As you know, France was one of the first countries to show its appreciation for the very positive steps taken since early 2012: the lifting of the state of emergency, the control over the media and the return to freedom of gatherings under select conditions. Of course, a few adjustments are still needed but I will not go into that.
Similarly we take a very positive view of the establishment of a committee of experts to monitor the preparation of the electoral process and prepare the future constitution. The calibre of these five members is beyond dispute. The same goes for the launch of the voter registration which was made in a timely manner on the proposed dates.
It is not for the representative of a foreign power to speak about the internal politics of a friendly country, therefore in this regard, I would like to say that we hope that all Fijians play the game, without ulterior motives, so that the undeniable progress that has already been made is not jeopardized.
What are the current relations between our two countries? We are two friendly countries pursuing a common interest in a part of the world to which we both belong.
France, with its three local territories: New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna; is a South Pacific country.
Here I open a parenthesis to state that: In these three territories there is an ongoing political debate, as is expected in any democracy. This debate is an internal political discussion and should be considered as such by our friends. If, one day, these territories were to review their relations with France, it would be based on a majority vote of the people concerned, on the premise recognised by all democracies of "one man, one vote" and not under pressure from any country or group of countries.
I close the parenthesis and return to the cooperative relations between our two countries.
These relationships continue to grow; whether in the economic, cultural, scientific or technical domains.
We are pursuing common goals: the future of people of this region in the face of challenges such as climate change, depletion of fish stocks, destruction of the environment and health issues.
The positions of our two countries are identical on most issues as we have seen in Durban, as well as Rio de Janeiro. Despite alarmists’ talks without proposing solutions; concrete action has already been taken with the financial backing of the European Union, particularly by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, which is headquartered in Noumea, with a very important centre in Suva. I take this opportunity to remind you that France contributes 20% of this European fund and is also a major contributor to the United Nations and its agencies.
At a bilateral level, our relations are very close; especially with New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna, and to a lesser extent, for now, with French Polynesia. These associations are in the fields of health (with the support of the Institut de Pasteur in Noumea), of research, of the IRD and of teaching through the exchange of teachers and students. They are equally beneficial and must be developed for the sake of the people of both our countries.
Culturally, our ties are excellent. As witnessed by many each year, the fête de la musique, Fiji Music Day celebrations that are held right here, at the Museum, is always a huge success. This year we also had two of Fiji’s talented directors present their films at the Rochefort Film Festival and also had the opportunity to attend the Cannes Film Festival.
And this brings me to an official announcement: New Caledonia extends an invitation to Fiji, as chief guest, to the International Trade Show in Nouméa. If Fiji responds positively, the Embassy of France will do all it can to assist with the realisation of this event.
The only area, in which we can not disagree this year 2012, is in the area of sport. The Fijians have an overwhelming victory. Fiji is fortunate to have Mr. Franck Boivert here, who I welcome this evening; but there are nearly 200 Fijians play rugby in France. So a victory to Fiji 200 -1.
I would like to conclude this evening by mentioning that I am also accredited to Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu. I express my salutations to my colleagues who represent these countries here tonight and I have the great pleasure in announcing the opening of an Alliance Française in Tonga.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who helped make this evening, I hope, a success:
Let me begin, naturally, by thanking Mrs Sagale Buadromo, Sagale our friend, if she permits me to say so. Thanks to her we are once again able to organize this event here tonight. I would like to mention the close collaboration between the French museums, both in Paris and New Caledonia, and the Suva Museum. This place is a model of what can be done with comparatively modest means.
I would also like to thank TOTAL – they are always ready to assist with our cultural events.
Thank you to BRED, the French bank that already has a strong presence in the Pacific and, by choosing to set up business here, is betting on a bright future for Fiji. A sentiment that is shared by France. I wish BRED Bank every success in this country.
Thank you to COLAS, the world leader in the construction and maintenance of transport infrastructure. This company is present on all continents and now wishes to work in Fiji.
And two companies that are not French: first of all the Swiss company, NESTLE, whose director is a French national and FIJI WATER, a Fiji company headed by a Fijian with very close ties to France as he has, for several years, managed regional affairs for the French company Pacific Energy.
Finally; what would a French celebration be without French cuisine? That is simply unimaginable. So many thanks to the Warwick team, who have again done a wonderful job this year.
And what would a party be without music? That too is inconceivable, so thank you to the renowned local group Déjà Vu.
Merci à tous! Vinaka vakalevu! Thank you very much !