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DIPLOMACY ДИПЛОМАЦИЯ

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THE EUROPEAN UNION IS A

THE EUROPEAN UNION IS A WEALTH THAT HAS TO BE SAFEGUARDED the countries they have been accredited to. To represent France, to speak on behalf of France, and to defend the interests of the French Republic, is a great responsibility embedded in the trust and confidence that has been vested in these male and female diplomats by the highest possible authorities. What was the organization like in the Press Directorate while you were heading this directorate? In the course of these three years, I worked hard so that the voice of France could be always heard at any possible place in the world. I headed, with great satisfaction, a large team of specialists who were assisting me in my endeavors to develop public diplomacy, to work closely with the diplomatic and the consular networks, and to strengthen the positions of the French diplomacy in the digital space and the social networks. That was the time of gaining wonderful professional and human experience. What were your priorities with respect to the journalists? How did you communicate with them? The advent of the social media, when everybody looked like his or her own source of information, seemed to have put an end to the role of journalists. It turned out, however, that this was not true. Because the media have an indispensible role in interpreting the world developments, in examining everything in perspective, and in sharing the key to the understanding of how international relations function. Therefore, I believe that the journalists are interlocutors of the highest possible class. We have to always listen carefully to what they say, we have to respect their independence, we have to inform them but, first and foremost, we have to explain things to them – which also involves pedagogical skills. This is an ongoing and never-ending process – round the clock – both with the national, as well as with the international media, because there is an awful lot of news every day, we have to understand the individual pieces of news and only then we could explain and defend the official position of the country which we represent. How does the Press Directorate operate in a crisis situation? Diplomacy is not a calm river; it is rather a chain of crisis situations and emergency cases. In order to be able to cope with all these, we need to be always prepared for the unpredictable by getting in one place a well-trained and well-coordinated team of communicators. To me, this seems to be the most important prerequisite. Secondly, we need to maintain an ongoing relationship of trust and confidence with the ones that have been assigned to manage the relevant crisis. Therefore, a permanent crisis-management center was set up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs some ten years ago, which functions round the clock. This center is, in effect, the most tender spot within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because it is supposed to receive any possible information and then coordinate this information within a network (among the government ministries in Paris, on one hand, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French ambassadors, on the other). The staff of the crisis-management center involves a multidisciplinary team which is headed by the minister of foreign affairs. In the event of a crisis – whatever this crisis might be, the spokesperson of this center and his or her team have to be ready and highly mobilized to speak before the press and in the social media. They also have to organize the entire public communication. What is the role of digital technologies in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs? DIPLOMACY 18/2016 121

THE EUROPEAN UNION IS A WEALTH THAT HAS TO BE SAFEGUARDED The new information and communication technologies are more widespread in this ministry than any other type of technologies due to the fact that we maintain contacts with all parts of the world. These technologies help us to “manage” time and space and are, therefore, indispensable for all French diplomats across the world. In order to further develop public diplomacy, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs shares an awful lot of information about its own activity, as well as about all kinds of international issues, on its web site Francediplomatie. In addition, in order to be able to keep an ongoing dialogue with the world, the ministry also uses intensively the social networks. How has “twiplomacy” changed the operations of the diplomats and of the other foreign ministry staff? The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of the most active administrations in Paris, which also applies to the French embassies and consular services around the world. We do encourage our ambassadors to communicate in Twitter. So, they are followed in the social networks from New York to Berlin and from Beijing to Sofia, because they always have something to share and to tell the others. What was the most difficult time in your career? My most difficult time has been in the periods of refugee crises. These crises are more often than not dramatic situations – with very strong emotional charge and intense media pressure, on one hand. On the other hand, however, discretion is a conditio sine qua non for any successful action on the part of any administration. Tell us a story from your experience as a spokesperson or an ambassador. In the period 2012-2015, I was an ambassador to Belgium when we had to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. In August, 2014, I had to accompany the French President to Liege where he was supposed to participate in a big parade that had to mark the 100 th anniversary of the invasion of Belgium. Throughout the whole day, I was thinking about the transmutation of fortune. Because one hundred years previously my grandfather had served in the French army when it was in Belgium and, on that particular day, the grandson of this particular soldier was in Belgium as an ambassador. A grandfather and a grandson – with one hundred years between them! That is to say, one hundred years of history during which the European peoples have gone through all kinds of misfortunes before they finally managed to build the European Union, which is a real treasure. A treasure that is shared by all of us and has to be safeguarded by all of us together. 122 ДИПЛОМАЦИЯ 18/2016

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