Bastille Day 14 July 2010
Mister Geoff Doidge, Minister of Public Works, Representing the Government of South Africa
The Dean of the Diplomatic corps, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Dear Friends and Dear Compatriots,
Thank you for being my guests to celebrate the French national day.
To be quite honest, I had imagined, a few months ago, that I would start my Bastille Day speech, three days after the end of the World Cup, by a celebration of the French team’s achievements. Well, when you are a diplomat you have to be adaptable… The only good thing I could find to say about the participation of our team to the competition is that it did its best to help the Bafana Bafana qualify for the round of 16. But there also, it failed!
More seriously, let me say Bravo to Spain. After all we are not only French, we are also Europeans, and it is quite satisfying for us that the three best team in the world, like in 2006, come from the European Union! But above all, I want to add my voice to the concert of congratulations addressed to South Africa for hosting an incredibly successful FIFA World Cup.
A perfect organization, wonderful – and full – stadiums, no security problems worth mentioning and an enthusiastic and welcoming South African people. During this month, the world has seen your country, Mister Minister, for what it truly is: a great emerging power, unified, willing to tackle the challenges it is confronted to and optimistic on its future.
I also want to stress that the French participation to the event was quite notable off the pitch.
On the cultural front, I am sure many of you have seen, in the streets of Johannesburg, the impressive and joyful Giant Match puppets show. It is the result of a collective effort by a French team and a hundred or so artists, craftsmen and performers from Gauteng. We have also brought to South Africa a few jazz musicians and quite a number of exhibitions, including the remarkable exhibition of African photography titled “Borders”, which is presented at the Johannesburg Art Gallery till September before going to Cape Town.
For months now, the French police has been sharing with the South African police its experience and skills in ensuring the security of large sporting events.
The municipality of Knysna, which was the base camp of the French Team, benefited from a grant to renovate a football pitch and create a coaching academy in one of its Township.
Finally, I am proud to say many French companies where involved in the infrastructures related to the World Cup. Bouygues has been in charge of all the public works of the now famous Gautrain, and the train itself is operated by RATP, which is the Paris metro company; Bouygues also built the Mbombela stadium, whereas the beautiful Greenpoint stadium in Cape Town is managed by “La Société du Stade de France”; the French Agency for Development, AFD, has granted a major loan for the extension and renovation of OR Tambo International Airport but it has also funded the setting up of the Diambars Academy, a school for talented young South African soccer players from previously disadvantaged areas ; and all the hospitality structures used during the Cup have been built by GL Events, a French company.
I do not mention all these facts to brag but because I see them as a good symbol of the close cooperation that has developed along the years between France and South Africa in quite a number of fields.
At the political level, the best illustration of this excellent relationship was, a few weeks ago, the participation of President Zuma in the Africa – France Summit in Nice. He had a very fruitful working lunch with President Sarkozy, and, during the conference, he was clearly the African leader with the greatest visibility. That is, of course, a consequence of South Africa’s objective prominence on the continent.
But I can tell you that the French media unanimously – and rightly - considered that it was also a sign of the priority France wanted to give to South Africa in its new African policy, that was launched in Cape Town in February 2008. The commitments made on that occasion - on defence agreements or on the promotion of the private sector - are being implemented. And this morning, to celebrate 50 years of independence, the troops of 13 African countries joined the French military parade on the Champs- Elysées
As you know, the constant position of France on the reform of the world governance is that we need a strong African voice in the G20, the Security Council and the International Financial Institutions. So we relish the prospect of South Africa coming back to the UN Security Council in 2011, a mere two years after its last tenure and, later in the year, hosting the COP 17 meeting on the fight against global warming. And since France, for its part, will chair the G8 and the G20, I have no doubt that next year will offer an exceptionnal opportunity for the deepening of our dialogue on all the global issues, climate change, economic regulation, peace and security.
Before concluding, I would like to thank the partners of the Embassy, all the French companies that helped make this reception possible.
And finally, Mister Minister, let me thank you again for the constant cooperation that you and your colleagues from the South African Government extend to us, especially the wonderful team of DIRCO’s Western Europe Chief Directorate.
Long live South Africa,
Vive la France