Address by Mr. Yves Carmona, Ambassador of France to Lao PDR on the occasion of Bastille Day celebration
"Tonight we celebrate the national day of the French Republic.
It is indeed the 14th of July 1789 that the people of Paris played the first act of the French Revolution, by storming this symbol of tyranny that was the Bastille.
Today, the Revolution is not on the agenda anymore, at least in France, but we are experiencing a sort of permanent revolution, a very fast changing world, maybe changing too fast for some : globalized economy, massive population movements, financial crisis that do not spare any country anymore, instant exchange of information, ideas and political claims thanks to the Internet, cultures and languages without borders.
All of us gathered here have to deal with this permanent change. France’s ambition is to preserve coherence, peace, social justice and balance in this vertiginous movement. Preserving, developing, and ensuring the triumph of the French Republic values : Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. This is the ambition of the President of the Republic, Mr François Hollande, elected in May last year – and it is no coincidence that this election was celebrated place de la Bastille -, and this is also the ambition of his government, notably of the minister of Foreign affairs, Mr Laurent Fabius.
The defence of these values is central in the French relations with Laos, which have known remarkable developments over the past year.
First allow me to remind you the historical visit to Laos of Mr François Hollande, the first one of a French Republic President, the 5th of November 2012, during the ASEM summit. It enabled to underline the excellent quality of our cooperation and productive investment relations. France has provided a longstanding support in Laos’ development in the sectors of agriculture, health, heritage, governance, francophonie, research. Through bilateral agreements or multilateral organizations to which France contributes - such as the European Union, the United Nations Development Program, the OIF (International Organisation of Francophonie), the AUF (Francophone Higher Education Agency), as well as regional organizations such as the BAD, the ASEF or the Mekong River Commission, France spends each year in Lao PDR some 26 million dollars. The presidential meeting was an opportunity for our two ministers of Foreign Affairs, their Excellencies MM Thongloun Sisoulith and Laurent Fabius, to sign the 1 million euro financing agreement of the French contribution for the Legal Sector Master Plan.
Also, this meeting allowed improvement in some sensitive bilateral topics, especially the adoption issue, for which France helps Laos implementing a scheme conform to international norms. The topic of the extension of the French high school Josué Hoffet knew some progress as well, and the acquisition of a long term concession for a large ground is about to be concluded.
The ASEM summit gave the opportunity to President Hollande, for his first official trip in Asia, to meet seven other heads of State, some of them in this residence.
Many official Laotian visits to France followed this presidential trip, such as the ones of their Excellencies the deputy Prime ministers Mr Somsavad Lengsavad in April and Mr Thongloun Sisoulith in June, the one of the minister of Health Mr Eksavang Vongvichit in May. The minister of Transports Mr Sommad Pholsena went in June to the International Le Bourget Salon for Aeronautic and Space. He expressed a very strong interest for the organisation of urban transports in French metropolitan cities, hopefully a chance for further cooperation.
Tourism development, to which 47 000 French have contributed in 2012, should stand on genuine quality, internationally recognized labels in the future. Laos has every asset : the beauty of the country, the wealth of its landscapes and heritage the simplicity of its inhabitants’ hospitality and the progress within its hospitality sector, in which a great number of our compatriots are at their best. The development of long-haul flights thanks to Airbus and safe and faster means of domestic transport, with ATR aircraft as well as land transport would open the way for more and more tourists looking for high quality and authentic journeys.
Beside these governmental exchanges we must keep in mind the relationships between local governments. Notably came here, on the occasion of the AIMF bureau meeting, Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris, and of course Yves Dauge, the faithful friend, a former Senator and deputy mayor of Chinon. Members of the Parliament, I hope, will not be left behind with the upcoming visit within the end of the year of the members of the senatorial friendship group.
It is in this favourable environment that relations between our two people grow, either individual or articulated on NGOS. Some of them are permanently represented in Laos, other come back, year after year, such as Médecins du monde, Tetratkys or Avocats sans frontières. The warmth, the intensity, the fecundity of these human relationships constitute the key of our common future development, as evidenced by the cultural and linguistic attractiveness of France in this country member of the Francophonie. It is because they were moved by the Laotians’ welcome in 2012 that the choir of the Paris Opera decided to come back in 2013 and to give us high quality shows together with Laotian artists. Young Laotian stylist Nitaya, settled in Paris, came here two years in a row to stage fashion shows in Vientiane. There are other common creations, such as a play about myths on metamorphosis in Laotian and Celtic cultures, collaboration between the Théâtre Piba from Quimper and the now famous Laotian theatre company Khao Niew, which will be soon on stage in France and Europe. I must admit that, despite some recent critics, the French conception of cultural exception is everything but reactionary, it is on the contrary turned towards the future and the diversity of other cultures !
Unfortunately, I have to deplore the concerns expressed by the civil society organizations – to which we are close and with which we work in a climate of respective trust – since the still unexplained disappearance of Mr. Sombath Somphone. He played a positive role in the organization of the Peoples Forum which fed the hope of a wider opening. We share the anguish of his family and relatives. We hope he will be given back to them as soon as possible.
Because Laos is more than a country among others for France, many French entrepreneurs have settled here, some of them for a long time, others very recently, such as Essilor or the Banque franco-lao, two jewels on the crown of the French expertise settled in this country. I am sure many others will follow, given the numerous information missions operated by many great names of the French economy.
France is already the 5th investor in Laos – we know the share taken by NT2 dam – and we have the ambition to progress and especially to further diversify, as augurs well the partnership concluded between EDL and Citelum.
It is to magnify the French-Laotian relationship in all its forms : economic, scientific, cultural linguistic and even in sport, it is to make it take a further step, whereas Laos will integrate the great ASEAN market in 2015, that we have decided to set up an unprecedented event in this country : “les Rendez-vous de Vientiane”. The event is to take place on the last week of November, between the That Luang and the independence celebrations. Jointly organized by the French and European business community as well as this Embassy, with the support of Lao authorities, this special week has the ambition to attract new investors, new skills, and new dreams in Vientiane.
Prefiguring the tight solidarity prevailing between us, tonight’s celebration of our national day was made possible by the contributions of French and Laotian sponsors which appear in your program and that I thank for their generosity and their sense of togetherness"