Sibeth Ndiaye, the spokesperson for the French government, met with the Anglo-American Press Association on November 14th, 2019.

In a 90 minute group interview, Ndiaye discussed her attachment to France, her relationship with President Emmanuel Macron, how the crisis of the Gilets Jaunes has changed his policies, Franco-American relations, sectarianism in France, the reasons behind the strike scheduled for December 5th, pension reform, the accusation of rape against film director Roman Polanski, racism against herself, the issue of returning jihadis and the difficulty of providing housing for migrants.

Ndiaye said she decided to become a French citizen in 2016, after the death of her mother. Her parents had met in Paris when both were militant Communist students, campaigning for African independence. “Senegal and France have always been inter-mingled in my personal story. There has always been a part of me that was French,” she said.

Ndiaye first met Emmanuel Macron when he was deputy secretary general of the Élysée. “He was always very approachable, welcoming and cordial with the people around him,” she said. Their relationship was a professional one, based on great respect. She came to know him better from travelling with him on trains and planes during the 2017 presidential campaign.

“He is a stubborn, committed person,” Ndiaye said of Macron. “He is someone who doesn’t like the established order, the idea that it’s always been done like that. The idea that it’s been that way for a very long time is totally foreign to him.”

The Gilets Jaunes crisis revealed “the difficulty for a part of our country to feel fully integrated in globalisation,” Ndiaye said. Macron had realised that he could not reform “for the French in their name” but had to reform with the French. He seeks greater proximity with his compatriots during the second half of his term.

The US and France “have divergent visions of the world,” Ndiaye said. “We say frankly that we can disagree with the US government, for example regarding trade and more broadly on the question of multilateralism.”

Regarding sectarianism, Ndiaye said, “France is a nation built on the idea of the citizen belonging first of all to the national community, before being black or white, before being Jewish, Muslim, Catholic or any other identity.”

Asked to explain the mobilisation for strikes and demonstrations on December 5th, Ndiaye spoke of the “great suffering of professional categories” including hospital workers and farmers. She said pension reform is a source of disquiet for all French people. Confidence has been destroyed by the fact that governments have attempted pension reforms every five years for the past 20 years. “There are obviously categories who have legtimate worries,” she said. The government is “holding out its hand to all” and “all options are on the table.”

Ndiaye said she would not go to see Polanski’s new film about the Dreyfus Affair because of recent accusations against him, but she did not call for a boycott because there must be an investigation by the French justice system.

Social media continue to convey racist remarks about her, Ndiaye said. She paid tribute to three French politicians who “didn’t necessarily notice that I was a woman, nor that I was black,” when she worked for them: Claude Bartolone, Arnaud Montebourg and Emmanuel Macron. It registered with Macron that she was black the day security guards and police prevented her following him at the aeronautics show at Le Bourget, because they weren’t used to seeing a black person in the entourage of a cabinet minister.

Ndiaye said more than 250 jihadists have travelled from Turkey to France since 2014. It was better for French citizens who joined Islamic State to be put on trial in the region where they may have committed crimes, she said. The the issue is being dealt with on a case by case basis. Children of French jihadists could not be separated from their mothers.

Wasn’t it shameful for France to leave thousands of migrants living rough or in tents? Ndiaye was asked. She said the government had “gone to considerable effort to build welcome centres”. Fifteen thousand places had been “unblocked” in low income housing in the last 18 months, creating tension with French people on waiting lists. The government will find another 16,000 places in 2020, she said. An asylum application usually takes 18 months to be considered, but the government tries to examine the applications of people who it knows will be rejected first, Ndiaye said

-Lara Marlowe


Preparing for Brexit - the Irish Angle

With Brexit possibly going ahead on October 31, with or without a deal, the implications for Ireland are manifold and complicated.
A high-ranking Irish diplomat sat down with AAPA members at the Irish Embassy for a background briefing on the latest progress in talks, the risks of a no-deal Brexit, the high stakes for Ireland, and some of the plans already in place to limit the chaos if Britain crashes out of the European Union.


Women spies and how to write a best-seller

With an eye on D-Day stories and tips on how to write a best-selling novel, AAPA members had a wide-ranging exchange with Washington-based British novelist Jennifer Ryan.
Ryan’s best-selling debut novel “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir” was about women in World War II, and she continued the theme in her second novel, published in June 2019, “The Spies of Shilling Lane”. She shared stories of women spies in WWII and women involved in D-Day, offering profiles and anecdotes.
On writing a best-selling novel, the book editor turned author advised the group to target their audience well, and carve out a niche for themselves. She also cautioned eager writers to decide if they wanted to sacrifice commercial success for critical acclaim, warning that the two rarely go hand in hand.


Europe Minister de Montchalin tells AAPA that France’s Brexit red lines stand

One of the newest and youngest members of the French government met the Anglo-American Press Association in late June to talk about some of the most important issues facing France and Europe.
Amélie de Montchalin was appointed Secretary of State for European Affairs only three months earlier, taking over from Nathalie Loiseau who had quit the government to lead President Emmanuel Macron’s party in the European election campaign.
The 34-year-old gave up a high-flying business career in banking and insurance to run for Macron’s centrist La République en Marche party in the country’s 2017 parliamentary elections.
De Montchalin received AAPA members in the gilded surroundings of the Foreign Ministry’s Quai d’Orsay headquarters to answer questions about Brexit, the outcome of the European elections, and the future leadership of the European Union´s institutions.
Speaking only days after Theresa May announced her resignation as British Prime Minister after repeatedly failing to get the withdrawal agreement she negotiated with the EU through parliament, de Montchalin said that the EU’s internal market, and the so-called four freedoms for the movement of goods, services, workers and capital, would remain red lines for France in ongoing Brexit talks.
If the United Kingdom wanted to leave the EU, everything needed for an orderly Brexit was already on the table, but the important thing now was the future relationship, where there were many possibilities, she said.
France and the EU were prepared for a no-deal Brexit, even though they didn’t want it, de Montchalin insisted.
The secretary of state was sceptical about the possibility of a second referendum in the UK overturning Brexit, saying that there was considerable division in British society between Leavers and Remainers and a second vote would not resolve that problem.
But she was unwilling to be drawn on reports in British media that Boris Johnson, then running for leadership of the country´s Conservative Party, had called the French side “turds” because of their position on Brexit issues. (Johnson later said he had “no recollection” of making the alleged remark.)
“I prefer not to comment on words that I do not understand myself, because it’s a linguistic register I did not learn in school,” was her diplomatic response.
-Pól O'Grádaigh


Renault Chairman Talks Auto Alliances with AAPA

The future of the alliance between carmakers Renault and Nissan and Renault’s abortive attempt to link up with Fiat Chrysler were the main subjects discussed when
Renault SA Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard met with a dozen AAPA members on July 18.
Salvaging the Renault-Nissan alliance whose organization had descended into a “huge mess” under former Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is crucial for both auto makers, said Senard, speaking from the company’s board room overlooking the river Seine. Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November on suspicion of financial irregularities.
Turning to the failed tie-up attempt between Renault and Fiat Chrysler, said the deal initially proposed was “dead”. However, asked if he personally would like to see a link-up in the future, Senard replied: “Everybody has the right to have dreams.”
Senard stressed that automotive groups must pool their resources and invest heavily in future transportation means if they want to survive.
“Will we be strong enough to have enough resources to invest massively in what we think will be the new technologies?” he asked.
Senard also discussed global trade turbulence, relations with the French government—which had a role in derailing the project with Fiat Chrysler—and made a pitch for enhanced corporate responsibility, which he calls ‘sustainable capitalism.’
-Mimosa Spencer and David Pearson

A sample of articles from the meeting:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-renault-nissan-senard/renaults-senard-expects-nissans-new-board-to-embrace-alliance-idUSKCN1UD15J

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/21/business/renault-nissan-alliance.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/manufacturing/a-study-in-contrasts-as-senard-tries-to-leave-ghosn-saga-in-rearview-mirror-1.3961522

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-18/renault-s-senard-plays-down-potential-for-nissan-fiat-mergers


SAFE HAVEN FOR JOURNALISTS - La Maison des Journalistes

Since its creation in 2002, La Maison des Journalistes has assisted almost 400 journalists from over 60 countries in the difficult task of starting a new life. This non-profit organization, the only one of its kind in the world, offers a safe haven to journalists who have had to flee their home countries due to oppression from authoritarian regimes. MDJ serves as a beacon for the defense of press freedom in the world. AAPA met with Darline Cothiere, director of MDJ and visited the premises with some of the residents.


Bruno Latour

 

"It is not a question of cognitive capacity, of comprehending facts, but rather sharing the same "territory". As reflected in the slogan: "My country, right or wrong"; to what or to whom are people loyal? We no longer share the same Land."

 

Former Scientific Director of Sciences Po Media Lab, philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour, explained to AAPA members the basic premise of his recent book, "Down to Earth" (Où Atterrir). Where he analyzes our present existential crisis of global warming and the incapacity of political leaders to respond in a meaningful way. Prof. Latour uses the idea of landing in a metaphorical way "The question is, how can we land modern civilization into a land with sustainability...without crashing?" The rise of populism, Brexit, the election of President Trump and the Gilets Jaunes are all manifestations of citizens frustrated by the empty responses of politicians incapable of engaging with the problem of where we must land.

Thomas Haley

 


Will Madame Le Pen Make a Comeback?

The AAPA met with Rassemblement National head Marine Le Pen on Feb 15, 2019.

The last time we saw France’s right wing figurehead two years ago she was running for president and riding high in the polls.

Le Pen may have lost to Macron in May 2017, but she’s far from finished.

As the French president struggles to regain his footing after the yellow vest uprising, Le Pen’s popularity is steadily rising - this time in a more “populist” Europe.

Le Pen spoke to members for over an hour, addressing all the main topics from the rise in anti-Semitism to the yellow vest movement.

Le Pen seemed quite confidant that her party will be hugely successful in upcoming European parliament elections, against the background of a much changed Europe. She smiled as she talked of like-minded Polish, Hungarian and Italian voters storming the polls in May to take back the EU parliament for the people....

 


Professor Webber discusses Europe's immediate problems

 

"Europe must show it can provide solutions to problems facing people today," INSEAD Political Science Professor Douglas Webber told the AAPA on March 12 at Cafe Falstaff. "It's not enough today just to keep the peace," he added, referring to one of the key pillars of European unity following WWII.

 

Professor Webber spoke broadly about his recently-published book, European Disintegration? The Politics of Crisis in the European Union (Macmillan International).He pointed to four crises straining the EU: The Eurozone crisis, Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, Shengen and the refugee crisis, and Brexit. Webber believes each of the above crises has made European integration stronger, and that only a united France and Germany can lead and support further integration.

Speaking against the background of a looming Brexit, Webber forecast, "Both the UK and the EU will be less influential" when/if the UK leaves the Europaen Union.

 

- Shellie Karabell

 


President's message for 2019

Dear Members,

A short and somewhat belated note to wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.  The AAPA is in full swing for 2019, having already brought you Delphine Horvilleur, one of France's three female rabbis whose new book on anti-Semitism has alas proved very timely,  and Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader whose party is neck and neck in the polls with Emmanuel Macron's for the upcoming European elections.

The committee members are all working on various speakers we want to bring to you from the worlds of politics, business and the arts. One of the top targets is Emmanuel Macron, on whom I am working by trying to wear down his press team until they finally give in just to get rid of me, but we have a whole range of other makers and shakers on our hit list and will let you know as soon as we have them in the bag.

We would also ask you the members to suggest newsmakers you would like to meet. Send your suggestions to angloamericanparis@gmail.com and we will see what we can do. If, for example, you are in frequent contact with the press team of a minister or a champion of industry, then maybe ask if their boss would be interested in meeting us.

More generally, the association would this year like to get more input/feedback from members. Tell us what you think we should be doing or not doing, make suggestions for social events or outings, tell us about events that AAPA members might be interested in etc. You can do this via our Facebook group page (if you're not already a member of that, just go on to the FB group page and ask to join and you will be signed up) or by sending an email to angloamericanparis@gmail.com.

Among the social events we can look forward to this year are the Second Annual AAPA Bike Ride in May, and the Gala in June. This year it looks like the Gala will be held in the Indian Embassy, where the food is said to be top notch. And of course there are the Happy Hour drinks on the last Friday of each month, which have proved highly popular (and are not restricted to members, so bring along friends and colleagues if you so wish).

We look forward to seeing you at the many events that are in the pipeline for the coming months.

Rory Mulholland

President of the Anglo-American Press Association