Interview of HE M Jean-Michel DUMOND by The Vanguard...
by Lagos Daily, The Vanguard,
published on August 2, 2008
AMBASSADOR of France to Nigeria, Jean-Michel Dumond, is six months old in Nigeria. He believes that with the official visit of President Yar’Adua to France, the relationship existing between the two countries will deepen. He also speaks on the significance of France’s National Day to all French Nationals. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, Ambassador Dumond also assured that the two parties will fulfil the agreement signed. The full interview
Sir, before now, what is the existing relationship between Nigeria and France like?
The relationship between our two countriets is excellent. It got a boost with the return to democracy in 1999, of course. We can only be confident it will be even better after the official visit of President Yar’Adua to France, during which France and Nigeria decided to establish a strong strategic partnership.
Still on the visit of President Yar’Adua to France, there is this perception that since Nigeria is not a French speaking country, the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries will not yield any positive result. What is your opinion?
It has nothing to do with language, really. Last month, June 12 marked a new stage in our relationship and a deepening of Nigeria and France relations, we decided to sign a joint communique during the visit to establish a strategic partnership. We agreed to strengthen our cooperation in a number of fields which were pointed out by the President of Nigeria in his 7-point agenda, and I will like to specifically mention energy, transportation, agriculture, tourism, vocational training, infrastructures, environment and security. More than 100 French companies are already operating in Nigeria and are pleased to work here. France is among the very first investors in this country, so there will be no problem in co-operating with Nigeria in those areas.
On energy precisely, what is France likely to offer to Nigeria to improve its energy sector?
In co-operation, we hope to strengthen the partnership between France and Nigeria covering all relevant sectors, and that means electricity generation, construction of hydraulic dams as much as transmission and distribution and even programmes in nuclear energy. Nigeria has expressed its desire to acquire a long-term nuclear power in order to increase its energy and we are ready to look into developing this in a long term, depending on safety measures and in accordance with all international agreements, of course. Before an involvement of the relevant French firms in the Nigerian power sector, there will be, very soon, a mission in order to assess the situation and see how we can best implement measures based on decisions to be taken during this French visit.
What is the trade volume between the two countries, who exports and imports what and in whose favour?
The balance of trade between France and Nigeria in 2007 was 2.4 billion euros. We import approximately 1.3 billion worth of goods, and export I.I billion. Of course, the biggest share in French imports consists of crude oil, and our exports are petroleum equipment, electricity equipment, chemicals and refined oil products etc. In 2006, France was the 3rd importer in Nigeria (6th in 2007). Depending on the Year, Nigeria is France’s first or second trade partner in Sub-saharan Africa. Bilateral trade in favour of Nigeria.
Talking of good relationship between the two countries, how many Nigerians are serving jail terms in France as a result of illegal migrations, and other offences?
I don’t know the actual figure, but they are not many because the numbrer of Nigerians in France is relatively low. I would like to add that cooperation in terms of justice land police between the two countries is very cordial and efficient.
So, how does your government tackle illigal migration by foreigners?
Relatively few Nigerians are going to France, compared with other European countries, We process on average approximately 27,000 visas every year but the number of Nigerians living in France is not high and, so far, there’s no problem of bad history or reputation.
Recently, your President visited Israel and pledged his support to Israel’s State and, at the same time, called on Israel to end its war with Palestine. What happens if Israel disobeys this call? Will France withdraw its pledge?
France has a clear position on this issue : The right of existence of two States living in security within borders recognized by everyone. We are encouraging the two countries to negotiate in order to reach a peaceful settlement of this long lasting crisis. This is our calling; we hope that they will listen to us. You noticed that all the parties involved were around the same table, in Paris, on July 13, on the occasion of the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean.
Why the statement, has Iran threatened France with its nuclear power?
In this matter, France’s position is the same as the European Union’s and the international community’s position, as expressed at the Security Council. As far as lran’s nuclear programme is concerned, there has been proposals submitted to Iran and we are waiting for the Iranian authorities’ answer to them. Those proposals put forward in June 2006 provide for cooperation in the area of civilian nuclear power as well as economic and political cooperation if Iran would agree to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities and to negotiate. These proposals remain on the table.
Members of G8 called on all the developed countries to assist African countries in solving the food crisis in the sub-region. In what area do you think France can come in?
We have developed proposals for solving the food crisis in the world, which consist in short, middle, and long term measures. As you know, at the European level, we are concerned at developing a common agricultural policy that will help in ensuring food security on the continent and the world as a whole. We have to think about how to organize, in the next few years, this common policy in the frame-work of this new context of possible shortages. By the end of the French presidency of the Council of the EU, Europeans must have defined guidelines for common agricultural policy so that we can set aside the surge in food crisis, We also believe that setting up a policy within the ECOWAS region will give a good basis for all governments in the region to face the challenges of food security.
Any French assistance programme in Nigeria?
We do have assistance programmes in Nigeria, especially through our participation in the programmes of 10th European Development Fund, which runs between 2008-2013. France contributes financially to up to 24% of these pragrammes. This will amount to some 600 million euros on a bilateral basis, to which you must add about the same amount to ECOWAS. We also have bilateral assistance programme from France to Nigeria, which is based mainly on the teaching of the French language, on encouraging Nigerian students to come for studies in universities in France, and on responding to a strong demand from Nigerian autharities and the general public. I would also like to mention the opening of an office in Abuja, in September, of Agence Francaise de Development, which already opened an office af its subsidiary, Proparco, in Lagos, just a few weeks ago. In health, we are participating in programmes in conjunction with the European Union. As you can see, France is confident in Nigeria’s’ capacity to move forward as well as it recognizes the importance of the role that Nigeria plays in the region, and in the world.
What is the significance of the French National Day, which was celebrated on July 14th? Is it significant to French Nationals all over the world?
France’s Natianal Day is the day when we commemorate the 1790 "Fete de la Federation" held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison, when delegates from all the regions of France proclaimed their allegiance to the natianal community. It was the first time in history that a people claimed its right to self-determinatian. The French see the 14th of July as the symbol af their reconciliation, solidarity, freedom and and as the symbol of the uprising of the modern French Nation. This year, we also celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, on 10th December 1948. We are expecting our Nigerian friends to share with the French from Nigeria and diplomats from other countries our confidence in the future of our relationship.