The increasing importance of open and consistent dialogue with French partners has been agreed following yesterday’s conclusion of a three-day Ministerial visit to France.
Ministers undertook political and cultural engagements in Rennes, Paris and Caen as a part of a government commitment to strengthen ties at both the national and regional levels.
The Minister for External Relations, Deputy Philip Ozouf, and Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport & Culture, Deputy Kirsten Morel, attended various engagements in Normandy and Brittany this week, including a tour of key cultural sites in Rennes and the annual Normandy Summit in Caen. They were joined by Guernsey’s External Affairs Minister, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq.
In Rennes, the Minister for External Relations and Minister for Economic Development visited Les Champs Libres, one of the most significant cultural institutions in the city, before meeting with representatives of the Regional Council of Brittany and the Departmental Council of Ille-et-Vilaine.
Ministers and officials were also given a tour of the Opera de Rennes, which provides a free screening of one of their high-quality operas to Jersey residents at the Jersey Library every year.
The Minister for Economic Development then undertook a visit to Ateliers Du Vent, a large artistic and cultural hub within Rennes, to examine possible opportunities for cultural and artistic exchange with artists and creatives in the Island.
In Paris, the Minister for External Relations met the British Ambassador to France, Menna Rawlings, at the British Embassy. Discussions identified the shared challenges faced by both Jersey and the UK post-Brexit, and the increasing importance of open and consistent dialogue with French partners at both national and regional levels.
He also visited the Maison de Victor Hugo where he was given a tour by Gérard Audinet, the Director of Maisons Victor Hugo, to learn more about the links from Victor Hugo’s time in the Channel Islands.
At the annual Normandy Summit in Caen, the Minister for External Relations was joined by representatives from Normandy, La Manche, and Guernsey, including the President of the Normandy region, Hervé Morin, the President of La Manche, Jean Morin, and Guernsey’s External Affairs Minister, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq.
The Chief Minister, Deputy Kristina Moore, joined via video conference from Jersey. The agenda of the quadrilateral summit focused on the impact of Brexit on areas of mutual interest, fisheries and trade, with a commitment to ongoing and future regional cooperation, including the signature and renewal of the cooperation agreement.
Following the Summit attendees made an on-site visit to Ouistreham, where technical discussions focused on rising sea levels and the impact of coastal erosion.
Upon the conclusion of the visit, the Chief Minister said: “This was my first Normandy Summit, an extremely important annual event with colleagues from Normandy, La Manche and Guernsey. Whilst I was regrettably not able to attend in person, it was great to join the Summit discussions virtually.
"We spoke about several pressing issues, including post-Brexit travel and fisheries. As a government we are determined to work together with our French colleagues to find positive outcomes for us all.
“Prior to yesterday’s Summit my Ministerial colleagues visited Rennes and Paris for meetings with our French counterparts to both reaffirm our current relations and identify future areas of cooperation. It is clear that we already enjoy close ties with France across a wide breadth of areas, and I share the determination and enthusiasm of my fellow Ministers to establish these further.”
The Minister for External Relations said: “Our engagements over the last three days have illustrated how close, as an Island, we are to our cousins in Normandy and Brittany. Our shared history is evident everywhere, something that we should firstly be proud of, and secondly looking to protect, strengthen and expand.
“In Rennes, it was clear that we must deepen our opportunities for cultural exchange, and in Paris, with the support of the British Ambassador, Jersey should – and will – look to develop our relations at both national and regional levels. A more regular and consistent presence in Paris is something that we are actively looking into.
“It became extremely clear to me at the Normandy Summit in Caen that there really is no alternative to having meaningful dialogue with people on a personal, face-to-face basis, whether in London or Paris. On the third day of our trip to France, where we have sought to re-establish good, positive, and forward-looking relations with our French counterparts, it really emphasised the value of being in the same room together. This was enhanced by having the opportunity to explain our objectives to a public audience through the media.
“We spoke about matters relating to passports, fisheries, and energy, all highly important topics for residents in both Jersey and Normandy. We need to put the difficulties of Brexit behind us and work together to tackle the many future challenges and opportunities. As always, the approach of External Relations is to identify and provide mutually beneficial solutions with our partners. I am confident that relations between Jersey and France have improved and will continue to flourish.”
The Minister for Economic Development commented: “Engaging at the political level with our French colleagues in Normandy and Brittany is of fundamental importance, but we should also not forget the value of cultural exchange and cooperation. Our shared history with France covers art, music, language, theatre, tourism, trade, and food, and I am committed to deepening these links in the future.
“During my time in Rennes it became clear that the cultural institutions and offerings within the city are exceptional, and as a government we should be seeking greater cooperation with them in the future. Building a long-term strategic partnership with Les Champ Libres, for example, would be an important way of gaining access and connection to the cultural life of the city, benefitting Jersey and Breton residents alike.
“Residents of Jersey, Normandy and Brittany should be aware of our shared heritage and have greater access to each other’s cultural life – such as events, exhibitions, and festivals. After all, our history is their history too.”