Nicole Michelangeli: »Varstvo okolja je bila vedno prednostna naloga.«

Francoska veleposlanica v Sloveniji Nicole Michelangeli je, preden je leta 2009 prevzela položaj francoske veleposlanice v Sloveniji, našo državo kar dobro poznala, poseben vtis pa je nanjo naredila prestolnica Ljubljana. Diplomantka Inštituta za politične vede v Strasbourgu, ki ima večletne izkušnje v diplomaciji, pri svojem delu posebno pozornost posveča tudi okoljevarstvenim vprašanjem. Tako je med drugim povedala, da je na tem področje potrebno izobraževanje vsakogar izmed nas, saj gre nenazadnje za proces, ki traja vse življenje. Po njenih besedah se ljudje in politiki danes zavedajo pomena varstva okolja in zato je vse, kar še potrebujemo, le politična volja. Dotaknila se je sicer tudi eko turizma in izpostavila, da, čeprav morda še ni tako razširjen, je mogoče priznati, da gre za dolgoročen in hitro rastoč trend, zlasti na podeželju. Pogovor z veleposlanico Francije pa v nadaljevanju v celoti objavljamo v angleščini.

Nicole Michelangeli

Welcome to Slovenia. What were the first impressions when you first took the post here in Ljubljana? How much did you know?
My first impression was, without any doubt, the charm of the city and its quiet, a kind of serene atmosphere which impressed me (especially when you come from Paris !). I was twice in Ljubljana : the first time in January 2008 when your country was at the head of the Council of the European Union (it was for a meeting) and the second time, it was in June 2009 when our Prime Minister came here for his first official visit (I was in the delegation). And before coming here, I was at the ministry of Foreign affairs in Paris in charge of bilateral relations between France and the EU countries, as deputy head of the competent direction. As such, I was following the relations between France and Slovenia and was involved already in this country. At least, from the political point of view, I knew a few things about Slovenia at that time.
What is the first thing you think about when you hear »Slovenia«?
The first thing that comes to my mind when hearing »Slovenia« might not appear so special, but it is its nature and landscapes. Not any special landscape but the diversity we can easily encounter here in Slovenia.
On the political level, Slovenia is particularly known in France for its success in gaining a peaceful independence and helping former Yugoslavian countries achieve this goal by cooperating with international organization and enforcing peace and democracy in the region.

Slovene-french relations have a special bond from history. Is this bond still alive? How would you asses the cooperation between both countries?
It is true that Slovenia and France share a common part of their history as far as the Illyrian provinces and the 19th century-Napoleonic era are concerned. This special bond is obviously still alive nowadays as cooperation in the political, economical and cultural spheres has been recently boosted by the signature of a strategic partnership. It was signed last March by the President of the Republic of France and the Prime Minister of Slovenia. France and Slovenia also share a common vision of Europe’s future, willing to participate in every aspect of the European integration (euro zone, Schengen area …).
As far as economy is concerned, France has always been a visible and reliable partner for Slovenia. French companies (Renault in Novo Mesto, SKB Société générale, Leclerc, etc.) are well established on Slovene soil, offering employment opportunities for many inhabitants. The economical advisers at the French embassy are also on duty to help French and Slovenian companies to improve their cooperation and business opportunities.
On the cultural level, it is also to be noted that during the Yugoslavian era, the French Institute, Institute Charles Nodier, was the only foreign cultural representation in Ljubljana, showing the special interest France takes in Slovenia.

Are there certain events, organized in Slovenia or in France, that symbolize history of relations between both countries?
If we want to focus on symbols, one should admit that the commemoration of the liberation of Ljubelj concentration camp after the Second World War is an event of utmost symbolic importance for the French community in Slovenia. It is one particular event symbolizing the history of relations between France and Slovenia. Every year in June, many French survivors – warmly received by Tržič’s inhabitants – come to the former camp to lay flowers in remembrance of the numerous victims of Nazi’s cruelty.
However, on a more trivial level, the good relations between France and Slovenia are mostly visible through the numerous joint cultural events organised in both countries. One of the best examples would be “Pod Napoleonovim orlom” exhibition both in Ljubljana and the Musée des Invalides in Paris in 2009. This year we could mention the beautiful exhibition dedicated to Toulouse-Lautrec. Cinema is also a next field of collaboration: a cooperation agreement has been signed in May 2011 by both countries. It should make cooperation between producers easier, our common goal being that our productions turn into more co-productions. French films are quite popular in Slovenia and we were happy to see that in the last months, Damjan Kozole’s “Slovenka” movie was a great success in most French theaters, paving the way for future achievement. As culture is part of the new strategic partnership, cultural tights are expected to grow faster in the next years. France is also involved in lots of festivals in Slovenia, through the French Institute.
Since becoming an ambassador to Slovenia you had met several slovenian representives and during those discussion special attention was dedicated to protection of environment. What kind of significance does this issues represent for you?
The protection of the environment has always been a priority. Thanks to the action of some NGO’s and other groups of pressure it has now become one of the first priorities of any political agenda worldwide. Climate change, pollution and greenhouse gas can not only lead to a deterioration of living conditions but eventually might lead to political conflicts.
France and Slovenia have for long cooperated in the field to help protect the environment. The best example would be the twinning of Slovenian Triglav national Park and French “Parc national des Ecrins” in the 1990s. Through this cooperation, Slovenian and French officials have exchanged on how to save biodiversity in the Alps and face tourism pressure in the areas. And the results are great.
Are we, speaking generally, in your oppinion actually aware of the danger of climate changes, do we care enough for our enivornment?
People and politicians are nowadays aware of the importance of protecting the environment. What may be needed now is political will.
We can always do more for the environment and it starts by each individual. In Europe, for example, every time one takes his car for short distances, one should wonder if he couldn’t do without. Nowadays, the main polluters are outside of Europe and it’s by cooperation with theses countries that we can raise the awareness of the population so that development goes together with protecting the environment.
Where should we start speaking about those issues? Maybe already with children in kindergarten?
If we want to talk people into saving our planet, they need to understand it as a priority and as a prime importance condition for their future. In that sense, yes I agree with you that children should learn at school how to behave regarding our planet. But educating each of us, each adult, is needed too: it’s a kind of life-long learning process for all of us.
How would you assess the action, taken by Slovenia for the better, safer environment, and those taken by France?
Slovenia is a country with a vast area of forestry and wooden lands and is doing a good job in protecting its environment. This is one of the major assets in a country which can be considered as a lung for Europe. Forestry management, in accordance with Natura 2000 standards, has to be encouraged and Slovenia should be considered a good example in that aspect. However, France is still concerned about water sanitation and waste treatment in Slovenia and thus France is currently helping the country establish a water treatment plant in Maribor.
France is going on the right path towards sustainable development and environment protection. In 2007, the “Grenelle de l’environnement” was organized in Paris to bring to the table every actors and Institutions to discuss France’s future actions on the environmental level. Four years later, the first clear results are beginning to show and are thus encouraging.
Eco tourism is every year gaining on popularity. How widespread is this form of tourism in your country?
Eco tourism is gaining in popularity in France too. Although not widespread yet, we can easily admit this is a long term and fast-growing trend, especially in rural areas.
Does exist in France an agency, body or department that aims to motivate, inform the public about eco tourism? At which level does it exists, what is its main goal and which are the competences?
Sustainable development in tourism is dealt with by the “Committee for the development of sustainable tourism”, under the direct supervision of the “Ministry of Economy and Finance”. This Committee is a forum for exchange on professional practice and government actions. Even though it has recently published a “Good Practice Guide” to the attention of tourist professionals, most actions come from local branches of the committee depending on each regional characteristics and issues (water regulation in southern regions, fauna and flora conservation in mountain areas …).

Foto: Francosko veleposlaništvo
Anita Balas
Junij 2011