Interview with His Excellency Pierre MÉNAT, Ambassador of France to the Netherlands
By Bonnie Klap.
Unsurprisingly for a country known for its elegance and style, the residence of the French Ambassador to The Netherlands, Mr. Pierre Ménat, exudes exactly that: stunning architecture, coupled with unmatched elegance. Ambassador Ménat welcomes us in his magnificent reception room and bravely starts off the interview in Dutch. He soon switches to English, admitting he is not yet sufficiently fluent in Dutch, but is in the process of learning to speak Dutch.
“I find it my duty to learn the language of the country where I am posted as Ambassador. I did so in Romania and Poland, where I was able to speak Polish with the President of Poland. My posting in Tunisia was a bit too short to thoroughly learn how to speak Arabic. Now I am learning Dutch,” he tells us. Ambassador Ménat joined the Foreign Service in 1982. He graduated from the prestigious Ecole Nationale D’Administration – “ENA”- the well known institution, which has educated France’s top- politicians, diplomats and business people for generations.
We ask Ambassador Ménat which factors contributed to the fame of France as a country.
“ Until the 20th century we were a major global power. We had a well developed agriculture and a strong industry, such as textiles and trains. We also had a strong army – by the way we remain today the first military power on the continent – The older industries, such as cars and airplanes are declining somewhat, but newer industries are now developing, such as the space-industry and technology. Times change and these days the younger generation in France is much more mobile. As for the trade between France and The Netherlands, the numbers are enormous and account for EUR 40 billion annually, with The Netherlands exporting EUR 22 billion worth of goods to France and France exporting EUR 18 billion worth of goods, such as cars and pharmaceuticals, to The Netherlands. For example 20% of all cars in The Netherlands are French. France also imports a great deal of gas from The Netherlands, ” the Ambassador tells us.
After having lived and worked in various countries, such as the US, Romania, Poland and Tunisia, we ask Ambassador Ménat what his thoughts are on The Netherlands and The Hague in particular, now that he has been living here for almost two years. Like many of his fellow Ambassadors, he has praising words for The Netherlands.
“The Netherlands is a nice place to live. I am in Amsterdam almost weekly, where I usually combine work and leisure activities. The French consulate is in Amsterdam, as is the French Institute. I like the Concertgebouw. In my spare time I jog, visit theatres and museums, there are a lot of things to do here,” the Ambassador tells us.
As the interview draws to an end, we ask His Excellency to share a parting message with us. What would he like to tell the readers about France?
“I know France has a certain image of beautiful fashion, good wines, perfumes and interesting culture and that is good, but I would also like to draw the attention to another aspect of our economic activities, such as our space-industry and our new technologies. In short, I would like France to be perceived as the modern nation that we are,” the Ambassador concludes.
Picture: Ambassador Pierre Ménat and Mrs. Ankie Broekers-Knol, President of the Dutch Senate.
This interview is an abbreviated version of the interview to be published in the Wassenaarse Krant.