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Sharing the 'culture capital' title
9 Sep 2013 Beata Balogová Foreigners in Slovakia
THE SLOVAK people have an outstanding capacity to face and overcome difficulties and to move forward, says Jean-Marie Bruno, France’s ambassador to Slovakia, adding that this has been especially clear since the beginning of the economic crisis. Bruno has been serving in Slovakia since 2010 and says that Slovakia has been a real discovery for him. The Slovak Spectator spoke to him about crisis-related challenges his homeland faces, but also the European Capital of Culture title, which in 2013 is shared by Marseilles and Košice.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): France remains the country with the highest public social spending to GDP ratio, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports. What are the reasons behind France’s top position in welfare spending and what are the challenges that come with this trend?
TSS: The European Commission earlier this year called on France to step up the pace of restructuring of, most importantly, its rigid labour market, while tacking its segmentation. What are the challenges your country faces in labour market policies and how will your government address these?
TSS: Earlier this year several French investors announced they were moving their production from countries such as the Czech Republic or Germany, to Slovakia. What is, in your opinion, the reason behind this? What advantages, if any, does Slovakia offer in comparison with other countries?
TSS: French public support for nuclear energy is increasing in advance of the French government deciding on its new energy policies, according to Bloomberg. What role will generating nuclear power play in France’s energy security and energy mix in the future?
At the same time, this committee recommended the implementation of the measures derived from the so-
By 2030, 49 of the 58 existing nuclear reactors will have exceeded 40 years, starting with the shut-down of the oldest power plant, Fessenheim, by 2017, when its reactors will be 40 years old. In parallel with the closure of old plants, this means that new units should be built, following the first EPR, which is under construction in Flamanville.
TSS: France is one of the biggest investors in Slovakia, but for which segments of the Slovak economy is there unexplored potential for cooperation between Slovakia and France?
TSS: Marseilles and Košice share the European Capital of Culture title in 2013. What were the challenges this title brought for Marseilles and how has the city managed these so far? Have you noticed any differences in the approach of the two cities, Košice and Marseilles, to fully exploring the opportunities this title brought?
The second French city has an ambivalent image: a dynamic, open and cosmopolitan city which, nevertheless, suffers from social problems and which needed a prospective project. For Marseilles the year 2013 is already a success: the festive programme has been very popular, a lot of infrastructure has been built to host new and challenging cultural infrastructure. Marseilles is more and more attractive for tourists and is developing an image of a creative and innovative city. During these past years, I have been noticing that Košice is exactly on the same path. All the projects implemented are successful. With Biela Noc, Spots, the Kunsthalle, for example, Košice has started a new dynamic and has been innovating in Slovakia with new concepts.
I am glad to notice that the two cities have worked together not only on specific projects but, more importantly, on key concepts to find an answer to common challenges: how to develop inhabitants’ involvement in public affairs? How to make it possible for culture to be a source of economic development?
The French Institute has, of course, been closely involved in this cooperation. For the last three years, the dialogue with the Košice 2013 team has been intensive and led to ambitious projects. The Institute has mainly supported innovative and festive projects: all projects which bring in Košice a new vision, a new way of doing culture, of thinking about the city. In the first rank of course is Biela Noc/Nuit blanche, one of the Košice’s flagship cultural events: for its 4th edition in 2013, five major French artists will be invited. But I could also mention the new Contemporary image Triennial, Use the City, the conferences cycle “Innovative city”, etc.
TSS: The French Embassy has supported the launch of the Slovak-French University Institute at Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica. What is the mission of this institute and what is its contribution to Slovak-French ties?
SFUI’s contribution to the French-Slovak relationship is important insofar as it involves all the actors of the French speaking community: from children at schools to business managers working with France and Slovakia, including teachers, students and researchers.
TSS: Do you see Slovakia as a country that is attractive to French tourists? Which aspects of Slovak history and culture could lure French tourists?
TSS: Hw do you assess the interest of Slovaks in learning French in light of the competition with other languages?
Furthermore, I’ve been amazed during my mission in Slovakia by the interest devoted to France, its language, its culture, its model and its values. Keeping this interest alive, keeping the possibility for Slovak students to discover other foreign languages, was one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks that I’ve dealt with in this country.
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