Parliamentary diplomacy: “Do useful work in the service of bilateral relations”

A delegation of senators from the France-South-East Asia interparliamentary friendship group, led by Mathieu Darnaud, President, and composed of Philippe Mouiller, Deputy President for Singapore, and Gisèle Jourda, Catherine Belrhiti and François Bonhomme, met traveled to in Singapore from May 13 to 15. During an exclusive interview with, in the presence of former Senator Jacky Deromedi, the senators discussed their exchanges with Parliament and Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as role of friendship groups in parliamentary diplomacy.

Parliamentary diplomacy was established step by step. The role of senators, within the framework of friendship groups, is to contribute, at their level, to forging links with the leaders of the countries concerned. They did this, especially during the missions, where they met political leaders as well as representatives of the economic and cultural world and members of the local French community. Their task is to facilitate relations and develop French companies and knowledge of our country. Foreign policy issues may also be discussed, but always in line with or supporting government diplomacy.

The Southeast Asia Friendship Interparliamentary Group comprises a total of 7 countries: Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Brunei and Burma.

Interview with the Singapore Parliament

What is the content of your meetings in Singapore and the various topics raised by your interlocutors?

Mathieu Darnaud, Senator Les Républicains de l’Ardèche, President of the interparliamentary friendship group France – Southeast Asia: During our stay, we first mentioned our arrival with French Ambassador Marc Abensour, to assess the overall situation. Then we met in the Parliament of Singapore Mrs. Cheryl Chan, vice president of regional parliamentary group Europe and Mr. Don Wee Boon Hong, member of the regional parliamentary group Europe. We also spoke to Ms. Sim Ann, Senior Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Development in Singapore. We also spoke with the Principal and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lycée français international de Singapore. This is the raison d’être of interparliamentary friendship groups: to nurture and strengthen the interparliamentary link, to integrate our exchange programs with assemblies in other countries, if possible.

These fruitful meetings allowed us to discuss the strong relationship that unites France and Singapore and our many cooperations in the fields of defense, education and economy, and especially the new and emerging ” Digital and Green Partnership », signed in March 2022 by Ministers S. Iswaran and Franck Riester On the issue of agri-food, Singaporeans have set their own goal of producing 30% of their food by 2030, is interesting to explore the possibility of strengthening our cooperation and creating new partnerships with France, which has a real agricultural tradition.

During our meeting with the French Ambassador, we also answered in a pragmatic way concrete topics, such as the question of visas and residence permits. Our interparliamentary links allow us to discuss geopolitical topics, but we are also available to do useful work, to promote or provide resonance on topics already raised at the embassy or during ministerial visits, to help French nationals living in Singapore, or those wishing to live there.

Have you already mentioned the health restrictions and the economic consequences of the pandemic to your interlocutors? How are you feeling?

Mathieu Darnaud : on these topics, our colleague Jacky Deromedi has done a remarkable job as the leader of the France-South-East Asia friendship group. In March 2020, our group auditioned for Singapore’s Ambassador to Paris, His Exc. Zaynal Arif Mantaha, on the situation in Singapore at the onset of the coronavirus epidemic. Few countries would claim to have action and anticipation equivalent to that of Singapore, even at the level of ordering vaccines, the organization of the scientific and medical community. What makes Singapore unique is the availability of human resources, biology and research tools, and a health system, which demonstrates true efficiency during a health crisis. There is also real anticipation, learning the lessons of SARS in Asia that make it possible to prepare minds and make all the difference to what we experience in Europe and at home in France.

We feel there is a particular sensitivity in Asia, especially to the use of masks; There is also a culture in terms of detachment and sanitary measures, which we did not have before in France. We see flaws in the house: is the mask necessary? Is it counterproductive? How to manage the supply of masks and vaccines? This leads us to question the effectiveness of our health system and the establishment of vaccination centers.

Jacky Deromedi, former French Senator LR living outside France, former President of the France South East Asia friendship group: Singaporeans are more prepared, because here even if you have a simple flu, you wear a mask. And Singapore is geographically very close to mask suppliers, with ease of supply. We know Singapore’s efficiency in all areas; they are very responsive, very organized.

Mathieu Darnaud
Interview with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Why did you come to join this friendship group in France South East Asia?

Mathieu Darnaud : When I joined the Senate Law Commission, I very quickly became interested in overseas issues. And if one is interested in the Overseas Territories, New Caledonia and French Polynesia, the Indo-Pacific strategy is inevitable to approach; which led me to take an interest in Southeast Asian countries. There are similarities. We’re talking about New Caledonia, now it’s a piece of France in the Pacific Ocean, which allows us Europeans to see that the tropism we suffer from sometimes distances us from geopolitical reality. This fact reveals to us that the center of the world is here. Needless to say, not just in Europe, because there are great powers.

Philippe Mouiller, Senator LR of Deux-Sèvres, Deputy President for Singapore: After the departure of Jacky Deromedi, Mathieu Darnaud was most motivated to take the group’s presidency. For my part, I want to replace Singapore. I have been to Singapore many times, with knowledge of many economic relations topics, in the social dimension such as disability. During the visits, there was also a lot of exchange of business cards. And at one point, we were called because such a member of parliament, or such a business leader who crossed over abroad, was in Paris and so we continued to make the link. On each visit, we invited our colleagues to visit us in the Senate. The advantage of constantly contacting Jacky is that you can ask him for advice at any time: it makes the transfer easier …

Mathieu Darnaud : I will add two elements that seem basic to me in relation to what Philippe Mouiller has just said. Let us not forget that the Senate is the chamber that represents the territories. The territories are not only metropolitan territories, they are also France Overseas and it is France in France that is established outside France. For me it is important. And the second subject, and I say it with a freedom of tone, is not because someone was elected like me Senator of the Ardèche, Philippe Mouiller of the Deux Sèvres, Catherine Belrhiti of the Moselle,… that we should abandon these question. . On the contrary, we have a warm obligation to watch what happens elsewhere. In fact, in legislative work, there is an entire section that deals with all the topics we have just discussed: free trade agreements, conventions, and so on. experienced in the world, with big challenges for France tomorrow …

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