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The “multipurpose” diplomat

Christophe Le Rigoleur - Thessalonique, Grèce - 27 mars 2014



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Prison visitor…

I shake hands with the reception officer and leave Komotini Prison in northern Greece. After talking for over an hour with a French prisoner and discussing his situation with the prison warden, I must hurry as I have a meeting with the local association of French teachers. Considering that I have had to travel over 400 kilometres from Thessaloniki in half a day, I might as well make the most of this visit : I have already met the regional chief of police to discuss the fight against illegal immigration in a region which is targeted by illegal immigration rings.

Director of the French Institute of Thessaloniki…

Why meet with the French teachers ? Because, in addition to being Consul General, I also head the French Institute of Thessaloniki, an institution that is part of the French Secular Mission (MLF) for which promoting French teaching is a priority. The combination of these two occupations was decided in 2011 as part of the rationalization of our outreach policy.
The meeting with the French teachers takes place in a café where young veiled women are sitting at the tables next to ours : we are in Thrace, where there is a large Muslim community whose rights are guaranteed by the Treaty of Lausanne. An issue to keep a close eye on.

Consul General…

But it’s time to be off again. In the car, I check my e-mail as I’m waiting for confirmation of a visit by a delegation from a big French company. I simply can’t delay as I‘m also giving a talk this evening on the French military presence in northern Greece during the First World War. The Centenary is an opportunity to evoke the little known Eastern Front and a series of events has been scheduled on this theme. I was recently in charge of approving the renovation work on the house of the keeper of the French military necropolis (8,000 graves), which is to house a museum on the Army of the Orient. In liaison with the French Defence Ministry, we are very busy with the significant renovation work started in recent years in the cemetery in order to pay a dignified tribute to those who fell for France.

Communication specialist…

As the landscape flashes by, I think about what I’m going to say tomorrow during the programme broadcast by the local television station that has invited me. The local media are now well aware that I speak Greek and I have become one of their "good customers". All the more opportunities to speak about France ! I also call the French Institute’s Secretary General to settle the question of the cocktail party for the preview of next week’s exhibition : given our financial means, it will consist of a plate of Greek cheeses with Greek wines, a far cry from the “lavish diplomatic receptions” still sometimes referred to in the press…

…and father

What about this weekend ? In between a cultural dinner and a memorial ceremony, I must remember to see to my son’s requests…



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