The publication of this issue coincided with the completion of the diplomatic mission of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Uzbekistan, who took an active part in the implementation of many important projects, including the preparation of this issue dedicated to the development of Uzbek-French relations. Ms. Violaine de Villemeur in her interview to the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine «EBU» spoke about the partnership between our countries.
– Dear Madam Ambassador, just recently, or rather on March 1, we celebrated the 27th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Uzbekistan and France. In addition, October will mark the 26th anniversary of signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement between our countries. The first question I would like to ask is — what is Your professional assessment of the development of bilateral cooperation?
– I can safely describe the development of our bilateral relations as a true breakthrough. Because, as You correctly noted, it was France that became the first European country visited by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Mr. Mirziyoyev in October last year. It was a great honor for us and an impulse to activate many other high-level visits over the past year: Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers of Uzbekistan often visit Paris, the French Secretary of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne was in April this year in Uzbekistan, visiting the Charvak reservoir, the cities of Samarkand and Tashkent. Also, representatives of numerous French enterprises visited Tashkent and Uzbek entrepreneurs visited Paris to establish business cooperation. Our cultural exchanges are also extensive — in particular, the delegations of the Louvre Museum visited Uzbekistan to prepare an exhibition dedicated to Uzbekistan, which will be held in Paris in 2021. It is not possible to list each visit.
– As you know, France was one of the first to recognize the independence of Uzbekistan. Over the years, the parties have already accumulated significant potential and constructive experience in many areas of cooperation. Recently, there has been an intensification of political contacts. How, in Your opinion, modern Uzbekistan is developing, and what areas are seen as the most promising for further development of cooperation between our countries?
– Uzbekistan plays an important role in maintaining stability in the Central Asian region. Its policy of good neighborliness creates an environment conducive to trade and cultural exchanges in the interests of peace and security and is welcomed both in Paris and in Europe. The efforts of Uzbek diplomacy make it possible to make progress in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, which is one of the main issues for the entire international community.
As for the bilateral cooperation, I would like to give a vivid example of its dynamic development — this is the sphere of tourism, a priority for France (being the world’s first tourist destination and having the world’s best companies in this area, our country received 90 million tourists in 2018), and for Uzbekistan, whose tourism potential is huge. We are talking about the creation in the free tourist zone “Charvak”, in Chimgan and Beldersay international ski and recreational tourist complexes, as well as eco-tourisim complex Nanai with the participation of a consortium of leading French companies: Orex Loisirs, Compagnie des Alpes, Geode, Egis, Epode, MND Group, POMA and others. The consortium is carrying out a project to develop a master plan for creation of a modern tourist zone in Tashkent region. These developments offer sustainable and comprehensive solutions that are ultimately more cost-effective than amounts invested solely on the basis of unit cost rather than the overall project concept.
In 2018, the French Government allocated grant funds in the amount of 750 thousand euros for development of this project, including for preparation of a feasibility study. The French Development Agency (AFD) can invest in the project, and the European Union (IFCA) can also allocate some funds.
Most recently, the consortium together with Uzbek authorities held a presentation for the Head of State Mr. Mirziyoyev of the project to create a tourist block in the free tourist zone “Charvak”. We hope that this project will continue to move forward as planned. Representatives of the consortium show great interest in joint projects in Uzbekistan to ensure the comprehensive implementation of the existing potential for development of winter sports and recreation in Uzbekistan.
In addition, the French government has also allocated a grant to “FIVES” company for development of a Feasibility Study for establishment of a glass factory in Jizzakh region – a region with great industrial potential.
– One of the priority areas of our cooperation is trade, economic and investment spheres. What is Your overall assessment of the work already started on the agreements signed at the Uzbek-French summit last October? Is there any reason to say that there is still a huge untapped potential for cooperation between Uzbekistan and France in any areas?
– 2019, which is already in full swing, promises to be rich both in terms of reforms in Uzbekistan and in terms of strengthening bilateral relations with France. The historical visit of the President of Uzbekistan to Paris helped to increase the interest of French companies in Uzbekistan and to ensure the implementation of the reached agreements. The French Secretary of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne visited Tashkent in April, and in May, the MEDEF International mission consisting of about thirty companies was able to consolidate the commitments made in October last year.
I am convinced that French investments in Uzbekistan will be given even greater impetus as soon as the legislation on privatization of non-agricultural land allows to stabilize material investments, and the issues of respect for intellectual property will be clarified. Finally, numerous anti-corruption measures are very valuable for the overall improvement of the investment climate.
I am also sure that our cooperation in such spheres as telecommunication technologies, transport infrastructure, energy, aeronautics and water use will be actively developed, ensuring the transfer of technologies, knowledge and significant financial revenues to Uzbekistan for their development and improvement. Therefore, the role of our financial institutions such as Bpifrance or ADF is crucial for French companies to be able to offer a competitive technical and financial proposals adapted to the needs of Uzbekistan.
– In this regard, we cannot fail to mention our successfully developing cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian sphere. This includes the organization of joint exhibitions of museums of Uzbekistan and France, and the expansion of scientific cooperation between historians and archaeologists of the two countries, and joint projects in the tourism field, and partnership in education, science and health. And what a vivid impression the Annual Gastronomic Festival Goût de/Good France brings! In your opinion, in which other creative areas can we cooperate in the future?
– The prospects of the French-Uzbek cooperation in the areas you have mentioned are indeed very promising. The exhibition “Civilizations and Cultures on the Silk Road”, which will open in autumn of 2021 in the Louvre Museum, will be a bright event dedicated to more than 30-year history of the French-Uzbek cooperation in the field of archeology and heritage preservation. I am very pleased to promote this project, because the upcoming exhibition in the Louvre will allow the French and international community to discover the wealth of historical and cultural heritage of Uzbekistan and give it more openness. The Louvre Museum annually receives about 10 million visitors! We are ready to share our experience in restoration and protection of ancient city centers and historical monuments of Uzbekistan.
We also welcome the advancement of Francophonie processes among students and their teachers in all regions of Uzbekistan. Our events, such as school and university-level French festivals of theatre and songs, as well as competitions (dictation, short-term teaching internships in France for teachers, a joint competition with the Association of International French-speaking Centers Lions Clubs “One Month in France”, the competition “Poster for the Festival”) were actively held this year and were a great success, covering a large number of participants and spectators.
In addition, within the framework of educational cooperation in the field of teacher training, the Embassy of France in Uzbekistan organized a training in a Foreign Languages Boarding School named after Iskhokhon Ibrat in Turakurgan region for French teachers of three regions of the Fergana Valley. Also, from 17 to 20 June of this year Bukhara State University hosted a summer school event open to all teachers of the French language in schools, lyceums and universities of Uzbekistan. The Embassy also continues to organize language examinations in the French Alliance of Tashkent. I will tell you one more important information – the French Alliance has announced the registration opening for the next training session.
In the sphere of university cooperation, we are ready to support numerous projects between educational institutions in professionally promising disciplines, which are the most popular in Uzbekistan. These are such areas as tourism (which includes the study of the French language, as well as management and urban planning), culture and archaeology, technology and finance, mathematics, management, business law and others. We plan to implement many projects in these areas of education in 2019 and 2020!
– France was the first European country to enjoy a visa-free regime for tourists visiting Uzbekistan for up to 30 days. What do you think are the prospects of implementation of this measure for French tourists?
– Indeed, on the eve of the official visit of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Mr. Mirziyoyev to France in October 2018, Uzbekistan introduced a visa-free regime for all French citizens for up to 30 days, whether tourists or businessmen. This undoubtedly contributes to the increase in the flow of tourists from France, the development of humanitarian and economic ties, motivates the business community. Many French dream to see such historical cities famous since ancient times as Samarkand and Bukhara, which explains the large flow of French tourists on these routes. Last year, the number of French citizens who visited Uzbekistan exceeded 13 thousand. It is expected that by the end of this year their number will increase significantly. That is why France decided to open its first Honorary Consulate in Central Asia in Samarkand.
During his visit to Samarkand on 16 April 2019, the Secretary of State to the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, inaugurated the Honorary Consulate and presented a 5-year consular certificate to the Honorary Consul of France in Samarkand, Mr. Isrophil Usanov. The cancellation of short-term visa requirement is all the more effective if we take into account that the number of direct flights between France and Uzbekistan doubled last winter.
– Every person traveling abroad, always faced with something different from his usual way of life. Getting to another country, we try to find something new and interesting to expand their horizons, our knowledge. And what attracts the French to our country?
– Uzbekistan attracts the French primarily with its ancient civilization, rich history and culture, its originality, historical architectural monuments. Many French, having read the novel “Samarkand” by the French writer Amin Maaluf (honorary citizen of Samarkand), in which the real history is harmoniously intertwined with myths and legends, seek to get here to see firsthand the ancient cities of the Great Silk Road. Our attitude to history is what unites France and Uzbekistan. Crafts, traditions, gastronomy are also undoubtedly of great interest to the French, for example, traditional games Kupkari. Lately there is a wide coverage of Uzbekistan in the French media and this increases the tourist attractiveness of your country in France.