Remise des insignes de chevalier de la légion d’honneur à Hans Dietmar SCHWEISGUT
Résidence de France – 20 juillet 2018
Dear guests, friends and colleagues,
Mon Cher Hans-Dietmar,
Nous sommes réunis ce soir pour rendre hommage à l’un de nos très chers collègues, Hans-Dietmar Schweisgut, Ambassadeur de l’UE auprès de la République populaire de Chine et lui remettre les insignes de la décoration que le Président de la république a décidé de lui octroyer.
C’est donc un grand moment de joie de vous voir réunis autour de lui.
Don’t get nervous, I will continue in English !
It is a great honor for me to have the opportunity to finalize a process initiated by my predecessor Maurice Gourdault-Montagne.
Maurice and I share not only the same first name, but also a strong and long lasting commitment to the European Union, its integration process and above all the values that are at its core.
In 2012, the Nobel Peace prize Committee awarded its prize to the European Unionfor “having for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.
Unfortunately, here and there, including within the Union, voices are heard today that question our collective achievements and preach for some outdated and dangerous turns in our course : nationalism, populism, defiance, selfishness.
We all know what it means ; we all know what it leads to.
So, united we must stand to preserve and protect the heritage of the founding fathers.
As President Macron put it in a speech he delivered in September 2017 at La Sorbonne : “the only way to ensure a safe future (for us) is to create a new sovereign, united and democratic Europe (…). Europe - and only Europe - can assure us of such a sovereignty, which guarantees our capacity to exist in the current world, by protecting and by promoting our values and our interests”.
This is an enormous task for men and women of resolve !
This is the task to which Hans-Dietmar has committed an important part of his professional life.
So now, Dear Hans-Dietmar, let us talk about you !
You entered the diplomatic career about four decades ago.
When one looks at your resume and, more specifically, at your tenure in China, it is obvious that the VP / High representative made the right choice in appointing you here.
Who else could have been better prepared for this mandate, one of the most challenging and demanding of the External European Action Service ?
You spent a few years at the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations in New York and then your career took an economic turn and you joined the team of the State secretary for Economic coordination in the chancery in 1983.
You were then appointed as the Director of the Office of the Federal minister for Public Economy and Transport and later on became Economic advisor to the Austrian Federal Minister of Finance.
In 1987, you started your Asian journey as Minister to the Austrian Embassy in Japan.
But in 1991, you went back to Vienna as the Director General for Economics Integration and Customs at the Federal Ministry of Finance. European integration was then one of the key issues you had to deal with.
You acquired thus a strong footing in Economics, Asian and European issues, the three legs of your career. All three have proven necessary to your future success here in Beijing.
In 1999, you were appointed as Ambassador of Austria to Japan, followed by an ambassadorship in China.
This succession of ambassadorship for your country would be echoed ten years later for the European Union, in the same exact order.
After these two successful positions, your ministry sent you to Brussels where, as Permanent Representative of Austria to the European Union, you ardently and successfully defended Austrian interests.
Skilled at building compromise, your competences, be they intellectual or social, earned you the greatest respect of your pairs.
Well-known amongst European circles, in 2011, you became EU Ambassador to Japan. Building on your strong network and your skills in building consensus, you pushed the bilateral relationship to new heights.
On the basis of your successful records in Tokyo, the HR-VP appointed you in China.
There an even more complex and arduous task awaited you. The job of EU Ambassador in China is one of the most tenuous ones in town.
Not only do you face difficulties similar to those that all bilateral ambassadors here face equally, but you also have to build a united front amongst Member States to reach any of the goals commonly defined.
In my view, and in accordance to my own experience, it is an equilibrist job.
Your capacity to strike the right balance, toe follow inclusive strategies we all can adhere to, in line with our own national interests, deserve our strongest respect.
During your mandate, you have been able to constantly push the European agenda and values in an environment that was all but accommodating to our collective values and interests, without ever disrespect local partners.
This equally commands our admiration and gratitude.
For all these reasons, I am glad to have the honor to bestow upon you the Légion d’Honneur, even if, as you all know, this French decoration - the highest - has been created in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte, who probably did not gain in Austria the most favorable appreciation !
The aim of the Legion d’Honneur is to reward the greatest achievements and services given to the French nation.
And indeed your leadership at the head of the European Union delegation in Beijing has been beneficial to all Member States and to the bilateral relation between the European Union and China.
So I wish, on behalf of the French Republic, to express to you our sincere gratitude,
for your commitment to the European ideal,
for your capacity - as it has been very elegantly said on Wednesday by our German colleague - to stand firm on values, “to keep calm and carry on” through some difficult times,
for your personal kindness and ability to listen to everyone and to “navigate” smartly until compromises are made,
And I should of course associate your wife Kaoru to this tribute, as it is obvious that she has continuously played a decisive role, at your side but also by herself, with her magnificent personality !
Your achievements are unquestionable, it has been a pleasure and an honor knowing you and working with you.
Hans Dietmar SCHWEISGUT,
Au nom du Président de la République, nous vous remettons les insignes de chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
Acceptez toutes nos félicitations.