Ambassador Fleischmann: Czechs should return home more after studying in France

Ambassador Fleischmann: Czechs should return home more after studying in France

Ambassador Fleischmann: After studying in France, Czechs should return home more

Illustrative photo – Czech ambassador in Paris Michal Fleischmann (archival image).

Prague – Czech children can go to study high school in France for three years as part of the 100-year-old project of Czech sections. After graduation, however, a large number of them remain in France or go to other countries, instead of going to work for Czech companies or the Czech state administration. The Czech ambassador in Paris, Michal Fleischmann, considers this a weak point of this otherwise excellent program. In an interview with ČTK, he stated that he wants to focus more on the return of students to the Czech environment in addition to other topics as part of his diplomatic activities in the future.

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“Czech and French education are different. I think it's not just about the language, but about understanding France. It is extremely important to bring this knowledge to the Czech Republic,” said Fleischmann. “We are different and the understanding of France here is below average. There is a certain ignorance of the Czechs towards France. They have a cheesy view of France, that it is beautiful, rich, colorful, that there is no work there, that people always have lunch and always drink wine,” he said with a slight exaggeration . According to him, the French surpassed even the Germans in terms of work performance, but they might be able to enjoy the evening a little more intensively than the Czechs.

“The added value of the sections is still enormous today. It's three years (of study), so it's not just about improving your French,” explained Fleischmann. According to him, many girls and boys from the Czech sections today stay in France after graduation or go to other countries. “They don't go to Czech companies or Czech state services. They run away and we can't catch them. There is work that should exist in the Ministry of Education that should catch them,” the ambassador believes.

“The Czech section in France is the envy of all European countries. It is of course something quite strange that it still exists, because there are other possibilities,” said Fleischmann, who himself studied at the Czech section in Nîmes for several months at the turn of 1969 and 1970 in the south of the country. His parents' emigration from Czechoslovakia ended his integration into French education at that time. “I have really fantastic memories of it,” he remarked. This year in Dijon, Burgundy, they are preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Czech sections, which was delayed by two years due to the covid-19 pandemic. That's why Fleischmann is also going to Dijon for a week in May. The program includes debates at SciencePo college and performances by Czech-French artists.

Fleischmann took up his post in France at the beginning of 2020, and his work was soon complicated by the covid-19 pandemic. The diplomat told ČTK that after the end of the pandemic and the Czech presidency in the second half of 2022, he has time to devote himself to other topics that are close to him. The Czech section is among them. The unique study program was born out of the ambition to create a new, democratic and francophone elite of young Czechoslovakia. The existence of the sections was repeatedly interrupted during the hundred years of history due to war or the rise of communism, but they never completely disappeared. Hundreds of students have passed through Carnot's Lycée in Dijon and Alphonse Daudet's Lycée in Nîmes, 12 girls are currently studying in Nîmes, nine girls and nine boys in Dijon.

The pension reform is Macron's victory, says the ambassador in Paris Fleischmann

For several months, France has been experiencing repeated massive protests against the planned pension reform, but it will still be approved in the end, the Czech ambassador in Paris Michal Fleischmann is convinced. In addition, he considers the implementation of the reform to be a fulfilled pre-election promise and a great victory of President Emmanuel Macron. In an interview with ČTK, the diplomat also talked about Macron's declining popularity or his next career.

In a way, France was “slightly paralyzed” by the strike and protests, but it was not, as the leader of the left Jean-Luc Mélenchon wished, “on its knees”, Fleischmann judges the events in France. On Tuesday, according to police statistics, 1.28 million people were on the streets, according to the organizing unions, over three million people. On Saturday, however, about two-thirds fewer French demonstrated.

“When Macron ran for his second term as president, he announced the pension reform as one of the main points. He announced it, he said what it would be, and by the fact that he was finally elected, Macron has a legitimate feeling that France accepted his proposal,” he says Fleischmann. According to him, Macron is only fulfilling his pre-election promise and is really trying to modernize France.

Macron emerged weakened from June's parliamentary elections, as his party lost its majority in the National Assembly. The Senate approved the criticized norm with comments during the weekend, followed by a joint meeting of seven senators and seven deputies to definitively write or supplement the final text, the diplomat describes the legislative process. He adds that “the law will pass. And if it doesn't, then Macron will use the law 49.3, which allows him to approve the law without a vote”. But Fleischmann is convinced that the norm will go through the standard route and it will be a “big victory” for Macron.

“Macron is pursuing his strategy, his idea. It is more difficult for him because he does not have full control of the parliament, but he is pursuing his reforms and sticking to his goal. If this is manifested in the fact that he will lose popularity, he may not really care, ” says Fleischmann.

The reform not only moves the retirement age from 62 to 64, but also brings many social gains, Fleischamnn emphasizes. It comes with “adjustments such as the deduction of children for women, which has not yet been the case in France, or the protection of retired workers,” the diplomat enumerates. “It guarantees that a person who has worked full-time for the full number of years will receive at least 1,200 euros (almost 28,500 crowns) per month, which is a big shift,” says Fleischmann. According to him, the entire reform is also a “great simplification of a system that is still very illegible”.

The ambassador in Paris understands the disgust and frustration of some French people, but according to him, it will not have a major impact on Macron. His popularity is declining, but he will finish his term and his successors will thank him for making the reform, Fleischmann is convinced.

Macron's second term as president will end in 2027, when he will be 50 years old. He cannot apply for the position a third time. According to Fleischmann, there are no rumors yet about where Macron might be heading next. There is speculation about the institutions of the European Union, but it can also aim elsewhere. According to the Czech diplomat, however, the French president is “structured” and certainly already has a specific plan in mind.

With the war in Ukraine, the importance of Central Europe and the Czech Republic in the EU has increased, says Fleischmann

The Czech Republic made a good name for itself in the world with its excellently managed presidency of the Council of the European Union, and with the war in Ukraine, the importance of the whole of Central Europe was strengthened. The Czech ambassador in Paris, Michal Fleischmann, stated this in an interview with ČTK. During the year of the war, France's attitude towards the Russian aggressor also changed and became closer to the attitudes of the Czech Republic, the diplomat added. According to him, Poland, which is a traditional friend of France, also plays its role in this.

“The work of the Czech Republic (during the presidency) was evaluated by the French as excellent. They said that we showed that we were able to be modest and not push excessively on topics that may not be successful. When we raised a topic, or it was already there after the French, we were able to find the support of other countries and make the document come true,” said Fleischmann. The Czech Republic took over the six-month presidency from France last July. “We managed it beyond expectations” and made a “significantly good name” for ourselves, and according to Fleischmann, all EU ambassadors share this opinion.

According to the ambassador, the importance of the whole of Central Europe, and therefore also of the Czech Republic, increased with the war in Ukraine. “The center of the EU has shifted to the east and we are more defensive than we used to be. The perception of the Czech Republic has improved. (…) We are de facto on the borders of Ukraine and the French are aware of it. In the year since February 24, France has moved considerably in his thinking towards Russia and is rather coming closer to the opinions of the Czech Republic. Poland also plays a big role in this. The power of Poland means that Central Europe is being talked about more in France than it has ever been,” says Fleischmann.

< p>According to the Czech ambassador, a significant shift has also occurred in Macron's behavior towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. While a year ago at the beginning of the conflict, Macron often called him on the phone and insisted that Russia must not be pushed into a corner, today he openly says “he is lying to me”. According to the Czech diplomat, Macron is trying to explain to other actors that Russia will not disappear with the end of the war, and therefore it is necessary to figure out what will happen to it afterwards.

“It may annoy us a bit that Macron doesn't have the same narrative as us, but he is a nuclear power and Putin talks to him, or at least he did,” says Fleischmann. “There are certainly many plans for how the end of the war will be resolved. France will play a big role in this, because France is the only nuclear power in the EU,” the ambassador emphasized.

Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression diplomatically and materially supports many countries, including the Czech Republic and France. “We can argue that France supplies fewer weapons than, for example, the Americans or the British, but it still supplies tremendous quality,” Fleischmann is convinced, naming self-propelled howitzers Caesar. France donated 18 Caesars to Ukraine last year. Another 12 pieces should be delivered in the coming weeks, French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said at the end of January.

According to Fleischmann, Macron has “geopolitical insight” and the Czechs, on the other hand, have some experience with the Soviet Union, and from this arise different concepts of politics. which does not prevent cooperation. “The Czech narrative has its own justification, it is clearly readable and can be communicated well. That was not always the Czech ability to say what the Czechs actually want,” said Fleischmann. He appreciated that Czech diplomacy has recently been speaking with a unified and understandable voice.