Vietnam – France: Half a Century of Cultivating Friendship

President Jacques Chirac once said that the relationship between Vietnam and France is a "special, strong" relationship and one formed from sincerity.

Vietnam - France: Half a Century of Cultivating Friendship
Nicolas Warnery, French Ambassador to Vietnam, introduced events on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam-France diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the strategic partnership. (Photo: Pham Hau/VNA)

In 2023, Vietnam and France celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (April 12, 1973 – April 12, 2023), 10 years of upgrading relations to a Strategic Partnership (2013-2023).

On this special occasion, French Ambassador to Vietnam Nicolas Warnery shared about the results of cooperation between the two countries during the past half-decade.

– What are the results of bilateral cooperation between Vietnam and France in the past 50 years as well as priority areas for development between the two sides?

Over the past half-century, Vietnam and France have established a close bilateral relationship.

President Jacques Chirac, during his State visit to Vietnam in 2004, stated that the France-Vietnam relationship is a unique and strong one formed based on sincerity.

The opening of this relationship was the State visit of French President François Mitterrand, the first Western leader to visit Vietnam after Doi Moi.

At that time, the delegation led by the French President included many officials and companies, contributing to promoting the bilateral relationship between the two sides.

Since then, the two countries have established a comprehensive relationship, in terms of economy, research, education, health.

This relationship has been raised to a new height when the two countries signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement 10 years ago.

We hope that this cooperation will grow stronger together to overcome common challenges such as climate change or regional security challenges.

– Economy is an important pillar in the relationship between Vietnam and France, especially since the two countries signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2013. How does France plan to promote this economic partnership?

Economic cooperation is one of the important areas of bilateral relationship. There are commercial exchanges in both directions, cross investments or French businesspeople who set up their own companies and develop their activities in Vietnam.

I strongly believe those relations will develop even further with the full and effective implementation of the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which came into force in 2021.

Economic cooperation between the two countries is also concretized by large projects. The urban railway project in Hanoi is jointly implemented by the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Vietnamese government. In which, there are 6 leading French high-tech enterprises directly participating in the project.

In addition, there are projects aimed at sustainable development, promoting the energy transition in Vietnam.

French Ambassador to Vietnam Nicolas Warnery (left) in the interview (Photo: VNA)
French Ambassador to Vietnam Nicolas Warnery (left) in the interview (Photo: VNA)

I also want to emphasize the field of sustainable infrastructure development, including the project of forming Hanoi wholesale market and renovating Long Bien bridge, or developing sustainable public transport.

Besides urban railway, we also want to develop sustainable transportation means, not only the metro but also bus lines. It contributes to Vietnam’s economic development, and at the same time strengthens bilateral cooperation in this field.

– Decentralized cooperation is considered a special form of cooperation in the relationship between Vietnam and France. How is the ties between the two countries’ localities and partners, especially since the 12th Vietnam-France Decentralized Partnership Conference will soon be held in Hanoi?

Cooperation between localities is appreciated by both France and Vietnam, complementing the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Decentralized cooperation is not only between Vietnamese provinces, cities, French provinces or regions, but also expands between hospitals, training institutions, organizations and associations.

Vietnam - France: Half a Century of Cultivating Friendship
A large number of workers and students inside and outside Ho Chi Minh City visited and looked for work at French business booths. (Photo: Thanh Vu/VNA)

This is the relationship that unites the two peoples at all levels and in many different fields. This special form of cooperation will continue to be strongly developed when the 12th Vietnam-France Decentralized Partnership Conference is about to take place in Hanoi.

The event was organized by the French Embassy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam and the People’s Committee of Hanoi.

This conference is of great significance and is the first conference to be reorganized after the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope this event will help localities of the two countries strengthen dialogue in areas of mutual interest.

Decentralized cooperation is not merely signing cooperation agreements, but also exchanging and working together.

The topics to be emphasized in the upcoming Conference are sustainable urban and rural development, heritage, culture and tourism.

– Can you share about the cooperation in education and culture between Vietnam and France and the special projects or events that will be held this year on the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries and the 10th anniversary of the strategic partnership?

The theme of the 50th anniversary of Vietnam-France diplomatic relations is “Shared Cultures”, meaning that there are a lot in common between French and Vietnamese cultures.

Cultural cooperation between the two countries is diverse: literature, idea-sharing seminars, music, dance, cinema or photography.

We strive to reflect this cultural diversity with a distinctive celebration program. We have successfully organized two exhibitions, one on the history of Long Bien Bridge last December, and another on the revival and conservation of the Temple of Literature. These are two of the most remarkable sites in Hanoi.

We will organize this April the festival “Balade en France”. This is a mass event to connect and promote French culture, cuisine, art and people in Hanoi.

Vietnam - France: Half a Century of Cultivating Friendship
French Ambassador Nicolas Warnery (second from right) shared about the upcoming French Food Festival “Balade en France”. (Photo: Minh Thu/VNP)

Another event that we would like to introduce is the musical program based on the famous literary work “The Little Prince” scheduled to take place at the Hanoi Opera House.

At the end of this year, a fashion event in Ho Chi Minh City is planned.

This is an area that both sides are interested in. In addition, at the end of the year there is a big event that we are looking forward to, which is the sound and light show at Hue Citadel.

Education is another field that has seen strong cooperation between Vietnam and France, which encompasses from primary and secondary education up to the baccalaureate, and then education in higher education and research, including higher studies and university exchange programs.

We plan to organize commemorative programs at schools and training institutions with students studying French or bilingual programs.

There will be many exciting activities towards 50 years of Vietnam-France relations. In addition, we organize seminars as well as Science Days in various locations.

– In recent years, French language tends to lose its position in Vietnam as well as in the region. Can you tell us about the programs to promote French teaching at Vietnamese training institutions as well as the relationship between France and Francophone partners in Vietnam, including Le Courrier du Vietnam, the only French-language newspaper in Vietnam?

We are active in the Francophone community together with Francophone partners such as the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), Francophone University Agency (AUF) or Francophone countries.

Vietnam plays an important role in the region’s Francophone community. Accordingly, the Asia-Pacific regional offices of OIF and AUF are both located in Hanoi.

Hanoi is considered as the capital of Francophone in the region. We actively promote French teaching at all levels of study.

We highly recommend Le Courrier du Vietnam, which we read regularly and love very much.

Le Courrier du Vietnam helps us discover Vietnamese culture, cuisine and the development of your country in tourism, economy, health.

It is a clear demonstration that French is a shared language.

Rosie Nguyen