To mark Bastille Day and 70 years of diplomatic relations between France and NZ, the French ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler looks at the relationship between the two countries.

Bastille Day is a special day of pride for the people of France. It goes back to the French Revolution when on July 14, 1789, the royal Bastille prison, as a symbol of the "Ancien Régime" was stormed by the French people.

The first Bastille Day was marked one year later on July 14, 1790 when thousands of French people took to the Champs de Mars to celebrate the first anniversary in a spirit of national union.

Whether on the Champs-Elysées or here at the antipodes, we come together to mark our French National Day which we will celebrate in style in Wellington with our compatriots, our New Zealand friends and all francophiles.

Today's celebrations are very special to me as I will be celebrating my first Bastille Day as Ambassador of France to New Zealand. They are also very symbolic for France and New Zealand as 2015 marks 70 years of our diplomatic relations.


In 1945, Général Charles de Gaulle appointed Armand Gazel as the first Ambassador of France to New Zealand who upon presenting his credentials endeavoured to "make the official bonds as tight and 'sympathiques' as our unofficial relations already are". 70 years on, I too, am dedicated to deepening our cooperation, building on its strengths, our shared values and common memories.

I arrived in New Zealand in March of this year. Over the last few months I have enjoyed discovering a land rich with very welcoming people, a "rock solid" economy, a culture marked by the history of Maori and immigrants and of course its fantastic landscapes. If I may characterise my first impressions of New Zealand with one word, it would be "creativity".

As Ambassador of France to New Zealand, my ambition - on Bastille Day, one might call it my own "creative revolution" - is to encourage a sense of creativity in our bilateral relations: to be creative when we cooperate on global issues, whether it is within the United Nations or on the crucial issue of climate change; to intensify our regional cooperation in the Pacific; to release the potential of our economic partnership by building upon a future Free Trade Agreement between Europe and New Zealand, and investing in the creative and innovative sectors; and to value creativity and diversity through cooperation in sciences and culture.

In 2015, Bastille Day remains as important as ever. With the dynamism of the French community in New Zealand, the support of my formidable team at the Embassy and the welcoming and warm support of all New Zealanders alike, I am looking forward to adding my enthusiasm and dedication to the already vibrant relations between our two nations.

Vive la Nouvelle-Zélande, vive la France!

Florence Jeanblanc-Risler is the French ambassador to NZ.