Jean-Luc Lavaud, Cultural Counsellor of the Embassy of France in Egypt, began his career at the French Ministry of Culture and then he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he dealt with matters of culture and cooperation in Vietnam, Thailand, Morocco and India. Before being appointed Cultural Counsellor in Egypt, he spent some time in the department of the East and the Middle East at the Quai d'Orsay.
As Cultural Counsellor of the Embassy of France in Cairo, what are the main points of your strategy in the field of culture?
Our activities are varied. Of course there are the visible part of the "Institut de France" in Egypt which consists of language courses and cultural activities for the public. But the Institute is also the service of the embassy which handles cooperation. That is to say, here we take care of the Francophonie as the French School and all Egyptians schools who all or part of their program are in French. It is also responsible for university cooperation as French sectors in Egyptian universities and also the French University in Egypt. We also deal in scientific cooperation, as with the Franco-Egyptian committee "Imhotep" which co-finance such cooperation. We also discuss issues of governance including through cooperation with the Egyptian State Council and the Court of Cassation. We provide French courses at the Police Academy and the Military Institute of languages. These are just examples to say that, overall, our work is broader than what we can see.
Egypt has changed and is changing. My goal, in our small way, is to be there to accompany these changes in Egypt through our activities. That is to say, to help Egyptians learn French or to follow the french programs, continue academic activities, give scholarships ... etc.. And in the area of governance, we try, as requested, to bring our experience rather than expertise on the subjects on which reflects Egypt today, such as the Constitution. So my goal is to interact with institutions that wish on all subjects. I also try to get as close as possible to young people by expanding our activities to reach new people who did not come here voluntarily. That is why we try to organize activities near the maximum of the public. And of course, the long-term goal is to spread French culture and the French-Egyptian projects.
Did the political changes in Egypt lead to changes in the cultural policy of the Institute? Knowing that the regime in France has changed at the same time ...
Changes in Egypt have not touched our activities. We still work the same. What I see here is that there are people who speak as they never did not before. There is a free speech which is very messy otherwise. Topics are sometimes good sometimes not so good. In our case, there were issues that we were struggling to deal with before that are now possible. For example, the Institute organized a series of lectures on the organization of society. These conferences were not possible before.
And the arrival of Islamists to power?
For the moment, they did not cause problems. Instead, We deal with issues now could not be treated before. But of course it can happen. Also, you should know that we are very respectful of the customs and practices of the country, we will not organize an activity that provokes the people. For example, in France we are open on issues such as human rights, secularism, the death penalty and freedom of expression, after in practice, we must respect where we are. We not here to be provocative.
The French Institute of Egypt is one of the largest in the world. May we know your budget? There has been a reduction?
We do not disclose the amount of our budget, but I can tell you it is several millions of euros despite the significant decline it suffered as a result of the financial crisis as evidenced Europe, and France in particular, currently. This decline has not affected the Institute only, but all French institutions in the world. It is characterized by a reduction in our workforce.
You cooperate with the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology (IFAO)?
In the case of scientific and academic cooperation, we help Egyptologists. The IFAO is one of five French schools abroad who are French research institutions abroad, under the supervision of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. It happens that we organize activities together, but they have their own budget.
There are fewer french cultural products incurred by the Institue...Why?
The reason lies in the funding of course. Bring a show in Egypt it is very expensive. You can not do this several times a year.
And in the field of cinema there is another reason: the digital revolution. Previously, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bought the rights for the film. Now, there are fewer films and, if found, the cost is very high to make copies. I hope that in the next few years we will be equipped with a good digital system. I also hope they come to pass French films in Egyptian cinemas.
Egyptian publishers want to translate French books into arabic, but they have problems with copyright, publishers and publishing. The Institute can play the mediator in this issue?
We already play this role. We work sometimes even to correct the difference between what the French publisher wants to earn and his Egyptian counterpart can pay. This is very annoying because it effectively requires that authors or publishers play the game ..
You ask the opinion of Egyptian intellectuals during the development of your cultural?
The construction of a program is not something that is done in a block. We do not gather around a table to do it, it's more complicated than that. We should know what is available as which guests are interested in coming to Egypt. I would actually try to find a wide range of Egyptians with whom we could discuss expectations.