Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister
I visited Paris between 16-18 March to launch ‘Wales in France’ our third collaborative ‘Year in’ campaign that celebrates and deepens our relations with one of our key international partners. I also took part in a wider programme of activity designed to promote Welsh interests, the launch of the campaign and the Wales-France relationship.
My first engagement was a cultural visit to Archives Nationales de Paris to view the ‘Pennal Letter’ sent by Owain Glyndwr to Charles VI of France in 1406; a 600 year old piece of history and the single most celebrated letter in the history of Wales that underlines the interconnectedness of Welsh and French histories and culture.
From the National Archives I travelled to the British Ambassador’s Residence, for an informal briefing dinner. During our time together we discussed opportunities to deepen the Wales-France relationship, the Ambassador’s support for the Wales in France year and the latest on the UK-France relationship following the UK Prime Minister’s Summit with President Macron.
I attended the France24 studio for a live TV interview publicising the Wales in France year, and underlining that although Wales has left the political relationship of the European Union we still want to have the strongest possible cultural, social and economic ties with France and other European nations, regions and multilateral bodies.
The second day of my programme started with two company meetings. I met with the Vice President and General Manager of Thales Cyber Solutions to discuss their investment in Wales, in particular the Cyber Centre – The National Digital Exploitation Centre & Resilientworks in South Wales. The discussions built on the meeting the Economy Minister had with Thales in Cardiff in February. We also held a general discussion on cyber start-up support and what further opportunities might be created with a renewed UK-French commitment on energy security.
I met with the Vice President of Offshore Wind at Total Energies where I discussed the recent Welsh Government consent to Total Energies’ joint venture with Irish company Simply Blue Group to develop the first floating offshore windfarm in Welsh waters, providing enough low carbon energy to power 93,000 homes. We discussed the potential in Wales to become a global centre of excellence in marine renewable technology, decarbonisation and green energy and how local supply chains can be developed and supported providing new, low carbon jobs and playing an important role in supporting local economies.
In the afternoon I led a delegation from Wales including the Urdd, Wales Arts International, Arts Council of Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru and the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for a learning and exchange session with members of the UNESCO secretariat and member state counterparts. This visit aimed to strengthen Welsh participation and visibility with UNESCO, a key multilateral organisation where Welsh expertise can be brought to the fore internationally, and demonstrate our shared commitments to human, social and environmental rights. I met with the Director of World Heritage and the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences to explore how our relationship can develop into the future.
I had a bilateral meeting with the Vice-President of Brittany. During our meeting we discussed the re-signing of the Wales-Brittany MOU, our strong cultural links and the continued collaboration and exchanges across high-growth economic areas such as the marine renewables agenda and cyber security.
In the evening the British Ambassador and I held a reception at the Ambassador’s Residence to celebrate the Wales-France relationship and to officially launch the Year of Wales in France campaign. The evening invited key stakeholders in the Welsh French relationship for a showcase of contemporary Welsh culture, including performances by classical Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and a performance by National Dance Company Wales featuring Dean Yhell, a beatboxer from Tredegar. We were also pleased to showcase Welsh food and drink to the assembled guests, underlining the importance of France as a major export market for Welsh produce.
I concluded the launch of the Wales in France programme by attending the France vs Wales Six Nations rugby match, meeting with major investors in Wales at the Stade de France, including Airbus, Thales, Bouygues UK and Total Energies.