Hubert Védrine and Renaud Girard discussed the question: “What remains of French influence?”

How can France still shape the world?

A debate in Paris revealed the attitudes of a certain French elite in search of lost influence


The cream of the French upper class packed into a ballroom at the Cercle de l’Union Interallié, next door to the British ambassador’s residence in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, on Monday evening to consider the question, “What remains of French influence?”

The two-hour discussion by former foreign minister Hubert Védrine and Renaud Girard, a foreign correspondent and columnist for the conservative newspaper Le Figaro, revealed the attitudes of a certain elite.

Védrine’s advice is valued by French business executives and politicians, including, it is said, by President Emmanuel Macron. His scathing remarks about naive “européistes” and “human rights-ism” have earned him a reputation as a cynic, but his books on geopolitical strategy sell tens of thousands of copies.

Girard laced his commentary with historical references and anecdotes from his years as a war correspondent. He credited Védrine with having invented Gaullo-Mitterrandisme, a philosophy that reconciles the two main families of post-second World War French politics.

The late president Jacques Chirac, quoted by Count Denis de Kergorlay, the president of the Cercle, praised Védrine for combining de Gaulle’s rigour with Mitterrand’s pragmatism. Though de Gaulle and Mitterrand were adversaries, both defended what de Gaulle called “a certain idea of France”.

Védrine pointed out that French influence today is greater than it was after defeat by Germany in 1940, or the loss of Dien Bien Phu in 1958, a decisive moment in the first Indochina War.


Read the entire article on The Irish Times website.