COMMISSION ON SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE: U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
ROUNDTABLE ON MINORITIES IN FRANCE
DIRECTOR, CORPORATE DIVERSITY,
PRESIDENT, LES INDIVISIBLES,
2010 REGIONAL CANDIDATE, THE DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT,
DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR ETHICS AND DIVERSITY,
H.E. PEIRRE VIMONT,
AMBASSADOR OF FRANCE TO THE UNITED STATES
THE ROUNDTABLE WAS HELD FROM 11:00 A.M. TO 1:00 P.M. IN THE SOUTH CONGRESSIONAL
ROOM OF CAPITAL VISITORS’ CENTER, MISCHA THOMPSON, HELSINKI COMMISSION,
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2010
MISCHA THOMPSON: Hello. I’m Dr. Mischa Thompson with the U.S. Helsinki
Commission and I’d just like to relay my apologies from Congressman Hastings,
the co-chairman of the commission. Unfortunately, he’s ill today and he will
not be able join us. I’m going to read his prepared remarks and then we’re
going to go ahead and begin the roundtable discussion.
One of the first things is just for the microphones, you need to push the
button and the light will come on. The red light will come on. In terms of
the interpretation, on channel 2 there is English and on channel 3 there is
And these, again, are the remarks from Co-chairman Hastings:
“Good morning. Welcome to this commission discussion on minorities in France.
I understand that a number of you have flown a long way to be with us – to be
here with us today. And I’m pleased that you are here, especially the members
of the European Diversity Caucus. I would also like to thank Ambassador Vimont
for joining us here today as well from the French Embassy.
And as many of you may know, the commission has long followed the situation of
minorities in the 56 North American and European countries that make up the
region of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or, the
Increasingly, concerns around immigration, terrorism and national identity have
elevated racial and ethnic minorities to the center of national debates in many
OSCE countries. Recent events such as the opposition of the Ground Zero
mosque, threats to burn the Quran and immigration laws adopted in Arizona and
elsewhere are examples of how these issues have been pushed to the forefront in
this very country.
Conversely, Roma expulsion, banning face veils and promises to deport 30,000
illegal immigrants in addition to other proposed changes to immigration laws
are taking place in France.
While I perceive such events in both situations as wrongheaded political
maneuvers, in particular in the case of the discriminatory policy of targeting
Roma for expulsions, I would argue that there is a danger to politicians, the
media and the public at large if we focus only on these issues.
Minority communities are part of the larger fabric of society and we are all
put at risk when those who seek to divide for political and other gain are
allowed to define conversations regarding our communities.
Both of our countries are host to vibrant racially, ethnically and religiously
diverse minority communities that have made great contributions to our
societies. Despite discrimination and continuing inequities, we have seen
members of these communities rise to leadership roles in our societies. I am
pleased that we have so many prominent guests here today who have done so in
As we discuss the situation of minorities in France today, we should remember
to broaden our focus beyond recent negative developments to include some of the
positives and how best to learn from both situations.
I am curious to hear how the French public has responded to the Roma policies
but also what the status of President Sarkozy’s plan for the suburbs is,
following my visit to such a community in 2009, in terms of combating extremism
or banning face veils or focusing on increased education and employment
opportunities for Muslim and other minority youth, the solution.
Lastly, is there really a global “Obama effect” that has brought more
minorities into politics in France and elsewhere in the world?
I hope that today’s discussion will touch on some of these points and I look
forward to the answers. I will now turn things over to Mr. René Lake, who will
be moderating today’s session. Mr. Lake?
RENÉ LAKE: Thank you very much, Mischa. I want to remind everybody that the
English channel is channel 2 and the French channel is channel 3.
So we’re going to start immediately the discussion. I think it’s going to be a
very lively and a very interesting one, considering the actual situation in
Europe as some of you may now. In fact, yesterday, the European Union has
decided to engage into a legal action against the French government on the
issue of the Roma expulsion. So the ambassador of France will be talking to us
in about an hour. So he will be here on 12:10, so we will have a 20-minute
conversation with him. I think it’s going to be really interesting. And so we
have basically an hour to engage in a conversation here among the panelists.
So I will suggest that Alain Dolium, who is a leader of the François Bayrou
party’s MoDem to maybe start the discussion and tell us what the situation of
minorities in France – especially in the public sector, as Alain was himself a
candidate for the presidency of Île-de-France recently, and it will be
interesting to have his perspective. Alain, please.
ALAIN DOLIUM: Thank you, thank you for the introduction. I’m going to speak
in French to be precise and to keep the timing.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
(Audio interference) – not to place these people into situations where they
would only base it on their social ethnic origin or create the cliché that will
improve their profile. The young people from the minorities are competent on
issues much more than diversity or the neighborhoods. They’re also capable
talking about economic issues, budgetary issues, public health or environment.
To be black does not necessarily mean that you are a good minister for the
Finally, to give a new impetus, democracy must favor the emergence of a local
democracy, the only one which is capable of involving a greater number of
citizens, regardless of their ethnic or racial group.
And the third key problem to which French society is confronted, in my view, is
the definition and the implementation of a harmonious pension policy which is
(9:35) (solidarity amongst the generations?) This pension policy will only
succeed if it is accompanied by a political economy policy that can create
We must favor the creation of small businesses by creating a special
French-style small-business act. We have a need for entrepreneurial
capitalism. We need to have entrepreneurs who come out of these minority
ethnic groups. They have to have access to funding for their startup projects
in the developmental phase and this is much more complicated for them than for
other entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs can find investors here in the United
States and they understand more than anyone else the value of a project before
considering the pedigree of an entrepreneur.
Finally, creating a freely French-style small-business act will allow these
companies to have – to public contract because often times, these companies are
poorly located and these small businesses, whose manager often times has a
These three problems to which the French country is confronted have much of the
solutions among most of the workforce of the country. Without any more
discrimination, multiculturalism is an underexploited asset. And this profile
– these people represent as much as the other French, the future of our
Our country is, by essence, indivisible, whereas we are divided by a
destructive class whose only ambition is oftentimes to be able to keep power
and to do it with an unshared manner. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Alain Dolium. Now, we’re going to ask Rokhaya
Diallo, who is the head of an organization who uses humor to deconstruct
ethno-racial prejudice to tell us about her perspective on the debate on the
situation of minorities, the situation of the issues of diversity in France.
ROKHAYA DIALLO: Good morning, everyone. Thank you. I will try to make my
presentation in English. Please excuse me for my English – (chuckles) – in
So I am the president of a French organization called Les Indivisibles, whose
aim is to deconstruct ethno-racial prejudices through the use of humor and
irony. Our organization seeks to address, in particular, those prejudices and
stereotypes that devalue French identity for certain citizens for reason of
their phenotype, their name, their origin, either real or imaginized (sic)
religious affiliation. The name of the association refers to the first article
of the French Constitution, according to which the French Republic is
In the context of the European Union, the creation of Les Indivisibles was
inspired by a German organization – sorry – (chuckles). So the creation of the
organization was inspired by a German organization called Der Braune Mob, which
means The Brown Mobilization, whose objective was to make obvious the fact that
one could be at the same time black and German.
So is it in France. So we aspire to deconstruct the automatic association that
systematically links phenotypes to nationality and therefore presupposes that a
nonwhite person cannot be a real French one.
We have drafted a charter that has been made available for you outside – and
also on our website – whose first articles declare that being French is not a
question of appearance; that being French is not something that one can see.
And therefore, is not, for example, indicated by skin color or phenotype.
Today, in 2010, France seems to conceive of itself as a country whose
inhabitants have white skins and are of Judeo-Christian background. White
French are commonly referred as “French stock,” suggesting the idea of a purity
of French national origin. Those who do not correspond to this racialized
(sic) archetype are considered as foreigners or “paper French,” which
constitutes a major difference from the United states, where skin color does
not lead to an automatic supposition of foreign otherness.
So the work of Les Indivisibles goes well beyond a regular media watch. Last
year, for example, for the first time, we organized the Y’a Bon Awards, a
humoristic parody of the Academy Awards, that, with a banana skin on the guise
of a trophy, honored those public personalities such as politicians,
journalists and artists who authored the most racist remarks. (Chuckles.)
So the name of the ceremony was inspired by the advertisement for a popular –
(unintelligible) – “bring first, drink” called Banania. The ads are
notoriously racist and well-known in France and stick with the racialism –
racialized, sorry, symbolism from the colonial age.
The phrase “y’a bon” is a pejorative attempt to reflect the black dialect of
colonial subjects, embodied by the famous Tirailleurs Sénégalais, who still
graces the product’s cover who could not manage to say “c’est bon,” like we say
in good French. (Chuckles.) I’m sure it will be of no surprise for you that
no one of the winners came to get his trophy – their trophy. (Chuckles.)
The goal of Les Indivisibles is to fight against the trivialization of
prejudice that are largely propagated and maintained by the media and public
figures whose power inflect harm and disseminate disaccord towards French
people. This power is great, given the considerable public exposure.
We aspire to confront the media and public figures with their responsibility
associated with such power. So we point out the main sentences pronounced
especially by our actual government by its specific politics against Roma
people and people from Muslim background. So thank you for listening to me.
MR. LAKE: Thank you, Rokhaya. Y’a bon de – (in French) – (laughter). So now
I’m going to give the floor to Khalid Hamdani who is going to maybe take a
couple seconds to tell us about his own background and the type of work he does
in France and maybe have a few remarks on the debate.
KHALID HAMDANI: Thank you. First of all, let me thank you, all of you, for
your kind invitation. And I’m going to speak maybe in between my friends
Rokhaya and Alain. I start in English and I switch to French very quickly, I
think. (Chuckles.) And I apologize, of course, for my very low command of
The problematic of the status of minorities and in society, and I had a little
experience of this situation by my grand academic background and my job in my
institute, and also I had seven years political experience. But the status of
minorities I think in the long term of history is linked to nations and
civilizations and their own experience.
But what we are talking about today, what we are interested by or involved in,
is a dilemma, in fact. It’s a dilemma of democratic nations and societies.
The dilemma is this fragile equilibrium between liberty and equality. And how
a democratic country can or could or should organize a fair and equitable
equality, of course, for all the citizens?
Tocqueville, I think, spoke about that from – (inaudible) – but in the formal
and in the former democracy, the legal system is democratic, of course, but in
fact, on the ground, on the ground, it was and it’s still – in France, of
course, it’s still, and in Europe in general, a system of domination: the
domination of women, the domination of ethnic minorities. Well, all these
groups are dominated.
And today, in the democratic societies of Canada, France or Germany or Great
Britain, the question is how to be equal effectively without this existence of
a kind of symbolic social hierarchy. The symbolic social hierarchy, I think,
and I – (in French) – is the real problem in my opinion, I mean, the most
difficult problem to solve because in the face of this challenge, European or
American responses are definitely different according to their social
frameworks of their societies – the frameworks of their society.
In France, the concept – and Rokhaya said that – of minorities or communities
do not exist in the domestic political thought, in the legal system. This is a
myth. Oh, yes, it’s a beautiful myth but it’s a myth, indeed, even if it’s a
French republican myth, but it’s a myth!
The reality is so different. The reality that every French can see in the
street is that the minority exists significantly and the minority and the
communities are there but we deny their existence. They exist without existing
in the symbolic social hierarchies, they don’t exist in the domestic political
thought and in the legal system. So subsequently, there is no public policy
for minorities. And so the question of minorities is reduced to a
social-welfare issue. It’s not a political issue.
So far, it’s not a political issue. The minorities could not have the power –
political power – voice, and could not share it. There is a huge discrepancy
between what is safe and what is expected, and this discrepancy is the most
important problem. And I’m afraid I’m obliged in the few seconds I have to
switch now in French. This discrepancy is so awful that it obliges me to
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
The mode of access to the political class and the mode of reproduction excludes
minority by their own design. The social, economic and cultural obstacles from
a statistical pinpoint that encounters every person to reach the political
level, and there are more symbolic obstacles. These are psychological
obstacles and others. There’s a real problem.
People who come from ethnic or racial minorities are more and more people who
come from poor backgrounds. And they are perceived as being not members of the
social corpus and also of the national fabric. And what the French political
leaders urge to the minorities that we represent, and Alain knows it very well
– you come from a more modest background, Madame – they say, you must erase or
even deny all of your differences between you are in the republican
But every time you try to run for office or each time you’re endorsed for
office, they are told, yes, but your differences will cause us to lose these
elections. So we have consistently this contradicting urging which means that
the three challenges that Alain mentioned, to which I subscribe, we’d have to
have a complete overhaul of the educational system. We have to do that in
order to inoculate these differences from the very beginning for the long term.
The media system has to be completely overhauled to create an imagination of
diversity and not just ad hoc, on-the-ground actions.
And we must target to build a French-style patriotism. Of course, it has to be
very beautiful and very aesthetic, of course. A French-style patriotism in
which you have local rooting because we have to acknowledge all of our regions:
burgundy – (in French) or cinnamon.
We have to enshrine all of these regions, truly rooted in the local level;
accept our history – the good, the bad and the ugly. We must be open towards
Europe, which is our border that has to be constructed, and we have to be open
to the rest of the world for political, moral and environmental issues. Thank
you very much. (Applause.)
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Khalid Hamdani, for this intervention and
especially your – (inaudible) – on institutional challenges we have in France.
I’m sure that a lot of people would like to maybe ask you a question or comment
on some of your statement.
So now I’m going to give the floor to Jackie Celestin-André who is going to
give us, I guess, a private-sector perspective on the issue.
JACKIE CELESTIN-ANDRÉ: Yeah. Good morning. My name is Jackie Celestin-André.
I’m diversity director for the L’Oreal Group. I will speak to you entirely in
English because I’m an American living in France. (Laughter.) So I won’t
switch on you. I may though. Not knowing it, though.
So thank you, again, for this opportunity for us to talk about L’Oreal
Diversity’s policy as it relates to creating an inclusive environment for all
diversities in France. So I’m here, as René mentioned, to give a
private-sector example of how we are managing diversities and all the issues we
have in France.
So firstly, to start, L’Oreal as a company has built its identity around strong
values. Among them, diversity is a strategic asset for the group in terms of
creativity, innovation and performance. As we are a cosmetics company, the
number-one – I’m not bragging – company in the beauty industry in the world, we
understand that beauty and diversity go hand in hand.
Through various engagements, such as the group’s code of business ethics,
signing the global compact in 2003, L’Oreal has formalized its commitment in
favor of nondiscrimination. In 2004, L’Oreal was one of the first companies in
France to sign the diversity charter in France. For L’Oreal, signing the
diversity charter was important and coherent with the group’s values. It was
another impetus for us to continue to challenge ourselves to be an active
participant in creating a climate of inclusion and equal opportunities in three
areas: within the workforce in the company, within the workplace in the
company and outside, and especially in the marketplace in France.
So after signing the charter – we just didn’t want to sign another charter just
to sign a charter – a string of events took place, starting with at corporate
headquarters in France, of which setting up a diversity team with dedicated
members with resources, and developing a policy that covers six diversity areas
– and I would show this to you but I have no screen.
So the areas in that include nationality, ethnic and cultural backgrounds;
social background; gender; disability; and age. So with those seven criteria,
of which ethnic and social diversity is one of our core areas that we’re
working on. It’s important to note also that our North American division of
L’Oreal in New York started earlier than we did in managing diversity with an
office in New York, headed by the vice president in charge of diversity.
So coming back to L’Oreal France, and the focus of this roundtable is
minorities in France, I’ll top-line just a few initiatives that L’Oreal has
implemented in France. And it’s important for us also, in my discussion to
note when I say – when we talk about “visible minorities” in France, include,
for example, populations from sub-Sahara and North Africans, Indians, Chinese
and, increasingly, other European, Eastern European countries, who are
suffering vastly from discrimination.
So as we all know, in the U.S. and other parts of the world, discrimination is
perceived to be the single most important integration barrier to the workforce.
And in France, to counter this, L’Oreal has developed or participated in a
number of internal-external initiatives with public and private stakeholders to
promote equal opportunities in the workplace, workforce and in marketplace.
Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to go through all our initiatives, so
I’ll share a few of them. So in the workforce at L’Oreal team diversity, a
mixture of origins and backgrounds and talents are the keys to our company’s
success. Of course, we are a company, so we’re looking for performance above
Diversity at all levels in the organization promote a higher level of
creativity and a deeper understanding of our consumers. So when it comes, for
example, to recruitment, L’Oreal has identified major avenues for identifying
talent. Diversification of the group’s recruitment challenges by setting up
partnerships with associations targeted to different minority groups. Creating
or participating in the recruitment fairs also dedicated to minority candidates
who experience difficulties in a job market. And also, by – and it’s really
key – also by working and raising awareness of our partner schools so that
they, themselves, develop a social and cultural mix amongst their students,
providing the workplace with talents from different communities.
For example, L’Oreal joining the government plans called the – (in French) – a
committed group to facilitating access to employment from candidates coming
from underprivileged neighborhoods. And most of them are what we call visible
And so today, the group has approximately 9 percent of the new hires of young
people under 26 coming from these areas. So we are increasingly including with
the workforce in France more and more ethnic communities.
Another example is working to promote equal opportunity in education.
Education is a key to success in any society and it helps to overcome barriers
that minorities face. Therefore, the group invests in education at different
levels – high-school level, college, the post-grad levels – with very basic
projects like scholarships and mentorship programs, creating a bridge between
the private and the educational system, which is very, very new for France,
unlike in the U.S., where we have that type of involvement for a long time.
We’ve also made our application process much more objective, recognizing that,
as a group, we had our own housecleaning to do to make sure that we are not
inadvertently discriminating in our application process. And we are currently
testing anonymous resumes, which remove all identity from – to identify the
candidate’s origins. We’re testing that to see if that’s another type of
action that we can use to prevent discrimination during the workforce.
In regards to workplace, for companies like L’Oreal, discriminatory attitudes,
behaviors, the lack of awareness and of diversity issues are some of the
biggest challenges for us to succeed. We have to make sure that our employees
understand what diversity is and we need to be able to change attitudes and
behaviors. To help us with this, since 2006, we’ve developed a specific
diversity-training program aimed at about 8,000 managers in Europe, in 32
By the end of 2009, over 6,000 managers have done this training in Europe, of
which 3,500 managers have done the training in France at all levels of
management from the CEO down to product managers, for example in marketing.
The next phase involves training the balance of employees in France that totals
about 14,000 people. It’s no small feat, but we believe it’s necessary because
changing behaviors of our employees is going to be a key factor of success to
making diversity work for L’Oreal as a company.
My time is up, okay – (chuckles) – one last thing. We are fostering –
(chuckles) – one last thing, though, we are fostering a climate of social
inclusion of minorities in France through imagery. It was mentioned earlier
that advertising is key, the media is key. So we are making a point of using
models in our advertising that reflect the diversity of beauty.
L’Oreal, with brands like L’Oreal Paris and Maybelline, and Garnier, Lancôme,
Softsheen-Carson, to name a few, help us to project imagery of minorities in
France – we’ve fed the social diversity in France. We are not just using white
models, but also black, North African, Indian and Asian models in France.
So in conclusion – (chuckles) – there is a lot we need to do to change, to
learn in regards of managing diversities. We are continually challenging
ourselves, checking our progress. We’ve developed the first diversity progress
report. I will be able to list some examples for you that show where we – what
we’ve done and where we are. And we have a lot more work to do. But we
believe we are heading in the right direction. And for that, I thank you for
your attention. (Applause.)
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Jackie. Now, to close this first round of
intervention from our panelists, I’m going to give the floor to Kag Sanoussi.
And I think it’s good that you are finishing this panel because you are going
to be the common point between the public sector, the activities of community,
government, people in the private sector as he is responsible of the charte de
la diversité, which was just referred to as by Jackie a few minutes ago. So it
will be interesting to tell us a little about this public-private partnership.
You guys upgraded to the charte de la diversité – and maybe make a few remarks.
(Note: Mr. Sanoussi’s remarks are delivered via translator.)
KAG SANOUSSI: Thank you for giving me the floor and thank you so much for this
invitation. I am going to be speaking French today. Indeed, the charter for
diversity in France is the first charter within Europe which constitutes a
commitment for companies. And through this, companies commit themselves to no
There is an awareness of discrimination and thus this commitment aims to set in
place various policies. The charter for diversity is implemented by the
companies as well as by the public policies. This is something that is managed
with the various public and private structures. And our aim is simple, and
this is what I’m going to talk about.
Indeed, in France, there are two perspectives: Either the glass is half empty
or it’s half full. And a great author once said that we tend to make our
difficulties greater than they are and our liberties smaller than they are. So
many things are not going well, but we do have 3,000 companies that are
committed to doing something. Indeed, the fight against discrimination and
promoting diversity is something that is part of management. We can’t just say
it’s going to happen.
Indeed, there are stereotypes that block things. There are certain
representations that go all the way back to slavery. And they are often linked
to very trivial events. You know, for example, you might not like a given
person. And then you will just build your representation on that person and
you will apply it to all other people. Thus, the 3,000 companies in France
that are committed to this charter, including L’Oreal, have started training
Indeed, to fight against discrimination and in order to promote diversity, you
need to know what you’re talking about. A surgeon is not a moderator and a
dancer is not a mountain climber. You need to know – you need to call a spade
a spade and know what you’re talking about.
And so here in France among our signing companies – well, we have about 70
companies that are commended. And they have already started working on their
management process. How do we recruit employees? How can we ensure that when
I’m recruiting somebody I’m simply focusing on their values and not on other
And so in France, this momentum has started. And we want to ensure that people
like Alain, Rokhaya or Khalid will be in the field. And we need to support
them via the companies, whether these companies are private or public. And
they need to incorporate the notion that including diversity is not something
you’re doing just because it’s nice. You know, we need to really understand
And we need to – we must not reject others. And by not rejecting others, that
means that we accept ourselves. And in order to do this, we need to ensure
that we are walking together hand in hand in order to create a unified momentum
and show the way to others. And that’s what’s very important.
I’d like to conclude by calling upon you to exercise caution, whether it’s in
France or in the United States. We need to have these points of caution. And
by that, I mean our own individual responsibility.
We often tend to say, oh yeah, this needs to be done; that needs to be done.
And so you may say, oh, the state needs to do this; the NGOs need to do this.
Or the NGOs say, hey, the company needs to do that. The minorities say, oh,
the whites have to change. The Asians are going to say, no, the blacks need to
change. The Arabs are going to say, no, somebody else needs to do it.
Let’s face up to it. We all have our own responsible – individual
responsibilities. Individualism is important. You know, what are we going to
do here? We have been talking about diversity. What are we going to do
We say it’s bad to discriminate against others. But then we’re amongst
ourselves, you know, guys for example talk about – have very macho statements
about women. Or sometimes we say bad things about homosexuals. And we really
need to look at ourselves. We need to really focus on our own commitment
within the societal issue.
Another point of caution: We need to say things correctly. In France we tend
to perhaps disguise people. Rather than saying a black person, we say a
colored person. Perhaps in the United States, you don’t say colored. In
France, saying a colored person has zero meaning. You know, a black man is a
black man and that should not be an insult. And a homosexual is a homosexual.
That is not an insult. And we need to really incorporate these notions when we
are talking about diversity.
Last point of caution, in my opinion, is the issue of selective forgetfulness.
Of course, you know, we try to recruit people who look like us. You know, you
come from a certain university and so you tend to focus on people who come from
that same university. And so if I see French people, for example, sometimes
I’m going to head towards them.
And so selective forgetfulness is something we need to be awareness (sic). We
need to remember this notion of representation. You know, we may be drawn to
somebody, but that’s not because – that’s not a reason to recruit that person.
You need to recruit people based on their skills. You need to open up doors.
So those are just a few words to talk about the charter for diversity in
France. Our aim is so that together – and “together” is the key word – we need
to ensure that our society can be something that we are proud to leave to our
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Kag Sanoussi, for the intervention. So as I
had mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, the ambassador of France is
here. He did join us when we started this conversation, Ambassador Pierre
Vimont. He will be speaking in about 20 or 25 minutes. But of course, if you
want, he is welcome to also answer to the some of the questions and interact
with some of the people in the – (in French) – if some people have some
specific question to him.
MR. LAKE: Okay. So we have a surprise guest. (Laughter.) So I’m going to
turn the mike to Mischa and she’s going to tell us what the – who is the
surprise guest and what is going to happen now.
REP. DIANE WATSON (D-CA): Good morning.
(Chorus of, “Good morning.”)
REP. WATSON: I could not help but to step inside the room. I am Congresswoman
Diane Watson, a former teacher way back in my other life, and I taught school
in France. (Applause.) So as I was coming – I think many of you know that
this is the week that the Congressional Black Caucus holds its forums and then
on Saturday night we have a major dinner.
And so right now, we are in the Congressional Auditorium talking about our
mission and how we can move from poverty into prosperity. And so it’s very
interesting – listen, I was trying to pick up a few words here and there. It
was way back in the year 19 – (coughs, laughter) – that I was there in France
as an elementary-school teacher and I wanted to see how much of the French I
could still remember. I got every 10th word. (Laughter.)
But I want to say to you, I think it’s really essential that we discuss this
whole issue of race. And I found full acceptance when I was in France as long
as I did not criticize what was French. (Chuckles.) I found France to be the
most nationalistic nation I had been in. So my friends, who were not
minorities; they were the majority party. They would come in and look around
and might say something that wasn’t quite complimentary. And I would have to
say, if you want to be put out of this place, change your conversation.
But we see France as a very strong ally, accepting of people from all over the
world. But in this country, we need to have that discussion. And so to have
the commission raise the issue of France and race and those that go there and
live there, I think, is essential. We should model ourselves off of the
Helsinki Commission and have a discussion in America about race. It is that
And I want to say we just had a speaker and it was the secretary of
agriculture. And you remember the Shirley Sherrod incident. Well, that’s
going to turn out to be a benefit because many of the poor farmers in the
southern part of our country never got their 40 acres and a mule. And as we do
the appropriations out to various departments, we have failed to compensate
those that use slave labor to produce the products and the produce that America
most desperately needs.
So thank you, Helsinki Commission; thank you, those who are witnesses. I want
to say to the ambassador from France, thank you for being here and acting as a
model for us here in America because we are still a young nation and we have
not perfected democracy as yet. We are working on it. And we are so pleased
that America elected someone who is African-American. So this is a very timely
discussion you’re having, and really teach us how to perfect our democracy.
Thank you for coming here. (Applause.)
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Congresswoman Diane Watson. They were
suggesting earlier, so we are going to open the floor to all the participants.
And whoever wants to make a comment or maybe ask a question to a specific
panelist or even, maybe, to the ambassador of France, please do so.
There is a handheld microphone somewhere around here. If you are sitting in a
place where you don’t have access to a microphone, just raise your hand and we
can give you a microphone. So we are going to start – you want to – please, I
suggest that you tell us your name and introduce yourself very quickly before
asking your question on making your comments.
TERRI GIVENS: Yes, I’m Terri Givens. I’m a professor at the University of
Texas at Austin and I have been studying these issues in France for many years.
Most recently, I have been in France studying the issue of discrimination and
I’m wondering, what is the current perception of anti-discrimination policy?
I know that HALDE seemed to be having some successes, the equality body in
France, but was going to be pressured to be become part of the – (in French) –
by the – I know it was passed in the assembly and it’s being considered in the
senate. So I was wondering what the – first, the perceptions and then what the
situation is with the equality body.
MR. LAKE: Anybody want to take on that question? Khalid?
MR. HAMDANI: Okay.
MR. LAKE: Okay, please go ahead.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MR. HAMDANI: Well, there are several distinctions to make. So the preamble to
the French Constitution is extremely clear concerning the notion – the
principle of nondiscrimination and the positive treatment. And that is clear
and there is absolutely no ambiguity in terms of France’s position.
We also have the law of 1992 from Plevin – a resistant – regarding penalties
when somebody commits discrimination. And this is a penal fault. So we need
to distinguish the evolution from the European framework at the 1997 – and the
Amsterdam treaty. And there is also all the other modifications that have
occurred thanks to the directives, and so the legal framework, the regulatory
framework, and of course, French public law is very important.
So the French legal framework, in fact, perhaps, overprotects real or supposed
victims. That being said, we have this extraordinary framework which looks at
civil and penal and public rights. But after that, we have reality in terms of
the effective application of these laws and of the effective sanctions. And
here, we have a huge gap, a huge discrepancy, and a lack of repression against
discrimination in France.
And of course, there has been the creation of a higher authority against
discrimination. And this is something that was implemented via European
directives. And so the most symbolic is, of course, the British one. However,
what you need to keep in mind is that the French framework exists in theory;
however, it is impeded by mentalities. And so there is a huge gap between the
law and the application of the law. And in fact, unfortunately, there are no
radars that can really catch people who are committing discrimination fraud.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MS. DIALLO: I would like to add something to that. And in fact, we have
discrimination against certain people. But we talk about the way people talk,
and in terms of that, regulations in France are not very effective. In fact,
our minister of the interior was penalized by a judge for uttering
discriminatory remarks. Yet he has maintained his post, and yet, he was
determined by the courts to have uttered discriminatory words. And so I think
in France we really need to address this issue and this discrepancy in terms of
MR. LAKE: Comments on this – on the answer you got? Or any other questions?
I see some hands there. I don’t know if you could have a microphone.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
Q: Hello, I have a question for Jackie Celestin-André. Earlier, you mentioned
that L’Oreal was testing out an anonymous-résumé process. And I’d like to know
whether you think this procedure is effective. In fact, as all the speakers
said, it’s a very deep-seated problem related to economic and political
And so I’d like to know whether this anonymous résumé is an effective procedure
because all you’re – what you’re really doing is just delaying the moment when
the job applicant will have an interview, a face-to-face interview. And so if
those discriminations still exist then the answer will – it will continue.
MR. LAKE: The same victim may want to take it. (Chuckles.)
MS. CELESTIN-ANDRÉ: (Chuckles.) Okay.
Q: Yeah, just a two-finger on this. I was curious – I mean, thank you for
providing the business perspective here because of course we talk a lot about
education, but if people are educated and there isn’t a business community that
is receptive to qualified minorities then, obviously, we have a problem.
And so I was wondering what kind of legal constraints there are in France to
having an explicitly, positive discriminatory policy within a company? So if
there are issues – seeing as how France has this policy of race-blindness,
whether a company like L’Oreal can be very explicit in its recruitment of
minorities, or whether it might run into legal problems with lawsuits, et
MS. CELESTIN-ANDRÉ: To answer the first question on the – if anonymous CVs are
efficient or not: We don’t know. That’s why we are testing it. We are
testing all – we are open to testing all types of methods to help us overcome
barriers to perceived – barriers to getting into an interview process. We know
that in France, last names, origins of last names are very discriminatory in
We know that where a candidate lives, if they live in a good neighborhood, they
won’t have a problem getting an interview. But if they live in a bad
neighborhood, they will have a problem getting an interview. In France, in
résumés – photos are used on résumés in France. And we know that if you look
at a photo of someone, you can clearly see where that person is coming from.
And so these are things that are process-driven. And we are looking at all
kinds of ways to help overcome that. We don’t know if it’s efficient or not.
The anonymous résumés were tested in different countries already. We tested it
in Italy and the results are not conclusive. So we know that doesn’t work in
Italy, so we have to find other ways.
For us in the company in France, what we’ve done already in terms of
objectively cleaning up our application process is that candidates can send
their résumés through our website. And as when they do that, of course, all
factors are there: name, address, et cetera. So what we decided to do was
before the résumé filters down to the operational HR managers, we remove
automatically the address of the person; when we can, we remove the photo. So
we’re already filtering the résumés to, again, provide a – to remove what we
know to be barriers to getting into an interview process.
And in regards to – I guess the question – the second question is more, is
L’Oreal setting quotas in terms of hiring? If I can restate your statement –
your question is that, do we set quotas for hiring different types of
communities? And no, we don’t do that. It’s pretty much illegal in France.
So again, it’s illegal. But we have to make sure that we are getting the right
And that’s why when we talk – when I talk about diversifying where we go to
meet candidates, that’s a key factor – a key action we’re doing to make sure we
are going to different schools, schools in different neighborhoods; we are not
just going to the big campuses – (in French) – or Sciences Po, which
historically L’Oreal has been going to, and we realized that we’re getting the
same profile of students. And so we're now going into universities –
universities in France, (they don’t ?) have the same image as they do in the
U.S. So we are going to universities. We are going to different types of
campuses to try to meet the talent that we know is there. And we need to be
able to reach out to them.
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Jackie. Myself, I lived in France for a long
time, several years. And I was there when the old debate started on the quota
for a woman in the political list. So at the same time there is no quota
policy in France, there was – France may have been one of the first countries
in the world to bring a quota policy for a woman. And I think a lot of people
thought that it was very progressive.
So it is interesting to know where we are now. That was like 15, 20 years ago.
I mean, the ambassador will certainly remind that to us. But I think that a
lot of democrats around the world were very happy about that. But it is
interesting to see that it is not really translating in the minority world.
But I think that Alain Dolium would like to say a few words. Alain, please.
MR. DOLIUM: I would like to talk about society. We talked about quotas.
Quotas are, indeed, one of the central issues that are being dealt with in the
French Republic. And when I talk about the republican space, what I mean by
that is that by this expression, you have part of the answer when you talk
about the problem of quotas in France because in fact, according to republican
values and according to our republican constitution, we are told that quotas
would indeed be outside of the law and that quotas would not be suitable in a
But we have a basic problem. Just imagine we are not talking about the
diversity. We are all talking about the need to acknowledge a multicultural
society in order to move towards a post-racial society that will allow us to
live better all together.
But how do we do this? If you do not know at the start-up phase, if you cannot
identify the range of the problem, identify the people who are subject to this
discrimination, identify the value of these policies, the effectiveness with
which will, indeed, allow you to improve the situation, I don’t know if you can
call these quotas if – I don’t know if you can call these measures, decisions.
At any rate, there is a quantitative element which is lacking in our system as
it stands. So as it’s considered upfront in France. And then I would like to
talk about quotas once again because today, I had a career in a big
corporation, what – (inaudible) – mentioned – CBS and DHL are two large America
corporations – because very quickly, they recognized two things. They said if
they wanted me to become a senior manager, to become one of the CEOs, leaders
of the strategy of the group, they said that it would be better if I went into
North American companies.
Nonetheless, when I worked in these North American companies with their
representatives in France I had – once a month, I was on a quota basis and
revolving basis in the management board. And our role was mostly to be working
with white men, 55 years old, who came up out of the great schools and of the
great social establishment institution. And these people are no longer
esteemed because it now – we believe that it’s the fully normal and logical
representation of the French elite.
The third point is the nature, per se, of this quota, which is a basic problem,
which consists in saying, yes, okay, diversity, how can we introduce it? How
can we measure it? How can we improve all of these things?
But I believe that there is something that we do not talk enough about.
Namely, the positive contribution of diversity because today, we have to admit,
in a company such as L’Oreal, which has market segments which are present all
over the world, market segments which are targeted according to consumers, male
and female who belong to different ethnic and racial groups, it would seem that
it would be suitable and effective for the company and many other corporations,
given the globalization of the economy to have profiles which represent all of
the markets that the company is involved with. So I tend to believe that in
order to improve the issue of diversity, you have to look at the economic
MS. CELESTIN-ANDRÉ: If you’d allow me to – just to add – just to comment on
quotas. Just to note that in France, it is acceptable to have quotas on the
hiring of people with disabilities. So in France, it is a legal requirement –
I forget the size of the company that it has to be. Six percent of the
workforce has to be people with disabilities.
There’s a new quota that just came out. I think we mentioned it in terms of
the board of directors where they are trying to get women, more women
representation at a very high level, so it’s now, I think, 40 percent of the
board has to be women. So that’s another quota.
And there’s recently a new quota that’s passed on terms of age because in
France, there’s a huge problem with age discrimination. If you’re over 50
years old, employment – retention in employment, as well as evolution becomes a
problem. And so with the weight of the social-security problem in France, they
need to get – need to maintain all the workers in the workforce, so now there
is a quota that’s put out.
So progressively, we’re seeing where the government is institutionalizing laws
to address issues. And so maybe one day – who knows – maybe there will be a
quota in regards to ethnic representation.
MR. LAKE: Okay, Khalid, now, or – (in French).
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MR. HAMDANI: Yes, we have to reform the constitution in order to establish
quotas. Indeed, in terms of gender parity, that was done in the constitution.
That was done. But all you need to do to do that is to reform the
MR. LAKE: Okay, thank you very much, Khalid. I know that there is a lot of
people are – I think the debate is heating up here. So Reda Didi, maybe you
want to introduce yourself very quickly?
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
REDA DIDI: Yes. Good morning. I’m Reda Didi. I am the chairman of the
section which works on working-class neighborhoods on these issues of
discrimination. So the issue of companies has several points. In terms of
elections and companies – recruiting: You have to know that we are in an area
– we have legislation and labor laws in France which protect very much the
employees. Therefore, hiring is much more complicated, and firing a person is
also much more complicated in France.
So during the hiring process, you have to talk about this in a very vulgar
manner. A hiring process is a challenge. It’s complicated. So recruiters do
not want to get it wrong about this person that they will hire because to fire
that person will be very expensive.
So you also have to think of a second thing is that in France, according to
recent studies which have been demonstrated, the mixing of persons and the
mixing of marriages and people who blend together is the strongest in the world
– mixed marriages. So people like each other. People do live together.
People frequent each other. People get married and they have children. And in
France, ultimately, we have a problem with a very small part of the elite –
which is the case in all countries of the world – and they close the doors to
power and they let nobody in.
And given that we are the visible markers of this diversity, finally, because
this is basically due to a social difference, as my colleague said it very
correctly – notably, Hamdani and Rokhaya Diallo – we are visible and we can see
that we’re not there. We’re not in the boards of directors, we’re not
represented in parliament and we can see that we’re not present in all spheres
So what are the solutions? So the issues of quotas is interesting to me but it
has to be limited to finding the good diagnostic of the situation. Within
companies, you cannot give a position of manager and save it for this number of
blacks, Asians and North Africans because I wonder who’s at the door and who’s
allowing people to enter. It’s just like a nightclub who lets you inside a
nightclub. You let the person in and you have to allow people in who are
compatible with your policy, so you have to be cautious there.
But this is a real issue, a real question that we have to ask ourselves about
ethnic groups and have to come up with a great diagnosis because oftentimes, we
attend conferences and we don’t have the same diagnostic, but we have to come
up with right solutions. For example, the HALDE, the committee to fight
I find that a shame for issues of world competitivity (sic), we have multiple
competencies. I think our country can go much further if we indeed show our
skills and we have to find, in the neighborhoods, these people who are very
competent, who are very skilled and find them where we are.
But in this issue of compentivity (sic), this committee to fight discrimination
– for example, let’s take a country that is similar to ours – Great Britain:
the same population, the same ethnic diversity. Their budget is different.
They have to understand that. For example, I’m not saying that we have to work
on affirmative action. We must first of all, work against all issue
discrimination and sanction very strongly people who do not respect the law
because many companies in my country play the game and they are advancing their
logic, but there are other companies that don’t allow us to reach the higher
levels of management because at our level, we do mostly get by.
MR. LAKE: I have you in the list: Aurelie Ganga. And please introduce
yourself, and in a minute or two.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
AURELIE GANGA: My name is Aurelie Ganga. I have just concluded a masters in
management at Sciences Po and I’ve just created a company in Europe and this is
the Caucus of European Diversity. Why did you create this group because we
wanted to go to the world’s greatest (democracies ?) and to transpose all of
the tools that have been used to ensure integration of minorities in each
And the first debate that we’re starting here is the one that we’re having
today in the United States. And we’re very happy that our ambassador honored
us by his presence. And we’re very happy that these companies are supporting
us such as L’Oreal, la Charte de diversité les écoles, and other groups.
But I’d like to say that this is not a problem that is specific to France. And
I believe we will all win together. Discriminations are not exclusive to one
color of skin or exclusive to homosexuals or to handicapped people. And for
example, in my university, Paris-Dauphine, we talked about the issue of
handicaps because people who have handicaps have many problems in France
joining companies. So what we want to do is observe, come up with tools that
can be applicable, given our history.
France is a beautiful country. We love our country and we are happy, also, to
be able to have these exchanges with you. But we want to let you understand
that we have a lot to contribute to do. Perhaps this might be the opportunity
for another fact-finding visit where Americans can come visit our country, find
out what we do in terms of health, education and on the treatment of young
people. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. LAKE: Thank you. Thank you very much. I know there are a lot of people
who would like to speak. I see some of those hands. But I just would like to
remind you, we have just 20 minutes left and the ambassador of France is
supposed to do some closing remarks. In general, after the closing remarks is
the end of everything.
But I understand from the protocol of the French Embassy that the ambassador is
interested in taking some questions after his remarks. So I guess we want to
keep maybe, like, 15 minutes – so we have another five minutes, so I suggest
that we make quick comments or quick questions and we go around and finish
those with the panelists and give the chance for the ambassador to speak.
Q: Thank you very much. I will speak French.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
Yes, my name is Philip – (inaudible). I am here thanks to the invitation of
Dr. Sephocle – Marilyn – to take part at this annual convention of the Black
Caucus. Now, with respect to discrimination or affirmative action, this is a
proposed solution, but I would like to talk about the work that various groups
are doing in Guadeloupe because I live in Guadeloupe, which is part of France
and Europe as well, but I’d like to talk about the work that is being done.
And here, what’s at stake is working on the root causes, be they at the
so-called whites, and the problems that we have within our community. It is
indeed true that our community does not really integrate itself because we have
had a break of affiliation toward our history. And it’s because – this is a
treatment that exists. We must really understand why this break has occurred
and why we have to work on ourselves. I’m not talking about French people,
white people. We have a work to do on our own selves to figure out, why do we
not project ourselves; we just live day by day; why we do not look to the
future; why do we talk about diversity?
And many people know exactly what they’re doing – everybody knows well what
you’re doing, but there are very few people from the West Indies who mobilize
themselves because we have identity problems. We don’t know exactly where we
come from. And I think in the United States, African-Americans in the U.S. do
not have this problem of break of their origins. American blacks know exactly
where they come from. But we, when we were freed from slavery, we were told we
were just French and your ancestors were the Gauls. So we have an identity
We went to Guadeloupe, but we have this major problem and we’re trying to solve
this. And this will go along with these problems of discrimination which are
being dealt with here.
MR. LAKE: Even in America, sometimes, the time can be extensible. So I just
learned that we have 15 more minutes and so we can go until 12:45. So here’s
what I’ll suggest: The ambassador has to leave at 12:30, so if it’s okay with
all of you here, we’re going to stop the exchange – the Q&A for a moment; give
a chance to the ambassador to make his remarks – I will not call them closing
remarks anymore – and give you also a chance, maybe, to ask him three or four
questions before he leaves. I think it is going to be very interesting.
So by the way, I’m very surprised that nobody really has raised in a very
specific way the issue of the Roma riots or situation in Europe. And I’m sure
that the ambassador will take a minute or two to talk about it in his remarks.
(Laughter.) So maybe a last comment and we’ll give a chance to the ambassador
to speak. Please, go ahead.
MARILYN SEPHOCLE: I’m Marilyn Sephocle. I’m a professor at Howard University.
And I am a French and American citizen, so I had the opportunity to observe
both societies with regards to the issue of race.
And one thing that I just want to point out in the French context is that there
is – people are afraid of two things especially in the elite in France. They
are afraid of a quote of statistics because the statistics refers to history,
to a painful history of gathering statistics about the Jewish people, for
example, for very nefarious aims.
And another word that people are very afraid of is “communautarisme”. It’s a
very bad word in French.
So I don’t know whether the discourse has to change. But in order to diagnose
a problem, you need to have statistics. For example, we all know that when it
comes to wars, minorities in French are disproportionately represented among
the casualties, whether it’s World War I, World War II or even now, the war in
Afghanistan. So statistics, in a way, are important.
And there is a need, also, to change the discourse with regards to the word
communautarisme. Communautarisme is a bad word in France, but there should be
a way to approach it so that people feel comfortable talking about
MR. LAKE: Thank you. I thought it was a specific question on the Roma, but I
understand where you’re coming from in terms of communautarisme, which is a key
issue regarding the Roma people.
One of the typical piece of information – I’m sure most of you have it – is a
couple days ago, the French government had to change one of its administrative
– I don’t know even the word in English; “circulaire”, we call it in French –
affidavit, basically, giving some instruction from the ministry of interior and
take out the word of “Roma”, which was specifically mentioned in that document.
And as I mentioned earlier, also, the European Union has engaged in a legal –
in legal action against the French government on this issue.
So I’m sure the ambassador will talk about it when he make his remarks or will
certainly take some more of your questions. So I’m really pleased to have
Ambassador Pierre Vimont take the floor now. Ambassador. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR PIERRE VIMONT: Thank you, Mr. Lake, and thank you for your very
kind engagement to speak about the Roma community. (Laughter.) I will, I
will. But before that, I would just like to say one or two words about what
I’ve heard up to now because I think it was – I’m telling it really candidly
and frankly and sincerely. I think it was a very interesting debate.
Typically, the kind of debate that we have to have on such difficult issues as
the whole question of discrimination try to avoid heated exchanges or
controversy as we can see here and there. And in other words, try to keep our
nerves and try to understand, really, what it’s all about.
My second observation – and I would go totally in agreement with what Marilyn
Sephocle just said – this is also a question of culture, very much so. I
totally agree with you. There is something always a bit surprising when you
hear that, in France, if you would like to have statistics, figures, legal
figures about community, this is not allowed; this is illegal. And we cannot
go along that. But this goes back to a long culture, precisely of what – as
you said very rightly sir – what is in our – in the meaning and in our – in the
way we think about our republic, what is at the heart of the French nation and
what France is all about.
We’re moving along that way. What has been said about quotas slowly creeping
in here and there and in our legislation, mostly for disabled, for women and
some other people. This is slowly moving. Again, what has been done, for
instance, in the field of education with the institute of political science,
which is a little step, I think, in the right direction.
The whole question, I think, is twofold – is, how far can we go and move slowly
French society and French mindsets into the right direction? It takes time.
It’s a long-term process. And maybe we’re quite impatient, quite often in
France, but I think this is really what it’s all about.
And the second point, I think, which relates to also another great
characteristic of our country and that’s why I was very interested in what was
said to us about L’Oreal is that, usually, in France, everybody hopes that the
state will do everything, that the government is going to do everything.
The government can do what was precisely said a few minutes ago: can put the
framework, the legislative framework. But then it is also a question of the
responsibility for each and every one of the French citizens to make the whole
thing move in the right direction. Once again, it’s a long process, but I hope
and I’m quite definite – I’m quite sure about it that we’re heading in the
Just to give one example which always impresses me very much in France. At one
point, we had those difficult situation in the suburbs and people had the
impression that we were going to see more and more difficulty and tension
between what one could call the Muslim community and the rest of the society.
And to the surprise, I think, of many people and many observers in France,
things have not gone in the bad – in the worst direction – for many reasons.
But one of them is that the marriage between the different communities is
growing. The number is growing, which I think is a healthy sign of the French
I think another feature of the French is they always like to criticize their
own country. We’re champions in that field. Let’s look, of course, at the
glass is half empty, but let’s look also, from time to time, at when it is half
Now, to the Roma community, if you allow me. (Chuckles.) Here again, let’s
try to avoid heated exchanges as we have seen maybe and heard in recent days.
A few facts to try to help everybody to understand: First of all, in legal
term, there’s nothing – there is nothing as such as Roma community. There’s
nothing in legal terms as Roma citizen. Those people are citizens, quite
often, from European countries – Romania and Bulgaria, for most of them – and
they must be treated as such from a legal point of view.
Secondly, there is nothing like any kind of collective action against this
so-called community. We’re not targeting that so-called community because
we’re not allowed, by law. Not only French law, but European conventions. The
Charter of Fundamental Human Rights that we have signed and ratified; the
Convention of the European Council; French law, also, are forbidding any kind
of collective expulsion. So it is not this problem that we’re facing.
What we’re facing is the question of taking measures against individual
citizens from, as I was saying, mostly European countries that are creating a
problem related mostly to public order or to other questions that have to do
with sometimes with trafficking here and there, robbery, et cetera and that we
have to deal with that. And we have to do it under our legislation and under
the very strong constraint of great – very strong legal oversight and judicial
And I’m very, to some extent, not totally surprised, but very much interested
that, as we’ve seen a lot of report of what has been going on recently in my
country, I haven’t read anywhere that recently about some of those individual
measures that have been taken – administrative courts in France have canceled.
It has been recently the case of two courts that have just canceled measures
that have been taken there because every one of those European citizens have
the right to go to the French courts and ask for the cancellation of those
measures. And this is watched very carefully by our courts.
Lastly, another point, what we’re doing, quite often, to help those so-called
Roma members of the – Roma community to return home, we allow for – not
insignificant allocations, financial allocations for them to go back home and
to even reinsert themselves in their society. Something like $400 to go back
home and sometimes more than $5,000, even more, to start a business or to set
up their home when they go back there.
And what was very interesting recently when two members of the French
government went to Romania and tried to see how we could try to cope with the
whole issue, our – their Romanian counterparts told them, it’s not surprising
that so many of our citizens come to your country because you’re giving them
great facilities in financial terms. So you should maybe think a little more
about what you’re doing. So you see, now, I think it is a little bit more
complicated than what is usually said, I think.
And I would like to stop there because I hope the discussion can go on whether
I am here or not, but I think what is really interesting is that we’re facing,
in fact, a major problem. The so-called Roma represent today 9 million
citizens all around Europe with great difficulty of integration in their own
national societies, whether it be Romania, Bulgaria or other country.
Every country to which they are going, circulating, around Europe is facing
exactly the same problem as France. Not only Europe, by the way. Canada has
recently decided to set up, again, the obligation of visas for people coming
from that community, which means that everybody is facing that problem.
And the main problem I think we all have to face in a responsible way is, how
can we help that community through financial means, through every kind of
possible assistance? How do we help those people, at last, to settle
peacefully and with a real significant degree of stability; to insert
themselves and to integrate the society to which they belong? And I think
that’s the most important. This is where we have to keep on discussing with
the European Commission and our European partners.
Let’s be honest. France set up a conference when she had – when France had the
presidency of the European Union in 2008 about that issue. Many of our
partners didn’t show great interest into it. Spain did it again during the
first half of this year – also set up a conference to discuss more about the
whole issue about the Roma community. Nobody paid much attention to it. So I
think we really have, all together, to be much more aware of the kind of issue
we’re facing there and to try to find a solution all together.
I’ll stop here. I’ve been quite too long and I apologize. But Mr. Lake, it’s
all back to you.
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Ambassador Vimont. I understand that you are
willing to take maybe a couple of question. I know you have about five more
minute. Is it okay? All right, okay. So I will suggest that rather than
making comments because we don’t really have a lot of time – the ambassador has
just five minutes, so we’ll just take questions and a few questions to the
ambassador before he leaves. Sir? Please introduce yourself, please.
ALLISON BLAKELY: I’m Allison Blakely. I’m a professor of European history at
Boston University and I’m engaged in research on a history of blacks in
European history, primarily.
Mr. Ambassador, I’d like to first thank you for participating in this
discussion. My question is very simple. I think you are correct in assuming
that many of us do see the policy that’s being pursued concerning the Roma as
directed against a group and not individuals. I’m just wondering, is it your
impression that the majority of the French public also sees this as directed
against individuals and not against the gypsies and the Roma?
AMB. VIMONT: I would say it very much depends where you live. (Laughter.)
You know, for a lot of French citizens who live in small towns and who have, in
the suburbs of that town or that village, representatives from the Roma
community stationed there, usually in an illegal position on grounds that can
be either public or private, for those people, it seems that something is wrong
there and that we should take the necessary measure against that group.
But for, I think, many other citizens who live far away from that reality, I
think they are more of the opinion that we’re talking about individuals. And I
think that this is the whole problem that we’re facing with discrimination in
It depends very much on the kind of awareness that you have to that issue:
whether you see it in a rather abstract way and you’re able to look at the
different concepts and to see how you can try to solve that issue in a
responsible way, and people who are living in a very much more practical way
with that kind of issue and facing it day to day.
MR. BLAKELY: Thank you.
MR. LAKE: Yeah, one of the privileges of being moderator is you ask people to
only ask a question and you don’t do that, which is what I’m going to do just
right now just to echo what the ambassador said.
I was very surprised; I read this very good French newspaper, Courrier
International, and there is a poll in Italy where 80 percent of the Italians
asked for the expulsion of the Roma people. And 90 percent of them are Italian
themselves. That just shows kind of the complexity of that issue in Europe. I
know that the gentleman next to the professor would like to ask a question, too.
SUHAIL KHAN: Thank you. My name is Suhail Khan and I’m a senior fellow with
the Institute for Global Engagement, a religious freedom think tank. And so my
question is regarding religious freedom in France and the move to ban crosses,
yarmulkes and headscarves for women.
I know that there are some who see that as something as a liberation for some,
but of course, as Americans, we see it as a religious expression and freedom of
expression. What is the status of that issue right now in France? Is there
any possibility for change or reform?
MR. LAKE: Ambassador, just before you answer, maybe we can take another
question just because I’m looking at the time – I understand you’re very tight
on time – and so that somebody else wanted to ask a question somewhere here.
No? Okay. I’m sorry. So Ambassador, please.
AMB. VIMONT: Your question is a very interesting question and so I’m not
saying that usually because I’m embarrassed by it but because I think you are
at the heart of, really, the difference of culture between our two countries.
I think we both start from the same point, freedom of religion or freedom of
speech, even, to a large extent. And we go exactly to contradictory
conclusions. Just to give you one example before coming back to your point
about the freedom of speech, in France, there would have been any difficulties
starting from the same principle of the freedom of speech, to stop that strange
preacher from Florida who wanted to burn the Quran. We have everything in our
French legislation that allows the government to stop him before he goes ahead,
if only because his speech could create public disorder. And because of that,
you have the right in France under clear legal framework to do something, which
is totally different from yours.
With regard to the freedom of religion, I don’t think there is much hope for
the time being, at least, that we will change that legislation on scarves
because in fact, everybody thought that, that would create a lot of tension and
it will be very difficult to implement that legislation.
And to be honest, this has not gone too badly so far in France. Everybody has
thought that. After all, it has been done in a very practical way. In
schools, some schools, where they had some difficulty, they have tried to see
how they could cope with it. But at the end of it, looking after a few years
of the implementation of that legislation, people feel – and people who are in
charge of managing our school system who didn’t know how to behave with regard
to that issue have found a clear path on which they can work. And I think this
has not been too bad so far.
But once again, I agree with you. Seen from an American point of view, this
looks like a kind of infringement of the freedom of religion. We see it as the
possibility for everybody to live together in good coexistence, with the idea
that the separation between church and state is really implemented at what we
consider as mostly, before everything else, as secular society.
With regard to the burqa, I think – because I know that some of you would like
to ask a question, I think this is a different issue, if only because from a
religious point of view. And many of the Muslim leaders we have been able to
talk to about the burqa do not consider the burqa as part of the precepts of
their religion. It’s something else. It’s a tradition that exists in some
areas of the Muslim world, but this is not a religious habit or even rule. And
therefore, this is something quite different.
And it will be very interesting to watch how reaction appears in the Muslim
countries now that that legislation have been adopted now by our two houses.
And mind you, we still have to go through, now, the constitutional court that
will have to say also its opinion about this. But it’ll be very interesting to
watch and observe the kind of reactions you will get in Muslim countries. And
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Ambassador. I promised your staff that you
will be leaving at 12:30. It’s two minutes past 12:30 – (laughter) – so thank
you very much for your time. (Laughter, applause.)
Okay, so I know there were more question and comments on the discussion,
including on the – some on the statement made by the ambassador. So the
audience is welcome to intervene. I know Khalid, you wanted to say something
at one point; I know Alain; also, Rokhaya. But if there is – in the public
first, maybe a few question or comments. Please, Professor.
MS. SEPHOCLE: With regards to the banning of religious symbols in French
culture, in French life, I would take you back probably to the history of
France. France has a long history of wars of religion, wars where the basis
was religion, whether we think of the 100 Years’ War, the 30 Years’ War, the
Seven Years’ War. So these are – this is a long process of wars that have been
fought in France and where the basis in part was religion; in part, or in
whole, was religious.
So France has come to some sort of a modus vivendi where secularism is what
prevails. And it’s very dear to France. And laïcité is what they have – what
the French have come up with. So it’s very dear to the French, the separation
of church and state.
MR. LAKE: Thank you. Any other comments or questions? Please.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MARIA GUISEPPINA BURNA: Thank you. Three quick observations. Well, first of
all, I’m Maria Guiseppina Burna. I’m at the Paris-Dauphine University and I
work at another organization, a nonprofit organization that works on diversity
So first of all, we mentioned the impact of diversity on the performance of
companies. It seems to me that when you’re in France and when you’re turning
to companies, well, of course, the economic dimension is very important in
order to make anything you say credible.
You want to promote minority and diversity; that’s important. But you need to
do more than that. Diversity needs to go beyond fighting discrimination and
needs to go to a much larger reflection regarding an individual’s social, moral
performance as well as economic performance of the companies. In fact,
companies that do not discriminate and that embrace difference are in fact more
creative. They have far more innovation.
So not discriminating goes well beyond being simply a legal obligation. And
we’ve talked about the strong legal framework in France to fight
discrimination, but diversity is also a very important economic driver,
provided this diversity is properly managed. So that’s my first comment
related to the comments on discrimination in France.
So in France, as we’ve said, we have a lot of – a very strong legal framework.
But perhaps we are lacking this citizen-awareness and awareness on the part of
victims to point out that there has been discrimination. And so people need to
learn how to denounce discrimination and to go to the proper authorities in
order to do this. Being discriminated against is a very strong violence that
is committed onto individuals.
And so when we talk about affirmative action in France, of course, this goes
counterparty to republican values whereby all citizens are equal. And in that
manner, France and United States are countries that were born out of
revolutions, out of fights for emancipation, and thus, the notions of freedom
and equality are extremely important.
That being said, diversity measures should not be confused with quotas. When
you want to measure diversity, you’re trying to measure discrimination, in
fact, and it means having a very objective awareness. And here, there are
various academic procedures that can be used to be highlight, to pinpoint this
discrimination as well as diversity, which is present, but which is often
So three dimensions are very important and so I’d like to thank you again for
this very interesting, enriching debate and which shows that there’s certainly
good ideas, both in America and France and I think it’s important that we share
those great ideas.
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much. Monsieur?
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
ROBERT MONSTERLEET: I’m a journalist; chief editor of a newspaper from
Guadeloupe. I’d like to mention two points. We talked a lot about politics.
We talked a lot about entrepreneurial willingness, but we did not talk about
the power of the media. But the media, what are they? They represent the
Just a quick example, in my newspaper this morning, we received a memo from a
deputy political representative in Guadeloupe. And so something happened a
hundred years ago, something that is well-known in France. Nobody mentioned
this event, though. And so Monsieur – (inaudible) – is a famous – (inaudible).
And when he died, that was spoken a lot about. So it’s not the same treatment
for all topics.
And so I’m not trying to criticize L’Oreal because L’Oreal has certainly made a
lot of progress, but I did read an article recently, and the article talked
about that famous glass ceiling. Indeed, L’Oreal’s policy – external policy –
is fairly realistic in terms of a corporate policy. For example, in the United
States, there are more black people, and L’Oreal is putting a lot of black
people in the company because that’s an economic advantage; whereas in France,
that is not the same situation. And so here, we have the blue, white and red
code – bleu, blanc, rouge – whereby people were recruited, basically, on their
physical appearance. And so now, that has been exposed. And so I’m very
pleased to hear that L’Oreal, now, has a much more adapted and inclusive
Finally, to conclude, I just wanted to say you have laws but not all laws are
applied. And there are a lot of populist strategies that are used towards
MR. LAKE: Thank you. I guess I’d allow Jackie to maybe react to that if you
want to. You don’t have to. If not, we can move to another question. Jackie?
MS. CELESTIN-ANDRÉ: I’m not quite sure if I understood all your comments
regarding L’Oreal, but just to put the facts straight. Why don’t I say it in
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
It’s really important in terms of what you said regarding discrimination.
Well, we need to be very concise and precise in terms of what has happened. In
fact, L’Oreal was denounced but that’s because we’re L’Oreal. But L’Oreal was
not the culprit behind that situation.
First of all, we were not talking about recruitment in terms of the recruitment
of managers. The situation occurred with a recruitment agency for hostesses
for an in-store event. Thus, L’Oreal had not provided any recommendations
whatsoever regarding the recruitment of a very specific profile. That did not
come from us. It came from the recruitment agency. That being said, L’Oreal
was criticized and blamed for the situation simply because we are L’Oreal. But
that was not the actual situation. You need to get the facts straight.
But for example, in this particular situation, we were quite surprised, but we
remained firmly convinced that our history, our background, is that we do not
discriminate in terms of recruitment. Our aim is to move things forward and to
move forward in a very proactive manner. And we wish to contribute to the
progress of nondiscrimination and thus, L’Oreal remains clearly devoted to this
aim and to promote the equal access for French citizens and citizens worldwide.
MR. LAKE: Thank you. Thank you very much – (inaudible) – issue. I think we
all heard your comments. We give a chance to answer because her organization
was directly question in your comments. So I suggest that we move on. We have
only four minutes. I know a lot of the members of the panelists want to speak,
but I suggest we give them the last couple minutes and maybe take a couple
other questions. Please.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
Q: Hello. I’ll be speaking in French and I apologize for that. I’m Louisa –
(inaudible). I identify myself as Franco-Algerian. I live in France. I own a
company and I’m also chairman of an organization that promotes diversity in the
workplace. To go back to the metaphor of the half-empty glass, I would like to
provide the following reminder.
It’s good to delegate power, but you also need to take power, to seize power.
For example, we have migrant entrepreneurship – that’s what it’s called in
French. It’s a real strength and there are many company directors in France
that come from all areas of diversity. For example, 15 percent of currently
created companies are created from – via minorities.
Therefore, in France, minorities have a real economic power. However, we are
not well organized as you are in caucuses. However, in terms of statistics and
in terms of numbers, it exists and the momentum is increasing, and there is
economic power that is held by the minorities in France and I wanted to
underscore that point.
MR. LAKE: Thank you, thank you very much.
MAGALI RHEAULT: Thank you. My name is Magali Rheault. I’m with the Gallup
Center for Muslim Studies. I heard this morning we touched a lot on basically
the diversity from a racial and ethnic standpoint. The focus of my research is
more along the lines of religious diversity. This is, of course, a very, very
challenging topic to discuss in a French context.
I am from France originally. I’ve lived in the United States for many, many
years, and I do travel to France to brief policymakers and opinion leaders on
this research. But I think it is a very, very important dimension that needs
to be included in the debate on diversity in France and the challenges that
many people – we can’t even really use the word community in the French context.
But basically, one of the key findings from our research is that French Muslims
feel French but the French don’t embrace them as being part of the fabric of
France. And this is something that we have a ton of research that I would be
happy to be share with, you know, anybody who is interested in because it is a
very important dimension in the diversity debate in France. Thank you.
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much for sharing that. And I’m sure at the end of
the conversation, a lot of people are going to come directly to you. So now,
if there is not maybe a very last question before the panel can close? Please.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
Q: Hello. I’m Jean-Paul Coulant (ph). I am in charge of academic relations
in Washington. I’d like to emphasize two points. There was a Pew Center
survey that demonstrated that France is a country in which minorities are best
perceived by the local populations. For example, of all the countries in
Europe, France has the best perception of Jewish people.
And I would like to go back to that notion of freedom of religion. I come from
a so-called invisible minority. I am white but I am also Protestant. And in
fact, in 1905, in France, we had the law on secularism where you have a
separation of church and state but the church in question was the Catholic
Church. And when this occurred, it triggered a civil war. A lot of people – a
lot of army officers resigned. There was a lot of civil disobedience, there
were a lot of riots and that’s because French Catholics could not bear the
idea, the thought, that the French state was no longer going to represent the
There’s an old slogan in France – Catholic and French. And so one of the main
blocks in today’s society, today’s French society – and this is something that
I really feel as a Frenchman – there’s a fear that there will be a new civil
war centered around Islam. To simplify what I’m saying: In fact, we already
have a long history. We’ve already paid for that history and we don’t wish to
start over again with that same history.
And so secularism in France applies also to Catholics. And so for example, a
fervent Catholic who works in the French educational system needs to really
integrate himself or herself into his or her working environment and needs to
accept certain restrictions. So that’s just my personal opinion. It is not
the embassy’s opinion, but it’s an opinion of a historian, which is what I am.
MR. LAKE: Yeah, so we literally have, what, minus-three minutes, I should say?
(Laughter.) So we’re going to take, really, 30 seconds for each of the
panelists who want to make a last comment. And I’m going to turn over the
microphone to Mischa Thompson from the Helsinki Commission. Rokhaya?
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MS. DIALLO: I wanted to respond to this notion of the power of the media.
There’s a real disconnect between the media and political action. There’s been
a lot of talk about the problem about the Roma but it was actually triggered by
an event that happened in France. There were some travelers who destroyed a
police station in France. And so the ministry of the interior reacted by
lumping together all of the Romas and demanding their expulsion. And so what
happens systematically is that politicians use events in order to react.
Another thing that happened, President Sarkozy is contemplating French
nationality from minorities. So for example – and this is because a young
North African man had pointed a weapon at a policeman. And based on this
event, the French president decided that there are real Frenchmen that would be
punished by existing sanctions whereas there are other French people whose
nationality could be removed, as if this French nationality was conditional.
And I think it’s very important to emphasize this: Politicians use this hidden
racism as a political weapon. You know, the Front national, extreme right
group, has also reached a second round of elections in France. And this is an
important fact that we need to keep in mind.
We’ve talked about the various veils. You know, 2004, no veils in schools.
And now, another law: You cannot wear full veil even in streets in France.
And this was something that was really – had a lot of media coverage. And in
fact, in 2004, there was only about a hundred women who wore veils in school,
yet this was the front page on French newspapers for months.
And yet again, there are certain events that are showcased in the French media
whereas most people in France are not confronted with women wearing veils. And
so we need to keep in mind the fact that there’s a perception that is really
nurtured by politicians as well as by the media.
And the reason that there’s a lot of emphasis on the Roma population is that
because there’s a politician in France who needs to distract attention from
certain topics. And media have a real responsibility in terms of their
representation of minorities. In fact, minorities are overrepresented when
they take part in negative news events.
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Rokhaya. Alain?
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MR. DOLIUM: Yes, thank you. I’d like to go back to what was said. And I
agree with what – much of what Rokhaya has said. In fact, when I was talking
about the current situation in France and the three drivers that we really need
to use in order to move things forward and to really have a true multicultural
and postcolonial society, well, I emphasized this idea that we need to have a
new political class. But I’d like to go even beyond that. We need to have a
We need to have people who can rethink French society in a real breakthrough
manner. And they need to be able to make these measures tangible. Among other
facts, if I limit myself to that creative class and that political class, well,
I believe that a political class in France – to which I belong – needs to stop
having an approach that focuses on events, on news events. It’s like a judge
that enables politicians to create cleavage.
But we don’t need segmentation; we don’t need cleavage. On the contrary, we
need national unity in order to build a society that is more balanced, more
just. Because in France, we certainly need to move our debates and we need to
stop focusing on media events, news items and trivial events.
MR. LAKE: Thank you very much, Alain. Khalid?
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MR. HAMDANI: I, of course, agree with much has been said by my colleagues.
And of course, with Islam, people need to stop believing that Islam is a
foreign body, a foreign culture in France.
Let us remember that the first two Crusades were not initiated by the British.
The French decided that they needed to build their idea by recovering the St.
Sepulchre. And so French culture is largely imbued with Islamic culture. I’m
not going to provide a complete reminder of all those historical moments, but
Islam and France have been – of course, had difficult relations for a long
time, but they are linked.
However, you know, in France – France is extremely Catholic and something
that’s, particularly to with nonbelievers, you have atheist, republican French
people are in fact profoundly Catholic. You know, they confess continuously
and they refuse to accept their acts, to take responsibility for their acts.
And now, to go back to the law of 1905, well, it put end to a war that had been
started by republic that was called truant, but I don’t think we need to go
back to historical events. Clearly, Islam is not a threat to civil peace in
France. On the contrary, Islam contributes to pacifying relations, you know.
The mixed marriages have been emphasized. That’s important. And what is most
difficult, to go back to the Roma situation, is the fact that people are
evicted and then they come back. And so this is a legal detour that is quite
difficult to understand. So legal experts understand all these matters.
But to go back to the Roma, what is most unbearable for me, of course, is
significant funds are being given to Bulgaria and Romania, but these funds are
not used properly. What’s most unbearable for me is that during World War II –
and this is not – I’m not trying to make a funny comment here. During World
War II, the Roma, the gypsies were evicted. And so I find it unbearable and I
really emphasize that term – unbearable. It is quite “unbearable” for me to
see how they are being treated yet again. They were sent to extermination
camps. And so based on that historical fact, it is inadmissible for this
matter to be taken lightly.
Of course, I find it very annoying when they come and wash my car against my
consent, but that’s not the important fact, you know? Our everyday comfort – I
apologize; I am being very passionate about this, but I feel strongly about
this. You know, Romas and gypsies have already been exterminated and evicted
by Nazi Germany and so we really need to make sure that we do not go back to
that horrible imagery for those people. (Applause.)
MR. LAKE: Thank you. Jackie?
MS. CELESTIN-ANDRÉ: So my closing remarks are simple. It’s that as a company,
we will continue to work on making our L’Oreal in France increasingly more
diverse, with more diverse talent, people coming from different backgrounds.
Because we know after having done a study on the link between diversity and
performance – we’ve done the first study in France, and probably the first on
in Europe, where we’ve been able to conclude on not just social basis, but on
an economic basis that for example, when you have a team that’s a better mix of
men and women in a team versus a team that’s just men for example, the team
that’s mixed with women is extremely more productive than just having just the
We know that when we have people of disabilities working in a team, it’s
extremely difficult for a colleague who has a headache to say, I’m not coming
in to the office today. That person will come in because they see that the
colleague who has a disability is coming in.
And so we have more and more facts and figures based on economics because at
the end of the day, for a company like L’Oreal and maybe just for the society
as a whole, sometimes – it sounds a bit cruel but it comes down to dollars and
cents. And so we will continue to enrich ourselves with talent and promote
that talent because it does bring value to the company. And as a whole, it
will bring value to the society.
Personally, this is my personal point of view, I don’t think – personally think
– we will be able to get rid of discrimination. It’s inherent for years – I
mean, centuries. I think the goal is to make sure that in the environment that
we are in that we can keep our thoughts, our behaviors that are discriminatory
outside. And while we’re working and we’re working together that we can go
through a common goal – for common goal, and that, basically, the focus is
going forward and trying to work collectively.
At the end, if it helps society, that’s great. And I think that’s the bottom
line. It would be great. But we need to move forward and work collectively.
MR. LAKE: Wonderful. Thank you, Jackie. Forty-five seconds, Kag. You have
the floor. (Laughter.) Kag, please, go ahead.
(The following remarks are delivered via translator.)
MR. SANOUSSI: I’m going to be brief. First of all, in terms of employment,
it’s a fundamental issue in terms of diversity. When you have a job, you have
personal stability, you can integrate; you can insert yourself. And so being
employed is extremely important. And that’s why it’s so important in France.
And so that’s why we want companies to further commit themselves to that issue.
Next, we have this notion of commitment. When one commits themselves to
signing the charter of diversity, we ask you whether or not you’ve done
something. And if you haven’t done something, then you’re excluded. And
nobody likes to be excluded.
For example, we did not find that the media were committed enough. And they
have – we have only 20 media organizations in France that have signed the
charter. That’s very little.
And so I’d like to conclude by saying that the fight against discrimination and
the promotion of diversity means not only respecting anti-discrimination laws,
but it goes well beyond that.
I’m not going to – for example, it’s not going into a – (inaudible) – and you
have people of all different races and origins, men and women. But when you
look at the organizational chart, what actually happens is that you have men
who are in management positions, women on the bottom. And we need to change
I come from a region in France in which rugby is played a lot. And so the haka
is the opposite of yakka (ph). And unfortunately, we are often yakka. “Yakka”
means somebody else should do it in French. So somebody else should do it.
And so I’d like us to do a haka dance because when you’re in the haka dance,
you’re part of the melee. You’re working with others and you’re moving forth
MR. LAKE: Thank you, Kag. That was a great way to close this panel
discussion. I just want – I’m sure most of you guys have you received this
note. There is going to be, basically, a prolongation of this conversation at
Howard University tomorrow, Thursday, at the same time that we started today,
at 11:00 a.m. at the Ralph Bunche Center and it’s going to be a conversation
around blacks in Europe and the political process. So I am sure that you guys
can continue the conversation there.
I’m going to turn the microphone to Mischa Thompson. But also, I would like to
thank, on your behalf, the Helsinki Commission for organizing this very
interesting and very lively debate and maybe ask you, maybe, a quick applause
for the commission. (Applause.)
MS. THOMPSON: Okay, just a few housekeeping things. First of all, we’ll be
back in this room at 1:30. It gives us a very short amount of time, but we
would ask that everyone go into the hallway.
You may or may not have noticed; there’s actually a lunch provided. They’re
boxed lunches. The options are turkey, beef and veggie. We’re going to ask
that the panelists actually go out first, and there’s staff at the door that
will lead you out to make sure that you are able to eat.
In addition to that, as I said, we’ll be back here at 1:30 p.m. The nametags
will be taken off, so people will be free to actually sit around the table, et
At 3:00 p.m., there’s going to be a seminar just for the European delegations
from members of a congressional staff that will talk a little bit about
policies, et cetera, in the United States.
And then also this evening, there are flyers on the table for a 5:00 p.m.
reception that will be held at the Library of Congress that everyone here is
also invited to. Thank you.