French Consul General Discusses Terrorism, Ukraine with Kennesaw Students

November 20, 2014

French Consul General Denis Barbet recently fielded questions from Kennesaw State University students on topics ranging from the country’s response to the Ukraine crisis to France’s policy on recognizing Palestinian statehood.

The opportunity came during Kennesaw State’s monthly “Consular Connect” event held Nov. 19 in Prillaman Hall. “Consular Connect,” hosted by the University’s Division of Global Affairs, invites members of the Atlanta Consular Corps to visit campus and speak with students, faculty, and staff. Barbet, the official representative of the French government to the southeastern United States, is the third consul general to come to Kennesaw State under the program.

“We have to be careful about how we respond to Ukraine,” Barbet said, answering a student’s question about France’s plans to prevent Russian intervention in Ukraine. “We cannot accept what Russia is doing in Crimea and Ukraine, but we cannot push Ukraine to make a choice between Europe and Russia. Making them choose would not be a wise policy.”

He added that France is currently trying to prevent the delivery of two warships the country sold to Russia. The French president said the ships will not be handed over until Russia and Ukraine reach a cease fire.

Another student asked whether France plans to follow Sweden in formally recognizing the Palestinian state. Sweden officially did so in October over Israeli protests.

“France supports a two-state solution,” he said. “But France cannot recognize Palestine in its current condition.” He cited incidents like the recent terrorist bombing of a Jerusalem synagogue as reasons for why Palestinian statehood does not yet have widespread support in Europe.

“Sweden will remain alone on this for a long time.”

Before opening up for questions, Barbet gave a classroom lecture on French foreign policy and crisis management. He outlined the French foreign ministry’s priorities, which include maintaining peace, stability and economic development around the world, fighting terrorism in France and abroad, and promoting French culture.

Barbet also took the time to outline some of the ways France is currently helping resolve global crises. France was the first country to join the United States in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and continues to send aircraft and soldiers. France has also established hospitals in Guinea to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“We have a special relationship with countries in North and West Africa,” he said. “Many of them are former French colonies with strong economic ties to France.”

Barbet wrapped up his presentation by inviting members of the Kennesaw State community to participate in future France-Atlanta events. France-Atlanta is a joint project between the French consulate and the Georgia Institute of Technology. It presents a series of French cultural events in Atlanta every year. The sixth annual France-Atlanta will be held next fall.

“Hopefully we have found a new partner with Kennesaw State University in the coming years,” he said.

“This is my first visit, but it’s not the last.”

Consular Connect Homepage

– Patrick Harbin