Public debate

Pierre Morel

Our objective is to bring together new audiences, new generations, to go beyond the classic networks to bring out the unexpected.

The Trianon Dialogue was launched by Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Poutine in 2017 with the aim of reinforcing links between the Russian and French civil societies by developing new opportunities for exchanging. If the health crisis has obviously impacted the programme over the past few months, projects continue to come to light, particularly related to the environmental theme – the initiative’s central axis in 2020 and 2021. Interview with the French president and former ambassador of France, Pierre Morel. 

Updated on 09/05/2022

5 min

Pierre Morel
Pierre Morel ©Igor Lileev

What is the ambition of the Trianon Dialogue ? Although France and Russia have maintained a firm relationship for many years, in particular in the cultural domain, what issues do implementing this structure correspond to ? 

At the end of May 2017, the Palace of Versailles presented an exhibition dedicated to Peter the Great – Tsar Peter I – and the three-hundredth anniversary of his visit to Versailles. For the occasion, Emmanuel Macron, who had just been elected President, received Vladimir Poutine: the two men inaugurated the event together, on the fringes of their political meetings. It was a symbolic act insomuch as despite the many and perceptible to date disagreements between the two countries, the two Presidents showed that it was possible to establish a dialogue and exchange in depth. It was in accordance with this and on that occasion, in which the Trianon Dialogue was created: a platform where Russian and French civil societies can exchange which aims to foster development of cooperation in areas as varied as culture, science, education, entrepreneurship, the arts, research, etc. It is not intended to replace the institutions that work in these areas, but to intervene and act in addition to them. “Our objective is to bring together new audiences, new generations, to go beyond the classic networks to bring out the unexpected”. Widening approaches as such is necessary to reach and bring together new audiences in both countries.

How is the portage of the Trianon Dialogue assured ?

The Coordinating Council of the Trianon Dialogue is made up of leading figures representing the civil societies of both countries: France relies on figures such as Claudie Haigneré, former astronaut and minister delegate for Research, Catherine Brechigniac, physicist and former president of the CNRS and permanent secretary of the French Academy of Sciences, Laurent Hilaire, principal dancer and artistic director of the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow, but also Patrick Pouyanné, president of Total, and Frédéric Mazella, founder of Blablacar, among others. On the Russian side, Anatoly Torkounov, Rector of Moscow's State Institute of International Relations – the MGIMO, is co-president of the Trianon Dialogue. All of the members represent a wide variety of audiences and backgrounds. We meet each year in France or Russia, to discuss themes chosen beforehand and set up spaces to exchange, share experiences, build projects, debates and other events likely to broker discussion between the actors from both countries. The first theme to be identified in 2018 revolved around the city of the future. In 2019, we considered education in the future. The climate and environment were retained as the central theme of the Trianon Dialogue for 2020 and beyond.

The climate and environment were retained as the central theme of the Trianon Dialogue for 2020 and beyond.

In a tricky diplomatic context, joined by uncertainties related to the Covid-19 crisis, is it easy to convince involved parties and more major operators to take part in new projects between the two countries ?

The pandemic has slowed down the exchange process. For all that, on the French side in particular, we are endeavouring to maintain discussions about future actions, to approve projects and convey them on networks. Last March, just before the lockdown, we were able to organise a first meeting between Franco-Russian environment and biodiversity experts. Due to the situation, it was held online – and I must say that the exchanges were highly engaging. This continued, in a certain way, with the launch of a call for projects open to involved parties from both countries working on environmental questions. Despite the health context and uncertainties about business starting up again, we received more than twenty files from civil society representatives. Ten were retained, which will benefit from support in the coming weeks and months, in liaison with the French embassy in Moscow. We will have the opportunity to communicate about certain projects. And I also hope that we can launch a second call for projects in the period to come.

You mention the climatic and environmental challenge. Are there other projects and productions that can be touched upon ?

It has been agreed with our Russian counterparts that the “climate and environment” theme will be extended to 2021 and will devote a major element to related health issues. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) World Conservation Congress should have taken place in Marseille last June. It’s a major meeting for biodiversity conservation with several tens of thousands of people attending each event – which follows the principle of cities taking turns hosting. The Congress was initially postponed to the beginning of next year, but has now been postponed again to a later date. We are keeping a close eye on that because it is planned that the Trianon Dialogue will be present through various Franco-Russian meetings. There you have a fascinating way to bring Franco-Russian cooperation into a prescribing framework. 

Another event, the third edition of Trianon Startups is being organised at Versailles for the Spring of 2021. This meeting aims to foster collaborations between startups and major groups in both countries. The first edition was held in 2019 at the Palace of Versailles: 15 major French groups met with thirty Russian startups. The second edition was held at the beginning of the year at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow with 25 major Russian groups and more than 30 French startups participating. 

On another note, we are supporting the “La clé des portes” (Doors key) festival, organised by the Franco-Russian piano duo Arthur Ancelle and Ludmila Berlinskaïa. We are also going to support the staging in Massy of the opera “Le Premier Cercle” (The First Circle) composed by Gilbert Ami and inspired by the homonymous book by Solzhenitsyn. The performances should take place on 22 and 23 November. Finally in 2021, among other actions under consideration, I hope that the “Musicales franco-russes de Toulouse” (Franco-Russian Musical Performances) will be held again, after the 2020 programme was cancelled, with the Bolshoi troupe participating.

The Institut français and the Trianon Dialogue

Requested by Presidents Macron and Putin, the Trianon Dialogue has for the past two years supported initiatives to bring Russian and French societies closer together.  In this context, the Institut français will more specifically focus in 2020 and 2021 on exchanges of expertise and public meetings related to the theme chosen for this year: "climate and environment".

L'institut français, LAB