Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, former French Prime Minister and current Minister for Foreign Affairs, has come to Australia on an official visit.
In Melbourne on the 3rd of March, the French Minister started his day by visiting the headquarters of Yarra Trams, a company operated by French-owned Keolis, in company of a high powered business delegation, the MEDEF. Mr Ayrault then met with his Australian counterpart, the Hon. Julie Bishop, for private discussions before the Foreign Ministers signed a strategic partnership agreement between France and Australia. Beyond strategic partnership, Mr Ayrault’s visit also signals the reinforcement of academic and research agreements between the two countries.
After lunch, Mr Ayrault went to the Shrine of Remembrance to bestow the insignia of the Legion of Honour to four World War II Veterans, in a moving ceremony in front of families and friends.
Later on that day, it was our local SBS Radio reporter Christophe Mallet who was honoured with the award of the Ordre du Merite, from the hands of the Minister. This was the occasion of a small reception at the beautiful mansion of the Alliance Française in St Kilda, where Mr Ayrault met with representatives from the local French community, including business and scientific leaders, Presidents of Associations, as well as young French people visiting Australia either on working holiday visas or on volunteer business visas .
His day concluded with a private dinner before returning to the airport and back to France. It is fair to say that this official visit to Australia might be one of Mr Ayrault’s last ministerial tour, as he has just announced he would retire from politics after the French presidential elections coming up in the next couple of months. So it was a very special honour to welcome him in Melbourne!