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France and Ireland

Bilateral relations

Political relations with Ireland are good and France’s capabilities for initiative make a strong impact, which is more often than not supported by the Irish. The partnership between France and Ireland as regards European affairs is remarkable in more ways than one. France and Ireland share views on many EU and international issues (UN reform, official development assistance, CAP and fisheries, financial prospects, CSDP).

Visits

• 21 July 2008: visit to Dublin by the President of the French Republic during France’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, at a difficult time following the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
• 9 October 2012: Mr Fabius received his counterpart, Eamon Gilmore, in Paris.
• February 2012: the Presidents of the French National Assembly and French Senate received the Ceann Comhairle (Chair) of the Dáil (principal chamber of the Irish parliament), Seán Barrett, along with a delegation of Irish members of Parliament.
• 22 October 2012: the President of the French Republic received the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Enda Kenny
• 26-27 November 2012: visit to Ireland by the French Minister Delegate for European Affairs, Bernard Cazeneuve. Meetings with his counterpart, Lucinda Creighton.
• 18 January 2013: Mr Pierre Moscovici, Minister of the Economy and Finance, made a trip to Dublin
• 18-20 February 2013: Official visit to Paris by Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland. Meetings with the President of the French Republic.
• 21-22 February 2013: visit to Ireland by Senator Françoise Laborde, President of the France-Ireland inter-parliamentary group in the French Senate.
• 13-14 March and then 10 June 2013: trips to Dublin by Mr Stéphane Le Foll, Minister for Agriculture, Agri-food and Forestry, for meetings with his counterpart Simon Coveney.
• 29-30 May 2013: visit to Ireland by Ms Danielle Auroi, Chair of the European Affairs Committee at the French National Assembly, with member of Parliament, Michel Piron. Meeting with the Irish Parliament’s Joint Committee on European Affairs.
• 24 June 2013: Mr Repentin received his counterpart, Lucinda Creighton.
• 7 October 2013: Mr Repentin met Paschal Donohoe, who succeeded Lucinda Creighton.
• 16 December 2013: address at the Institute of International and European Affairs by Mr Pierre Lequiller, Vice President of the French National Assembly’s European Affairs Committee.
• 3 March 2014: Mr Repentin was received in Dublin by his counterpart, Paschal Donohoe.
• 13-15 March 2014: Mr Eamon Gilmore made a trip to Paris, where he met with the President of the French Republic, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
• 1-3 August 2014: President Michael D. Higgins attended the Inter-Celtic Festival in Lorient.
• 27 November 2014: visit to Dublin by Matthias Fekl, meetings with Enda Kenny and Paschal Donohoe.
• 27 November 2014: visit to Dublin by Michel Sapin, meeting with his counterpart Michael Noonan.
• 19-20 February 2015: visit to Cork by Harlem Désir, meeting with his counterpart Dara Murphy.
• 17 March 2015: visit to Paris by Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, for St Patrick’s Day.
• 24-25 April 2015: visit to Dublin by the Prime Minister, meetings with Enda Kenny and Joan Burton.
• 21 July 2015: visit to Paris by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, meeting with the President of the French Republic.
• 17 November 2015: visit to Paris by Alex White, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, meeting with Ségolène Royal.

Economic relations

France is Ireland’s sixth largest supplier and Ireland is France’s sixth largest customer (2012 data). French trade with Ireland remains deeply imbalanced in Ireland’s favour, with France recording a trade deficit of €3.736 billion. This deficit, however, is largely structural and reflects the strong presence in Ireland of foreign (mainly US) investors, which make up three-quarters of Irish exports. Conversely, the import statistics tend to reduce our real market share since they do not take account of the flows of French goods sent via Belgium or the United Kingdom, which are used as logistics platforms. In the area of foreign direct investment (FDI), France remains far behind the United States and in 2012 was ranked seventh in terms of FDI flows, with 343 established businesses employing over 12,000 people. France is the ninth largest investor in Ireland, at €18.5 billion. The main investment sectors are agri-food industries, manufacturing, insurance, and financial activities.

Although French investment in Ireland is continuing in the financial services, high-tech and utilities (environment, energy) sectors, it is declining in traditional industries. Meanwhile the main Irish investors in France are Jefferson Smurfit Group (paper pulp, packaging), Cement Roadstone Holdings (world’s 4th largest cement manufacturer) and Kerry Group (Ireland’s leading agri-food company). Finally, we must note the rapid growth of Irish low-cost airlines (Ryanair, Aer Lingus, CityJet) flying to French destinations. After Spain, France is the most popular destination for Irish tourists. The main prospects for French companies are now related to urban infrastructure (water management, extension of the Dublin tram system) and renewable energy.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cultural relations are based on a Framework Agreement of 4 November 1967. French-Irish cooperation focuses on cooperation in science, including biotechnology and information technology, and the French language remains firmly established in Irish secondary schools. Approximately 50.6% of the 8% of students who opt to learn a foreign language choose to study French for the Leaving Certificate (baccalauréat equivalent).

The Lycée français d’Irlande (Dublin, 500 students) has signed a partnership agreement with the prestigious Trinity College Dublin on an equivalence grid between the French baccalauréat and the Leaving Certificate, which represents a major step forward. Since 2005, the LFI has offered its students a genuine bilingual curriculum in partnership with St. Kilian’s German School, Dublin. In January 2008, an agreement was signed between the LFI and St Kilian’s to formalize the existence of a French-German-Irish “Eurocampus”. In a new building, which has been open since October 2008, students from both schools follow a bilingual curriculum and halfway through secondary school they can sit the French brevet and the Irish Junior Certificate.
University cooperation is growing quickly. There are now more than 350 French-Irish agreements, most involving the mobility of students, teachers and researchers. Joint training courses leading to joint degrees have been developed, including at University College Dublin (bachelor and master’s degree in law) and the Dublin Institute of Technology (management and trade). On the whole, French grandes écoles and universities remain hugely attractive to Irish students, with France their third most popular destination in the world, while it ranks first for Irish students studying under the Erasmus Programme. Ireland is the sixth most popular foreign destination for French students in the Erasmus programme.

Scientific cooperation is based on the Ulysse integrated action programme, the agreement between the Institut Pasteur and the Institute of Genetics at Trinity College and early exchanges between Génopole Evry and BioResearch Ireland. Our cooperation was initially developed in the sectors that Ireland identified as priorities (biotechnology, new information and communications technology). Today, it is expanding to new areas (renewable energies/environment, marine sciences). The 2000s saw the arrival in Ireland of a large community of young French graduates (about 3,000 people), who are contributing to Ireland’s economic development.
Scientific cooperation is also developing through individual team projects, particularly in biotechnology, information and communications technology and, more recently, in the areas of the environment and energy. Cooperation also exists in applied mathematics and information technology, in particular with teams from INRIA (French National Institute for Computer Science and Applied Mathematics) and the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission), in medical imaging between the School of Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in Dublin and the University of Montpellier, and in agricultural sciences with a team from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Dijon and Teagasc based near Cork.

The Collège des Irlandais in Paris, which dates back to the sixteenth century, is a modern centre for Irish students in Paris but also the largest Irish cultural centre in Europe. It was completely renovated in 2000 (at a cost of €10 million) to promote Irish culture both in France and Europe, with Paris judged to be the best city on the continent to do so.

Updated: 21 April 2016

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