Duong Chi Dung has been appointed Vietnamese Ambassador to France as well as to Portugal, the Principality of Monaco, Andora, and the Central African Republic.

The VOV correspondents based in Paris interviewed Ambassador Dung in this connection.

VOV: How do you assess the Vietnam-France relations?

During the official visit to the French Republic in June 2005 by then general Secretary of the Party Nong Duc Manh, the two countries agreed that the framework for bilateral relations was based on 'traditional friendship, and comprehensive, long and reliable cooperation in the 21st century'. Since then, the Franco-Vietnam ties have continued to develop in politics, economics, trade, defence, science, culture, education and training.

Vietnam and France have regularly exchanged high-level delegations and maintained their mechanism for strategic dialogue on external and defence issues as well as their mechanism for political consultancy on bilateral relations. For instance, the France-Vietnam Economic and Financial Cooperation Forum drew the participation of many financial institutions and businesses from the two countries.

Cultural cooperation also achieved much progress, marked by the establishment of the Vietnam Cultural Centre in Paris, France, in November 2008. This is Vietnam's first Cultural Centre in Europe.

Cooperation between localities from both countries has continued to develop as a characteristic of Vietnamese-French relations.

In summary, the relationship between Vietnam and France has continued to develop deeply and comprehensively in all fields in recent times, and has been considered by the French as 'de facto strategic partnership'. It now needs a new cooperative framework to create a new impetus and make breakthroughs.

VOV: In the years to come, what projects will Vietnam carry out to deepen the Vietnam-France relationship, and especially to raise bilateral ties to the level of strategic partnership?

The focus of my term as Ambassador to France will be on building the Vietnam-France strategic partnership and clarifying the content of this relation. Both countries' senior leaders have already agreed in principle on the establishment of the framework for such a partnership.

Regarding politics, both countries will continue to intensify the exchange of high-level delegations to consolidate the consensus and determination to build strategic partnership. President Sarkozy accepted the invitation to visit Vietnam at an opportune time. Vietnam is ready to serve as a bridge between France and other countries in Asia and Asean. Meanwhile, France supports Vietnam in expanding its ties with the EU.

For economics, trade and investment, Vietnam and France will boost the activities of the High-level Council for the development of Vietnam-France economic cooperation and the France-Vietnam Economic-Financial Cooperation Forum. France affirmed to continue to put Vietnam in the list of priority countries for trade promotion and to encourage and assist French businesses that operate in Vietnam. The European country is also willing to take part in a number of projects in Vietnam, especially the ones with socio-economic significance. France shows its determination to help Vietnam build its nuclear power plant, considering this one of major scientific and technological cooperative projects between the two countries.

In the field of culture and tourism, both Vietnamese and French leaders have decided to organise 'cross year' in 2013 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the two countries' diplomatic ties. The year 2013 will see many diverse activities in culture, arts, economics, trade, and tourism in Hanoi, Paris, and other localities, including twin localities.

Vietnam attaches high importance to education and training cooperation. France is committed to increasing the number of scholarships it grants Vietnam as well as creating favourable conditions for Vietnamese students to study tertiary and postgraduate courses in France. France will cooperate with Vietnam in training 10,000 Vietnamese holders of PhD degrees from now until 2020. The fields of cooperation include aeronautics and medicine.

With regard to security and defence, the two countries recently signed a cooperative agreement during the Vietnam visit by prime minister Francois Fillon. Accordingly, France will assist Vietnam in defence technical training, military medicine, peacekeeping, and fighting organised crime, especially high-tech crime.

So far 52 French localities have set up partnership with 52 Vietnamese counterparts.

VOV: What other significant activities will take place in 2013 to commemorate 40 years of bilateral diplomatic relations?

From the very beginning of 2012, the Vietnamese embassy in France will launch a number of activities toward 2013. For instance, it will join Aubenas city in holding 'Vietnam Week' in February 2012. It will also join hands with other French localities, especially the Poitou Charentes region, to hold the Hue Festival in April the same year.

In addition, the embassy is preparing for organising the ninth decentralised cooperation meeting in Brest city, possibly in July 2013.

VOV: What are the fields of priority in expanding diplomatic ties with France as well as other countries that you are in charge of as an ambassador?

Boosting the work related to the Vietnamese community in France is one of my major priorities.

I believe that over 300,000 Vietnamese expatriates in France are an important link for traditional ties between Vietnam and France. They will also contribute to their motherland's development. Of these people, up to 40,000 have high academic level and could contribute considerably to the country's development.

We will step up cooperation with such countries as Monoca and Andora in tourism, banking, and maritime research. To my knowledge, Monaco has already cooperated with the Nha Trang Oceanography Institute. Monaco and Vietnam are considering signing a framework cooperative agreement on tourism.

Vietnam's political ties with Portugal are fine but bilateral economic cooperation has not been on a par with their political relations. Therefore, the two sides are focusing on boosting cooperation in economics, trade, tourism and shipping. They will discuss and come to sign a number of important framework agreements for cooperation in these fields, including the double taxation avoiding agreement and the agreement on encouraging and protecting investment.

Regarding the Central African Republic, a lot of work remains to be done. Vietnam established its diplomatic ties with this African country in November 2008. Therefore, Vietnam-Central African Republic ties should be based on the broader relationship between Vietnam and Africa. Vietnam and the Central African Republic are discussing the signing of a local tripartite cooperation agreement on agriculture with the participation of the Francophonie.

VOV: The French presidential election is taking place in 2012. Do you think this event will impact on the consolidation and development of bilateral relations?

Vietnam and France have experienced ups and downs, but they have maintained their traditional ties of friendship and mutual understanding. France was previously a leading country in the west to boost ties with Vietnam. French president Francois Mitterrand was the first western president to visit Vietnam in February 1993, and always supported Vietnam in normalising its ties with world financial and monetary institutions as well as with other nations, including the US. Next, French president Jacques Chirac, a rightist, made two visits to Vietnam in November 1997 and October 2004, respectively. The current French President Sarkozy also highly appreciates ties with Vietnam and wishes to visit Vietnam at an opportune time.

During Vietnam's previous wars for national liberation, the Vietnamese government and people always received strong and precious support from the French people and friends. Many of current French leaders and statesmen have emerged from the movements in support of Vietnam and still keep in mind the good images of the country. France's foreign policy toward Vietnam is consistent regardless of its president being either left-wing or right-wing.

With its open policy of diversifying and multilateralising ties with countries all over the world, Vietnam always gives high priority to relations with France, considering France a gateway to the EU and Europe. In return, France's senior leaders also attach importance to the position and role of Vietnam in the region and the world, seeing Vietnam as one of the top priorities in France's Asia policy and as a gateway for France to enter Asean.

As a ruling party, the Communist Party of Vietnam has good ties with French political parties, including some right-wing parties.

I do believe that no matter who becomes the next French president, leftist or rightist, the French foreign policy toward Vietnam will be unchanged and we are looking forward to closer relations between Vietnam and France.

Radio Voice Of Vietnam - August 2, 2011