Articles - December 2017

Interview with New York French Consul General, Anne-Claire Legendre

Ambassador interviews are most of what Diplomatic Connections does in the world of publishing; however, in this dialogue, we meet and get acquainted with New York’s French Consul General, Anne-Claire Legendre, to get a nonpolitical viewpoint of what purpose a Consulate in New York City serves for the French population living in one of the most prominent cities of the United States.

Diplomatic Connections: How and when did your career in diplomacy begin?

Consul General Legendre: It has been more than ten years ago that I entered the foreign ministry. In France, we have to pass an exam to enter this ministry. I took Arabic for this exam which is called the “Concours d’Orient,” so this is why I have developed the specialty in Arabic and in the Middle East. Since, I have been working a great deal on this region including many other equally as interesting sectors as well. After ten years, I’m now very happy to be here in New York City as the Consul General.

Diplomatic Connections: How did you come to be a diplomat in New York?

Consul General Legendre: As you know in a diplomatic career, one has to change postings every three to four years which is an accepted part of this chosen profession. I have had different types of jobs; however previously, I was doing primarily negotiations. One very exciting opportunity availed itself working as a special advisor to our foreign minister. To be posted to the United Nations was something I had very much hoped for and, as you know of course, its headquarters is in New York. I so enjoy the city and to return in this capacity was at the top of my list as one of my most anticipated achievements aspired for and towards. So when the position of Consul General in New York City was presented to me; without question, I seized the opportunity, was most appreciative and continue to be extraordinarily enthusiastic about being here.

Diplomatic Connections: What is the anticipated length of stay for your particular posting here in New York?

Consul General Legendre: It is my hope to stay four years.

Diplomatic Connections: How do you define the mission of a consulate in general and for your nation specifically?

Consul General Legendre: The mission of a consulate is twofold. The most essential role and purpose is of course to take care of the French community. There are more than 80,000 French citizens residing here; this population is not only comprised of those in New York City but encompasses the entire state of New York including Connecticut and New Jersey as well as Bermuda. Our job and most fundamental task is to take care of them, to protect their interest, to provide them with services such as a passport, ID, but also to give consular protections in case they are detained in any U.S. facility. So that’s our principal role and function at the mission. The second one is to promote a friend’s interest in the jurisdiction. And so you have an entire scope of interest ranging from cultural to educational activities, to business relationships with the city of New York and the entire economic environment here.

Diplomatic Connections: What is the Consulate’s role in New York versus another city in the United States?

Consul General Legendre: Our assignment is with the specificity of New York City; therefore, as you know it’s a financial hub and our greatest priority is to attract financial investors back to Paris. New York City is not just the economy capital of the United States, it is also a cultural capital. So it’s imperative for us to maintain a continuous presence in the cultural scene and to be visible in the media; thus, to make the greatest impact we can concerning all things French, we make a huge concerted effort to contribute and participate in everything we are possibly able to in this wonderful city. It directly and indirectly translates to U.S. media and that reveals the perception of France in the United States.

Diplomatic Connections: How is the French consulate organized specifically in New York?

Consul General Legendre: We have a team of about 37 to 40 people working daily in the Consulate General here in New York. In addition to what I mentioned before, we are also working on economic interests as well as there is a political team that focuses on innovation and promotion at the French deck ecosystem.

Diplomatic Connections: How is the French economic collaboration with the United States?

Consul General Legendre: I would say that the French collaboration with the United States in terms of an economic relationship is really good. Of course we have very strong exchanges in terms of exports and imports; this is a very balanced relationship if you compare it to other countries. For instance, if you look at job creation on both sides of the Atlantic, French companies in the U.S. create more than 500,000 jobs in this nation; correspondingly, U.S. companies create more than 450,000 jobs in France. Hence, you see that there is a great balance and truly mutually beneficial components to this relationship amongst our two countries. In a brief summary, our foremost goal here in the United States is to advance and develop an even greater alliance while simultaneously reinforcing and strengthening the relationship. This is actually working very well in New York City; since comparatively, France is the largest foreign investor in the local economy than any other country as of 2016.

Diplomatic Connections: What is the role of the consulate when you have elections in your country?

Consul General Legendre: The role of the consulate is to help and facilitate the electoral process for our citizens. Last year both presidential and legislative elections were held and we had to organize polling stations to allow our citizens, which were registered, to vote at the consulate and other places. So it took us quite a long time to prepare, more than six months in advance, we had to recruit many volunteers to assist in organizing and setting up the polling stations, which were in most cases setup in the schools and then we went to full weekends during the presidential election and then for the legislative election. That was really intense work for us and for the entire consulate team.

Diplomatic Connections: How does the consulate participate in the cultural and touristic promotion of your nation in the United States?

Consul General Legendre: The Consulate works very closely with two entities. We have a cultural service that is also located on fifth avenue; conjointly, we have an agency that specializes in promoting tourism. We work in tandem with them in order to spread the word about French culture as well as French tourism. Unfortunately, as you know, we had to face a series of attacks in France and we had a drop in tourism from the U.S., but now it’s really picking up again and I believe this year will be fantastic in terms of American tourism in France. We continually have many events in New York City and throughout the nation to promote our beloved country.

Diplomatic Connections: What services does the consulate offer to your country’s nationals residing in your district as well as visiting tourists?

Consul General Legendre: Providing the best possible services to and for our citizens is our mission; protecting them is a vital part of the mandate of a consulate. We provide consular protection to our citizens; for instance, if someone is arrested by the NYPD and we get a call from them, provisions are made for proper consular protection. If they are detained in a U.S. Facility, we go and visit them regularly to give them information and news from their family. Additionally, we try to help them to be in contact with their lawyers. So we are constantly facilitating all those services in terms of respective security including social protection. Real life in New York City is not always easy, we have this dream idea of coming to New York and making it a success, but it’s a little bit harder for some people. They can end up in a very difficult position so we’re here to help them to try to see what kind of services from New York State and/or New York City they might be able to benefit from in their particular circumstances. There are times we help them to be repatriated to France in case of mental illness and such. That is the first part. Then we have also administrative services. First we register our citizens because it’s important for us to know who they are and where they live. We do this in case of an emergency, we need to attain all information we possibly can to better react to a crisis such as a terrorist attack or even something such as weather conditions; there are many different situations. We provide the same services, in the same way, that they would receive in France; for example, attaining passports, identity cards and the like. All those administrative procedures are being facilitated by the consulate here in New York City.

Diplomatic Connections: How can the consulate help those who are not French citizens planning to travel to your country?

Consul General Legendre: We have a great website so I encourage you to go to our website ( and to also connect by going to the foreign ministry website ( because there is a lot of very useful information for those who want to travel to the U.S. or to France. American citizens do not need a visa to travel for short term to France; although, if they wish to stay longer or if they want to study in France or even open a business there, our website is extremely informative and can easily answer a good number of general questions. We are always ready here to help them to facilitate the process. France is a very open country and we want to attract more foreign students, investors and entrepreneurs. They are very welcome in our country.

Diplomatic Connections: What would the difference be if you were to make suggestions for a tourist versus someone going there on business?

Consul General Legendre: For a U.S. tourist it’s very easy to go to France because a visa is not required; that makes everything rather uncomplicated. You can check the website and see what kind of advice you can find. We have plenty of cultural recommendations that would make your stay in France better, more playful, more enjoyable. For the business entrepreneur or someone who wants to go and set up a business in France or to have exchanges with a French company, we have a great agency that is dedicated to supporting those kinds of exchanges between France and the United States, it’s called Business France and they are really informative for all business leaders who want to connect and wish to invest in France. They are well prepared to help entrepreneurs and investors in facilitating all the administrative procedures or visa related items and so on. They are there to help them set up their business in France. Most recently, we have established quite a few reforms that have been implemented to create a business-friendly environment to assist those entrepreneurs and investors who want to come to our country.

Diplomatic Connections: You spoke earlier of cultural events being a top point of focus, are there any organized by the consulate that are upcoming you’d like to mention? Are they open to the public?

Consul General Legendre: We have plenty of events, both with the cultural services and with the consulate. I can mention some of them; for instance, we held a tech fest on December 14th where we organized and focused on all our tech ecosystem programs. Young French entrepreneurs from our ecosystem met entrepreneurs from the U.S. ecosystems. We also have parties at the Consulate, in an upcoming reception we will have a very special guest star, Thomas Pesquet, a famous French astronaut and a presentation of his incredible experience in space will be highlighted. This is an event not to be missed! We will have many others but perhaps I can mention some that I am really looking forward to this coming year. Towards the end of January, a “Night of Philosophy” will be hosted and organized by the cultural services department. It’s certain to be a wonderful evening of intellectual discussion and a great opportunity to listen to some amazing speakers both from the U.S. and from France about topics of politics, economics and, of course, philosophy. It will make a really great night of ideas, that you can share with your neighbors; the public library of Brooklyn will be the location. We are very attached to our values and promoting diversity and equality, so on another occasion we will hold, with the consulate of Canada, the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Economic Club, an event dedicated to the promotion of women on corporate leadership and on corporate boards; addressing issues such as: How can we empower women for them to be better represented in companies? How can we help them go through the hierarchy to be, at one point, a board member?

Diplomatic Connections: If you had a message for our readers specifically concerning your country, what would it be and why?

Consul General Legendre: If I had one message it would be that France is back! We have a very attractive country. Sometimes people don’t see or don’t know what’s going on in France. I would really encourage your readers to learn about France, to get in touch with our institutions. We have French tech that is booming; we have investments that are coming back. Our new government is highly committed to making exchanges with the U.S., economically dynamic and relevant to other aspects, also culturally speaking. So please come over and take notice of what France is becoming. We are a young innovative country and we want you to come and see it yourself!

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