July 25, 2021

Valence declares its love for a dying Francophonie

LETTER FROM MADRID

Open since 1888, the French Institute in Valence will definitively close its doors to the public on Wednesday June 30. And will end one hundred and thirty-three years of history in the third city of Spain. The mobilization of employees, students and regulars of this cultural center located in the heart of the Mediterranean city will have done nothing. No more than the 11,000 signatures gathered on the Change.org site, or the numerous columns written in the press by personalities from the cultural, economic or political world of Valencia. So decided the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which invokes a cumulative deficit of 250,000 euros since 2014, while insisting that this is not a closure, but a “Modification of the existing model”.

Of the twenty-six employees, twenty-three were dismissed, including seventeen teachers. The three jobs maintained must be “Refocus on [les] priority missions [que sont la] educational, cultural and university cooperation, and [l]‘organization of French certifications (DELF, DALF, etc.) ”, underlined the French Institute in a press release. No more French language courses, cultural activities, cinema sessions, concerts and conferences in the auditorium, or access to the media library, which contains 15,000 books, CDs and DVDs.

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“In 2018, we received a general inspection from the ministry, which gave us two years to straighten our accounts, and in 2019 we managed to reduce the deficit to 5,000 euros, instead of 34,000 euros. 2020 was an exceptional year due to the pandemic. We were convinced that it would not be taken into consideration and that we could obtain additional time, regrets Bruno Laurent, librarian and staff representative. For us, the deficit is an excuse of the ministry: it would have been enough of a good management to go up the slope, and they did not even seek to propose voluntary departures or in early retirement. “

Very lucrative certifications

Many French Institutes have disappeared over the past fifteen years in several European cities, starting with that of Seville, in 2006, replaced by a meager delegation responsible for establishing partnerships with local institutions and passing French certifications. , very lucrative – this is what is planned to be implemented in Valencia. The French Institutes in Turin, Venice, Porto or Amsterdam have paid the price for the same redefinition of priorities and cost reduction, also aimed at enhancing the State’s real estate stock. The French Institute in Vienna, the neoclassical Clam-Gallas palace, was sold to the Embassy of Qatar in 2015. The building in Valence is a stately home dating from 1850.

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