Home Lifestyle Christian Masset, Ambassador of France to Italy: “Understanding our differences to bring our closeness to life”

Christian Masset, Ambassador of France to Italy: “Understanding our differences to bring our closeness to life”

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Sublime and without half measures. It is of the Palazzo Farnese in which the dialogues of Paris with Rome take place; A historic stay in the image of our relationship with Italy: fascinating but not entirely discoverable. Returning to Forbes France from the Palais Farnese in Rome with His Excellency Christian Masset, Ambassador to Italy for 6 years, an exceptionally long time for a Diplomat.

Portrait of His Excellency Christian Masset © French Embassy in Rome

First of all, can you share your vision of Franco-Italian relations with us?

His Excellency Christian Masset : In the difficult times we are going through, the neighborhood once again becomes a factor of strength. Our stories have intersected for centuries, we are heirs of a common culture, and our economies are intertwined. We share strategic interests, such as the Mediterranean. However, this convergence is accompanied by a paradox: we also have significant differences. Our two countries are built differently. In France, the state preceded the nation, and the opposite in Italy. Italy is deeply polycentric while France is historically central. The great Italian cities were capitals, and don’t forget them. Our constitutional systems operate differently. All of this brings with it differences in sensitivity and approach. We think we understand each other, but in reality we don’t know each other very well.

How do Italian and French view reality differently?

His Excellency Christian Masset : We must be careful not to fall into cliches. But my experience has taught me that often in Italy the approach is more concrete, integrating more the historical trajectory and in a certain way the diversity of situations. The approach in France, from this point of view, relies more on concepts that were then rejected. Geographical and historical roots carry more weight in Italy. These are the traits that I have particularly noticed during the discussions about ideas that we regularly organize here ( Farnese Dialogues). Another example that struck me: detective serials on TV are always identified with a city or region (Sicily for Commissioner Montalbano for example), while more often than not in France, the action is set in an unspecified city.

Interior of Palazzo Farnese, commissioned by Alexandre Farnese, future Pope Paul III © ChMantuano / French Embassy in Italy

The Quirinale Treaty signed on November 26, 2021 has breathed new life into the relationship between our two countries. Can you give us more details, especially from the point of view of cultural collaboration?

His Excellency Christian Masset : This treaty represents a turning point in our relationship. It provides a framework for a relationship that is already very intense and vibrant, to make it more fruitful. It is a matter of turning our affinities into joint actions. For example, the European Recovery Plan (” The next generation of the EU Created in 2020 to deal with the pandemic, an initiative taken together with Italy, it shows that our two countries can make a difference together. The Quirinal Treaty covers all sectors. It aims to develop the “Franco-Italian Reflection” and to develop exchanges and projects: business accelerators, corporate support Emerging, military cooperation, projects in the arms industry, joint participation in European technological projects, French-Italian civil service, border cooperation….Culture occupies a special place in the treaty, since our two countries are two great cultural forces.We are each other’s first partner in this field, even example in publishing or in film co-production. Through the Treaty, we call ” new grand tour », referring to that achieved by a part of European youth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We have focused on the circulation of young artists in an extensive network of residences, both in France and Italy, with a European invitation. This major program promotes cultural dialogue as well as the values ​​of exchange and sharing specific to Europe. A symbol of our cultural closeness, the reception at the French Academy last year for Maurizio Serra, the first Italian writer to enter under the dome, in the Simone Vail chair. It was a particularly poignant moment when we felt a kind of communion around everything that connects us to our heritage.

Entrance to the French Academy of Maurizio Serra on April 1, 2022 © French Embassy in Italy

How did your relationship with Italy begin?

I came to Italy through cinema when in my teens I discovered great filmmakers like Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti or Ettore Scola. I was impressed and it made me want to know this country and speak its language. 7y Art testifies to the close relationship between our two countries: a large percentage of films from this period are Franco-Italian co-productions, such as Rocco and his brothers, an absolute masterpiece. It was as if the actors and directors belonged to the same country. This period may return. Co-production is on the rise. In 2019, Italy ranked first (in terms of spectators) for films from France, accounting for 9.5% of admissions for French films worldwide.

What are you most attached to in your mission as ambassador?

His Excellency Christian Masset: Being an ambassador means understanding in order to act. You must listen and know the field to be able to identify collaboration or business opportunities and how to implement them. It is an act of translation in the sense that one must avoid “false friends” and be able to talk to the other in such a way as to avoid misunderstandings. It is an act of communication, and it is also a decision-making aid for our authorities. My goal is to obtain results, and I can only congratulate myself when I note, for example, the dynamism of our economic exchanges in 2022, when our trade exchanges will exceed the barrier of 100 billion euros, that is, a very strong increase compared to the pre-pandemic level. The development of our joint investments, especially Italian investments in France (+133% in 5 years) makes both of us stronger.

Opening of JR’s ‘Punto di Fuga’ at Palazzo Farnese July 21, 2021 © ChMantuano / French Embassy in Italy

A few words about this wonderful place where we are going to have this interview?

His Excellency Christian Masset: Palazzo Farnese is one of the jewels of Roman heritage. Michelangelo, who worked there as an architect, gave it splendor. It is fortunate for our Embassy that it has been based there since 1874. It was built in the 16th century by Cardinal Alexander Farnese, who became Pope. His pontificate marked the Renaissance. By inheritance, it became the residence in Rome of the kings of Sicily and their ambassadors. It also hosted Christine of Sweden in the 17th century after her abdication. It is a place steeped in history, where each room holds the memory and nurtures the imagination. The second act of Puccini’s Tosca takes place there. Today, it is a permanent place of work, cooperation, exchange and creativity. Thus, as part of the major restoration campaign underway, which will end in 2025, we invite contemporary artists to revisit the palace through original creations. That’s what JR did on the front with deformity.” fuga point » which covers the scaffolding of the façade, which was a great success.

Carracci Gallery – © ChMantuano / French Embassy in Italy

Finally, do you have any reading tips for our readers in order to better understand Italy?

I am thinking of André Gide’s last public speech in Naples in 1950 entitled ” Recognition of Italy “… Among the many Italian authors, Leonardo Chiaccia who knew very well how to understand the political, territorial, social and intellectual dimensions of Italy, touches me especially, like him” Candide or A Dream Made in Sicily », for example, inspired by Voltaire’s Candide.

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