Frédéric Jung, Consul General of France in San Francisco since 2020, is set to conclude his term and depart from the city by the end of July 2024. Having enjoyed our yearly meetings with him to discuss the consituency’s progress,we seized the opportunity for one final interview interview to reflect on his four years of service and gather his thoughts before his farewell.

MerciSF – You began your tenure in the summer of 2020, amidst a global health crisis and severe wildfires in California. Now, as your term concludes in August 2024, France has undergone an unexpected dissolution of the National Assembly and last minute organization of snap parliamentary elections. Did you anticipate such a tumultuous journey when you assumed office?

Indeed, these past four years have not been a smooth ride, and the entire consulate team has faced several challenges. However, such obstacles are an inherent part of consular life, and we are not alone in this experience. Many other consulates around the world have had to confront even more intricate situations

MerciSF – Could you give us an overview of life in the constituency?

Frédéric Jung – With 26,000 registered French nationals, our constituency ranks as the thirteenth largest globally and the second largest in the United States. This community has distinct characteristics.

Firstly, it has a strong focus on technological advancements, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle, where many of our daily used tools and applications originated. This region is somewhat the “center of the world at the end of the world,” and the French actively participating in this ecosystem of innovation.

Secondly, it is also a region of traditions, especially concerning viticulture. Napa and Sonoma, the primary wine regions in the US, share a strong connection with France, renowned for its wine and viticultural expertise. This also holds true for Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where the French presence is expanding.

Lastly, this community is marked by a profound attachment to France, despite the significant geographical distance and 11-hour flight, or 9-hour time difference. This is evident in the consistently high voter turnout during elections, which are among the highest in North America, even with our sizable constituency. In contrast, other constituencies sometimes witness minimal involvement in French political life.

Thus, we have a French community that is well integrated into the local economy while preserving robust connections with France.

MerciSF – What prompted you to accept the position of Consul General in San Francisco four years ago

Frédéric Jung – Prior to this, my career had primarily centered on multilateral diplomacy, involving negotiations and advocating our positions at the United Nations or within European institutions. I sought to delve into the other significant aspect of diplomacy: bilateral diplomacy, which entails representing one’s nation directly within another country. The role of Consul General provides this opportunity and enables direct interaction with local communities, both American and French.

Being able to serve in this capacity in San Francisco has been an exceptional privilege, given the richness and diversity of local stakeholders, particularly in the technology and academic sectors, with esteemed institutions such as Stanford and Berkeley.

MerciSF – What were the most significant challenges of your term?

Frédéric Jung:

The Covid-19 Health Crisis: Covid-19 Pandemic: I cannot look back without acknowledging the Covid-19 pandemic. The health crisis abruptly interrupted exchanges and travel between continents, placing consulates at the heart of implementing restrictions and exemptions. We played a central role in informing users of the rules in effect, but also in ensuring certain exemptions were implemented. I think in particular of specific measures such as the “Love Is Not Tourism” (LINT) initiative, which allowed the reunification of unmarried couples when one partner was not French. This involved significant work reviewing requests. Three years later, we may have hastily tried to forget this almost surreal period, but the work was very real and concrete: consulates were instrumental in reuniting couples separated during the pandemic

Electoral Timelines: In the span of four years, the consulate has overseen no less than five elections on a local level  (2022 presidential elections, 2022 and 2024 legislative elections, 2024 European elections, 2021 consular elections). Each election necessitated receiving electoral materials dispatched from Paris, sometimes weighing several tons, and establishing polling stations throughout the constituency. This service, enabling French nationals to vote in person across the American West as if they were in mainland France, is invaluable for our republican tradition. However, it is also a labor-intensive process for our teams, relying on artisanal methods. The contribution of numerous volunteers in staffing the polling stations is equally indispensable, and I extend my gratitude to them

Economic Diplomacy: In San Francisco and the surrounding region, economic diplomacy is central. We supported the efforts of key economic players such as Business France, the Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco and Seattle, French Tech, and major French university innovation hubs. The

June 2023 – visiting Google & Nvidia with Ambassador Laurent Bili

consulate’s mission was to champion their initiatives, offer support, and highlight France’s attractiveness.In partnership with the embassy, we bolstered these economic endeavors, with the ultimate aim of fostering job creation in France. Notably, out of the 15 billion euros in foreign investments announced at the most recent Choose France summit, 5 billion originated from companies within our constituency. AI also occupies a pivotal role in the Bay Area, with France aspiring to establish itself as a global AI powerhouse. Consequently, the consulate has been deeply engaged in these matters from scientific, economic, and political standpoints.

In June, we welcomed Anne Bouverot, who is responsible for orchestrating the international AI action summit, scheduled for February 10 and 11, 2025, in Paris. It is a source of immense pride to witness the success of the French company Mistral AI, which is opening offices in San Francisco, as well as the numerous French Tech companies involved in AI

MerciSF – What were the highlights or achievements you are most proud of over these four years?

Frédéric Jung – First of all, I want to highlight that a consulate primarily provides consular services. In this regard, there are quantifiable things we can be proud of as a team: we have increased the issuance of passports and identity cards by more than 25% between 2022 and 2023, and this upward trend continues with an additional 11% increase in 2024. We also conducted eight consular tours in the constituency in 2023, in Seattle and Portland, but also in Salt Lake City, Hawaii, and Anchorage, allowing French nationals to submit their applications without having to come to San Francisco. We expect to reach the same number of consular tours for 2024.

As for elections, as I mentioned, they require complex logistics. For legislative elections, the law allows internet voting, which has significantly increased participation in a constituency seven times the size of France.

Of course, not everything is perfect, but it is important to remember that this local consular public service is absolutely unique compared to what our European partners offer their citizens in the region.

We have also been active on the educational front. We are very proud to have supported two immersion schools in Seattle towards accreditation by AEFE, bringing the number of AEFE-accredited institutions in our constituency to 14.

In parallel, we have also supported French immersion programs in American public schools under the French For All program. This is already a great success in Utah, where the state encourages language learning. We are working to develop these immersion teachings in the Seattle area and in Boise, Idaho, where the French-speaking community is very small. We have a wonderful example in Anchorage, where 300 children with no prior connection to France exchange in French and sing the Marseillaise. With motivated teachers and a little financial boost, miracles are possible.

In the broader cultural field, we have been very active: Villa Albertine San Francisco has taken off, hosting and connecting dozens of artists, both established and emerging, with the local ecosystem. And the Night of Ideas continues to grow every year. Next year, it will even go beyond the walls of the Public Library, but I won’t say more for now!

Moreover, I have been keen to make our actions and France’s positions known through sustained communication, whether by participating in conferences or panels, or through interactions with American media, with television or radio interviews, and articles in the written press, like the San Francisco Chronicle and the Seattle Times.

So, I have constantly sought to promote our country here, to plant the flag in debates.

MerciSF – How would you evaluate your four-year tenure as Consul General of France in San Francisco?

Frédéric Jung – Reflecting on my mission, I am struck by the realization that despite living in interconnected societies, there is a significant mutual lack of knowledge between Americans and the French. We have much to gain from learning about each other’s solutions, accomplishments, and setbacks across the Atlantic. It is incumbent upon diplomats, as well as journalists and researchers through various means, to share this knowledge for the betterment of our respective nations. American entrepreneurship and French solidarity, often portrayed as opposing forces, should instead be viewed as complementary elements

MerciSF – What specific advice or insight would you like to share with your successor?

Frédéric Jung – I would pass on the advice I received when I first arrived: take the time to truly listen to the community members, as they have valuable experiences and insights to share.

MerciSF – After these four years in office, what do you think is the most notable feature of this constituency?

FJ: Its capacity to challenge conventions and pioneer new ideas. It is likely influenced by California’s cultural diversity – a state that takes pride in its majority-minority composition. The weight of tradition is lessened, encouraging audacity and innovation

MerciSF – A best memory, something you will miss, both professionally and personally?

Frédéric Jung – During my time here, I’ve acquired a new language – the language of tech. Entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors each have their unique dialects, but it is undoubtedly the lingua franca of the Bay Area. Although I only partially master it, it has taken me far from my roots and broadened my horizons.

And speaking of horizons, I will also miss the fog. One cannot truly comprehend fog until they have experienced it in San Francisco.

MerciSF – Can you tell us more about your next role?

Frédéric Jung – Indeed, I am returning to Paris and my first loves by joining the United Nations, International Organizations, Human Rights, and Francophonie Department at the Quai d’Orsay. I started there as a draftsman, and now I am returning as Deputy Director. There is even a common thread with San Francisco, as it was there that the United Nations Charter was signed in June 1945!

Merci Frédéric Jung!

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