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How Brittany and Ireland foster ties with Europe

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Historically linked, Brittany and the English-speaking country closest to the EU continue to grow closer. Beyond history and eminence, they work on issues of the common future. Stéphane Perrin Sarcier, the region's vice president in charge of Europe and International, is convinced of the need to go further in cooperation. The interview

Stéphane Perrin Sarcier When we think of Europe when we are in Brittany, the country that comes closest to us is usually Ireland. How do you explain that?

First, there are very old historical connections with the whole history of saints from Ireland. We've been celebrating St. Patrick's Day here for a long time. There are also very clear cultural connections. The Interceltic Festival is a strong and undeniable symbol of this. There are also sports. Gaelic football, incidentally, is very important.

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And literature…

Yes, more and more. Ireland was financially involved in the Ausant Book Festival, and today, Jean-Michel Le Boulanger (President of the Ausant Voyageurs Festival) is working to create a Celtic version of the Saint-Malo festival. Naturally, he started in Ireland. This willingness of the Irish to do things with us is remarkable. In the field of culture, we can also make links to contemporary art. For example there are things to do between Ireland and FRAC (Regional Contemporary Art Fund).

The Bretons often speak of a community of spirit with the Irish. where is she from

There is little anti-English background running on both sides (Laugh). More seriously, Ireland and Brittany are very close regions. Although one is a sovereign state and the other is a region, we are like twins. Together we have more than 100 pairs. We have about the same number of inhabitants, and it is a country of agriculture and cattle; We have more in common with Ireland than with the French cornfields. We are in the same configuration when it comes to energy and especially our dependence on external electricity. Like us, Ireland is a nuclear-free zone.

So should we commit to renewable energies? The project, between France and Ireland, will establish a physical electricity link with the northern coast of Brittany.

It is essential for the. The Celtic Interconnector, or Celtic Connector, will allow direct electricity transfer between France and Ireland, connecting the north coast of Brittany and the south coast of Ireland, bringing us closer together.

For you, does this security of Ireland's energy supply translate into cooperation in ports and wind power?

We can imagine a society that is very specific about the production of electrical energy. We currently operate links between Breton ports (Brest) to St-Nazaire, Rosslare and Cork. Adding to this are Welsh harbors, whether they are established or floating, and are also affected by wind power. Our areas are the right measure for these subjects which require a lot of space. To be competitive, including the Chinese, we must work together. Individually, we all weigh very little.

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The polder in Brest, dedicated to activities related to renewable marine energy, takes on its full meaning today?

When Jean-Yves Le Drian wanted to invest in Polder, the port of Brest is essential for France's maritime energy, we were far from imagining all this. At some point, we will have to play on the complementarities between Rosslare (Ireland), Brest, St-Nazaire and Port Talbot in Wales. Given the wind alignment forecasts in all three countries, this makes sense. We can imagine that one day, our ports will have cross-capital partnerships, because the right measure belongs to the Celtic Sea. Moreover, when we welcomed a delegation from Rosslare to Brest a year and a half ago, they at first thought we were rivals and realized that we were partners.

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These projects require specialized manpower. Can we imagine joint training with shared staff?

We must also work together to allow people qualified in these professions in one country to work in another country without legal barriers or recognition of diplomas. Similarly, we have MoU, Cooperation agreement between all Breton universities and Irish universities. But with Brexit making it the last English-speaking country in the EU, the pressure is on for student transfers in Ireland. She is a victim of her own success.

Are fisheries and agriculture areas where ties can be deepened?

There is certainly reason to bring professional fishing organizations together because we have common struggles in fishing areas around the United Kingdom. In terms of agriculture, Ireland produces a lot of raw materials, but processes very little. We certainly have something to imagine with our agri-food companies.

Two years ago, Ireland appointed Jean-Marc Roux, CEO of Brittany Ferris, as Honorary Consul. Is that also a sign of approval?

Yes. The personality of Jean-Marc Roux is also taken into account, but beyond that we choose an honorary consul because the intensity of the relations justifies it. It does not have a consular function in the diplomatic sense of the term, but it still has a role, as there are few Irish or Bretons dealing with Ireland or Brittany.

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Like the Irish, the Bretons are from all over the world. Do they inspire you in handling their expats?

Ireland is a country of great immigration. The Irish work so much with their diaspora that it gives them extraordinary strength. We were motivated to build a policy on Bretons in the world. Bretons are a force to be reckoned with everywhere, even in places we think are completely unlikely. They are ambassadors.

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Basically, can we almost say that Brexit has some advantages from the point of view of the relationship between Brittany and Ireland?

Undeniably, Brexit is an acceleration of reconciliation. As a joke, I already said: Thanks Boris Johnson! But when they see the terrible complications this creates for them, the inclination for jokes diminishes. Even British Cornwall, home of the Brexiteers, is coming back to us.

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