Meeting with Stephan Maigné, Camille Raffin

Advisors to the French in Berlin and Hamburg, Stephan Maigné, Camille Raffin-Weinlein and Philippe Loiseau have were elected as candidates on the Ecologist, Social and Citizen List, during the May 2021 elections. More than a year after the start of their mandate, they share their feelings of experience and their future ambitions with us.

We continue to work as a team: a team that shares values ​​and our working methods. We are here to represent and support our communities, wherever they are in the constituency and to serve the general interest.

What are your impressions as advisers to French people living abroad, more than a year after the elections?

In 2021, our list EELV-PS-FDM obtained the absolute majority of the votes against four other lists, thus allowing the election of three councilors out of five: Stephan Maigné, Camille Raffin-Weinlein and Philippe Loiseau.

Stephan Maigné was elected President unanimously by the councilors elected to the first Consular Council. As such, he invites members to consular meetings, chairs the meetings and liaises with the head of the consular post.

Philippe Loiseau, outgoing councillor, has again been a member of the Assembly of French Citizens Abroad since October 2022, the only one among the five councilors in the constituency.

We continue to work as a team: a team that shares values ​​and our working methods. We are here to represent and support our communities, wherever they are in the constituency and to serve the general interest. Our values ​​were visible during the campaign and remain the inspiration of our mandate. They allow our associative and political commitment.

Three consular advisers from Berlin © S. Maigné, C. Raffin, and P. Loiseau
The three consular advisers in Hamburg © S. Maigné, C. Raffin, and P. Loiseau

What are the themes that the French in Germany have asked you the most to relay to the authorities?

Education is a major subject for our compatriots, and then, of course, the place of the French language in Germany.

On this point, the lack of places in schools with French, in primary and secondary, being obvious, in Berlin in particular, we support the creation of new bilingual streams or schools, in relation to the demand which continues to increase in communities. We are not decision makers but must convince our German friends.

The project to open bilingual classes in Diesterweg-Berlin-Wedding Gymnasium is a current example and we have supported the parental initiative (Elterninitiative Frankophone Familien im Nordosten Berlins) since its inception.

Our mission also consists of accompanying and supporting the French education network abroad, as far as we are concerned, the Voltaire School in Berlin and the Saint-Exupéry School in Hamburg, without forgetting the new LFA, which is a major educational and political project for Franco-German relations. It is a public and free establishment, who would complain about that?

Consular tours are necessary and important but, let’s face it, they fall short of the real needs of our compatriots.

All these topics were discussed during the Consular Council dedicated to education issues that we organized in October with French and German school stakeholders in the district to address issues that concern parents in particular with school-age children.

Likewise, we concretely support the Franco-German Kitas of the constituency, as we have done as voluntary and political volunteers for seven years. This had never been done!

As far as the administrative procedures are concerned, we do what is necessary to help simplify them, in dialogue with the consular post. Online appointment booking remains problematic even if the ministry’s platform was refreshed and improved this summer. The covid crisis has had a strong impact on the consular public service and the delays incurred have been almost all made up. Thanks to the staff! We relayed these subjects to our senators for French people living outside France, Ms Vogel and Ms Conway-Mouret, who spoke with us in 2022.

Consular tours are necessary and important but, let’s face it, they fall short of the real needs of our compatriots both in Hamburg and elsewhere such as Lower Saxony or Saxony. They cannot indeed cover the overall demand, and many compatriots end up giving up their steps, also because of the size of the constituency. They are carried out with constant staff resources, which overloads the work of consular staff. However, consulates are under-resourced. Administrative logic can sometimes surprise. Similarly, during the last elections, a few “special proxies” rounds were made in the regions, but not all the major towns in the constituency could be served and, unfortunately, non-French honorary consuls cannot establish proxies… is a recurring problem that has still not been solved! In the 2022 elections, the system chosen by the embassy has been improved somewhat, but the absence of polling stations in Saxony is a concern.

The question of the separation of binational couples remains a Franco-German problem that has never really been dealt with. It must be given the full attention of the public authorities.

Then there is the theme of the repatriation of people who are victims of accidents, seriously injured in Germany: a large number of deaths by suicide is little known but can mobilize elected officials alongside the consular post. Like domestic violence and violence against women for Franco-German couples and the consequences for child custody. There, we can only help at the margins, in complete discretion. The question of the separation of binational couples remains a Franco-German problem that has never really been dealt with. It must be given the full attention of the public authorities.

We are continuing the dialogue with the associations that have suffered from the Covid crisis. This dialogue undertaken with the various players in the district is essential and we have always maintained it, two trips to Hamburg and Leipzig marked the resumption. Then come Hanover and Bremen to meet our compatriots.

What are your objectives for the second year of your mandate?

Maintain our commitment! The school stream project at the Diesterweg-Gymnasium in Berlin will be a priority, as there is considerable demand from families.

As was already the case in October, we will have other consular councils with a specific theme, in order to discuss and relay information. We will still ask to improve the public offer of information of a social nature, for pensions and social insurance in Germany.

The last Council asked that the Regional Economic Service of the Embassy be seized for the possible updating of the basic rates useful to fix the social aids, even rare in Europe, and which also have an impact on the school grants. This request is justified by the increase in the cost of living due to the economic and energy crisis. The 2023 ministerial appropriations for the consulates are announced to be up slightly (+€1.1 million) but this will in no way help the consular network in Europe. We will judge on the spot!

The consular council of 2022 will take place in the coming months, what would you like to highlight during this moment of speech?

This consular council will take place in January 2023. It will make it possible to take stock of the consular post, as provided for by the texts which govern our competences.

The Council dedicated to grants to associations (stafe) will also be held in January. Know that the advisers will be attentive to the quality of the files which will be presented by the associations and to the regional balance. These are public credits.

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Meeting with Stephan Maigné, Camille Raffin-Weinlein and Philippe Loiseau