Colleagues, fellow diplomats and other friends bid farewell Tuesday to French Ambassador Jean-Paul Monchau, who heads back Paris next week after three years of service here.
Ever the diplomat, he praised Costa Rica for its rise as an important geopolitical player. “Costa Rica has a diplomatic role in the world that carries a lot more weight than a country of 4 million inhabitants,” the ambassador told a few score polyglot guests in attendance.
Monchau, 59, also addressed the recent announcement that the French-Costa Rican secondary school would be closing in the wake of a cut in funds by the French government.
“I’m optimistic we are going to find solutions … and this is an optimism that is based on profound friendship between Costa Rica and France.”
Head Ambassadorial Adviser Damien Brintet affirmed that education has long been an important issue for Monchau, who opened several schools while posted to Africa.
“We will find, we must find, a solution for the sake of (the students),” Monchau told The Tico Times later.
The lessons go both ways. Monchau lauded Costa Rica’s approach toward environmental issues, as well as Ticos’ “environmental consciousness.”
France and Costa Rica, he said, have “a common vision” on environmental issues, which “are not the affairs of one country, but involve everybody in a world vision.”
As highlights of his tenure, Monchau cited the launching of the European Union-Costa Rica trade agreement, which he said will lead to “more direct relations.” Moreover, he added, Costa Rica will be “the first country to benefit because it has the economy that is most ready (among others in the region).”
On leaving Costa Rica, Monchau said, “It’s normal that a diplomat leaves because we’re nomads,” but afterward he acknowledged that each time is more difficult because “we make investments in places, and then when we move, we have to change friends and start over with everything.”
Still, he said, “(The foreign service) is an incredible job … because behind the dossiers we’re talking about men and women.”
Brintet also recognized this personable quality in the ambassador, saying, “He brings out the best in people.”
Paris has yet to name Monchau’s replacement.
Monchau is coming off of an 11-year stint abroad with the French Foreign Service, first as the Consulate General in the U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia, from 1997 to 2001, then as ambassador to Zambia and Malawi from 2001 to 2005, and in San José since then.
He expects to spend at least a year in Paris serving in the foreign minister’s Cabinet.
Monchau said he is looking forward to returning to his homeland. “Eleven years is a long time to be gone.”