All aboard La Motte-Picquet
London, 13 September 2014
Just two weeks into my term as French Ambassador to the UK, I was honoured to arrive in Wales last Thursday for what NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen described as one of the most important summits in the Alliance’s history. Whilst President François Hollande and the other members of the French delegation, including Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, were engaged in vital discussions with their international counterparts in Newport, there was another very important French presence further down the coast in Cardiff Bay.
La Motte-Picquet is an anti-submarine frigate, named after the great 18th-century French naval officer Toussaint Guillaume Picquet de la Motte, whose bravery was applauded by British naval commanders of his time. At 4,600 tonnes, La Motte-Picquet is part of a group of five anti-submarine frigates that have demonstrated their continued operational worth since being put into service some 20 years ago. Docked in Cardiff Bay last week as part of the NATO summit, the frigate was joined by other warships from the UK, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and the Netherlands. La Motte-Picquet was second in size only to the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan.
I was delighted to learn that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who is Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy, was keen to inspect La Motte-Picquet and meet its crew. It was my great privilege to welcome him on board during the afternoon of the summit’s first day. The visit was an informal and lively affair, with all of the 200-strong French crew – as well as representatives from the other foreign ships docked in the bay – crowded onto the deck to meet His Royal Highness, who conversed in French with many of the marines and signed the ship’s visitors’ book before he left. I imagine the visit was also a huge honour for Captain Patrick Cazin, who had become the ship’s captain just the week before.
As France and its NATO allies agreed on measures to strengthen the Alliance’s collective defence and pledged their support to states whose national security is in peril, the international gathering that took place on board La Motte-Picquet was a symbol of friendship, strength and solidarity. As the NATO countries start to implement the outcomes of last week’s summit, these three qualities should remain at the forefront of our minds.
Sylvie Bermann, French Ambassador to the UK