Great servant of the State, raised to the dignity of Ambassador of France at the twilight of a rich career, former spokesperson for the Quai d’Orsay, Jean Guéguinou embodied with finesse and intelligence a classic vision of diplomacy, which embraced in his eyes cultural action. He died on June 21, in Paris, at the age of 79.
Born October 17, 1941 in Carhaix (Finistère), Jean Guéguinou considered himself a classic product of republican France: from a family of sailors and millers, grandson of civil servants, son of pharmacists, he came out of the ENA (Marcel-Proust promotion) in 1967 and chose the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His years of apprenticeship at the Quai d’Orsay quickly took him to the French embassy in London from where, in May 1969, he was sent to join General de Gaulle in his Irish exile, an encounter which marked him deeply. He then pursued his career in the shadow of Gaullism as chief of staff to Michel Debré, then Minister of Defense. Then he joined the cabinet of Michel Jobert, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Then come the positions of pure diplomacy, in periods when history is lived live. First consul general in Jerusalem, he was appointed ambassador to Czechoslovakia just after the fall of the communist regime in 1990: it was to the new president Vaclav Havel that he handed over his credentials. He attended the partition of the country in 1992, after which he became ambassador to the Czech Republic. He returned to London, this time as Ambassador, in 1993; he spent five intense years there, which saw the opening of the Channel Tunnel, the return of Labor to power under the leadership of Tony Blair, the royal family upset by the death of Princess Diana in Paris.
During this stay in Great Britain, he displayed his talent for cultural action and his passion for art. Convinced that the influence of French culture abroad is part of diplomacy, he will continue on this path at Unesco, where he represents France from 2002 to 2006. There he completes the adoption of the convention on diversity. culture, an initiative led by President Jacques Chirac. A little later, he chaired CulturesFrance for several years, before this organization became the Institut français.
A certain idea of diplomacy
At the Quai d’Orsay, Jean Guéninou held two other positions which led him to use two different facets of his personality: director of information and the press and spokesperson for the ministry, appreciated by journalists for his immense courtesy and availability. He exercised this function successively alongside two ministers belonging to opposing majorities, Jean-Bernard Raimond then Roland Dumas, during the turbulent times of the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the recomposition of Europe. The other post was that of Ambassador to the Holy See, to Pope John Paul II. A practicing Christian, he maintained strong links with several associations linked to the Catholic Church until the end, alongside his involvement in many cultural institutions, museums and heritage, alongside his long-time companion Luc Bouniol-Laffont .
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