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Thanks Peter!

Pierre Sellal at Coreper (credit: Amb Romania / EU)

(B2) Pierre Sellal leaves his position as permanent representative of France to the European Union. A position that is dear to him, because he has held it twice, which is rare, and with a longevity that could not be more enviable (10 years without counting other functions).

Pierre Sellal has, in fact, spent a good part of his career following European affairs either in Brussels (advisor from 1981 to 1985, then deputy permanent representative, from 1992 to 1997, ambassador – permanent representative from spring 2002 to summer 2009, and again from summer 2014 to now) and in Paris (as deputy secretary general of the interministerial committee for questions of European economic cooperation from 1985 to 1990 or chief of staff of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Védrine from 1997 to 2002 ). He will thus have closely followed in particular the negotiation of the Single Act, that of the European Constitution and the Treaty of Lisbon and the start of Brexit. And he participated closely in several of the French presidencies of the Union (in 1995, 2000 and 2008 in particular).

It's no secret that he wouldn't have been asked to come back for another year. History in particular to complete the Brexit negotiations. But the fateful ax of retirement age has fallen. Place for young people with Philippe Léglise Costa who is not unknown on the Brussels square (1).

“The Oracle of Brussels”

Pierre Sellal's last Coreper was Wednesday (November 15). As is customary, it was the presidency (Estonia in this case) which made the farewell speech... in French, a language that the Estonian ambassador does not use fluently and regularly. Kaja Tael wanted to greet in Sellal “ the oracle of Brussels ", with a " determined and energetic style” testifying to a “committed and constructive diplomacy ».

The Council secretariat also spoke through the director of the legal service, Hubert Legal. Then the person concerned spoke who recalled, with the help of a few anecdotes, as he knows how to do well, all the twists and turns of the European Union.

« Many thanks Pierre. A real pleasure to work together! My best wishes for the future! greeted his Romanian counterpart, Luminita Odobescu‏, via twitter. " Always a gentleman, a true professional, a real European! France can be proud of one of its best. Thank you Pierre and all the best » replied Swedish Ambassador Lars Danielsson.

A detailed knowledge of the files

For journalists, Pierre Sellal was a valuable source. His detailed knowledge of the files and the twists and turns of different European policies, like his sense of formula, quite diplomatic but with sometimes sharp barbs, required constant listening. It made it possible to understand why a file was blocked or unblocked, what the terms of the compromise had been, the major issues at stake in a seemingly innocuous meeting. As a true diplomat, Pierre also had no equal in slaloming between all the trick questions that we could ask him and taking you exactly where he wanted to go. We have not succeeded in getting him to criticize, even if only a little, a position of Paris that is difficult to defend. He always had this concern, even at the most tense moments, to show how much France was present, its intelligible position, if not perfectly understood, had its role and weighed with all its weight. “ France knew how to animate the debate » was one of his favorite expressions, particularly at the time of the whirlwind Sarkozy presidency of the Union in 2008. His insistence on talking about Franco-German proximity was another constant, sometimes touching when we knew the gap existing on both sides. other of the Rhine. But, basically, he was right, the two positions ended up coming together. " You see… ". Thank you Pierre

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

NB: Pierre Sellal recently made a short video presenting the role of an ambassador, watch here

(1) He was Deputy Permanent Representative in charge of Coreper I, Europe Advisor to François Hollande from 2012 to 2015 and Secretary General for European Affairs since 2014.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).