Moving our country “from the third to the first division as a pole player”: this is the mission – impossible? – accepted and assumed by Olivier Poivre d’Arvor when he was appointed ambassador of the poles by Emmanuel Macron in 2020. The writer is the third personality to formally occupy this position, originally cut for Michel Rocard under the Sarkozy five-year term and in which the importance of the issues, crucial for the planet and, to a lesser degree, notable for the influence of a pioneering France, comes up against the often sclerotic workings of international diplomacy in this area.
The former socialist Prime Minister knew this better than anyone, he who, during Matignon’s time and his time in the European Parliament, had looked closely at the situation in the Arctic and Antarctica.
How can France, as the 7th world power that it is, have any influence at the North Pole when it is only an observer member of the Arctic Council, unlike Russia, Canada, or the United States? Michel Rocard did not hide his frustration, also fueled by the rigor with which he accomplished his task, recognized today by all. The former Prime Minister took on the political leadership of his task, when it came to finding new signatories to the Madrid Treaty on the protection of the Antarctic, or drafting his “road map for the Arctic”, his legacy, a few months before his death. The position is therefore not a hideout, if indeed its holder sets out to prove it.
Appointed in June 2017, Ségolène Royal left behind a legacy as deserted as the great polar expanses. “There was a gap after Michel Rocard, Ségolène Royal carried out an action which was not up to the challenges of the moment”, regrets the Renaissance deputy Eric Girardin, co-author of a parliamentary report on “The pole problem” in 2021.
An observation shared among those familiar with the issue, including at the Quai d’Orsay, where we find “unbelievable everything she has managed not to do” in this role where media visibility cannot do without technical work that is often dry and unrewarding. Olivier Poivre d’Arvor was appointed to remedy this slump. Also ambassador for “maritime issues”, the diplomat has made it a priority to upgrade, in terms of resources and personnel, French scientific research installations at the two poles, the thermostats of the planet.