Dear Minister Brice Hortefeux,Dear Minister Marie-Luce Penchard,Dear Commissioner for the Year of the French Overseas, Dear Daniel Maximin,Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,Dear Friends,

For several years now, I have been convinced that the French Overseas Region is a cultural laboratory for the metropolitan area. Through their social and cultural history, the ultramarine territories shed light on the considerable enrichment that cultural diversity can play in the development of a society, in particular by bringing out new artistic forms, in a more open society. The various artistic expressions that assert themselves with dynamism in the Overseas Territories make an essential contribution to the aesthetic pluralism of our country: the phenomena of creolization, the permanent dialogue between tradition and creation, the rich intangible cultural heritage involved illustrate this specificity

For all these reasons, I wanted to make the French Overseas Territories one of the main priorities of my action, with all the necessary political ambition. In line with the guidelines set out by the President of the Republic at the Interministerial Council of the French Overseas Communities on 6 November 2009, I wished to renew profoundly the modes of action of the Ministry of Culture and Communication in these territories.

For this, I wanted an action adapted to the original characters of each territory concerned. In October 2009, I commissioned a report from Michel Collardelle, General Curator of Heritage, and current Regional Director of Cultural Affairs of Guyana. The relevance of his analyses has enabled me to take stock of the issue in terms of the renewal of the action of the Ministry of Culture and Communication and the expectations of elected officials, cultural actors and ultramarine citizens. It is a question of “a shift in the gaze” that is appropriate.

I announced during my trip to the West Indies in June 2010 the main thrusts of this action plan. It aims to:

- To structure, professionalise and exploit the considerable potential of these territories.

- Better protecting, preserving and valuing heritage, both material and intangible.

I have included several ultramarine museums in the national plan for regional museums, which I announced in September 2010.

I wanted to focus heavily on training, whether it be artists, cultural actors or audiences, with measures concerning conservatories, art schools and associations working in this field.

Books and reading are, of course, among the priorities of this action plan, as they are the condition for access to all other cultural practices. In particular, I asked the President of the National Book Centre to have French classics translated into Creole languages. I also hope that all public libraries can be modernized.

The linguistic dimension of the overseas territories, in all its diversity, will be taken into account with the organization in Cayenne, at the end of 2011, of the States General of Overseas Multilingualism.

I wished that these regions could benefit from emblematic cultural facilities with a strong influence. It is for this reason that my ministry is investing in an exceptional way alongside the Guyana Region, the department and the municipality of Cayenne to create a “House of Cultures and Memories of Guyana” that will have no equivalent in our country. And other equally ambitious projects are also being studied in the West Indies and Réunion.

I wanted to make an additional budget effort for the French Overseas Region in 2010 of €7 million. This effort was renewed in 2011. The action plan also includes measures to improve the audiovisual supply in the French overseas territories. These measures represent a €42 million effort in 2011. They concern both the launch of Terrestrial Digital Television in the Overseas Territories and the broadcasting of France O throughout the national territory. These provisions are already effective in their first phase, as well as all accompanying measures for citizens and private operators; new steps will be taken in this area in 2011.

I will still be very present on the ultramarine territories in 2011, because after my travels in the West Indies and Guyana in 2010, I plan to go soon to Reunion Island and Mayotte, as well as to New Caledonia.

The issue of this year 2011 of the French Overseas is essential. It is of course a great opportunity to shed light on their artistic and cultural wealth. But above all, these are «points of no return» that we must reach, to guarantee their lasting inclusion in metropolitan cultural life. That is why the President of the Republic, within the framework of the Interministerial Council of the French Overseas Territories, decided to create an agency to promote ultramarine culture in France, on which Marie-Luce Penchard and I are actively working. We’ll have an opportunity to talk to you about that in the coming months.

In order to prepare this perennial presence of ultramarine culture within our institutions and metropolitan events, the Year of the Overseas gives us a magnificent opportunity to promote awareness and discoveries, to raise awareness among our fellow citizens and all cultural professionals. I will be working throughout this year to make a significant contribution to this enduring ambition, both for my administration and for the Ministry’s public institutions - because I see this as a major challenge.

I would like to congratulate Daniel Maximin and his team for the richness and relevance of the cultural component of the program. I would also like to thank all this year’s partners, elected officials, cultural stakeholders, associations and patrons, who made it possible to make many of these events possible through their commitment and conviction.

I will not be able to quote all the highlights that the Office of the Commissioner has prepared in connection with a plurality of operators and partners. They are very numerous and of a very high quality. I would nevertheless like to quote the tribute that will be paid by the Republic to Aimé Césaire at the Pantheon in April, which will allow a national recognition of one of our greatest poets.

I also wished that the major national events organized by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, such as the Festival of Music or the Night of Museums, could be dedicated to the overseas.

You will also see that several major institutions will be major partners this year. I am thinking in particular of the National Gallery of the Grand Palais which will host an exhibition devoted to the relations between Aimé Césaire and important painters of the 20th century; the Quai Branly Museum, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, the Cinémathèque française, the Public Establishment of the Grande Halle de la Villette, France Télévisions; I am also thinking of the Senate, the National Union of Publishing for the next Book Fair, the Clément Foundation of Bernard Hayot, at the Dapper Museum, and many others whom you will forgive me for not being able to quote all, but who deserve thanks and a feeling of extreme gratitude for their commitment.

I can only encourage you all to share, throughout our territory, in many of our museums, theatres, concert halls and festivals, this tremendous artistic and cultural impetus for the influence of the French Overseas Territories.

Thank you.