Stéphane Hessel, former Résistance fighter and statesman, whose short book Indignez-Vous! became a surprise worldwide hit in 2010, spoke to Connexion about his thoughts and hopes for 2013. Mr Hessel sadly died just weeks later, aged 95, meaning his inspiring remarks to us were among his last comments to the media. The following interview was published in January’s Connexion. See the link at the end for more on the tributes that poured in for him.
THE AUTHOR of Indignez-Vous!, Stéphane Hessel, said banking reform and France’s - and the rest of Europe’s - relationship with the UK are key issues facing the country in 2013.
Mr Hessel, 94, rose to prominence in 2010 after his short tract Indignez-Vous!, which denounced a lack of solidarity and the French public’s tacit complicity in the destruction of social values, became a worldwide hit, selling 3.5 million copies.
Mr Hessel, who fought for the Resistance and was imprisoned in three Nazi concentration camps, helped to edit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has been made an “Ambassador for life” by the French government.
Speaking fluent English, he told Connexion: “We are at an important moment in the relationship between London and the rest of Europe.
“For someone like myself, who is an old partisan of better relations between the UK and the rest of Europe, we have to be careful not to allow anything to make this relationship more difficult.
“We are not at a stage where the USA plays such an important role that the UK has to focus on not having any difficulty with them. On the contrary, we need a counterpart to the Obama administration, and that’s why the UK and the rest of Europe should have better relations.”
As for the year to come in France, he said: “We have to be positive, we cannot let go; but the situation is difficult because the economic crisis has not been overcome and important measures that should have been taken at the beginning of our new presidency have not been taken.
“I am anxious during the next two or three months to see something decisive on the relationship between the banking system and the government of our region.”
Looking at the big picture, he added: “There is a lot coming up that is positive this year – all that is happening for example at the United Nations about Palestine. There are positive signs and we must continue to be confident in our possibility of building a more just world and we must all work together.”
Indignez-Vous! is published by Indigène Editions