French envoy Eric Berti says goodbye to Hong Kong after three years in office, citing green issues as important task city must tackle
Consul general will return to Paris at the end of August, with French Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Alexandre Giorgini tipped to succeed him
After three years in his post, French Consul General Eric Berti will return to Paris at the end of August, bringing with him memories of tasty dim sum, the efficient MTR system and the city’s iconic trams.
But there are also more serious matters that weigh heavily on his heart: Hong Kong’s environmental issues.
According to Berti, the city, drawing 60 million visitors annually, should do more in waste management, especially in the handling of glass and plastics.
“[Hong Kong] could be more efficient in how we sort the waste – we have landfills which are full,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Post.
The envoy admitted that when it came to the drive for zero emissions, neighbouring Shenzhen might have overtaken Hong Kong with its electric buses and taxis. But he pointed out that new metropolises faced less constraint in the push to become “smart cities”.
Berti expressed confidence in Hong Kong tackling its green issues.
“[Wong Kam-sing] is a very good environment minister. He needs to be more persuasive in his government. Nothing is lost because Hong Kong has all the capacities,” he said.
With an estimated 25,000 French citizens in the city, Berti’s tasks went far beyond the work of a diplomat. Unlike other European consulates which offer a limited scope of services, French consulates also act as town halls, electoral offices, notaries and social assistants for its citizens abroad.
However, Berti said some of these services would soon become digitised. The diplomat also noted changes in the profile of the local French community.
“It’s a younger population. Around 60 per cent are under 35 years of age,” he added. “Many arrive young, find a partner here and have kids. We are very busy here [registering births].”
In his candid interview, the 59-year-old announced he would go back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, taking up a post that entails travelling and auditing French diplomatic missions worldwide.
A native of the Champagne region known for its sparkling wine, Berti is expected to be succeeded by Alexandre Giorgini, currently a spokesman for the ministry.
“I will miss the link between nature and the city in Hong Kong, and the early morning walks to my office,” Berti said, as he listed local specialities he holds dear, including dim sum, the city’s French-owned trams and its MTR trains.
“The MTR is amazing, the way it works – it’s clean. People are very disciplined.
“Dim sum is something I love too. I’m impressed by how long it takes [to make dim sum] and then you eat it in 30 seconds. It’s very frustrating for the cook!” he joked.
Asked how he would describe his Hong Kong experience in a single word, Berti said: “Caffeinated – it keeps you alive, active and dynamic.”