Cycles internationaux de l’ENA 2014/2015
ENA is located in Strasbourg and was founded by General de Gaulle in 1945. It is an elite school providing high-level training for officials who will engage in a variety of careers.
Since its foundation, over 3000 non-French alumni have successfully completed the Long International courses. Along with the French alumni the global network encompasses more than 9000 top level civil servants.
22 Irish civil servants have studied at ENA, all from varying backgrounds : the Departments of Health, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Finance, Environment, Justice, one from local government, and two who were serving in the Oireachtas.
- They will be required to pass a French language test and general knowledge test on French and EU institutions. The Embassy can assist candidates in preparing for these tests
- Successful candidates will be notified in Spring 2014 and start their training at ENA in December 2014
- The course lasts between 8 to 18 months and fees range from zero to €4000
- Interested candidates are invited to apply from now by contacting Marianne Ziss at the French Embassy, Dublin on 01 277 50 12 or marianne.ziss[at]diplomatie.gouv.fr
- For more information on International Cycles at ENA, click here.
A Year at the École Nationale d’Administration
In late October 2011, I arrived in Strasbourg to attend the École Nationale d’Administration, on a year’s secondment from the Department. One of France’s most prestigious graduate schools, the ÉNA was founded by General de Gaulle just after the Second World War. Past pupils include French Presidents François Hollande and Jacques Chirac and the former head of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet. The ÉNA also allocates a number of places to serving public servants from abroad, on the basis of exams and competitive interview. It was a great thrill for me to gain entry to the ÉNA – the 22nd Irish person to have done so since 1945.
A multi-ethnic experience
My 25 classmates were mostly from finance or foreign affairs ministries or with a background in law. I was the only person from an Environment Ministry, even though environmental issues loomed large in many of our seminars. The class comprised women from Lebanon, Italy, Egypt, Senegal, Niger, China, Quebec, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and men from South Korea, China, Japan, Canada, Quebec, Bolivia, Guinea, Tunisia, Morocco, Chad, Cameroun, Madagascar, Mauritius, the USA and Belgium. As Frank Harte used to sing, “when first we met, complete awkward strangers, we did not know if we could be friends”. To foster an esprit de corps required a bit of lateral thinking. For example, in an introductory session, we were given five minutes to find out as much as we could about our neighbour, then to introduce ourselves as though we were that person. So I introduced myself as Mr Abakar Ibrahim from Chad in central Africa, an economist and former football goalkeeper, who had first met Irish people when Irish soldiers arrived in his home town as part of the UN mission to Darfur, in neighbouring Sudan.
Paris and Copenhagen
Our three-month work placements were from late January to April 2012, when I went to the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing, based at the Grande Arche de la Défense on the outskirts of Paris. Based on my previous work on green procurement, I was assigned to the “Office of Sustainable Public Services” whose role was to drive GPP and sustainable procurement. An interesting expedient was a bonus-malus system whereby €100 million of the annual procurement spend was re-allocated from the poorest-performing public bodies to the best-perfroming. I also represented France at the EU “Concerted Action” conference on energy efficiency in Copenhagen, Denmark (where an Irishman sitting in France’s chair gave rise to a good deal of puzzlement). On return to Paris, I submitted a paper on interesting parallel developments in other countries, including an initiative by the SEAI. I left the Grande Arche in late April, bidding colleagues there "bonne chance" with great affection.
The long goodbye
As the finish line came into view, we also stepped up extra-curricular activities. A series of football matches was held between ourselves and local youth teams from deprived backgrounds (we were beaten out the gate). There was considerable frequentation of a late-night bar called Zanzibar. I played the role of Baron Arnolphe in a piece of 17th century French theatre, "the School for Wives", by Molière. Graduation at the end of July brought a sense of having completed a marathon ; and as an Irish person it was an honour and a privilege to have had the opportunity. But the abiding memory is of friendships gained. As the songwriter wrote :
"So here’s to you, and our road together. I will share with you a parting glass, And bid Adieu with a smile and laughter. That our time apart may be short, and pass."