Henri de Grossouvre published his first book “Paris Berlin Moscow” in 2001, he then supported Jean-Pierre Chevènement, candidate for the presidential election. This quickly sold out book was reissued in French and was translated and edited in Italian in 2004 and Serbian in 2014. It proved to be premonitory to the extent of less than a year after most dailies from around the world titled “Paris Berlin Moscow” about the opposition of France, Germany and Russia to the Western war in Iraq.
Henri de Grossouvre then published “For a European Europe, an avant-garde to break the deadlock” in 2007, preface by François Loos, Minister of Industry. The notion of “European Europe” is borrowed from General de Gaulle.
In 2009, Henri de Grossouvre published “The Eurodistrict Strasbourg Ortenau, the construction of the real Europe / Der Eurodistrikt Strassburg-Ortenau, Konstruktion eines lebendigen Europa”, bilingual French German book prefaced by Roland Ries, socialist mayor of Strasbourg.
Henri de Grossouvre lives in a village in Germany, a few kilometres from the French border and works part of the week in Paris. He practices table tennis in competition, running, and cycling, and competes on horseback (CSO). He has lived in Romania, Austria, Belgium and studied in Bonn, Germany and the United States (Harvard Summer School).
He was kind enough to answer some of our questions.
Where do you get your ideas and what is your writing process like?
I published three books and about a hundred of articles in various newspapers and geopolitics and international relations journals around three main themes:
- Continental strategic cooperation in a Gaullian perspective which emphasize an ideal axis “Paris-Berlin-Moscow”
- The revival of Europe through an avant-garde, a core, (this is my book “For a European Europe, an avant-garde to get out the deadlock” – not yet published in English)
- Sub-state regional affairs, regionalism, federalism at the national level (my book Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau – not yet published in English as well)
I think that these themes are coherently interlinked and complementary. They also relate to both my work locations and my higher education route: Bonn, in Germany, where I studied. Vienna, in Austria where I have worked at Alcatel headquarters and where I was regularly travelling from Germany to Russia as well as in Budapest, Hungary. And I was also regularly going to Vienna, Bucharest and Cluj in Romania where I was co-operant. I used to also work in Kiev and Kharkov in Ukraine, for Sagem Défense (now Safran Electronics & Defense) and on which I wrote a thesis called: “Ukraine, a new European power?”.
It is therefore a geographical area that I know well and of which I speak the languages. These themes are part of a European ideal that I carry within me. Even if I have the aim to work in an academic way, I inhabit my books, if you allow me the term.
When I am writing a book, I seize an opportunity in the news and at the same time I am already carrying within me the material and most of the knowledge required to write the book. This is the same process that occurred for all my three books. This is also why the themes of my books and articles regularly come back in the news: these are themes that, paradoxically, are timeless and closely linked to the geographical and cultural facts of Europe. “Paris-Berlin-Moscow” is a variation on the themes of which the partition is in part already written by Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, De Gaulle or Jean-Pierre Chevènement! For Paris-Berlin-Moscow, which was written during the French Presidential Election Campaign of 2001-2002, I had to send in the draft before the 2002 election and I worked intensively for during a period of a few months.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
What surprised me the most was the fact that important, vital and strategic questions transcend political cleavages and political parties. Through both my research and the visibility that was given to me, I was surprised to find that I had unexpected allies on the left (Socialist Party, Communist Party), at the centre (the Radical Party, notably, with whom I worked after this book, with the Minister François Loos specifically), as well as on the right. I was also surprised to note that most “Gaullists” are not to be found in the so-called Gaullists parties. Therefore, I’d rather call myself a “Gaullian” rather than a Gaullist.
What inspired you to write “Paris Berlin Moscou”?
I was already passionate for both German and Russian’s history and culture, as a French with relatively traditional and rooted credentials. I published an op-ed in Le Figaro in which I sought to define Gaullism and show that the true successor of De Gaulle was not Jacques Chirac but Jean-Pierre Chevènement. I wrote this article in a spontaneous fashion and I got myself into a positive slippery slope which led me to write my book. Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s campaign staff (Georges Sarre, notably) reached out to me and asked me to write a policy brief on the economic issues of Central Europe. I replied that the topic was not of much interest for me and that I would rather write a book on the “Paris-Berlin-Moscow” axis which was an idea launched by Jean-Pierre Chevènement, then candidate for the French President Elections, but that nobody had developed or worked in depth.
What does “Paris-Berlin-Moscou” emphasize and why?
The central idea is that Greater Continental Europe has a huge untapped potential. France, Germany and Russia could be the engine of this greater Europe like the six-founding member-states were the engine of European construction. Each of these three countries possess a strategic position on a part of Europe: Western Europe for France (access to the North through Northern France but also to the Germanic world through Eastern France, but also to the Atlantic space and to the Mediterranean), Central Europe for Germany, and Easter Europe, a link to Asia and the developing Pacific world for Russia. These countries all have a suitable critical mass, a tradition of foreign affairs, and a prestigious historical culture and literature. Hence, they can be the ideal and non-exclusive engine of a greater Europe which would allow European countries to become “actors” again, and not just be “subjects” of international politics, like it has been since World War II.
Do you hear from your readers much about “Paris Berlin Moscou”? What kinds of things do they say?
Indeed, I received a lot of feedbacks. Some right after the publishing of the book, and some others many years after. My book was translated both in Italian and in Serbian. I was also able to develop an international network of friends and experts on these questions. Some of my articles were also translated in Russian, German, English, Bulgarian and Greek… It led me to bond with very diverse people. Like most “network men” I like people! I am always happy to meet new people.