presentation of the insignia of knighthood in the Order of Merit to Véronique Debieuvre
A day of glory for Bienvenue and its President
Gathered in one of the prettiest lounges at the Quai d’Orsay, the one with the silks decorated with parrots, the
whole of Bienvenue attended the presentation of the insignia of knighthood in the Order of Merit to Véronique
Debieuvre, its president, by ambassador François Gouyette. Her six-year-old granddaughter, Victoire, proudly
presented the cushion bearing the cross with the blue ribbon. General Secretary Anne-Marie Descotes honoured
her with her presence, as did the Italian Ambassador and many Ambassadors’ wives.
“This decoration," said the ambassador, "was awarded to her for her constant commitment over the past 30 years
to the service of Bienvenue en France, and also for her work as an expatriate in the service of our compatriots...
You spent most of the first years of your life abroad, in Cambodia and Morocco where your father, a career
soldier, was stationed... Your marriage to Luc Debieuvre (took you) to Hanoi, to Jeddah where we became
friends, then to Manama, Hong Kong and finally Rome". He goes on to describe Véronique’s career at BEF: "As
vice-president in 2018 and then interim president, you kept the association afloat during the health crisis.
In 2020, the founding president, Marie Thérèse François-Poncet, and the SG, François Delattre, are asking you
to put forward a proposal for the reform of the statutes that will be adopted in 2022, the year in which you will
be elected president of BEF". After mentioning her five children, her 22 grandchildren and her two-month-old
great-grandson, the ambassador praised Véronique’s work as the person responsible for the pastoral care of
funerals at the Saint Germain des Prés parish for the past 6 years. "This account of your career would not be
complete without mentioning the human qualities that I, along with my wife Halima, have been able to detect in
you. Faithfulness and uprightness are not the only qualities, but they are not the least.”
Amanda Gourdault Montagne, former president of Bienvenue, was keen to add her voice to the praise: "Dear Véronique, during my term as President I’ve had the opportunity to benefit from your extraordinary energy, your determination, your enthusiasm, your attentiveness and your generosity. I know that Bienvenue is in good hands with you and this wonderful team I’ve been lucky enough to know."
Soberly dressed in a pretty black dress, Véronique took the microphone surrounded by some of her children and
grandchildren "representing the 18 others" and of course by Luc "my dear husband who has supported me for
almost 45 years. We have brought up our tribe through the various assignments of a bank that bore the name of
an adventure in itself: IndoSuez". Véronique greeted Bienvenue and "all those diplomat friends who, after their
time in Paris, will have kept unforgettable memories of France thanks to the special moments that you, my dear
friends the presenters, were able to offer them. For me, this is the culmination of a family history, and I would
like to pay tribute to my parents who, from childhood, made me a true expatriate. It is perhaps precisely because
of this strong feeling of expatriation that I felt so at home at Bienvenue, raised like our foreign diplomat friends.
On the other hand, being the eldest, I admit that I was perhaps shaped like a staff sergeant in the Indian army... I
like the reality of a business that runs smoothly... It was in Saudi Arabia that I really discovered the voluntary
sector through the French welcome centres abroad between the East and the Middle East".
And to conclude: "I’m lucky enough to have started a big, beautiful family. So you might think that I should be
thinking about a peaceful retirement. But then you wouldn’t know me at all.”
No one in the audience had ever had such a far-fetched idea.