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The Protocol Unit
The Protocol and Management Unit:
- Is involved in the organization of ceremonies at which the National Assembly or one of its bodies is represented and in the welcoming foreign personalities or delegations;
- Prepares the financial decisions concerning the missions, receptions or actions of parliamentary cooperation;
- Makes all financial documents for the corresponding expenses and permanently oversees the use of the allocations for international actions;
- Is in charge of the material organization of all events connected with the international activities of the National Assembly.
- Under the authority of the Director General of legislative departments, this unit answers to the Secretary General. It remains in close contact with the office and the staff of the President, with the State Protocol department (Foreign Affairs Ministry) and with the foreign embassies in Paris.
- The current staff of the unit is composed of 9 civil servants. However, when it is necessary for the most important events, other civil servants from the international departments or from other departments of the National Assembly may be called to assist.
I. – ACTIVITIES LINKED TO PARLIAMENTARY PROTOCOL
1. – Main missions
The ceremonial of the plenary sittings comes within the brief of the Secretary General of the National Assembly and of the Presidency and the Table Office. So the Protocol Unit is in charge of:
- National ceremonies in which the National Assembly is represented [New Year’s greetings of the President of the Republic, Commemorations (May 8, November 11), Bastille Day (July 14), funerals etc.]
- Other ceremonies taking place inside the Palais Bourbon (inaugurations, placing of wreaths, commemoration plaques etc.)
- Welcoming of the foreign delegations received by the President or members of the Bureau of the National Assembly for talks, a meal or a working visit;
- Missions in France or abroad concerning the President or members of the Bureau (vice-presidents, questeurs).
- The Protocol Unit organizes the programme of the visits for the highest foreign dignitaries, including: meetings at the Hôtel de Lassay, receptions, (lunches, dinners or cocktail receptions), visits of the Palais Bourbon, speeches of Heads of State or Prime Ministers in the Chamber, welcoming to the Chamber of foreign delegations, working meetings with presidents or vice-presidents of parliamentary assemblies.
- It takes part in the organization of the meetings regarding various bilateral parliamentary structures like the joint meeting of the Bureau of the National Assembly and the Präsidium of the German Bundestag, the Grand France-Russia Committee or the France-Québec Inter-parliamentary Committee. It is requested to organize the bilateral or multi-lateral parliamentary events (Centenary of the Entente Cordiale between France and the United Kingdom, the 40th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty between France and Germany) or for all visits of foreign dignitaries requiring particular consideration.
2. – Other missions
The Protocol Unit is also in charge of the following duties:
- It establishes the order of protocol for the members of the National Assembly according to the principles determined by the Questeurs based on the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly.
- It gives advice to the departments of the National Assembly and to the M.P.s to help them in the organization of events or conferences, table plans or in the booking of hotels or restaurants in Paris;
- When it is necessary, the unit helps the civil servants in charge of the reception of a foreign delegation or of a mission of French representatives abroad.
- It is consulted on questions regarding the order of protocol for dignitaries, the flying of flags on the National Assembly, the clothes worn by M.P.s, especially official sashes or decorations, and civilian or military honours given to some dignitaries.
3. – The role of protocol
In its concrete roles the Protocol Unit:
- Collects and provides information that is necessary to deliver to political personalities, to the departments of the National Assembly or to external partners;
- Coordinates action and partners at events;
- Gives orders and advice and delivers circulars for all partners;
- Is a main actor during events.
- Thus the Protocol Unit establishes relations with numerous partners, both inside and outside the National Assembly.
II. – MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES
The basic principle is that each expense incurred during a mission, a reception or an action of cooperation linked with the international activities must be authorized in advance by the Questeurs.
The Protocol Unit deals with the requests of the international departments, the standing committee secretariats and the delegations which require funds. Upon the request of the department in question, it prepares a “questeurs’ decision” which will be included on the Questeurs’ agenda. It establishes an estimate for the expenses linked to the mission or the reception, calculates the different expenses (for transportation, catering, translation, gifts, miscellaneous etc.) and follows the entire procedure for the Questeurs.
The Protocol and Management Unit is also in charge of the following duties:
- It oversees the use of allocations for all international activities and informs the departments about the level of spending of their annual budget. The corresponding data are used in the preparation of the annual report on the use of funds and the following budgets;
- It answers the requests of the two Secretaries General and the Questeurs regarding the necessity of the expenses and the use of funds;
- It advises the civil servants in charge of the funds and checks the accounts prepared by them at the end of the mission or the reception (concerning the legality of the accounts and the necessity of the spending);
- It prepares the accountancy documents for the signature of the Director General for European, International and Defence Affairs.
This management role represents about 25% of the activities of the unit. It is infrequent in parliamentary structures where the financial aspects usually come under the responsibility of Financial Departments. However, its main advantage is to allow a better supervision of the international activities and the corresponding funds.