Babette de Rozières: “To have a position in government, you don’t have to have a big mouth like me. You have to bow down. »

February 29, 2024 / Jerome Goulon

Regional councilor for Île-de-France and chef, Babette de Rozières is renowned for her outspokenness and her tireless fight to defend overseas territories, which she considers too despised. While she organized the Overseas Gastronomy Show at the end of January in Paris, she gives us some secrets behind the scenes in the political world and denounces the serious problems in the French Overseas Territories which are struggling to be resolved...

Jérôme Goulon: Do you have the feeling that those overseas are too often left behind?
Babette de Rozières: Yes, I have been fighting to defend overseas territories for 45 years. Nobody talks about Overseas, we are looked down upon. Do you find it normal that in less than a year, there are four ministers who have moved to the Overseas Ministry? Sébastien Lecornu, Yaël Braun-Pivet, Élisabeth Borne then Gérald Darmanin and his delegate minister, a nobody, Philippe Vigier. Have you ever seen this, so much turnover in such a short time in a ministry?

The Ministry of Overseas Territories is a golden cupboard in your opinion?
Of course. It's even worse than that. We are considered worthless! We don't exist. When there is a disaster, a cyclone, news items, people never talk about us. Even during Covid, I had to make a rant to denounce certain things, like the delivery of moldy masks to Overseas Territories. We are despised. 

You have some pretty harsh words about the Minister Delegate for Overseas, Philippe Vigier. For what ?
In the Overseas Territories, there is a water problem, which is not drinkable. We don't have any water! The taps are closed almost every other day. Do you know what the minister proposed as a solution? He said all you have to do is take tap water, heat it, put it in the refrigerator and then drink it. This is his response to the problem of non-drinkable water in the Overseas Territories. 

Philippe Vigier is the Minister Delegate for Overseas Territories, but the minister is Gérald Darmanin. What would you like to say to him?
We must stop considering the Ultramarines as sub-humans! The inhabitants of Overseas are French in their own right! Thanks to the diversity of overseas territories, France is second in maritime terms.

And you, did you never think of becoming Minister of Overseas Territories?
The political environment is very tough. I was weighed down, in particular by Sébastien Lecornu, the former Minister of Overseas Territories and current Minister of the Armed Forces. One day he calls me and says he needs to see me. He was in the middle of negotiations to poach the Republicans. He needed the LR so that people would vote for Macron in the presidential election. He asked me for a mission, because I am the only one to denounce the problems overseas. But from the moment I balked and refused to join Macron's party, I was given a hard time. 

What happened ?
I heard a lot of things behind my back. The problem is that I'm not smooth enough. I say things as I mean it, so it doesn't please me. However, to get a job in the government, you don't have to have a big mouth like me. You have to bow down and keep quiet. But I say what I think! I even refused the Legion of Honor in 2013, because I considered that those overseas were despised. You're not going to buy me with a rattle! If I hadn't balked, they would have definitely given me something...

And if you had been asked to become Minister of Overseas Territories, would you have accepted?
I would have accepted! I know the Overseas Territories very well, unlike the ministers who are appointed for political convenience and who come like tourists, to look nice, to have a title and a napkin ring.

Let's talk concretely. What measures would you take if you were Minister of Overseas Territories?
I will start by dealing with the most serious problems, starting with drinking water. Is it possible to live without water? No ! Then I will deal with youth unemployment, young people do nothing. And then there is pollution. 

That's to say ?
There is the problem of sargassum, which is toxic algae. Guadeloupe is rotting, and no one is doing anything. And then there is also the danger caused by chlordecone, a pesticide used in banana plantations. All people are affected, the earth is contaminated for thousands of years. We have to grow soilless crops, and no one says anything. People were not compensated. 

The government is well aware of these public health problems, right?
We take people for idiots by saying that the problem has been solved, but 90% of the population is infected. Many men suffer from prostate cancer in Overseas Territories because of chlordecone! Babies are born with traces of chlordecone in their blood. Mothers cannot breastfeed their babies because there is chlordecone in their milk! The fish is also contaminated, we have to bring it in from everywhere.

Other subject. You have released a book on the hidden side of politics in Île-de-France... What are you denouncing?
If I ran for the regional elections in 2017, supporting Valérie Pécresse, it was because I thought it would give me additional legitimacy to defend overseas territories. Politics is a gift of self. We must enter politics to serve others and be useful, not to have a folding seat or a napkin ring. However, I realized that the reality is quite different. Before being elected, I was made big promises. But once at the Île-de-France regional council, they started to give me elements of language, to want to impose on me what they could say and not say. And with my personality, it’s complicated! When you see the little shenanigans and arrangements between friends, with distribution of positions according to different interests and the votes that it can bring... We have no right to claim anything...

Have you reconciled with Valérie Pécresse?
No. When I go to the toilet, I flush and I don't look at what's in the bowl...

Are you holding a grudge?
When I turn the page, it's over. I don't hold grudges, but I don't forget, and I write a pencil on the people who annoy me... 

A final word?
I have been supporting the Overseas Territories for 45 years. I hope for the best for the Overseas Territories, and that one day, a President of the Republic will take the problems head on. I started from nothing, and thanks to my perseverance and my work, I managed to bring Creole cuisine to the Hôtel de la Marine. Since October 31, I have been giving cooking classes there every Wednesday from 14 p.m. to 17 p.m. It is the first school to teach Creole cuisine in such an establishment. and I invite everyone to come!