By Maria Saporta
One of the benefits of the annual, two-weeks-long France-Atlanta program is that it has revived the sister city relationship between Atlanta and Toulouse.
Toulouse Mayor Pierre Cohen, led a delegation of Toulouse dignitaries to participate in a number of France-Atlanta events that are underway. It was the first visit that Cohen, who has been mayor of Toulouse for more than three years, has made to Atlanta.
Although he had intended to come to the inaugural France-Atlanta event last year, Cohen said there was a conflict with the opening of a new tramline in Toulouse and transit workers who had gone on strike. He decided he needed to stay in Toulouse to resolve that situation.
But Cohen made sure to be part of this year’s event. On Monday, Cohen met with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to talk about ways they could strengthen the relationship between the two cities. Afterwards, he sat down for an interview.
Mayor Reed, who was supposed to be part of an interview with Mayor Cohen, had something come up.
But Cohen said that Mayor Reed had let him know that he wanted to visit Toulouse during his next European trip.
Toulouse has a special relationship with Atlanta. Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson’s mother had lived in Toulouse and actually ended up getting married in the Toulouse City Hall.
Later, Jackson’s mother returned to Toulouse, and he would go visit her — becoming conversant in French.
Then in 1993, Jackson and his wife, Valerie, went to Toulouse, and they renewed their marriage vows at the same hall where Jackson’s parents were married.
But over the years, the sister city relationship between Toulouse and Atlanta was not as active as some would have liked.
Today, the France-Atlanta program has forged several connections between both cities. Cohen said that while his delegation was in Atlanta, it explored possible economic, scientific and cultural collaborations between both cities.
From a scientific standpoint, they see potential exchanges and partnerships in the fields of cancer, cardiology, prevention and diabetes. Toulouse actually is planning a special scientific conference next year when it hopes to invite attendees from Georgia Tech and other Atlanta institutions.
Pascal LeDeunff, the French consul general in Atlanta who was the founder of the France-Atlanta event, said he was pleased that the multi-dimensional conference had been so well attended by visitors from Toulouse.
“I’m impressed with the contribution of Toulouse with our project,” LeDeunff said. “I think the sister-city relationship has a very good base for the future. Our visit with the mayor (Reed) shows us that this can be explored, no only in the economic sphere but in the cultural and scientific areas as well.”