Allow me to explain in detail how things stand with the Assembly of French Citizens Abroad so that you can understand. Afterwards, I will explain very quickly what the new request we received from the French embassy consists of. The new request has been discussed bilaterally, and I won't go beyond a quick mention, just to clarify the subtle difference between the two.
France does have an Assembly of French Citizens Abroad or the AFE. That organization is headed by the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs. It was established in 2004 and plays an advisory role in the discussions and studies on issues faced by French nationals living abroad.
The assembly consists of 155 advisors elected by French citizens abroad, including Canada. The assembly is not part of either of the French Parliament's two houses. As Ms. Laverdière said, the assembly elects 12 senators to represent French citizens abroad. So we are talking about an indirect vote. Therefore, the French senators do not represent a specific region or country. They represent the whole world. So, as you can see, it is very indirect.
In this respect, there is no problem because Canada is not considered as an electoral constituency with a representative who would sit on the French National Assembly or the French Senate and who would represent the interests of Canadian nationals. That would be a problem for us.
That needs to be looked at in conjunction with the new proposal we just received from the French embassy. As you know, the French Constitution was amended in July 2008. A new clause was added that provides French citizens living abroad with representation in the French National Assembly.
The legislation for implementing that amendment was passed last April. The next election of French National Assembly representatives will be held in June 2012. Under the new legislation, the election should enable French nationals living abroad to be represented in the National Assembly.
In addition, that electoral law proposes 11 geographic constituencies, one of which would include Canada and the United States. We have received the French government's request and we are discussing it. We hope that, as with the Tunisian government, we will come to an acceptable solution while clearly explaining the ins and outs of the current 2008 policy to which we do not foresee any exceptions.
As for the talks with the Tunisian authorities, I prefer to leave it at what I have already said. I have mentioned our offer to the Tunisian authorities to establish balloting stations in their consular and diplomatic missions. I think that everything that comes after those discussions is done through bilateral relations. We are here today to explain the policy as a whole.