Official speeches and statements - July 1, 2016
1. European Union - British referendum - Economic policy - Migration - Euro Area - Defence Europe - Interview given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the daily newspaper Les Echos (Paris, 30/06/2016)
Q. - How did you react to the shock of the Brexit announcement?
THE PRESIDENT - The shock was all the stronger because it hadn’t really been anticipated, including by the British leaders who triggered the referendum, and above all by those who had called for Brexit. There’s always a form of naivety that consists in thinking, despite the lessons of history, that everything will end up sorting itself out and that reason and the European spirit will prevail over nationalism and extremism. The EU isn’t an irreversible process, and the British vote brings us back to the bare essentials. What Europe do we want? And who with? Since the ballot, everyone has realized how attached they are to Europe despite its shortcomings, and also how painful it is to leave it. The first victim of the divorce isn’t Europe, it’s the United Kingdom. And too often, we like Europe when we’re not there or when we’re no longer there. Well, it must be upheld for what it is: an area of peace, solidarity and the future - provided the EU protects people. A jolt is necessary. Inertia would lead, sooner or later, to breakup.
Q. - Is the UK really going to leave the EU?
THE PRESIDENT - Yes. That’s its decision. It must be implemented. There’s no time to lose. That’s what the European Council expressed yesterday with clarity and unity among the 27. The respect due to the British and to Europe justifies going ahead with the separation. Any other reaction would suggest that whenever a referendum gives a result that isn’t suitable, a second one must be organized post haste. Europe needs stability and security in order to concentrate better on its priorities. There will be negotiation with the UK only in the framework of the separation provided for by Article 50 of the treaty. And there will be access to the single market for the UK only if the freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people is guaranteed. We can’t compromise on that. As for France, it will continue to have close relations with the UK, which is a great friend. We’ll maintain our cooperation on defense and the fight against terrorism, as well as our action to control illegal immigration.
Q. - London won’t trigger Article 50 on the request to leave the EU until the beginning of September...
THE PRESIDENT - I’d have preferred it to be immediate, but I’ve agreed to that timetable, given that it’s known and non-negotiable.
Q. - Is Brexit a victory for the people or for lies?
THE PRESIDENT - The British people may have been misled by lies. It will be their responsibility, when the time comes, to act accordingly towards the leaders who led them astray. But their choice is irrevocable. Democracy isn’t a poker game, especially when those playing take on partners who aren’t around the table.
Q. - How can this Eurosceptic trend which is threatening to weaken the EU be halted?
THE PRESIDENT - This rise of populism in Europe has been spreading continuously for a decade. Europe must face up to this reality. At the European Council, I asked Europe to concentrate on security, control of the external borders, the fight against terrorism and the defense of our continent, because citizens primarily want to be protected. We must also build a powerful Europe based on growth, investment and employment, of which young people must be the first beneficiaries. On the Euro Area, I want to embark on social and tax harmonization, particularly with Germany. Finally, the way Europe functions must change, without it being necessary to overturn the treaties. That’s the condition for Europe regaining confidence in its future and inspiring hope again.
Q. - The feeling is that Germany has neither the same ambitions nor the same pace in mind...
THE PRESIDENT - Angela Merkel is aware that new impetus is necessary. She’s very committed to the Franco-German partnership. It’s proven itself in recent years on the resolution of the banking crisis, on Greece, on Ukraine and even on refugees. We’re not going to wait for next year’s elections to take initiatives. Those dates - in May  in France, in September 2017 in Germany - will nevertheless provide an opportunity to get our people to validate the reforms which seem to us desirable in Europe and which we’ll present to them.
Q. - Does France have the clout to give impetus to the reforms? The France of François Hollande is an example to no one, says Alain Juppé...
THE PRESIDENT - Fortunately, France had the political clout in 2012 to prevent Europe further extending the austerity that had been established two years earlier, particularly on the initiative of the government Alain Juppé was an important member of. Fortunately too, France managed to push through banking union, despite German reluctance, and encourage a more accommodating monetary policy, on the Central Bank’s initiative. Fortunately, France managed to put all its weight behind keeping Greece in the Euro Area, when a sector of the right here was calling on us to exclude it.
Fortunately France managed to be convincing enough to obtain Europe’s solidarity following the terrorist attacks in November  and the member countries’ support for our interventions in Africa. Fortunately Mrs Merkel and I managed to restore the Schengen principles, which had been suspended for a few months. And I support the agreement with Turkey, whereas 11 chapters of negotiation were opened from 2007 to 2012 without anything in return!
Q. - What precisely do you suggest regarding the Euro Area?
THE PRESIDENT - First of all the distortion of competition must be ended, beginning with corporation tax. Secondly, a Euro Area budget must be created to finance investments in strategic sectors (digital technology, the energy transition etc.). And finally, economic governance must be provided for, under the control of a Euro Area parliament.
Q. - Is a Euro Area budget truly realistic?
THE PRESIDENT - The Euro Area can’t be a sum of rules and disciplines, it must relate to common policies to prepare for the future. It’s not about creating an additional tax. Transfers are possible. It must be possible to combine our defense efforts with respect for the essential fiscal discipline.
Q. - According to what timetable?
THE PRESIDENT - On Wednesday the 27 set the rules that must govern the UK’s departure. No informal negotiation or discussion will take place with London until the formal divorce application has been submitted to us - the procedure known under the name of Article 50. Then, in September, there will be a special summit in Bratislava to make progress on Europe’s future. Concrete decisions will also have to be taken for security, growth and young people. I want to move quickly. To wait is to give up. The 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome next March will provide an opportunity to show Europeans’ unity on this new impetus. To want a democratic debate on the EU’s priorities seems to me a necessity. But I rule out shams. Proposing a new treaty between now and 2017 is an illusion and a dead end.
MOVEMENT OF LABOR
Q. - On labor migration, what must be changed?
THE PRESIDENT - But who negotiated that directive? The liberals, and first and foremost the British! Who wanted cheap labor from Eastern Europe? The European right, and primarily the British Conservatives. They’re paying the price for that today. France isn’t asking for the free movement of people to be called into question, but for abuses to be ended by means of strict regulation of postings and sanctions against dishonest employers. It’s a difficult discussion because the eastern countries are hostile. We must achieve it. Otherwise, abuses of posted labor will erode Europe.
Q. - What do you say to those people in France calling for a referendum on Europe?
THE PRESIDENT - Why organize such turmoil, such a confrontation, if you don’t want to leave the European Union? Aren’t the lies, the over-simplifications, the extreme language and even the violence we saw during the referendum campaign in the UK enough for these people wanting to open a Pandora’s box? It’s clearly not a question of distrusting the people. But the date with democracy on Europe will take place in France during the next presidential election. The National Front, which up to now has wanted to abandon the euro, is now announcing that it will campaign for our country to leave the European Union, as the UK has done today. So in 2017, responsibility will have to be taken for this debate. And the British experience will serve as an example, or rather a counter-example.
Q. - What Defense Europe would you like to see?
THE PRESIDENT - European defense has been delegated to NATO. France has made sure it still keeps its own decision-making autonomy. Yet a continent can be respected only if it is powerful, economically but also politically - i.e. it’s able to protect, defend and project itself. Defense efforts in Europe are inadequate, save that of France. This situation is no longer acceptable. Everyone must make a greater contribution to Europe’s security. Germany is shifting its position on this. I’m studying with interest Thierry Breton’s proposals to create a European defense fund. The idea is to pool investment, including money linked to the security of borders. (...)
Q. - The Paris financial market thinks the City must lose its European passport, which allows a bank set up in London to operate on all Euro Area markets...
THE PRESIDENT - That’s non-negotiable. With the UK becoming a third country again, the European financial passport will have to go, just as it will mean the end of the trade passport and the European passport full stop. Another key point: clearing operations in euros will no longer be able to be carried out in London. For too long the UK has benefited from special dispensations, even though it wasn’t in the Euro Area. It won’t be possible any more. It’s legitimate and logical for French banks to organize and prepare themselves accordingly. And we’ve got to adapt our rules, including tax ones, to make the Paris financial market more attractive.
Q. - Isn’t it contradictory to want to create a financial transaction tax?
THE PRESIDENT - We’re working with several countries, including Germany, on the draft FTT as part of enhanced cooperation. Some people were telling us that if we introduced this tax, business would go to London. That argument no longer holds.
Q. - Is Brexit going to hamper France’s recovery?
THE PRESIDENT - First of all, there’s clearly a recovery in France and unemployment is starting to come down. This is an indisputable fact. Our growth will be higher than 1.6% this year, which will allow us to create at least 200,000 jobs. Brexit will have an unfavorable impact on the UK above all, and a possible recession across the Channel could pose a risk to the Euro Area and France. We have to avert this by means of even more solid support for private and public investment, and a swift, clear European response. The shorter the period of uncertainty about the UK’s place in Europe, the more limited Brexit’s consequences will be on economic activity.
I welcome today’s publication of the report by the Middle East Quartet.
France shares its conclusions. This report emphasizes in particular the destructive effects of settlement activity and of the violence jeopardizing the two-state solution. For France, as for the entire international community, the two-state solution is the only one possible.
This report’s conclusions validate the French initiative to bring the international community together to work on peace in the Middle East; their first meeting was held on 3 June and attended by nearly 30 international partners.
To this end, France will continue to work closely with the Quartet’s members and with all its partners to help implement the report’s recommendations and prepare for the peace conference slated for the end of the year.
(Check against delivery)
CALAIS/TALKS WITH LOCAL OFFICIALS
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’ve just had a meeting with the elected representatives of the Calais region about the migration situation in Calais. A few days after the British referendum I reviewed the local situation with Natacha Bouchart, Mayor of Calais, Yann Capet, National Assembly Deputy for Pas-de-Calais, Michel Dagbert, President of the Departmental Council, and Xavier Bertrand, President of the Hauts-de-France Nord-Pas-de-Calais Picardie region.
I listened carefully to the elected representatives, in a spirit of republican dialogue, because on these issues the general interest alone must prevail, and certainly not party political stances dictated by circumstances.
They will each, of course, have the opportunity to talk about our discussions.
FRENCH RESPONSE TO MIGRATION CRISIS
For my part, I just want to recall a few facts.
As you know, the migration crisis Europe has been facing for two years now is having localized repercussions at certain points of the country, particularly Calais, Dunkirk and Grande-Synthe.
To cope with the situation, the government - in permanent contact with all the republican elected representatives and all voluntary organizations and local stakeholders - is conducting a constant and resolute policy to reduce migratory pressure in Calais, support the inhabitants, traders and elected representatives most affected by the situation and accommodate on our territory, outside Calais and in decent conditions, those people who clearly need protection, who are fleeing wars and persecution.
At the same time, we’re fighting a resolute battle against criminal people-smuggling rings: 21 rings have already been dismantled by the police around Calais since the beginning of the year, i.e. double the figure in the same period last year.
What results is this policy bringing? Whereas, at the end of last year, 6,000 migrants were present in the campement de la lande [makeshift camp] outside Calais, there are now 4,400, in conditions which have been continuously improving. Four thousand migrants have already been able to leave Calais and Grande-Synthe and go to one of the 136 temporary reception and guidance centers we’ve created for them to support them in their asylum applications. This work to accommodate migrants through the policy of asylum and the gradual dismantling of the camp is, I repeat, set to continue.
We’ve been conducting this policy for two years. And we’re conducting it in a spirit of shared responsibility with our British partners. So the treaties of Canterbury and Le Touquet are being fully implemented on both sides of the border. Since 2014, this implementation has been balanced by the commitment this government has obtained from the British authorities.
Indeed, I recall that it was following a visit to London on 29 August 2014 - during a round of visits in Europe that enabled me to present to our European friends the French plan for Europe to provide a response to match the migration challenge it faced - that we were able to correct the very one-sided character of the Le Touquet agreement.
Since that date, not only has the British government acknowledged its shared responsibility for the migration situation in Calais, it has also taken every concrete action accordingly, and has matched words with action by providing more than euro100 million to help resolve the problems France is facing.
This British contribution has helped us a great deal. It’s enabled us to seal the border at Calais and make the port and tunnel more secure, thus preventing a repetition of the terrible tragedies that caused the deaths of migrants in the summer of 2015. It [the UK] also took part in the humanitarian development of the campement de la lande, particularly to accommodate vulnerable people. And because the UK must play its part in taking in refugees, cooperation between our two countries finally enabled some 40 unaccompanied minors stranded in Calais who have relatives on the other side of the Channel to be housed in the UK. We’ve also considerably stepped up our police and judicial cooperation with the British against illegal immigration rings.
BREXIT VOTE/FRANCE-UK BORDER/LE TOUQUET TREATY
That, ladies and gentlemen, is why there’s no reason to call into question this difficult work done jointly with the British, these agreements respected today, following the British people’s vote last Thursday.
Since the result of that referendum, I’ve heard and read many comments. Beyond the comments, there’s the reality.
And the reality is that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union entails no change to the border between the two countries, which was and still is an external border of Schengen. The reality is that the Le Touquet treaty, by allowing British forces to intervene in Calais and French forces in Dover, is in no way called into question today by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, as the French President recalled in Brussels this morning. And the reality is that the border at Calais is closed and is set to remain so.
Those who are calling for that border to be opened, contrary to the agreements they themselves signed, seem curiously to be ignoring the consequences such a decision would have: an intensification of human trafficking by people-smuggling rings, which would thus be relegitimized, causing an additional influx of migrants abused in this way in Calais; humanitarian conditions deteriorating on the ground; an increase in the risk of fatal accidents during attempts to cross; and finally, saturation point for the police, which are already severely overstretched. So to call those agreements into question would be to send a bad signal.
Moreover, the Le Touquet treaty provides for two years’ notice to be given in the event of it being terminated. With such a period of uncertainty, during which the agreements would continue to apply and the border would continue to be closed on the French side, we would be exposing ourselves to an extraordinarily difficult situation, without a shadow of a doubt. Finally, it’s delusionary, in my opinion, to think that moving controls from the French side to the English side, ultimately, would mean doing away with that border. Britain has absolutely no intention of relinquishing these controls, which are a matter of its sovereignty. As other states are doing, it would be bound to adopt deterrent measures - for example, against hauliers supposedly helping transport illegal foreigners. Moreover, the consequences in terms of the Calais region’s economic attractiveness would undoubtedly be negative. Let me remind you that this attractiveness partly depends on smooth-running traffic and trade, the very things in support of which the Canterbury and Le Touquet treaties were adopted.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m defending this point of view out of pragmatism and a concern to be realistic, but also because I believe it to be in France’s interest. It’s in the interest of the people of Calais. It’s in the interest of the most vulnerable migrants, who need protection and must be taken out of the people-smugglers’ hands.
We therefore want to continue the close cooperation which prevails between our two countries and which we’ve significantly stepped up over the past few months.
We’ve stepped up this cooperation in a demanding dialogue, and the choice the British made on 23 June must make us even more demanding.
I’m in permanent contact with my counterpart, Theresa May. I’ll be speaking to her about these various points in the next few hours and will suggest that she joins me in meeting Calais’ elected representatives in the autumn.