Twenty-seventh Franco-Italian Summit
Rome, February 24, 2009
Q. – With the beginning of the Obama presidency a more multilateral geopolitical scenario seems to be taking shape. France has increased her presence in areas such as Afghanistan, the Middle East, Iran and Iraq, traditionally the United States’ sphere of influence. What role do you intend playing under your mandate and what concrete possibilities are there? And what role for Europe within these new ambitions?
THE PRESIDENT – I want France to be true to her values and face up to her responsibilities in global affairs by committing herself wherever she can be useful, in order to help find solutions.
This is what we did by helping Lebanon find the way out of the political crisis in which she had been plunged; it’s what we’ve done in Darfur; it’s what we did at the time of the war between Russia and Georgia, where I went, as president of the European Union, only a few days after the start of the fighting, to get a ceasefire; and again it’s what we did at the time of the Gaza conflict by proposing a Franco-Egyptian peace plan which created the conditions for halting the violence.
Each time, I made a point of ensuring the close involvement of our European partners and, when possible, I proposed that these initiatives should be European initiatives. This was essential for me, since I believe in a political Europe, which acts, commits itself and makes its voice heard in the world. Europe is a tremendous magnifier of power. We are never as strong as when we are united, never as greatly heeded as when we speak with a single voice.
We saw this with the Russian-Georgian crisis where, for the first time, Europe managed, on its own, to put an end to a major crisis on its continent. We saw this too with the economic crisis, where Europe succeeded in convincing the world to come together to provide a coordinated concerted response.
But France and Europe aren’t seeking to rival anyone. You talk about a sphere of influence; for me, the term doesn’t mean anything. I don’t see the world as an area which should be shared out into spheres of influence. On the contrary, I believe we need everyone, everyone’s energies to make things move. We have entered an era of "relative powers", where no country is any longer in a position to impose its vision of things and where no one can hope to resolve the world’s problems on his/her own. In order to take up the major challenges of our era, cooperation is essential. This is why I am happy that the Obama administration has clearly opted for dialogue. And it’s also why France is fighting to get global governance radically reformed and the international institutions more representative, since on this depends their legitimacy and thus their efficacy.
In the new concert of nations which is taking shape, Europe can make an irreplaceable contribution to the world, because cooperating between "relative powers” is in fact exactly what we Europeans have been doing daily for over 50 years. Ensuring that ideas of partnership and solidarity prevail over those of competition and rivalry lies right at the very heart of the European project. At a time when we’ve got to devise new international relations and institutions for the twenty-first century, Europe must propose this cooperative approach to the world. (…)./.