North Atlantic Council
Strasbourg, 4 April 2009
THE PRESIDENT – I’m not going to go back over what our Secretary-General put so excellently. Just two or three remarks: first of all, the pleasure of working with Angela Merkel at the G20 and NATO summits. I want to reaffirm that we see totally eye to eye on every issue. Again yesterday evening at dinner, without betraying any secrets, Angela Merkel and I had said that this summit had to be conclusive, including as regards the appointment of a secretary-general. We were convinced there had to be decisions because the era of international summits where people talk and decide nothing, is over. From this point of view, the strength of the Franco-German axis matters. And obviously Angela Merkel and I had supported Mr Rasmussen’s excellent candidature. I’m delighted he’s been appointed unanimously as we wanted yesterday evening.
Secondly, thanks are due to President Obama who was strongly involved in all the decisions we have taken. It’s his first NATO summit; it’s been easy to work with him. He has exercised leadership, he has honoured his commitments and, for us, hearing the United States President say that they need a Defence Europe, need a Europe playing a more active role in the Atlantic structure, and independent and strong allies is a response to France’s commitment to resume her full place in the integrated command.
Finally, thirdly, we, Angela Merkel and I, are campaigning for Europe to really play her part in the Atlantic Organization. Well, it’s happening. I say to all the French that with a France resuming her full place in the organization, Europe will have greater weight.
I should like, in my turn, to thank the Secretary-General for his excellent work. Starting four days ago, we’ve seen international history made: two decisive summits, two operational summits, two summits whose decisions are going to change the course of things and prepare the advent of a new world. That’s what we wanted.
AFGHANISTAN/US – NATO/US
Q. – Several Spanish trainers, 65 Belgian soldiers, 150 French gendarmes [military police]. This list, even if it grows in the coming days as a result of other European contributions, is terrible compared with 21,000 additional US soldiers. Aren’t you afraid that, in the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, we’re witnessing its increasingly marked Americanization and, eventually, an increasingly marked Americanization of the Atlantic Alliance?
THE PRESIDENT – (…) Saying that Europe has less influence within NATO at a time when the new United States president has just presented the new American strategy which reflects point by point what the Europeans have been asking for for months and years is – and I’m putting this very mildly – a form of very friendly provocation, but may I tell you that, on the substance of the matter, it’s the strategy for Afghanistan which Europe has always championed which is prevailing, and the United States President, with his country, has moved towards it.
NEW NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL
Secondly, I didn’t know that Mr Rasmussen was an American, that we had just appointed an American Secretary-General! (…) But I draw your attention to the fact that he’s profoundly European and that yesterday evening (…) there were even some non-European members saying to us: "really, Europe you are strong in NATO, but don’t take all the powers".
NEW AFGHAN LAW ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS
THE PRESIDENT – There’s a unanimous demand for the Afghan government to defend and respect women’s rights and human rights. As regards a recent law, we are asking the Parliament to reconsider it in conformity with the Afghan Constitution. We are there to defend values. These values apply to everyone and especially the government we are helping. We are determined not to compromise on these values. Women have rights, there are human rights which are also of course women’s rights. (…) And we are determined not to compromise on that. No one, none of us. I think that the message has reached the intended recipient.
NEXT NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL
Q. – A question on the next secretary-general: you’ve said that it couldn’t be a question of personalities when there are major problems in the world. But Turkey said there was a problem, that it was a matter of respect for the Muslim world. Is that an area where Mr Rasmussen will able to build a bridge?
THE PRESIDENT – He supports human rights, he’s a democrat. There’s no reason to suppose he won’t be able to. And to conclude, may I thank the cities of Strasbourg, Baden-Baden and Kehl. Strasbourg, which has certainly given us a marvellous welcome. I’d like to thank the inhabitants for putting up with the disturbance to their daily lives which a summit of this kind can cause. Thank you everyone./.