Skip to main content

Seventeenth Ambassadors ’ Conference

Publié le September 9, 2009
Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic
Paris, August 26, 2009

INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CRISIS

On September 15, 2008, a year after the beginning of the subprime crisis, the entire world was pushed to the edge of a precipice by the American authorities’ decision to let Lehman Brothers fail. A decision, let me remind you, taken without any consultation with the United States’ principal partners.

That day, the world saw that endless deregulation and a blind trust in financial players’ sense of responsibility had led to widespread irresponsibility caused by the irresistible lure of quick profits.

That day, the world saw that a certain form of capitalism based on speculation and unlimited competition between money markets threatened death to the real economy.

That day marked the end of a type of globalization in which market players imposed their own law, in which everything had become subject to speculation and the price of oil or wheat, just like share prices, could double or triple in a few months before collapsing. And for reasons in fact just as mysterious as the ones which had made them rise.

That day, States found themselves alone, absolutely alone, confronted with their responsibilities.

States alone could stop the panic, restore confidence.

They alone, through their interventions, could prevent a chain reaction spanning the entire globe from swallowing up the savings and jobs of tens of millions - perhaps hundreds of millions - of men and women in an absolutely unprecedented disaster.

That day, States realized they had imperatively to work together, and that only collective action could save them.

I will never forget the sleepless nights when we had to find the billions needed, before the markets opened the next morning, to save this bank or that country from collapse. Things are perfectly clear to me.

I will never agree to allow those who plunged us into the most severe crisis since the 1930s to go back to the way things were before. France will never accept it. All parties must face up to their responsibilities and match action to words.

Faced with the temptations of a run-for-your-life, every-man-for-himself kind of attitude and the temptations of - to put it bluntly - protectionism, on 23 September, speaking at the United Nations, on behalf of Europe, I proposed holding a summit of major world leaders. Five weeks later the Washington summit was held, five months after that the London summit; and at the end of September there will be Pittsburgh.

TAX HAVENS/BANK BONUSES

Initial progress - unthinkable a year ago - has been made, notably on tax havens, called "non-cooperative jurisdictions" because the very word "tax haven" was forbidden in international diplomatic circles. In Washington, France had been the only one to fight for this issue; in London, with Chancellor Merkel’s support, we pushed through the publication of a list; and since then we have seen spectacular progress: the end of bank secrecy. When I see a major Swiss bank enthusiastically turning over several thousand of its tax evading clients to the US tax authorities, I have to say that the world has indeed changed. And of course France will draw all the consequences with respect to her own tax evaders. These advances must be supplemented in Pittsburgh by the adoption of a complete list of counter-measures applying as of 2010 to those who don’t cooperate fully.

Indeed, much remains to be done to ensure that finance, which was at the root of this crisis, now serves investment and growth. I want to talk about outrageous bonuses. For they are an outrage. In London, we established principles. These principles will be applied and reinforced. Let those who think they can go back to business as usual, the way it was before the crisis, understand that they will pay the price! Things must be very clear; that way there will be no surprises.

With regard to bonuses, France will immediately apply the strictest international rules in existence, without waiting for others to do so. France’s role is to take the lead, not sit on her hands. It’s too easy, at a time when so many people are suffering, to say: "We’re waiting for the others to move before we do." And then go back to business-as-usual and just wait, because, by the same token, the others won’t move if we don’t. Pittsburgh will be decisive. France will tell her partners: "Here’s what we’ve decided to do, not just what we’re getting ready to do." And if one of our partners disagrees with us, let him say so before the court of international public opinion, before the court of public opinion in his own country. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and I have asked Christine Lagarde to appeal to the international press to submit the measures we have adopted in France for debate by the public in other countries. In Pittsburgh, France will put an international initiative on the table in order to apply, in the G20 countries, the rules of transparency, governance and responsibility that are now the rules of the Paris marketplace. We will propose strengthening sanctions on banks not playing by the rules. And we will even raise the question of limiting bonuses. I don’t see why that question should be taboo in Pittsburgh. If there are contrary views, I am sure they will be skilfully defended. The world will judge, and everyone will take the consequences on board.

ACCOUNTING STANDARDS

We must also work to adapt accounting standards - another key subject - so that they no longer favour the short-term to the detriment of investments. We will work in Pittsburgh on supervision of speculative funds, which remain insufficiently regulated and can throw entire markets into disarray. And finally, we will work on getting the IMF to prevent systemic risks, so we are no longer faced with situations in which the excessive indebtedness of certain countries threatens the financial stability of the entire world.

On all these subjects, France will be uncompromising. We must see these reforms through. We mustn’t lose the momentum given, and we must act. We must act now, not tomorrow.

And in Pittsburgh, other jobs await us.

ENERGY/CIVILIAN NUCLEAR POWER

The issue of energy prices, notably oil, which is nothing less than the other time bomb menacing tomorrow’s growth. If oil prices are too high, growth will be stifled. If they are too low, investments will cease, leading after a few years to a shortage and rocketing prices. Gordon Brown and I have proposed to restart the producer-consumer dialogue. We must set ourselves two objectives: the fight against market speculation and the determination of a reasonable price range, with a view to both the medium term and the long term. Yes, it’s in Pittsburgh that we must launch this dialogue, because we’ll have the main consumer countries and major producers, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico and Canada, around the table.

Meeting the global energy challenge also means promoting access to civilian nuclear energy. This isn’t a taboo subject. There will be no solution to global energy problems without an equitable sharing of civilian nuclear energy. Some 60 new countries around the world have already signalled their keen interest in nuclear power programmes. There really needs to be a substantive debate on access to civilian nuclear power. And we have nothing to fear from it. It is a weighty choice. In the coming months, working with the IAEA, France will host a conference to help define this path for international civilian nuclear energy stakeholders. France’s choice is to cooperate without discrimination, thereby achieving one of the central objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

ECONOMIC GROWTH MODELS/CURRENCY PARITIES

In Pittsburgh we must also consider rebalancing the models of growth of the major economies. The crisis signalled the end of an era, that of the unsustainable imbalances of the United States and China, in which China’s excessive savings finance America’s excessive debts.

President Obama can count on France’s support in his determination to transform the American social and economic model. But the inevitable rise in US household saving and the necessary absorption of America’s gigantic deficits mean that America will import less and seek to export more.

China - and we need to pay tribute to her for this - reacted swiftly and strongly, firing up a new engine of growth: her domestic market. But her development model will still be based on exports for a long time to come. This raises the questions:

How can we manage the inevitable tensions during this transition period?

How can we withstand the protectionist temptations existing everywhere?

And especially, how can we avoid shifts in parity among the main currencies, potentially leading to very serious tensions?

China and Russia have outlined proposals showing that new monetary arrangements will sooner or later have to reflect the multipolar political and economic reality of today’s world. A multipolar world cannot rely on one single currency. With a revamped international architecture, a strengthened IMF, we’ll be able to create the forums for debate and coordination that are more necessary than ever to avoid excessive and profoundly destabilizing currency fluctuations.

France stands ready, in the framework of the euro, to actively participate in this process. But France won’t agree - let me say this loud and clear - to allow the euro alone to bear the brunt of the adjustments, as has happened in the past. A forewarned community is a forearmed one, but it’s not that simple and the repercussions on French jobs are too serious.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The last major issue we have to deal with and bring to a successful conclusion in New York, Pittsburgh and then Copenhagen is climate change. It is forcing us to invent and finance a new zero- or near-zero-emission kind of growth. Under French presidency, Europe fully responded to scientists’ unanimous demands, but so far we are alone - the only ones to have taken a decision. No one else has! It’s up to the other industrialized countries - and this is essential -, starting with the United States, to quickly state their medium-term objectives, in comparable terms. It’s necessary because if the United States doesn’t come on board, the major emerging countries will never accept an ambitious agreement. And this must happen between the month of September and the month of December.

Reaching a conclusion in Copenhagen is essential, and we must all assume our responsibilities. It’s simple, any delay in action will be impossible to make up. There won’t be a chance to catch up later. It will be Copenhagen in December or nothing at all. Here too, let those who oppose it assume their responsibilities.

Time, ladies and gentlemen, is not on our side. It is our judge, and we’re already living on borrowed time. Give time a chance, we’ve already tried that. I propose we try something else.

To prepare these meetings where the future will be decided, on 14 September in Paris France will present the conclusions of the Commission, headed by two Nobel Economics Prizewinners, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, I appointed last year to look at how we measure our economic performance. For it’s very simple: we won’t change our behaviour if we don’t change the way we measure our results. I ask you to draw as much attention to this meeting as possible so that leaders and experts worldwide will take ownership of this reflection process, which will contribute to the economic and environmental sea change which has become indispensable. If we keep measuring the economy in the same way, how do you think we can change the economy’s production process?

NEW ECONOMY/NEW WORLD

These summits, which are following one another at an unprecedented pace, must relegate one era to the past and lay the foundations of a new economy and a new world.

The crisis frees us from the fetters of a doctrinaire approach. The crisis forces us to think differently. It’s an opportunity we must seize wholeheartedly. Of course we must not underestimate the weight of economic and financial actors in the world. But the State has regained its full position and must maintain it by leading the way towards new global regulation.

We will succeed in the long term only if we set ourselves ambitious objectives. If the objective is mediocre, no one will commit to making sacrifices. This is what motivated us, I mean France, when we held the European presidency. One thing that’s obvious is that when the world emerges from the crisis, the hierarchy of power will no longer be exactly the same as when the crisis broke out. China, India and Brazil, I am convinced, will emerge in a higher position and stronger.

At all times, whenever I take a decision, I ask myself the same question: will this choice help France and the French emerge stronger from the crisis? That’s the only criterion that matters.

FRENCH ECONOMY/NATIONAL LOAN

François Fillon and I adopted a series of measures to stabilize our financial system, support economic activity and protect those hit hardest by the crisis. But believe me, seeing France move back up to become the world’s fifth-ranking economy is cause for satisfaction, although I willingly acknowledge - and in fact I said so this morning - that we haven’t yet emerged from the crisis. But France is once again the world’s fifth-largest economy, between Germany and the United Kingdom. However, fifth-largest isn’t enough. Every decision must also help us prepare for the future.

Each one must allow us to be better equipped for the new world these successive summits are putting in place.

This is the whole purpose of the national loan that will be the subject of a wide-ranging debate this autumn, a debate organized and prepared by the commission chaired by Michel Rocard and Alain Juppé.

EU/LISBON TREATY/IRELAND/STATES’ ROLES

The subject of the hierarchy of powers once the crisis ends is also of concern to Europe. After all, there’s nothing outrageous about asking the question: does the European Union want to be a power? Does that interest it? Does the European Union want to be one of the principal players of the twenty-first century? Does it want to forge the twenty-first century or passively endure it?

This isn’t a question for the European Union’s adversaries or competitors; it’s for the Europeans.

The French presidency provided its share of the answer: for Europe, where there’s a will there’s a way. The problem is that Europe doesn’t always have the will. So the EU must have institutions that will facilitate decision-making. This is what’s at stake in the Irish referendum on 2 October. Choosing the first stable President of the European Council and the High Representative, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty proposed by France, means that 10 years of institutional debates could end in success. It will then become a matter of how we organize things, and I’d like to draw lessons from our experience and talk about the role of each State.

All the States in Europe are equal in terms of rights; they aren’t all equal in terms of duties. When a crisis erupts and a solution has to be found, France and Germany have greater duties than other countries because France and Germany are the two largest European Union countries. Each State’s responsibilities are directly proportionate to its weight. The stronger it is in Europe, the more responsibilities it has. This doesn’t require the establishment of any particular structure. It simply implies an approach, a commitment which, now more than ever, it seems to me, are the hallmarks of Franco-German understanding.

I want to be very clear: why was there a breakdown in Europe for such a long period of time? It wasn’t just an institutional matter; it was one of an approach - a number of large countries did not want to pump enough fuel into the European engine to move forward. And it’s too easy to say: the others don’t agree, so we won’t move forward. We’re waiting for everyone to agree, and once again, since no one ever agrees all the time, all we do is wait. Waiting is not an ambition.

In each crisis, on every major issue, Franco-German understanding and my friendship with Angela Merkel have helped Europe shoulder all its responsibilities. There’s nothing exclusive about this understanding. The United Kingdom and Gordon Brown have demonstrated this. Gordon Brown has acted like a great European. It’s not for me to judge British domestic policy, of course, but when the time came to take responsibility for the Lisbon Treaty, the British assumed their responsibilities. That’s a fact regardless of whether you are on the Left or Right. Italy, Spain, Poland can make major contributions provided they adopt the same approach. Beyond the rights of each State, what are the duties, the responsibilities each State is ready to take on so that our European Union becomes a leading actor in the twenty-first century? In order for it once again to make history instead of passively enduring it, Europe must live up to its values and defend them not aggressively but firmly. And here too the major countries must not wait but also lead the way, promote our values. I was proud of Europe when, at our behest in Geneva, Europe left the room when President Ahmadinejad delivered an unacceptable speech - we, excuse me, the generations that preceded us, didn’t build Europe to hear that Israel has to be wiped off the map; there are values, there is an identity, and there are things that are unacceptable - and when Europe decided to strengthen sanctions against the ruling junta in Burma, an unbelievable junta, following the iniquitous sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, something truly outrageous.

EUROPEAN DEFENCE/NATO

Europe must strengthen its military capacities because Europe isn’t one huge Red Cross! Far be it from me to criticize the Red Cross, which does a remarkable and considerable job internationally, but Europe isn’t one huge NGO. Europe is a commercial, political, economic, monetary and military power. Europe must defend its interests as it is doing in the Balkans, Georgia, Chad and off the Somali coast.

It is in this spirit too that France rejoined the Atlantic Alliance’s military structures. Now that France is playing her full role in NATO, it is the Europeans who are the strongest in the Alliance. In a few days, I will receive NATO’s new secretary-general, and General Abrial will assume the leadership of one of the two major Allied Strategic Commands, the Allied Command Transformation. The objective is a crucial one: to build the transatlantic alliance we will need in the coming decades. The debate is under way. It is scheduled to conclude in a year. France now has the means to make her full weight felt in this key debate for our security. Finally, who would understand if - just as we are transforming the Alliance - France didn’t play her full role? And who could think that France would have more influence outside than inside it? And who could think that the Alliance’s European pillar could be strengthened without France?

EU/RUSSIA

In the coming months I will have the opportunity to explain our views on another major issue which I’m keen to see progress on in 2010. I want to talk about relations between the European Union and Russia, a huge project. The European Union and Russia have a lot to talk about in the economic arena, with respect to the creation of a vast economic area, and in the security arena. Let’s take President Medvedev at his word, let’s try to build relations.

WORLD GOVERNANCE

As many rights but more duties since there are greater responsibilities, this must also be the guiding principle for the reform of world governance.

Given the time we’ve been talking about it, we now have to do it. This is an essential subject. Ever since I was elected, I have argued the need to adapt international organizations to the realities of the twenty-first century. The crisis, I believe, has proved it. But we’re only at the beginning. President Lula and I proposed to our G14 counterparts an "Alliance for Change" to reform world governance, and France will ensure that the reforms are carried out in full.

I note with pleasure that the G8’s transformation into the G14 has taken a critical step. The Canadian presidency in 2010 will organize the key aspects of the forthcoming G14 summit. My intention is to complete this transformation under French presidency in 2011. Imagine discussing the major topics in the world without China, without India, without Brazil, without Mexico, without a single Arab country, without a single African country - it’s really a strange idea when you’re a diplomat, a stupid idea when you’re a politician. So there’s the G14. And what about the G20, which didn’t work that badly? I’m well placed to say this since when it came to persuading President Bush to convene the first meeting in Washington, France asked for a G14 and it was he who had the idea of the G20. So the G20 it is. The G20 is pretty legitimate: 85% of the world’s wealth. It’s legitimate with respect to economic and financial issues. And within the G20: IMF reform and the ministerial Monetary and Financial Committee must become more political, better coordinated with the G20.

MEF

The Major Economies Forum is playing a useful role, but here too, all these bodies must improve the way they collaborate. It’s not just a matter of reforming world governance, we need coherence. We’ve created too many competing bodies. Nevertheless, our world needs the United Nations, but for the United Nations to retain its universal legitimacy, it must not be afraid to reform - even on an interim basis - the Security Council and the number of permanent members on the Security Council. Together with the United Kingdom, we are arguing for an interim Security Council reform. There isn’t a single African country - a continent with a billion inhabitants - among its permanent members. We cannot stick with the old post-World War II paradigm. A number of things have happened in the last 60 years and legitimacy - as I told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - depends on enlarging the Security Council and the number of permanent members. And France has nothing to fear, nothing. France must be the engine of this reform, and the reform must be carried out now. Everyone is familiar with the compromise elements.

UNSC/IMF/REFORM

Reform of the Security Council, reform of the IMF, where voting rights don’t reflect any monetary, financial, economic or political reality. Reform of the World Bank: it is scheduled to be completed in 2014, and I am very happy that the G14 has decided to get to work on that of the United Nations.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE/WEO/ILO

I’d like to say that on France’s proposal, a global partnership for food and agriculture was adopted last year. Yet the FAO, WFP, FIDA, World Bank and regional development banks still have to join forces in a coherent, coordinated approach. What’s happening is totally schizophrenic. Between what is said at the WTO - competition at all costs, no more support for agriculture - and what’s being said at the FAO - more agriculture - who can figure out what’s going on? You have the same participants and the opposite message. Isn’t it high time to bring things together and send a consistent message? The proliferation of international organizations is itself a real problem. The environment illustrates this to the point of caricature: each sectoral agreement has its own follow-up and oversight body. For example: let’s say we had a success in Copenhagen; who is going to apply the Copenhagen conclusions? That’s no minor question. France is asking for the creation of a World Environmental Organization, a linchpin for coordinating all the instruments, today dispersed. Copenhagen should lend a decisive impetus to its creation, and this World Environmental Organization would have the remit of ensuring the follow-up from Copenhagen for the international community’s 192 Member States.

Finally, there’s one last governance issue close to my heart, the ILO: in each international organization, the same 192 States are adopting rules without ever worrying about an overall vision. France is proposing that the ILO and, tomorrow, the World Environmental Organization have their say at the WTO, IMF and World Bank whenever the eight core labour standards or essential clauses of climate agreements are challenged. If the principle of a border adjustment mechanism were to be adopted in Copenhagen, its implementation should be ensured in cooperation with the WTO and the future World Environmental Organization.

The ILO, a global organization, established eight core labour standards: no prison labour, no child labour… Well, I’m asking for the IMF to provide no money if these rules aren’t respected. I don’t see why, if the IMF is helping a country, it should be concerned only with that country’s budgetary balances and not the respect of fundamental social standards. Understand me: I’m not arguing for a single social model, which would make no sense, but if these standards exist, are fundamental and recognized by the ILO, why shouldn’t they be taken into account when money is disbursed?

WTO

By the same token, within the WTO it’s all well and good to talk about the fight against protectionism. Of course we support it, but when there’s a dispute between two countries, it’s not just the right to trade that should prevail. The obligations undertaken vis-à-vis the World Environmental Organization must be taken into account in the form of an interlocutory question, because competition means fair competition. How can we in Europe be expected to impose rules on our businesses to protect the environment if we continue to import products manufactured by countries which don’t respect any such rules and will go before the WTO saying: watch out, protectionism. That would be too easy.

The World Trade Organization must not issue its rulings solely on the basis of world trade. There are fundamental social standards that France did not invent, which are those defined by the International Labour Organization, the ILO, as well as environmental standards that will be defined by the World Environmental Organization following Copenhagen. That’s what the new world governance is. We will bring an end to a form of schizophrenia in the international community; we will correct the excesses caused by a "commoditization of the world" by placing labour law, environmental law and trade law on an equal footing. I don’t see why what was possible for trade law would be impossible for social law or environmental law.

Of course, as with every new idea, resistance will be strong. But the current crisis is forcing us substantially to rethink globalization, which is warped, basically for one simple reason: the global market exists while global regulation doesn’t. There is therefore a gap, and this gap must be bridged.

INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM

In 1945, the then leaders had the wisdom to build, on the ruins of World War II, the United Nations, IMF, World Bank, Bretton Woods. Today the challenge is weightier, more complex, but we mustn’t be satisfied with half-measures. We mustn’t stop before reaching our destination.

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTRY REFORM

I’d like to thank Bernard Kouchner for his daily commitment in the service of our foreign policy; I applaud his resolve to reform the Ministry. I know that today he is getting to grips with the reform of our external cultural policy. He is right to do so. He can count on my confidence and my friendship, because we have to get things moving. Not just for the sake of movement, but because we live in a world that’s moving, we can’t remain immobile. It’s impossible, and the most prudent choice is the choice of reform. The riskiest choice is that of inertia. I want to thank Bernard Kouchner for placing all these subjects at the heart of your conference.

Of course, there are a number of crises; I’m not going to go through them all in any particular order.

ISRAEL/PALESTINE/SYRIA/LEBANON

I’d like to say a word about the Middle East conflict. I dispute the idea of the crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority being a regional conflict. This crisis concerns the entire world, and it’s time to resolve it. Everyone is aware of the parameters of peace, and the path that leads there has been mapped out. Here too, we mustn’t wait any longer. Wait for what? More deaths? More suffering? Who could say, here or elsewhere, that in a few years the solution will be simpler? Haven’t we waited long enough?

Early in September I will have a meeting at the Elysée with President Mahmoud Abbas to encourage him to accelerate the revamping of the structures which in the near future will govern the Palestinian State. Because France supports the creation of a Palestinian State. It is a key element of French policy and we will not renege on it. I hope that today’s meeting between Israel’s Prime Minister and the US President’s envoy will be productive. What will it lead to? - Everyone is aware of my friendship for Israel, and I say what I think - [I hope] it will lead to a specific, complete freeze on settlement activity. And Israel’s true friends must speak the truth to her. The truth is that there will be no peace as long as there is continued settlement activity. That may please or not please, but when you are a true friend you are exigent and candid. Israel does not stand alone; we won’t ever accept her security being jeopardized, but it’s a mistake to think that you can pursue the settlement process and hope for peace. And here too all this must be done unambiguously.

If progress is made on the idea of halting settlement activity, France and Egypt, with the agreement of the Swedish EU Presidency and in cooperation with the United States, will invite all the member countries of the Union for the Mediterranean to hold a second summit this autumn that would work alongside the resumption of the three tracks of the peace negotiations.

France, who has re-established a constructive relationship with Damascus, is ready to assist in the discussions between Syria and Israel if the two parties confirm this is their wish. In Lebanon, where the progress achieved over the past 18 months gives grounds for hope, France is calling for the speedy formation of an effective national unity government.

NUCLEAR/IRAN/NORTH KOREA/IAEA

Time isn’t on our side either in the two nuclear proliferation and ballistic crises: in Iran and North Korea. They are developing before our eyes, day by day, and if we don’t act, others might follow their lead. We won’t be able to say that we weren’t warned!

In Iran in particular, the political crisis has made people forget that during the crackdown, proliferation has been continuing; there are ever more nuclear materials, ever more missile tests and never has there been so little negotiation.

The same leaders are telling us, in Iran, that their nuclear programme is peaceful and that their elections were honest. Who can believe them?

Choosing their leadership is the Iranian people’s responsibility. But preventing proliferation is ours. Barack Obama took the right decision by stretching out his hand and joining the Europeans, Russians and Chinese. The six parties are prepared to sit down tomorrow at the negotiating table. But for this we need an interlocutor ready to negotiate seriously. Yet today - and let’s tell it like it is, with the same candour, because you can’t be frank with some and hypocritical with others - we haven’t received any positive responses to our proposals. None. We will take stock of the situation at the end of September, because we will all be in New York at that time. And if Iran doesn’t change her policy, the question of strengthening sanctions very substantially will be clearly raised.

France will support harsh economic sanctions, commensurate with the stakes, in the Security Council and the European Council. And France will propose giving the IAEA stronger inspection powers for situations of this kind. We have no right to remain silent in the face of this looming crisis.

I want to take this opportunity to commend here our ambassador to Iran, Bernard Poletti, whom I have raised to the rank of Ambassadeur de France. Through his courage and shrewd analyses, he has honourably defended our interests and our compatriots, two of whom outrageously taken hostage. If you’re half-French, you are French.

The passage of time is also not our ally when it comes to international terrorism.

AFGHANISTAN

With respect to Afghanistan, I share Bernard Kouchner’s analysis: the election campaign unfolded smoothly, despite the worst threats. By voting, the Afghans said no to barbary and terrorism. Going to the polls, dipping your finger into indelible ink when people have been telling you day in day out that those with ink on their finger will have their hand cut off… Frankly, the Taliban are credible when they say that, given their record. Yet despite that, seeing a country where millions of people go to the polls, they frankly deserve our help. As we await the results, France calls on the candidates and their supporters to show a very great sense of responsibility. Imagine, imagine what the departure of France or the allies would mean: the establishment of a real terrorist State next door to Pakistan who has nuclear weapons and 200 million inhabitants. Is that what the world wants? In any case, it’s not what France wants. So there are many things to change, to alter, many problems, of course. But France’s values mean helping people who want dignity for women, who want freedom, and who are moving - so painfully, when you know the country - towards that objective. In any case, we haven’t the right to be weak in the face of such a threat.

France will remain firmly committed, with her Allies, alongside the Afghan people. This year, she will complete the transfer of responsibilities for the security of the central region to the Afghan authorities. She will concentrate her civilian and military assets in the eastern districts, with the aim of stabilizing them in two years.

We want to work hand in hand with Afghan civil society. In the coming months I will invite Afghan women engaged in the rebuilding of their country to come and tell us what they’re doing and receive the support of the French.

AFRICA/TERRORISM

We will also mobilize our efforts to support Africa in the face of the growing threat of al-Qaida, as Alain Joyandet knows better than I do, whether in the Sahel or Somalia. What has just happened in recent months, notably in Mali, Niger and Mauritania, is a clear signal, a very clear signal. France won’t allow al-Qaida to establish a sanctuary on our doorstep, in Africa. Here too, the message had better get through.

AFRICA

I will conclude by saying that 2010 will be an important year for relations between Africa and France: 14 former colonies will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their independence. It will therefore be a year dedicated to faithfulness in friendship and solidarity. And I want 2010 also to signal the completion of a substantive overhaul of our relations with the African continent.

Two major events will honour both this faithfulness and this new era.

The Africa-France summit, which will be held early next year in Egypt. I would like non-governmental stakeholders to be closely involved in its preparation. The summit, strictly speaking, will be the official component of a broader process Bernard Kouchner and Alain Joyandet are working on.

Then, on 14 July, the [Bastille Day] parade on the Champs-Elysées will include contingents from the former territories of sub-Saharan Africa who contributed to the liberation of our country during both world wars. All the relevant heads of State will be invited. France knows what she owes Africa; she will express her gratitude. And this event will also be future-oriented. By the end of this year, our defence agreements with eight African countries will be renegotiated on a radically new basis: France conceives her role as supporting the creation of African forces capable of collectively ensuring the security of their continent within the framework of the African Union’s defence initiative.

ODA/AFD

The instruments of our economic presence too must be substantially overhauled, in a context of increasing our official development effort. Despite the crisis, our aid will rise from 0.38% of our GDP in 2007 to 0.44% in 2009. 60% of that total will go to Africa. There are 12 kilometres between Africa and Europe, we can’t let Africa down.

At my request, the French Development Agency [AFD - Agence française de Développement] has created a fund to support private initiatives to the tune of €2.5 billion over five years. The private sector must respond to all this.

And this is the best response to the unjust but too widespread suspicions that it’s exploiting African resources for its sole profit.

Overhauling our relations with Africa isn’t that simple. And I challenge anyone to explain to me how we can do so by just waving a magic wand. If we don’t concern ourselves with Africa, we are irresponsible because we aren’t preparing for the future and we’re accused of turning our back on it. If we do concern ourselves with it, we can very easily be accused of interference. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it - we must do it. Europe’s future depends partly on what happens in Africa.

To steer things during this exceptional year, I have asked Jacques Toubon to head an interministerial structure.

OIF

I have also chosen Jean-Pierre Raffarin to be my personal representative to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie [international Francophone organization]. He will prepare the forthcoming summit - another high point of 2010 - authoritatively and with his renowned enthusiasm.

This also means finding new partners in Africa: South Africa, Angola, Nigeria. Just because these countries did not experience French colonization is no reason for us to rule out a dialogue with them, or even a strategic partnership.

* * *

From the very beginning, mankind has not evolved linearly, from advance to advance; there are pauses, sometimes even regression, before another move forward. No civilization has avoided periodic regression; some have even vanished.

What is radically new about our era is that despite different traditions and cultures, despite the reassertion of ethnic and national identities, the world has come together, our mankind is now one. The threats it’s now facing are global. The responses will be global.

The questions facing the leaders of our time are momentous: will we, together, be able to provide the necessary responses to avoid fatal regression and continue mankind’s forward march? Will we be able to avoid a clash of civilizations and religions by resolving regional crises? Will we be able to reform the only effective economic system, capitalism, by taking all the necessary decisions? Will we be able to make the urgent choices confronting us to limit global warming?

We have diplomatic cooperation, technical and scientific tools, and economic and financial means at our disposal, but everything depends on our will. Everything depends on the wisdom and collective will of the leaders of the new concert of nations, that of the relative powers of the twenty-first century.

In a way, on a continental scale, the building of Europe has shown the way: after two world wars which led our civilization to the brink of collective suicide, visionary leaders 50 years ago had the wit to show their people that a shared future was possible.

Well, it’s exactly this same itinerary that must be proposed to the world. There’s no other path to a better future. The time for decisions and action isn’t tomorrow, it’s today. And with Prime Minister François Fillon, Bernard Kouchner, Pierre Lellouche and Alain Joyandet, this will be our international road map. And I hope with all my heart that our compatriots will understand that the separation between what’s national and what’s international no longer exists in our globalized world. I will never hide behind this reality waiting for the others to move forward. We are going to move forward to show the way, to lead all the others in support of France’s values, ideas, and convictions.

France doesn’t want to preach to anyone, but because of her economic power and her history, France has responsibilities. The dawn of the twenty-first century is an enthralling period; we have to reinvent a new way of thinking, of acting, not be satisfied with picking convenient ideological blueprints. The twentieth century was littered with these ideologies which led to tens, hundreds of millions of deaths. Let’s make the twenty-first century the century of pragmatism, goodwill between peoples and the conviction that mankind can survive only through a collective injection of momentum. This will be France’s message; we will do everything we can to make sure it’s heard.

Thank you./.

      top of the page