THE PRESIDENT – (…) As you know, at the Strasbourg Summit, France resumed her full place in NATO’s structures. At the time we said that we would return to the NATO structures, but we wanted a revamped and reformed Alliance.
The revamp is a new strategic concept. The last strategic concept was in 1999. Since then we’ve had 11 September, the Iranian issue and Lisbon Treaty. 1999 was indeed another world. So we need another strategy for our Alliance. There are, of course, constants in this new strategy: the indivisibility of security and collective defence, community of value with our allies, transatlantic link and nuclear deterrence. And then there are all the developments in the face of the new threats: missiles, cyber attacks, proliferation, terrorism of course, and I could go on…
There are two important components: relations with the European Union, now described as a unique and essential partner for NATO, and cooperation with Russia to create a common space of peace, security and stability.
As regards the nuclear issue, the allies state that the French and British nuclear forces are of course independent, have a deterrent role of their own role and contribute to the security of the Alliance. As you know, this was a fundamental point.
As regards the reform of NATO, the Secretary General, Mr Rasmussen, has carried out a really major reform, since the military structure is going to be cut by a third, the number of agencies from 14 to 3, and 60% of the committees will thus be abolished. So there’s going to be an end to a sort of waste which France has criticized on countless occasions.
Finally, I point out that since 18 months ago, 600 members of the French military forces have taken up their duties in NATO’s military structures, at all levels, including the highest, since General Abrial is one of NATO’s two supreme commanders and Lieutenant General (Armaments) Auroy is Assistant Secretary General Defence Investment.
We have decided in principle to equip the Atlantic Alliance with a missile defence system to protect our populations and territories. (…)
France has accepted this project first of all because we consider that there’s a growing missile risk. No name figures in NATO’s public documents, but France calls a spade a spade: the missile threat today comes from Iran. So if one day Iran shoots a missile towards Europe, it’s certainly desirable for us to be able to intercept it.
Finally, we have always thought it necessary to work with Russia on this project. In Deauville, President Medvedev expressed his interest in such cooperation. At the NATO/Russia Council which is going to follow this, we are certainly going to decide to work together on what such a cooperation framework could be. It’s a historic decision. It isn’t an obvious one because in Europe our histories aren’t the same and the history of the 20th century has left what are still running sores. It’s up to us – I’m thinking particularly of the Germans and French – to encourage everyone clearly to understand that the end of the cold war opens up a chapter of a new calmer and trusting relationship with the Russians.
Finally, a clarification. In no way, either by definition, or intended use, is the missile defence system designed to replace nuclear deterrence.
Nuclear deterrence is our life assurance; it’s the guarantee that we’ll be able to defend our vital interests. Nuclear deterrence is still important today; France will continue investing in her deterrence, as will the United States, Britain and Russia. So, as usual, there’s been a Franco-German compromise in respect of any problems in the pre-summit discussions, and the decision adopted in the final communiqué fully satisfies France. (…).
Q. – Mr Rasmussen keeps on repeating that the roots of terrorism have been in Afghanistan since September 2001 and that we must keep on fighting. Do you think that by 2014, the date of the announced withdrawal of NATO troops, NATO will be able to succeed where the Soviets failed in 1980?
THE PRESIDENT – Let me tell you again: we aren’t an occupation force. We haven’t got any colonization plans. We are there at the request of the legitimate government formed as a result of elections which, whilst not perfect, were, despite everything, elections in a country martyred by terrorists, by the Taliban. And the majority of Afghans haven’t forgotten what they went though. Comparing what we are doing with our allies with what happened in Afghanistan’s history seems particularly unjust to me. That’s my first comment.
Second comment: the Afghan autonomous military and civilian forces – I’m thinking of the police – are increasing in number and quality. And what would you say had our goal not been to make this transition. We aren’t in Afghanistan for ever; it isn’t our country. We are in Afghanistan so long as a legitimate Afghan government wishes us to be, as long as they need us to defend themselves against a genuinely external attack and an ideology of death, and to stabilize the country. But we know perfectly well that the Afghans will achieve the victory, not us. The strategy is clear.
Is it possible? Asking France this, means compelling us to give a positive answer because, if I remember correctly, a few years back, we had responsibility for security in Kabul. We have since transferred it ourselves to the Afghans. Is Kabul a capital which has improved in terms of security? The answer is “yes”. You all know what the situation is today, it’s indisputable. We have two regions. We’re going to transfer responsibility for one of them to the Afghans and we’re going to devote our efforts to the other. So it’s possible.
There are forty or so districts – a few fewer, I believe it’s 38 – which are ready for the transition. The transition doesn’t mean us leaving immediately. We’re going to have to continue helping them with respect to development, troop training and providing mentoring for State officials, but things are making headway. (…)
We are asking only one thing: to do our work as long as necessary, but to leave the minute the Afghans can take their destiny in their own hands. (…)
Q. – On Defence Europe, I’d understood that the aim of France’s reintegration in NATO wasn’t only to strengthen the European pillar in NATO, but also to strengthen what I’d call the European Union’s autonomous ability to take responsibility for its defence, hence the European Security and Defence Policy, which seems to have been a bit forgotten in this story of closer ties with the British, and reintegration and strengthening of France’s place in NATO. So what’s your view on this?
THE PRESIDENT – I honestly don’t think we could have signed agreements, including on nuclear issues, with the British had we not resumed our full place in NATO’s structure. Look at how the British press commented on this historic agreement. Because this is what they traditionally do, the British opted to stress the bilateral aspect. We ourselves clearly indicated that this Franco-British project was a project to strengthen and develop Defence Europe. (…) What would Defence Europe be if Britain weren’t there and if France weren’t there? The Defence Minister’s job will be to convince the others to join us; I wish him luck. (…)
The European Union and IMF are going to Dublin to look at the conditions for financial aid to Ireland. In your view, what conditions must there be for this aid? Do you think one of them should, for instance, be for the Irish authorities to raise corporation tax? Is this a prerequisite for Europe helping Ireland?
THE PRESIDENT – First of all, France welcomes the Irish government’s unprecedented efforts to get the Irish State’s accounts and Irish banks’ accounts back on track. What the Irish government is doing is courageous and justified.
Secondly, we have given ourselves a number of mechanisms for collective intervention – article 122 – and bilateral intervention: this is the decision we took vis-à-vis the support mechanism in the event of one European Union member being attacked or needing finance. There’s provision for conditions for using these mechanisms, they are operational and can be activated when needed. And these conditions for activation don’t include any fiscal requirement, in the sense you used in your question.
However, if you ask me the question on a general level – irrespective of what I’ve just said – quite separately and not just to do with Ireland: must a country which has difficulties – with the others giving their contributions and help – use all the means available to it to deal with these difficulties? These include budget savings and tax receipts – you understand that increasing tax receipts means raising tax rates. This is what a number of countries and not the least significant of them, the United Kingdom, have done. Quite obviously, confronted with this sort of situation, there are two levers you can activate: the spending one and the income one. I can’t imagine our Irish friends – and the decision is wholly theirs – not using that one because it’s the one offering the greatest room for manoeuvre, since their taxes are lower than other countries’. It isn’t a request, just an opinion. (…)
Q. – Since we’re entering a new era of partnership with Russia, I’d like to know whether you think that one day, in these circumstances, Georgia might be able to join NATO? Or, at the very least, will NATO be able to go on calling on Russia to evacuate a part of Georgian territory?
THE PRESIDENT – Yes, Georgia is destined one day to join NATO, as is Ukraine. We’ve said this extremely clearly: here too, for Ukraine to join NATO, she must have resolved her internal problems with an extremely divided population. (…)
On Georgia: we won’t let Georgia down. She is destined to join NATO. As you know it was Germany and France, in 2008 in Bucharest, who were against it. At the end of his mandate Mr Bush was absolutely set on it…. Think about what that would have meant in the case of Abkhazia and [South] Ossetia. But they are destined to join; we haven’t got a problem with that. Here too, we are keen to welcome members who have resolved their border problems. We don’t want to import problems into NATO, we’ve got enough to resolve. (…)
KARACHI/1994 FRENCH SUBMARINE SALE/PAKISTAN
Q. – On the Karachi affair: the Elysée issued a communiqué yesterday evening, there have been a lot of statements in recent weeks by politicians to the press, the judges too. A few weeks ago you talked about a “fairy tale”. Are you using the same term today?
THE PRESIDENT – The communiqué was extremely specific. Thank you for reporting it in detail. It says everything there was to say. It lays all the calumnies to rest, it gives the facts and, moreover, the Defence Minister and I are determined that all the documents requested will be communicated as and when. To my knowledge today, no document has been refused. I’m not going to fuel a polemic which has no reason to exist. The matter has been referred to the judicial authorities, let them do their work and don’t let people try to gain political advantage and thereby add to the pain of the families who lost their loved ones. That’s the only thing which counts, the only thing and a minimum of dignity, respecting those families’ pain. Those families want the truth. Why was there this attack? That’s what’s important and for the judicial authorities to do their job. And of course, the State will help the judicial system by communicating all the documents it needs. I have no other comment to make. Everything else is clearly nothing but polemics, regrettably. (…)./.