France/Arab world/government reshuffle
Paris, February 27, 2011
My dear compatriots,
No sooner does the most serious economic and financial crisis since the Second World War seem to be fading, no sooner has Europe overcome the euro crisis than, on the other side of the Mediterranean, a huge upheaval is taking place. Certain Arab peoples are taking their destiny into their own hands, overthrowing regimes which – having been tools for their emancipation during decolonization – ended up becoming tools of their servitude. All the successive Western States and French governments since the end of colonial times have maintained economic, diplomatic and political relations with those regimes, despite their authoritarian nature, because they seemed in everyone’s eyes to be bulwarks against religious extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism.
But now, on the people’s initiative, another path is being sketched out.
By standing for democracy and freedom and against all forms of dictatorship, these Arab revolutions are opening up a new era in our relations with these countries, to which we are historically and geographically so close. This change is historic. We mustn’t be afraid of it. It carries with it tremendous hope, because it’s been accomplished in the name of the values that are dearest to us: those of human rights and democracy. For the first time in history, those values can triumph on all the Mediterranean’s shores. We must have but one goal: to guide, support and help the peoples who have chosen to be free. Short of interference, which wouldn’t be accepted, and indifference, which would be morally and strategically wrong, we must do everything to prevent the newborn hope from dying, because the fate of these movements is still uncertain. Unless all people of goodwill unite to ensure they succeed, they may equally descend into violence and lead to even worse dictatorships than the previous ones.
We know what the consequences of such tragedies could be on migratory flows that become uncontrollable, and on terrorism. The whole of Europe would then be in the front line. So we have a duty to act, with an ambition equal to the scale of the historic events we’re experiencing. That’s why France has asked the European Council to meet to ensure Europe adopts a common strategy in the face of the Libyan crisis, whose consequences could be very serious for the stability of the entire region. Likewise, Europe must create, without delay, new tools to promote the education and training of the youth of these southern Mediterranean countries, and think up an economic and trade policy to support the growth of these young democracies seeking to emerge.
The Union for the Mediterranean, founded on France’s initiative on 13 July 2008, must finally enable all the peoples of the Mediterranean to build a common destiny. The time has come to restructure this Union in the light of the considerable events we’re experiencing. France will make proposals to her partners to this effect.
My duty as President of the Republic is to explain the challenges of the future, but equally to safeguard the French people’s present. For this reason, Prime Minister François Fillon and I have decided to reorganize the ministries concerned with our diplomacy and security.
Alain Juppé, former prime minister and a man of experience who has already carried out these duties with unanimously recognized success, will be Minister of Foreign Affairs. To replace him at the Defence Ministry, I’ve chosen Gérard Longuet, also a man of experience. At the same time, I wanted to entrust the responsibility of Minister of the Interior and Immigration to Claude Guéant, who has accompanied me for nine years in all my tasks, particularly at the Interior Ministry: he knows all its workings and has held all the posts of responsibility there.
The State’s sovereign authorities will thus be prepared to deal with coming events, whose course nobody can predict.
My dear compatriots, it is my duty to take the decisions required when circumstances demand it. I’m aware of your expectations, which are rightly high. I’ve committed myself to modernizing France so that our model will survive all the very brutal changes of the early 21st century.
To achieve the results you expect – which we will achieve – I must have no other consideration when choosing those entrusted with the State’s highest responsibilities than effectiveness and the general interest.
Under these very troubled circumstances, it is more necessary than ever to rally all French people around our republican values. Fear, confrontation and exclusion have never allowed us to prepare for the future, either internationally or nationally. Conversely, a refusal to face up to reality exacerbates tensions.
My dear compatriots, you can count on my determination and commitment.
Long live the Republic!
Long live France!./.