THE PRESIDENT – Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. You have a copy of the summit’s final declaration so, if you will, it would probably be best for me to answer your questions rather than paraphrasing the declaration.
Q. – Mr President, in the declaration, you say, the G8 says, “Gaddafi must go.” But Gaddafi refuses to go. So what happens now?
THE PRESIDENT – Step up the military intervention to protect the populations in keeping with UNSCR 1973. We largely agree on this goal. The terms used with regard to Mr Gaddafi are particularly clear and very tough and they have been accepted by all the G8 member countries, including Russia. In addition, all of our African partners stand very much with us on the decisions regarding Libya. So it is Mr Gaddafi’s own choice: either he goes and stops a great deal of Libyan suffering, or he persists and pays the price himself.
Q. – Mr President, the final declaration talks about 20 billion. However, the Tunisian Prime Minister says you discussed a figure of 40 billion.
THE PRESIDENT – Yes, I can give you the details on that. It’s $20 billion for the multilateral banks, excluding the IMF. We thought it more honest not to include the IMF in this figure because, in any case, the IMF grants loans and has granted these loans to Egypt and Tunisia, so we didn’t count it in the multilateral banks. In addition to this, we have some $10 billion in bilateral commitments, which we did not mention in the declaration. France’s contribution to this will be one billion euros for Egypt and Tunisia. And lastly, $10 billion in contributions from the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, which we will put into a financial fund specially for this purpose. The total then does indeed come to 40 billion over the period: multilateral banks, bilateral commitments and Gulf country pledges.
Q. – Mr President, following your meetings with President Medvedev and President Obama, do you think that the draft resolution at the UN Security Council for Syria, the European draft resolution, French too, will go through? And what do you think about what is happening today, when more protesters have been killed in Syria? Excuse me, Mr President, a second question if I may, on the conference you want to hold at the end of June. Following your meetings with President Obama, do you get the impression that President Obama has accepted the principle of a conference on Palestine and Israel where you plan to resume, as you say, the peace process?
THE PRESIDENT – On Syria, as I told you yesterday, the situation is totally unacceptable and the leadership’s attitude is shocking. The terms used in the G8 declaration clearly condemn the action taken by the authorities in Syria against peaceful protesters. And this wording was made even tougher during the negotiations last night and our Russian friends accepted and endorsed it. Can you imagine that what we have been able to say and write at the Deauville G8 might or could give rise to a different position at the United Nations?
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
On the peace process, we had a long discussion about it this morning with Mr Juppé and President Obama, and we think that the Palestinian reconciliation is good news. We think there is an opening there to break the deadlock and, above all, that there is an urgent need to do so because the Arab revolutions, the democracy in certain Arab countries, offer an opportunity for peace; because democracies, as is in their very nature, do not wage war on each other. And we want to convince our Israeli friends that there is no cause for concern over this development, far from it, because it will turn negative energy against dictatorships into positive energy for growth and peace. And we agreed repeatedly with our American friends that this was an urgent matter. Its timeframe is precisely between now and the United Nations General Assembly. On this point, there may be differences of opinion as to whether the deadline is June or July.
And, as you know, M. Juppé, Ministre d’Etat, will be leaving for the Middle East on Thursday. We will be able to fill you in more on the situation then. And he will be in Washington at the beginning of June. And we have agreed with our American friends that we will work together. We can’t accept, France can’t accept the perpetuation of this conflict when everyone knows full well what the parameters for peace are and President Obama has stated them with a great deal of courage, lucidity and intelligence.
So subsequently, all the partners need to show a minimum of willingness to make peace. In any case, France’s will to take initiatives and try to drive the process forward is clearly on the table and moreover is taken up in the G8 declaration.
AFRICA/DURBAN CONFERENCE/DOHA ROUND/INNOVATIVE
Q. – Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, is increasingly present in the international summits, but is its voice really heard, politically and economically? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – It is clear that we wanted, not only for the G8 to hear Africa’s voice, but a shared voice as I believe it is the first time that there has been a G8-Africa joint declaration on such important issues.
There are the preparations for Durban, which is an immense challenge and France, very clearly, wants preparations to be made for post-Kyoto. But we do not want to end up with pared-down commitments. We need to stick with greenhouse gas reduction commitments and obligations to protect our planet. So this will need to be discussed at length.
There is the issue of the Doha Round and the World Trade Organization where, whatever the outlook for success or failure for Doha, we do not want the poorest countries to find themselves stuck in the middle of any quarrel between the industrialized countries and the emerging countries. And so we are thinking about this situation to protect the poorest countries.
There is the whole question of building infrastructures for Africa, which will be a major focus in Cannes. There is the question of innovative financing, which we will push for with Meles Zenawi. I was very pleased with President Barroso’s commitment, indicating that he was in favour of innovative financing and that the Commission would make a proposal on innovative financing. As regards France, we will discharge our responsibilities and we are prepared to put innovative financing into action with a group of leading countries, even if there is no unanimous agreement.
And lastly, it was very moving to invite three African countries that had held democratic elections: Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Guinea.
Clearly, our African friends have understood that the absolute priority should go to those who fight against corruption, who fight for democracy, and that is the new partnership between the G8 and Africa, from North Africa to South Africa.
Q. – A question on Europe and Greece. Would restructuring the Greek debt really be so detrimental to Europe? It should come about very quickly and at all costs. And did you raise the subject with Mrs Merkel? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – We didn’t raise the subject as part of the G8, because it is not for the G8 to address these issues, although we did discuss the euro zone situation with our partners. We pointed out that the euro zone is a stable zone where growth has posted quite a strong recovery – +0.8% on average in the first quarter of this year – where average deficits are smaller than in other areas of the world since, if I remember rightly, we must be at around 4.5% in average deficit terms, and that it is paradoxical to talk about problems with the euro at a time when it has almost never been so high.
However, I would like to draw the attention of all observers to the fact that the euro has hovered between 1.40 and 1.50 against the dollar these last few weeks, which is much higher than its introductory rate. I’ve never heard of a fragile currency increasing in market value. And the high level of the euro sometimes even causes us problems when financing our exports.
So there was no question of discussing Greece’s situation in detail or any other country for that matter without its being there and without the presence of our euro partners. With Mrs Merkel, yes, in a bilateral meeting, of course, we spoke about it to express our total, utter and unequivocal support for the euro, its stability and its credibility. The Germans and the French have long said that the euro is non-negotiable, because the euro is Europe and anything that might jeopardize the future of the euro would jeopardize the future of Europe and would therefore jeopardize the future of France and the future of Germany. So everything that needs to be done will be done at the proper time, in partnership with our German friends, and I will definitely, when that time comes, explain the decisions we make.
Q. – Expanding on my colleague’s question on Syria, would you go as far as to send President Bashar al-Assad the same recent message that President Obama sent him in his speech to the Arab world, i.e. to say to him, “either you lead your country through a real democratic transition or you get out of the way”?
THE PRESIDENT – Could I have said that? Yes. He has already said it, and he was right to do so. I believe that Alain Juppé and I have both already said it, but if you want me to say that we are following President Obama’s good example, listen, I have no problem with that.
And France has some reason to say it. We have done everything in our power to bring Syria back into the concert of nations, everything. We have discussed with them, we have spoken with them, we have tried to help them, we have tried to understand them. We have also been able to make progress in Lebanon on the basis of this entente. And unfortunately, I am sorry to say that the Syrian leaders are taking a huge step backwards. France, in these circumstances, withdraws its trust and condemns what needs to be condemned. President Bashar al-Assad knew full well that France would do that from the moment this unacceptable democratic reversal happened.
Q. – I would like to ask you about the idea of a proposal by Russia to mediate on Libya. Is it true that this proposal was indeed made and what do you think about it? And secondly, if I may ask, in Italy, we are obviously also very interested in your wife. I know that you do not talk about your private life, but may we congratulate you and ask if you know yet whether it is a girl or a boy? Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT – Thank goodness you don’t want to talk about my private life, because what would it be like if you did? I suppose you would do it in Italian. I congratulate you in turn for being Italian, as Italy is a country we adore in France.
On the subject of President Medvedev, words have meaning. What does mediation mean? There is no possible mediation with Mr Gaddafi. Mr Gaddafi’s soldiers must return to base and Mr Gaddafi must go. We can discuss the details of the departure, honourably and to which country… all of that can be discussed.
And as regards Mr Medvedev, why would we do without his powers of persuasion when, on Russia’s behalf, he agrees to condemn what is happening in Libya and to condemn Mr Gaddafi’s machinations. So, yes, we need President Medvedev’s help, and very much needed his help to get UNSCR 1973 through at the UN Security Council. So, yes, this help is welcome on this issue as on others. As it has been useful in all the matters that are still ongoing with Iran. Russia is a great partner.
Q. – I’m not going to ask about your wife, but to come back to Greece, which is an interesting question because the situation is deteriorating by the minute in Greece, the IMF has just announced that it might not grant the next tranche of its loan to Greece. So I would like to know whether you discussed this issue in any detail with Mrs Merkel, especially since this new turn for the worse is due in part to Germany, which is calling for a “soft” restructuring of the Greek debt, to which France and the European Central Bank are firmly opposed. The second question is did Mr Obama talk to you about his concerns over the continuing instability in the euro zone over one and a half years after the start of this crisis. Evidently, we are unable to provide the systemic response the markets want.
THE PRESIDENT – Mr Obama did not talk to me about his concerns, because he is perfectly aware of the situation in the United States of America. And Mr Obama, who is a reasonable man, how could he be concerned about a zone where the deficit is 4.5% on average? It’s not possible.
Secondly, Germany is a major country and a strategic partner for France, and I will say nothing that might upset a trusting and vitally important working relationship with Mrs Merkel and the German government.
Thirdly, I don’t think “restructuring” is the right word. If restructuring means that a European country need not repay its debts, then it is not in France’s vocabulary. That is crystal clear. If the question is whether we can look into how private actors and private partners can share the burden, that has nothing to do with restructuring. There are formulas. It’s not a problem. And it is in this direction that everyone should head.
The important thing is that we will defend and support the euro and solidarity within the euro zone. The credibility of the European countries is vital and we can’t yield on this term of credibility. We will not yield on this term of credibility. As regards the participation of the private sector, there are many ways of doing this without undermining this credibility. So I can confirm that France does not use the word restructuring and sees it as a word that should not be used and an option that should not be envisaged.
Q. – Earlier, the Tunisian Prime Minister, in his press conference, talked about refugees, Tunisians who came to Europe saying “I don’t think that the 20,000 or 28,000 people who went to Europe affected the democratic balance in Europe”. Do you consider there to be a problem or a danger of mass immigration today?
THE PRESIDENT – Associating the word “danger” with “immigration”, on your part, is interesting. Do you see a danger? I’m sorry, but you are associating two words that don’t go together. I’ve never put those words together, “danger” and “immigration”. I would never have expressed things like that, but anyway, you’ve done it, it’s your right.
I have never in my life been in favour of zero immigration, I won’t start now and I have long thought that the southern and northern Mediterranean regions should better manage migration flows and development needs together. Immigration should be dealt with by the people who have responsibilities and a sense of responsibility.
For example, our Tunisian friends would like us to educate their elite, they’re right and we’re happy to educate them for no other reason than that it helps us develop and maintain the love for the French language in Tunisia. But at the same time, everybody knows that it takes ten years for medical students to become doctors. In ten years, they meet people, whether they be young men or young women. The goal is not for young Tunisian medical students to become doctors in France. Therefore, all this warrants discussion and cooperation and things are steadily moving forward. Alain Juppé visited Tunisia, Claude Guéant did too and I believe that we are in the process of finding the right balance. So there isn’t any tension regarding this issue and I can also tell you that the Tunisian Prime Minister hopes that I’ll soon be able to visit Tunisia at his invitation.
Moreover, I think that young people in Tunisia appreciate the fact that Egypt and Tunisia were invited to the G8 at the initiative of the French presidency, it sends a signal.
Q. – Could you speak about your conversations about Russia possibly joining the WTO?
THE PRESIDENT – There are still a few problems to work out but we said that regarding the objective, we are in favour of Russia being able to join the WTO. Generally speaking, the partnership between Russia and France, Russia and Europe, is going to move much closer and become much stronger in the months and years ahead.
As long as Russia plays its role in resolving the major international issues – which it is doing – there is no reason for us to put off in any way addressing Russia’s request to be part of the free market economy or to join the WTO.
Q. – Mr President, without going back to what you said yesterday, can you tell us what President Obama said to you in your talks this morning about what has been happening over the past two weeks with regard to the management of the International Monetary Fund and the candidacy of Christine Lagarde?
THE PRESIDENT – We naturally talked about this, how could we have done otherwise? But as things stand today, I am not the spokesperson for President Obama and it’s not up to me to announce his decision. I think I know that his decision has been taken and that he’s waiting for the right moment to announce it. It would have been particularly awkward, I think, to give the impression that the G8 countries agreed on a candidacy, ignoring requests from other regions of the world, of which there may be many. In the meantime, I saw an excellent statement by Hillary Clinton last night. I can’t imagine that the two of them would be at odds on this issue.
Q. – I’d like to go back to a question on the Middle East. Do you think that it’s a good idea to talk about 1967 borders when we first want to address resolving the Middle East problem? A return to 1967 borders. Second question on Iran: don’t you think that the Arab Spring and all the measures that have been taken has relegated the Iranian issue to the sidelines, even though it’s a G8 issue, and do you regret that?
THE PRESIDENT – I think that it’s appropriate to talk about the 1967 borders because we can’t talk about borders without specifying what they would be. That’s where it’s going to become really virtual and I think that what makes President Obama’s speech so bold is the fact that he talked about the 1967 borders.
With regard to Iran, it’s extremely clear. Iran has obviously tried to take advantage of the positive current Arab events to get everyone to forget its inexorable march towards military nuclear power, a march that is totally unacceptable. We talked about this in detail and we are going to take fresh measures to bolster sanctions even more.
G20/G8 YOUTH SUMMIT/E-G8 FORUM
Q. – In your opening remarks at the e-G8 Forum you mentioned a dialogue of responsibilities between the industrial sector and heads of state and government, and you described this sector as being both fragile and powerful. I know that there is something else that is fragile and powerful in the world, and that’s young people. You conferred your high patronage on the G8 and the G20 Youth Summit to be held next week and I wanted to know how you see the future of this initiative and how you hope to continue integrating a generation which, as we saw in Spain or in the Arab world, is still trying to find its place in globalization?
THE PRESIDENT – We can’t compare what young Arab people are doing in Tunisia and in Egypt with what young people are doing in Spain because Spain is a great democracy. Honestly, I would never want to take away the merit of Spain’s young people or the ones who are demonstrating, but the same level of commitment isn’t required compared with Tunisia or Egypt, which were not democracies, but now aspire to become democratic countries.
As regards both the G8 Youth Summit and the e-G8 Forum, the presidency can have ideas and make proposals but afterwards it’s up to those involved to take over. We are not the ones who should, a bit artificially, spearhead the projects.
The e-G8 will now take place annually because Internet players have decided to get involved. This is the right way to go about things because it’s not up to governments to take charge of the ideas. We may bring an idea to the table and get the process going, but afterwards, if we’re the ones who have to keep it going, this is a sign that it’s artificial. The same goes for the G8 Youth Summit. We can also come up with other types of G8 forums. We can perhaps hold a G8 for artists. There are many ideas, how about one for sportspeople? There are many similar ideas we could develop, but they depend on whether those involved make them their own. The reason why the e-G8 worked so well is because it took hold in the Internet world. Those involved gave it life and millions of people watched it online. So this idea is no longer mine at all, you see? The French presidency put forward the idea, and now this idea is no longer ours, which is as it should be. It works and every year there will be an e-G8 and that’s a good solution. At no time would I want it to become a sort of inner tube that needs patching up, constantly requiring air to be pumped into it artificially. It’s the energy of those involved who can take over the ideas and give them life and a future.
STRAUSS-KAHN/FRANCE/US LEGAL SYSTEM
Q. – I’d like to go back to the question of my fellow journalist about the future management of the IMF that you talked about this morning with Barack Obama. I’d like to know if you consider that Christine Lagarde’s candidacy could help repair the damage that Dominique Strauss Kahn’s arrest could have done to France’s image and if you are personally shocked by the particularly luxurious conditions in which he is being held in New York?
THE PRESIDENT – Really, I have purposely avoiding taking sides in this issue because you know perfectly well how much I’d be criticized, regardless of what I say, you are extremely aware of that. I’m not accusing you of anything; you asked me the question. I think that all this is sufficiently sad for political leaders to try to keep the broader picture in mind and remain dignified because in the face of all these events, there are mixed and possibly contradictory feelings that are private. Therefore I don’t think that as a head of state I should take sides.
There is the American legal system; there is the IMF. You said in your question to me that “this damages France’s image”, but I wasn’t aware that Dominique Strauss-Kahn represented France. He represented the IMF. Are you saying that “this seriously harms the IMF’s image”? The Deputy Director of the IMF was here, we spoke with him; we need the IMF.
I would like to maintain this position of putting things in perspective and I hope to keep the broader picture in mind when it comes to this issue. Frankly, certain comments I have heard have made me happy that I decided to keep a certain distance because there are things we’ve heard that we would have rather not. Things we have seen that we would have rather not, and things that honestly we would have rather not heard. And that has nothing to do with political issues, of the left or right, of the majority or the opposition. Frankly, some extremely shocking things have been said. I’ll stop there if I may. Please excuse me.
Q. – During the summit, you and President Medvedev announced the sale of Mistrals with a very considerable transfer of technology. This sale has raised some concern in several of Russia’s neighbouring countries. Do you think this concern is justified? What can you say to these countries expressing this concern and what can you say to those who think that this transaction was a kind of bargaining chip for Russian support regarding Libya?
THE PRESIDENT – You don’t exchange a projection and command ship (BPC) for a political position of a huge country like Russia. If I remember correctly, Russia is 46 times bigger than France. Russia has an area double that of the United States. Russia is home to between 130 and 140 million inhabitants and loses 600,000 to 700,000 people every year. Not all of Russia’s surface area is inhabited.
Presenting Russia as a country that has a desire to invade its neighbours and as a threat to the European Union is an extremely outdated and extremely wrong way of seeing things. That’s what I think, I’m telling you here today. If the European Union’s only enemy is Russia, frankly, the situation is very stable.
Second, Russia is a huge country with raw materials. Europe has a great deal of technology. We have everything to build together.
When Alain Juppé and I saw the President of the United States and the President of Russia in Lisbon at the NATO Summit, we said to each other “finally, the Berlin Wall has fallen, the Cold War is over”. So if the Russians are our allies, why shouldn’t we sell them ships? And you think that it’s with four projection and command ships that they’re going to invade another country? Which one?
And as for my many friends in Georgia, I think today, since I was invited to visit there, they have made major progress on the issue of the 2008 agreement. They are well aware that it’s because France was at the helm of the European Union that Georgia is completely free from Russia today. The tanks had to be stopped 40 km from Tbilisi. And I won’t forget that President Medvedev kept his word.
So there you have it. We’re either friends or we aren’t. But if we are friends, if we are partners and if we are allies, I really don’t see why we can’t have projects together. You say to me that there was a very considerable transfer of technology, a transfer of technology, because when we sell them something, all the countries in the world ask for technology, whatever the area and whatever the country.
There is one thing of which I’m sure, if we hadn’t build the BPCs, other countries, including in Europe, would have been happy to build them, such as our Spanish friends.
Honestly, I take responsibility for the decision. You have always heard me say the same thing. There is no hidden agreement; there is no need for that. Moreover, when we made the deal, the Libyan crisis hadn’t begun, since I was at the Saint Nazaire shipyards at the time and we weren’t yet engaged in Libya. So there is no connection between the two. When President Medvedev decided not to support UNSCR 1973, we were still finishing the negotiation of contracts.
Q. – Mr President, some weeks back you accepted an invitation from the Libyan National Transitional Council to go to Benghazi. Have you made any progress on this project and when are planning on going there?
THE PRESIDENT – I’ve spoken with them several times, with Alain Juppé and President Jibril who is a very competent man, at the head of the Libyan Transitional National Council. He extended this invitation again. Alain Juppé and I will go to Benghazi when the time is right. But we hope that at that time, we will be able to conduct a working trip and meet all those who want to build the democratic Libya of tomorrow. And the members of the Council are in total agreement.
And I would also like to point out that we have spoken to David Cameron about our idea, and it should be a Franco-British initiative.
We’re on the same page, we have come to the same conclusion. I think that it would be quite awkward to act separately. Therefore, yes, it’s something that we’re still planning to do. For a certain number of reasons, we haven’t yet decided when.
Q. – Why didn’t the G8 opt to forgive Tunisian debt? Could we change the name of the e-G8 to the e-G9 since Mark Zuckerberg is at the head of a population that goes well beyond several Western countries?
THE PRESIDENT – That was a message for Mark Zuckerberg, and he’ll appreciate that. As for your question about forgiving Tunisia’s debt, as you know, we haven’t completely closed that door, Alain Juppé and me. But this isn’t an issue to be dealt with in the G8, but rather in the Paris Club. Our Tunisian friends may find this hard, but there are rules. And since there are many poor countries, and unfortunately, many countries that are poorer than Tunisia, if we make decisions about one of them unilaterally, we naturally have to think about all the rest. Therefore, it is absolutely not a door that is being closed. We’ll have another chance to talk about that, because Alain Juppé is going to hold a meeting with all the G8 foreign ministers and the Egyptian and Tunisian foreign ministers. We’ll do the same for the finance ministers, because now that we’ve decided upon our frameworks and the overall envelope of $40 billion, we just have to put them to work. And that won’t happen overnight. There is a tremendous amount of technical work which must continue.
Q. – I have another question about Libya. Today there are considerable Libyan funds that have been frozen throughout the world, funds that were frozen as part of a UN decision, during the G8 did you discuss the possibility of unfreezing these funds to help the National Council, i.e. the Council in Benghazi, with all its implications of increased recognition of this same Council? Also, what is your personal opinion on this complicated issue?
THE PRESIDENT – My opinion is that I would like everything to move faster because the National Transitional Council needs resources. The funds you are talking about are assets illegally held abroad by a number of Libyan personalities associated with those who are currently in power. But this raises legal problems because we are states based on the rule of law, and in such states the end doesn’t necessarily justify the means. That’s why it’s a bit difficult. It’s one of the problems that Alain Juppé has been actively working on most, because of course the National Transitional Council needs money. There is this money that is earmarked, but it isn’t moving swiftly enough.
Ladies and gentlemen, before thanking you for wanting to cover this G8, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our friends here in Normandy and thank the people of Deauville, who I’m sure we bothered quite a bit. Things weren’t easy for them. But, I’m sure they’ll find solace knowing that their city and their region is being broadcast on televisions all over the world.
And I think that we experienced the very best of Normandy, with the weather, typical of Normandy, but not excessive, with a magnificent blue, slightly cloudy sky, some sun and very little rain. I know that we’re hoping for rain for farmers, including here, but it was really the way of showing that in Normandy, there is movement and that every minute in this region is different. Now we understand why so many painters and writers fall in love with Normandy. Last night, we had dinner together and it was quite long, but we were looking out onto the beach and there was an extraordinary night sky that changed dramatically over dinner. I know that Angela Merkel enjoyed it very much. And if Angela appreciated and enjoyed the G8, it was indeed a big success.
¹ Source of English text: Deauville G8 website.