Nineteenth Ambassadors’ Conference
Paris, September 2 , 2011
FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES
Six months ago, when I took up my duties at the Quai d’Orsay, it was my wish, under the authority of President Sarkozy, to energize French diplomacy in order to enable France to play her full role amid the upheavals taking place around the world. The day before yesterday, President Sarkozy again urged you not to passively endure developments in the world but to be a player in them, while following the proper path – the path we’ve set ourselves – and these four major priorities:
supporting the Arab Spring and encouraging freedom and democracy to take root around the Mediterranean;
building fairer, more effective international governance;
strengthening European integration and governance;
encouraging the progress of democracy and economic development on the African continent.
In the period of exceptional change that we’re going through, such an ambitious road map required all the talent at the Quai d’Orsay to be harnessed. I applied myself to the task by setting you a clear direction and, without hesitation, placing my trust in you.
Today, our collective efforts are bearing fruit. France is again at the vanguard of the international community’s action. For six months, in every field, she’s been conveying her message of humanity, responsibility, democracy and peace. For six months, her consistency, courage and leadership have been hailed everywhere. And you’re the architects of that success.
France is being an agent of change by supporting the magnificent surge towards freedom that began south of the Mediterranean.
Indeed, what’s happening in the Arab world has a direct impact on the future of our country and Europe.
Let’s be frank: for too long, our relations with certain countries were based on the predominance of the stability principle. Such stability can be a virtue in itself. But that stability was only a façade. We’ve understood that real stability can’t be created in isolation from people’s aspirations. We’ve learned the lessons for our diplomacy. In particular, we must forge relations with the new players in civil society, especially young people, new entrepreneurs, new media and rising figures on the cultural scene.
Today, our country plays a leading role in supporting the transitions under way, without laying down ready-made formulae. I’m thinking in particular of Egypt and Tunisia, who have bravely embarked on the path of democracy. I said it to the young people in Tahrir Square in March: we’re listening to you; we stand alongside you.
Unfortunately there are countries where the aspiration to freedom comes up against violence from regimes that have chosen to rush blindly into repression.
I’m thinking, of course, of Libya. It was thanks to France’s efforts that the vote on UNSCR 1973 was secured and Benghazi was saved from the massacre. Our teams – in Paris and in diplomatic posts in Benghazi, New York, Brussels, Cairo and the Gulf – were at the helm in building an international coalition to support the handful of brave men in the National Transitional Council. Day after day, with one Contact Group meeting after another, we managed to create the prospect of a democratic future for the Libyan people. Yes, it’s to France’s credit that she was first to recognize the National Transitional Council and prevented any regression into tyranny. Yes, it’s a source of pride for us to see our flag flying alongside the national ensign, in Benghazi and then, since Monday, in Tripoli, thanks to the determination of the small diplomatic team that has moved back there and to whose courage and effectiveness I pay tribute.
In Syria, I was the first to say that Bashar al-Assad had lost all legitimacy because he was refusing the path of dialogue and reforms.
Untiringly, France condemns the massacres, rejects the law of silence, avoids the politics of double standards. We can’t accept a regime that arrests and tortures people, including children. It’s thanks to our efforts, among others’, that an ever greater number in the international community are condemning the situation. The Security Council ended up condemning it; the Human Rights Council has condemned it. Our aim is to secure an explicit resolution at the Security Council condemning the use of violence against the population and organizing a sanctions regime. It’s a tough struggle, but we’re not giving up.
France is also being an agent of change by actively helping Europe write its own future.
It was with that goal in mind that President Sarkozy strongly committed himself, along with Chancellor Merkel, to reforming both Europe’s governance and its policies.
We got the European Union and the Euro Area to create the necessary management tools to overcome the economic and financial crisis.
We got the Schengen Area’s governance strengthened to tackle the migration challenge without questioning the principle of free movement of people, one of the foundations of our European Union.
France is also being an agent of change by working to build effective and fair global governance.
Let’s not regard ourselves as a continent in decline just because we’re no longer the centre of the world. I’m convinced that, in tomorrow’s world, Europe has a major role to play as a focus of stability, prosperity, values and democracy. Nothing will be done without Europe.
Too many French people still fear globalization, to the point of sometimes listening to those who try and lure them with the absurd fantasy of an unrealistic deglobalization. Let’s not get into the wrong struggle. The right struggle is not to deny globalization: it’s to make the most of it.
It’s true that we too often endure it passively. We resign ourselves to losing our market share to competitors who don’t always follow the same rules as us. To preserve our living standards without making the necessary effort to adapt, we’ve too often taken the easy option. The so-called developed world, from the United States to Europe to Japan, has given in to the temptation of excessive debt. Today our backs are against the wall.
We have an urgent obligation to reduce our deficits while at the same time not sparking off a spiral of recession. And what a difficult exercise that is! It means we must regain the offensive, win back our competitiveness and also campaign for others to follow the same rules. Protectionism is a delusion. But fairness and reciprocity are common-sense demands. Moreover, we must continue investing in R&D, in order to produce in new ways – that is, by saving scarce resources – and play our full role in meeting the growing needs of a human population soon to number 9-10 billion. Far from the discouragement of the “prophets of decline”, this is François Fillon’s and the whole government’s ambition. Ambassadors, in your mission, supporting our economic interests is a greater priority than ever.
France is also being a player for change by committing herself tirelessly to the African continent. I’m one of those who believe in Africa’s future, in the bonds of friendship between France and all the African countries and in the need to remain present and active in Africa.
The challenges are well known:
The food challenge. The tragedy unfolding in the Horn of Africa reminds us of the urgent necessity of galvanizing the international community to ensure food security throughout the continent. It’s one of the central themes France chose for our G20 presidency.
The democracy challenge, with the many elections due to be held in Africa in the coming months. The Ivorian democratic transition, to which we contributed so much, really is a symbol for the whole continent.
The economic challenge. With a dynamic young population and a growth rate of more than 5% for the last 10 years, the continent has real potential. But there’s still much to be done. Henri de Raincourt [Minister responsible for Cooperation] – to whose unflagging commitment I pay tribute – is entirely devoted to pursuing our development efforts.
The diplomatic challenge, to enable Africa to make its collective voice heard at the international forums. In this spirit, France wants a stronger role for the African Union and more regional integration in Africa.
If France’s voice is being heard more than ever, it’s because we’ve known how to play our trump cards.
The first of them is the conviction that we have a responsibility to shoulder and a message to spread around the world: a message of democracy, respect for human rights, and solidarity. This conviction is central to our identity. The French are committed to it and proud of it.
It’s what guided us in our battle to ensure that the principle of responsibility to protect populations was implemented, through the vote for UNSCR 1973. Along with the decisions by the Arab League, that resolution on Libya marked a major step forward in the international community’s recognition of this originally French concept.
Our second trump card is our diplomatic service, with its ability to assess, imagine and act.
Active diplomacy needs resources. I reaffirmed this as soon as I took office in March. However, I’ve promised no miracles. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs can’t opt out of the effort to restore public finances to a sound footing. We must use the present crisis as an opportunity to question less useful spending and increase the efficiency of our action. (…)
In the coming months, we’ll have to tackle three major challenges.
The first challenge is to support the tremendous transformation under way in the Arab world.
We must help Tunisia and Egypt, but also Morocco and Jordan, succeed with the transitions they’ve begun. Nothing would be worse than disillusionment among those people, particularly the young.
In Libya, we’re entering a new phase: the construction of a democratic country. France will play her full role in this effort. We have a real wealth of friendship in that country, due to our commitment alongside the Libyan people since the first days of the revolution. It’s no accident that the International Conference in Support of the New Libya has just been held in Paris. Throughout yesterday afternoon, there were several bilateral meetings between President Sarkozy and the main players in the Libyan crisis, followed by the plenary meeting attended by representatives from some 60 states. I was struck by this moment, which is seen as important. I look back a few months, to March 2011, when we were launching this risky operation, with France shouldering her responsibilities. Six months on, we’re turning a new page after the Libyan intervention to enter a new phase. It’s a recognition of France’s commitment.
In Syria, we’ll be unstinting in our efforts to secure an end to the crackdown and the start of democratic dialogue. We’ll develop our contacts with the opposition. The Syrian people, too, deserve freedom and democracy.
For the longer term, we must continue mobilizing the international community to support the countries south of the Mediterranean, to encourage their development in a spirit of partnership, because much of our future is being played out there.
DEAUVILLE PARTNERSHIP/UNION FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN
That’s the aim of the Deauville Partnership, launched on President Sarkozy’s initiative at the last G8 summit. This political and economic partnership is set to provide massive aid – to the tune of $40 billion – to those countries in the region that commit themselves to the path of reforms. I’ve asked those of you who are particularly involved in preparing this partnership to be vigilant. In Marseille in a few days’ time, then in New York in the course of September, this $40-billion commitment will take shape in agreements that are as concrete as possible. We’re well aware that many states have spotted the big weakness in international relations: the gap between what’s announced and what actually happens. Let’s not waste time, if we want these political convictions to succeed.
This must also be the aim of the new European Neighbourhood Policy and of the relaunch of the Union for the Mediterranean envisioned by President Sarkozy, whose full meaning is clear today. I went to Barcelona a few weeks ago to attend the investiture of the Union for the Mediterranean’s new Secretary-General, Mr Youssef Amrani, who has a clear road map. (...)
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS/LEBANON
Finally, no real security is possible without a just peace in the Middle East. It’s my conviction that the Arab Spring is an historic opportunity to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The status quo is neither acceptable nor sustainable, and will lead only to an explosion of violence. We proposed initiatives in June and July. I went to those regions; I wasn’t far from making a breakthrough, and we’re continuing in the run-up to the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September.
We proposed to relaunch peace negotiations based on balanced parameters. This French initiative is still on the table, on the eve of a United Nations General Assembly during which the member states will have to decide about the state of Palestine. France hopes this meeting will be an opportunity to reopen the path of negotiation rather than risk a sterile and dangerous diplomatic confrontation.
President Sarkozy has said it: Europe must speak with a single voice; Europe must shoulder its responsibilities.
I can’t end without mentioning Lebanon, who has always suffered the turmoil of the Middle East but has always been a testing ground for democracy, too. Today she must benefit fully from the wind of freedom blowing through the region, with due regard for her sovereignty and integrity, and thus become, more than ever, the symbol of coexistence.
ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRISIS/G8/G20/ENVIRONMENT
The second challenge is to build a more structured and better organized world.
We must firstly help overhaul international governance. Today, no nation alone can hope to tackle the challenges we’re facing. And I’m thinking above all of the economic and financial crisis.
France, the first country to hold the dual G8 and G20 presidency, has made a strong commitment to move forward on global governance. As I’ve said, the G8 was able to respond to the Arab Spring. The G20 must, in turn, find collective responses to the economic and financial crisis, which is ongoing, and build a better regulated world. That’s our intention for the Cannes summit [in November].
We mustn’t forget the goals of sustainable development and the fight against climate change – major challenges for our planet’s future. France will continue to be at the forefront of this struggle during the forthcoming [UN] climate conference in Durban, as well as by supporting the plan for a World Environment Organization during the Rio+20 Conference. It would be a serious mistake to think the financial crisis has relegated to a secondary level these sustainable development requirements, which are ongoing.
We must also make progress on Europe’s governance. The debate on Europe has for a long time been focused on the opposition between “deepening” and “enlarging”. Today, the crises faced by the enlarged Europe raise the question of the European political project.
Some people toy with the idea of a “world without Europe”. I, on the other hand, am among those who think the history of Europe is punctuated with crises which are overcome each time and that, in the face of crisis, we must move further on European integration. I have no hesitation in talking of federalism for the Euro Area, with real integration of budgetary and fiscal policies. That’s the thrust of the proposals made by President Sarkozy and the German Chancellor: a real economic government for the Euro Area; heightened coordination and monitoring of European economic policies, in particular with a Golden Rule written into constitutions to balance public finances.
Germany and France are determined to lead the way by harmonizing their corporate tax. It will be a considerable step forward in a field that hitherto, in the name of national sovereignty, has been considered taboo and where we’ve tried to work together.
I’m also among those who believe in the strength of the Franco-German engine in Europe. We sometimes have disagreements, but our capacity for mutual impetus is still decisive: the crisis has shown it. I strongly reaffirmed this to your German counterparts in Berlin on Monday, in the first speech by a French foreign minister at the conference of German Ambassadors.
EU FOREIGN POLICY
Beyond this internal solidarity, we need a real common European foreign policy.
If the EU wants to carry even more weight in global balances, it must be capable of political action that matches the financing it provides. It must henceforth use the tools created by the Lisbon Treaty. The High Representative and the European External Action Service are in place. They must complement and not compete with our own action and must enable us to move forward in several directions:
Talking with a single voice about the political issues essential to the European Union; it’s not obvious, as we can see with regard to the Middle East, but we’re not losing hope.
Ensuring the European Union’s interests prevail and finally securing a reciprocity principle in trade relations with its big strategic partners; this concept, vilified only a few months ago, has now been entirely validated by our partners.
Making even better use of the effective tool of European Union sanctions, which played a decisive role in the fall of Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire, enables us to penalize the Syrian regime when the Security Council doesn’t succeed in doing so, is a major instrument of pressure in the face of the Iranian nuclear programme and helped stifle the Gaddafi regime financially.
Taking the Common Security and Defence Policy into a new phase, and it’s a constant concern: firstly because no foreign policy is credible without a capability for military action, particularly to plan and command operations, and secondly because the budgetary constraints weighing heavily on national armies makes the pooling of capabilities and a common policy for our defence industries absolutely essential.
That’s the thrust of the proposals we’re making to our partners in the framework of the Weimar initiative. And in Sopot this afternoon we’re going to make it concrete by signing a Weimar + 2 letter (France, Germany, Poland + Spain and Italy) to ask the High Representative to continue her efforts to make progress on the Common Security and Defence Policy. For us, the ambitious Franco-British defence treaty falls within a European perspective.
France wants the European External Action Service to work, and work well. That’s why she’s proposed high-calibre French candidates for the European External Action Service. In particular, I note the recent appointments of our diplomats as heads of European Union delegations to Turkey, Kazakhstan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso and Taiwan. I encourage you and your colleagues to stand as candidates, in Brussels or for European Union delegations.
Along with Jean Leonetti [Minister responsible for European Affairs] – whom I thank for his invaluable support – I intend to move forward on all these European subjects in the course of the coming months, and to show all the Eurosceptics that history will prove them wrong.
The third challenge is to remain vigilant about our security in at-risk regions.
In Afghanistan, the effort isn’t over. But we’re not working in vain. I want to pay tribute to the work done by our soldiers and aid workers in Surobi and Kapisa over the past three years.
In a decade, the country has been transformed. International terrorism and the Taliban are no longer in a position to take control, and the disappearance of Bin Laden was a very severe blow to al-Qaeda. The Afghan security forces are growing stronger by the day. Mr Rasmussen was telling me that those forces numbered 200,000 men before the surge and there will be 350,000 of them at the end of this year. This shows that the handover to the Afghan army was well-prepared. The conditions are gradually falling into place for a process of reconciliation with those insurgents who agree to give up violence. For our part, we have a strategy for handing over responsibilities to the Afghan authorities, with a timetable that enables us to plan the withdrawal of a quarter of our contingent in the coming months and transform the nature of our engagement alongside the Afghan government.
Indeed, it’s not a question of abandoning Afghanistan. On the contrary, we intend to propose to her a very full bilateral partnership treaty by the end of the year. This treaty has been prepared in consultation with our embassy in Kabul. We also intend to propose beginning regional political dialogue focusing on Afghanistan, to try to create mutual trust in the region, something that doesn’t currently exist.
More than ever, Iran is still a focus of our attention. The Tehran regime must guarantee respect for the rights of the Iranian people, who also aspire to freedom and democracy. It must shed full light on its nuclear programme and comply with the international community’s repeated demands. That programme, whose military intention is clear, represents an unacceptable threat to the non-proliferation system, to regional stability and to our own security. You know how committed France is on this subject.
We’ll also be very attentive to the terrorist risk in the Sahel. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) destabilizes the Sahel states and directly threatens France and Europe’s security. Greater regional cooperation, a strengthening of security capabilities in the countries under threat, and the fight against poverty are the keys to combating this scourge.
Indeed, the security of our nationals is a priority, and here my thoughts go out to the nine French hostages and to their families; as you know, we’re working tirelessly to secure their release.
French communities abroad are ever more numerous and ever more dynamic. They’re a very active part of our national community. David Douillet [Minister responsible for French Nationals Abroad] is now devoting all his energy to them, and I want to thank him for his commitment.
This 19th Ambassadors’ Conference is taking place in Paris at the same time as the conference at the new Libya summit. I see it as the symbol of a reinvigorated French diplomatic service which has managed to regain a frontline role in response to the guidelines set by President Sarkozy: freedom and creativity rather than inertia and self-absorption.
We’re living in a time when the international environment weighs increasingly heavily on the national debate, on our political decisions and on the very evolution of our societies. Our fellow citizens are ever more conscious of it. More than ever, we must show them that our diplomacy is capable of anticipating and deciphering the world’s developments, is capable of making proposals and influencing debate, is an engine of international action and, finally, is capable of supporting our dynamic French communities abroad, which are in the full process of development.
I told you yesterday that the job you do is taking on an ever more exciting dimension. I hope it gives you pleasure – on a professional level – and I want you to know it gives me great pleasure to work with you in the service of what brings us together: that is, quite simply increasing France’s influence and reputation.