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Arab Spring/Libya/Syria/Deauville Partnership/EU Neighbourhood Policy/Union for the Mediterranean – Middle East – Africa – Europe – Global governance

Publié le November 3, 2011
Opening seminar of the Institute of Higher National Defence Studies and the National Institute of Higher Security and Justice Studies – Speech by Pierre Sellal, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (excerpts)
Paris, October 7, 2011

France’s diplomatic priorities
Not to passively endure the changes in the world, but to actively participate in them; to enable France to play her full role in the face of the world’s upheavals. That was the road map given to our diplomatic service by President Sarkozy and the Foreign Minister, reiterated and explained at the latest Ambassadors’ Conference in September.
That ambition is strong, that line is clear, but in the face of the world’s instability and the acceleration of history that the Prime Minister was speaking to you about this morning, in the face of the profusion of events and challenges, they require a few key priorities to mobilize our efforts and resources.

These priorities, clearly articulated by our authorities, are as follows:

- Supporting the Arab Spring and encouraging freedom and democracy to take root on the African continent;

- Encouraging the progress of democracy and economic growth on the African continent;

- Strengthening European integration and governance – that is, Europe’s ability to take mutually supportive action;

- Building fairer, more effective international governance.


Our most urgent priority – because our most fundamental values, our immediate neighbourhood and our responsibility depend on it – is to support the tremendous transformation under way in the Arab world.
In the surge towards freedom and regeneration that has spread through all the countries on the Mediterranean’s southern shore – from Tunisia to Egypt, from Morocco to Libya – and from Syria to Yemen and Bahrain, each situation is individual, each case is unique. But they’re all part of a single, identical movement, the same aspiration expressed by the people –particularly young people – for human dignity, freedom and democracy. As the Prime Minister emphasized to you, they secured a victory for universal values. Those ideals are also ours; they must inspire and guide all our political thinking in the future.

Admittedly, the path to democracy will be long, full of pitfalls and littered with dangers of upheaval and violence. Our own revolutionary history is edifying in this regard.

But this Arab Spring or “awakening” is first and foremost a huge source of hope for people, and an historic strategic opportunity for us: it’s broken the curse that seemed to confine the Arab world to a false choice between dictatorship and fundamentalism; it’s opened up the prospect of political modernity; it’s forced us to reconsider our approach to that part of the world; it’s shown us that only social diversity, the aspirations of young people and political renewal can ensure the genuine stability of our strategic environment in the Maghreb and Middle East.

Our duty and our interests oblige us to accompany Arab societies along this path – not arrogantly or by interfering but by assuring them of our readiness to listen and lend support.

This means, first of all, shouldering our responsibility to protect civilian populations who are victims of brutal, dictatorial regimes. In this regard, our action within both the United Nations Security Council and the European Union is essential. With Libya it led, in the framework of international law, to a coalition military intervention that enabled us to prevent a veritable bloodbath, protect the civilian population who were under threat and put an end to one of the world’s oldest dictatorial regimes.

In a different context, we’re also shouldering our responsibility for Syria, where – despite the deadlock on the Security Council – France will continue to play an active role in resolutely supporting the Syrian democrats’ struggle for freedom, particularly through the imposition of sanctions against a regime that seeks to stifle its people’s aspiration to democracy.

A readiness to listen and lend support also means acting in the long term to encourage a real area of peace, stability and prosperity in that region of the world.

We place great hope in the Deauville Partnership, which is the result of the French presidency’s inclusion of the Arab Spring on the G8’s agenda: this was one of the main successes of the Deauville summit on 26 and 27 May. So far Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan have joined the partnership, accompanied – since the ministerial meeting in New York – by Libya. Other countries in the region are also fully-fledged members: Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

At the financial level, the commitment of the G8 countries and their partners in Deauville to the reforms in the region is remarkable, for at least three reasons:

- the scale of the budget announced – $40 billion for Tunisia and Egypt – which was doubled at the finance ministers’ meeting in Marseille at the beginning of September and will enable the commitments to the other beneficiary countries to be funded;

- the involvement of new players, particularly the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). A decision was taken to extend its mandate to the Mediterranean’s southern shore;

- the mobilization and coordination of the international financial institutions, in the shape of a common platform of action.

This partnership will have to be implemented practically and swiftly: the democratic transition in countries like Tunisia and Egypt will make real progress only if we avoid their economic collapse, if we create the conditions for the rising generations to have real access to employment and training. The ministerial meeting in New York on 20 September 2011, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, enabled us to set the operational, political and economic framework of the Deauville Partnership.

In order to act over the long term, the European Union, too, has an essential role to play in relation to countries and peoples with whom we share a real common destiny and who are our close neighbours and natural partners. The European Union’s role in the region must now be seen in the context of a strengthening of the southern dimension of its Neighbourhood Policy, which France has never stopped advocating and will continue to fight for, particularly in terms of the share of the appropriations Europe devotes to this policy.

Acting over the long term, asserting Europe’s responsibility towards the Mediterranean’s southern shore, also means not forgetting the Union for the Mediterranean, that visionary initiative by President Sarkozy whose dimension of partnership and equality makes it a natural body for strengthening mutual supportiveness and practical projects between countries on both shores. (…)


Finally, the democratic upheaval sweeping through the Arab world makes it all the more urgent to make progress towards resolving the crises destabilizing the region, chief among them being the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The status quo there is neither acceptable nor tenable: it would create new explosions of violence.

Our aim is to relaunch as soon as possible, and without preconditions, peace negotiations based on transparent and balanced parameters which, in any case, everyone has known for a long time. That’s what is behind the French initiatives, particularly the proposal made by President Sarkozy to the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September: in view of the failure of American efforts to date, we must collectively envisage another method. In particular, the permanent members of the Security Council, Europe and the countries in the region must be more involved in the peace efforts. The negotiations must be based on a brief and clear timetable (six months for an agreement on border and security issues, one year for an overall agreement), as well as on the well-known parameters for a settlement. There too, France has shouldered her responsibilities: President Sarkozy expressed in New York the support of France for granting Palestine the status of non-member observer state, through a possible General Assembly resolution. Nobody would benefit from the deadlock that an American veto on the UN Security Council would represent, with its train of unfortunately too predictable consequences. The Palestinian initiative at the United Nations, however understandable and legitimate it may be, must not jeopardize the possibility of a return to the negotiations, which alone are capable of ending the conflict.


Our second goal concerns the African continent, which this year – as President Sarkozy has emphasized, has taken major steps forward in democracy.

In 2050, a quarter of humanity will be African. We must now put Africa at the heart of our thinking about the world and therefore also at the heart of our choices and decisions. That’s what French diplomacy is busy doing, in the framework set out by the Head of State in his Cape Town speech in February 2008.

Prosperity is dependent on peace. And peace can only benefit from progress in democracy. So those are our main goals. As you know, we’re constantly striving to resolve crises. Recent months have seen a return to constitutional order in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger. But France has also recently committed herself – hand in hand with the UN, the African Union and the African regional organizations – to overcoming crises and restoring democracy in Guinea and Madagascar. We’re equally involved in the stabilization of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the emergence of South Sudan as a state, and stabilization – despite all the difficulties – in Somalia.

Because it’s in our interests, we must also help all the countries concerned to tackle the transnational challenges: the terrorist threat, people trafficking and drug trafficking, all the more worrying because Africa, and particularly the Sahel-Sahara region, has become an important transit area for hard drugs bound for Europe.

Africa must be the first to ensure the continent’s stability. That’s why we unreservedly support continental and regional integration. The adaptation of our military presence is directly geared towards supporting the peace and security tools of the African Union and regional economic communities.

We’re continuing to play an active role to ensure Africa’s voice is heard beyond the continent – at the United Nations, the G8 and the G20 – so that it has the best possible representation in the bodies of global governance.

Finally, the African continent is still, of course, at the heart of our cooperation and development policy, and the Millennium Goals remain, in our eyes, a political and moral obligation for donors. That’s why, in the framework of our G20 presidency, we’ve chosen to put the spotlight on infrastructures – which shape economic development – and food security.

It’s also why France remains the G8 country that dedicates the largest share of its aid (54%) to the African continent, in the framework of an aid package which, despite the constraints of our budgetary situation, totals more than €10 billion.

Contrary to an idea that’s been falsely spread around, France wants to see the intervention of new international players in Africa – provided of course that they respect minimum rules of conduct, in particular steering clear of dumping for the benefit of their companies and avoiding plunging African countries back into a spiral of debt.

But beyond the very necessary struggle against poverty, which demands additional resources – and that’s the thrust of our political battle to establish innovative financing – let’s not conceal another truth: Africa is today one of the main powerhouses of economic growth (growth in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the IMF and World Bank, should be above 5% in 2011 and exceed 6% in 2012), the largest reserve of natural resources and potentially the biggest emerging market.

We’ve put ourselves in a position to support this growth, particularly through a French Development Agency whose tools and modus operandi have been modernized to back projects contributing directly to this growth, in a spirit of partnership kept alive by the empathy that has long drawn us towards the continent nearest to us. In any case, we count on your two institutes, both the IHEDN and the INHESJ, to maintain these close relations, particularly through enhanced exchanges between French and African researchers.

When he speaks about Africa, President Sarkozy often reminds us that only 12 kilometres separate it from Europe and that our two continents’ destinies are linked. That’s doubtless more obvious for those member states with Mediterranean shores than for others. One of our ambitions is to ensure Europe as a whole is aware that strategic issues – economic and security issues – are at stake for her in Africa.


And so to Europe.

In the two regions I’ve just mentioned – the Mediterranean and Africa – and more generally in a changing world where we’re confronted with new challenges and the cards of power are being reshuffled, France maximizes her chances of influencing change when she can rely on a united, dynamic and ever more integrated Europe.

France has made the resolute choice of further European integration, which she tirelessly strives to promote, making full use of the leadership her relationship with Germany provides.

Several lessons can already be learnt from the crisis affecting the Euro Area:

The first is that, in the face of the shock of the global crisis in 2008, the European Union’s role – thanks to President Sarkozy’s initiatives under the French presidency – was to initiate proposals to prevent a collapse of the international banking system and an excessively acute recession in the global economy. It applied itself to this, while resisting the temptation of self-absorption and a rise in protectionism and understanding the need to break with a certain kind of naivety that too often led it not to defend its interests robustly enough.

Efforts to alleviate the effects of the Lehman Brothers collapse forced states to get into debt. That’s why we’ve now gone from a private debt crisis to a sovereign debt crisis affecting all the industrialized countries, beginning with the United States. As a result of speculation, however, the markets’ attention is focusing on the Euro Area. But as President Sarkozy strongly emphasized, France and Germany are absolutely determined to preserve the common heritage of the single currency and therefore to come to the aid of Greece. The necessary decisions were taken on 21 July. Their implementation doubtless requires a little more time than the jittery markets can tolerate – that’s the price of democracy – but all the parliamentary authorizations necessary should be granted by mid-October, following the success achieved by the Chancellor in the Bundestag last week and the vote in the Dutch parliament yesterday.

The second lesson is that the difficulties within the Euro Area will have proven revealing. The building of economic and monetary union was based on the premise – or wager – that the mere fact of having a single currency would bring about convergence.

We now know this wager didn’t pay off. Today no one disputes that the euro’s survival demands not only rules but also joint management, the close integration of economies and a gradual reduction in the imbalances that have become progressively greater and are being punished by the markets every day. So it’s a question of further European integration, which the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Alain Juppé, doesn’t hesitate to describe as federalism.
In fact, while a number of these measures used to be regarded as taboo by our partners, the EU has taken major decisions in 2011 based on a balance between discipline and solidarity: the Stability and Growth Pact has been strengthened, the foundations of a real European monetary fund have been laid; procedures enabling a real economic government to emerge, in the form of regular Euro Area summits, have been proposed and should soon allow the European Union to pass a milestone our country has wanted to see for a long time.

Beyond this, concrete initiatives designed to speed up economic convergence have been launched, and Germany and France have paved the way with, for the first time, a plan for a common corporation tax – a move that is both highly symbolic and of key importance in terms of its economic impact. (…)

This period of innovation is such that it isn’t unusual that it is leading to the very classic debates about a supposed tension between the Community method and the intergovernmental model. The reality – and this is probably the genius of the European enterprise – is that, in the blueprint being sketched out, each institution will ultimately have its rightful place. With the new version of the Stability Pact and the recourse to reverse majority voting, the Commission will have increased and unprecedented power to ensure that respect for common discipline and rules are respected, as is its role. Economic government, which itself calls for a proactive political approach and an ability to provide direction and impetus, has a chance of success only if it directly involves heads of state and government.

Finally, the need for European integration isn’t manifested only in the economic and monetary field. The free movement of people within the Schengen Area is another field where France is convinced of the need to strengthen our management, common discipline and mutual support. Hence the proposals France has presented, with several of her partners, in order to preserve what is, along with the euro, a symbolic achievement of the European enterprise.

One thing is certain, and François Fillon emphasized it to you this morning: if European solidarity dies, the crisis will spread to everyone. To crises and external pressures, there’s an identical response: more Europe. (…)

I’ve talked at some length – current events have ensured this – about the euro crisis and the urgency of reform it has revealed. But let’s not get the goal wrong: it may be the focus of every debate today, but the euro isn’t an end in itself. It is only a means – an essential one, admittedly, and of unique symbolic power – to serve the European project. The whole point of economic government is to make Europe more united and stronger so that it can carry its full weight in our globalized world. Contrary to what some people say, this doesn’t mean rejecting globalization, but adapting it to our values and interests and turning it to our advantage.

There’s still a long way to go before we have a genuine common foreign policy. But today, two years after the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, Europe has the tools necessary to assert itself. The EU must make full use of these major innovations: namely, a stable European Council presidency, the High Representative and the European External Action Service.

Events in Libya have clearly shown that there’s no foreign policy without the capacity for military action. Here again, Europe has to make substantial progress in many areas. This is why, with the United Kingdom, we set things in motion: the Lancaster House defence treaties are none other than this pooling of resources which the whole EU needs. And this need is more pressing than ever at a time when the crisis is severely constraining military budgets. This is the thrust of the Weimar initiative, which we initiated with the Germans and the Poles, but also Italy and Spain: an appeal for an urgent boost to Defence Europe.

So whether it be economic policy or common foreign and defence policy, the challenge is the same: we need a unified, better integrated, mutually-supportive Europe which has confidence in itself and its principles, not one which is self-obsessed and self-indulgently fascinated with its supposed decline. A Europe which doesn’t merely sit back and watch the rise of the emerging countries but, on the contrary, is able to lay down new rules with them for a global system based on the mutual respect of values. This principle of reciprocity, especially in trade, must be at the heart of the EU’s major strategic partnerships with China, India and Brazil, on which, following our initiative, work has been going on for the past year.


Laying down new rules for a global system.

I’ll conclude what I have to say with this final objective: to build fairer, more effective international governance, which safeguards our interests.

The successive financial, monetary, food and energy crises and tensions, all kinds of global imbalances – not forgetting the extremely tough battle against climate change – which have been building up since 1990 lead to the same observation: it is difficult to deal effectively with these crises and tensions and provide solutions to them in the framework of the existing international order.

They call for more effective governance at global level, adaptation of the existing organizations and better coordination between these.

The Cannes summit in less than a month’s time will be crucial for asserting and demonstrating the need for international cooperation in the face of the sovereign debt crisis and fears for world growth. The G20 will be a summit of both crisis and reconstruction.

Our ambition is to provide collective, tailored responses to the economic emergency and also to embark resolutely on the necessary reform processes.

For example, to make the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) capable of reacting more swiftly to food crises.
To work for greater coherence between the World Trade Organization’s standards and practices and those of the International Labour Organization.

To continue to give the new economic superpowers a full role in multilateral governance by encouraging them also to shoulder their responsibilities in it.

Finally, to ensure all these efforts – in particular to assert the G20’s authority and effectiveness – are supported by the legitimacy of the United Nations, which remains the only truly global organization; that is the thrust of all our efforts to give more transparency to our work and undertakings as G20 president, particularly towards those countries not directly involved in it.

I also want to emphasize the need for reform of the United Nations itself, including its Security Council. The latter has shown its decisive responsibility over recent months, with regard to Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. It’s disappointed us – and that’s putting it mildly – in recent days with regard to Syria.

But it’s clear that the international order we’re calling for demands an effective, legitimate, representative body whose members fully shoulder the responsibility to contribute to respect for the law, and to peacekeeping and international security.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ve omitted many subjects which nevertheless very directly concern our security: the dangers of proliferation, the Iran crisis – which is persisting in an ever more worrying way – the challenges of our military engagement in Afghanistan and the multiform terrorist threats hanging over our compatriots and our interests. You’ll have many opportunities to discuss these subjects in more depth during your session. In response to the evolution of these threats, a review of the White Paper on defence was particularly timely. You can count on the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs to make its contribution to this exercise, which comes under the aegis of the Secretary General for Defence and National Security.

In conclusion, I’d like to tell you how deeply French diplomacy, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and its departments and embassies are committed to the ethic of action and resolve that President Sarkozy and Alain Juppé expect – that ethic which the state of the world demands.

More than ever – in order to carry weight and not passively endure events, to exist and not disintegrate – we must analyse, understand, imagine, propose, persuade and act. Your work will contribute powerfully to that, and I’m delighted with it, for our diplomacy’s sake.
Thank you for this./.

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