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Reception at the Ministry of Defense for France’s National Day

Publié le August 1, 2012
Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)
Paris, July 13, 2012

(…)

France’s National Day belongs to all the French. Every year, we come together, with our armed forces, respecting our differences, to celebrate our community of destiny. (…)

My thoughts go to our 87 soldiers who fell in Afghanistan. They died for France, defending her interests and above all her values. We shall never forget them.

I also want to pay tribute to those who bear in their flesh the scars of battle. Some of the wounded are among us this evening. I pay my respects to them with emotion and gratitude. (…)

I want to thank the National Defence civilian and military personnel for what they do and the successes they have achieved. I shall cite some of them this evening.

Preventing a civil war in Côte d’Ivoire.

Protecting the Libyan people.

Guaranteeing freedom of maritime traffic by fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa and thus allowing delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia.

Maintaining regional stability in southern Lebanon, Chad and Kosovo. And also enforcing the rule of law throughout national territory, as you are doing in Guiana, and through the Vigipirate Plan (1).

Several of these missions are continuing. Others will be entrusted to you.

AFGHANISTAN

One of them is drawing to a close.

This 14 July is the last one our Kapisa combat units will spend in Afghanistan. Two thousand soldiers will be back home at the end of the year.

This is a sovereign act, which France has freely undertaken. I took the decision, working closely with our Allies, and with the Afghan authorities’ agreement.

It is wholly consistent with the rationale of our engagement, intended to enable the Afghan people to regain control of their own destiny.

We shall remain present in Afghanistan, in other forms, within the framework of the Franco-Afghan Cooperation treaty, which the 11 July Council of Ministers has just agreed and we are submitting to the National Assembly.

But we shall remain with other missions, which will meet the changing requirements of the Afghan situation. We are going to focus on training and cooperation, by taking responsibility for Kabul’s [military] hospital and international airport. The aim is now to work for Afghanistan’s development in order to ensure a long-term future for what we have done.

NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE/DETERRENT/DEFENCE WHITE PAPER

Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, I am responsible not only for the fate of our soldiers and forces’ sense of commitment; I am also guarantor of our national independence.

I shall take particular care to ensure the sustainability, continuity and future of our military capabilities.

Ten days ago, I boarded the nuclear ballistic submarine “Le Terrible”, off Brittany, to solemnly reaffirm France’s unwavering commitment to her deterrent force.

With the same aim in mind, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, responsible for National Defence, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who is here today, and I have just launched the preparation of a new White Paper on Defence and National Security.

The objective is to define our defence strategy and force capabilities for the next 15 years, based on our analysis of the threats in a particularly unstable world facing a plethora of challenges.

The crisis places heavy budget constraints on our economies.

Military spending is growing all over the world except in Europe.

WMD proliferation programmes, particularly those involving nuclear and chemical weapons, are endangering whole regions of the world.

Terrorism is constantly taking new and more threatening forms.

Preparedness for this new scenario will allow appropriate action to be taken when the time comes.

This is the purpose of the White Paper, which will be drawn up in close consultation with the military community.

I might add, of course, that the work will have to be carried out in a clear European framework: we will call on our partners so that our defence and security policy takes account of the EU’s shared interests and even, after several years of stagnation, renders possible a relaunch of Defence Europe.

I have decided to entrust M. Jean-Marie Guehenno with the chairmanship of the Defence and National Security White Paper Commission. Two experts, one German and one British, will be members of this commission. M. Guehenno will submit his report to me at the end of the year and the White Paper will pave the way for a military estimates act to be submitted to Parliament in 2013.

The Commission will focus particularly on four key areas.

First of all, the essential coherence between the missions, size and equipment of the armed forces. The aim is to guarantee in the long term our forces’ performance, efficiency and balance.

The second key area will be intelligence and capabilities for specialized action. What is at stake here is our country’s ability to safeguard its freedom of assessment and decision.

The Commission will also have to work on our industrial and research policy, to ensure that all the scientific, technical skills essential to our strategic autonomy are not only guaranteed but developed.

Finally, fourth key area: recruitment and training of National Defence personnel, and their rights.

Let me clearly reaffirm to you: my prime concern will be to ensure the coherence of our defence choices. Everyone will do their bit in the national economic recovery, but nothing will be done at the expense of our security, sovereignty or power, for all of which our armed forces are guarantors.

I can hear the concerns being expressed and I want clearly to repeat: account will be taken of our national defence needs.

We have extremely important responsibilities. We are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We have a major role to play in promoting world balance and peace.

To be worthy of it, we rely on our armed forces, on their skill, dedication and sense of duty. (…)

Long live the Republic!

Long live France!./.

(1) Under the Vigipirate Plan, the armed forces contribute to averting threats and taking preventive measures against potential terrorist action.