Amb Delattre Speaks at International Conference in Chicago
Chicago, February 8, 2013
Dear Dr. Wiefelspütz, member of the German Bundestag,
Dear Timothy Gardner, Henry Bienen, John Manley,
Dear Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin,
Dear Members and Guests of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs,
Dear Consuls Generals from Germany, Britain, Greece and France,
Dear Hervé de la Vauvre,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honored and pleased to again have the opportunity to visit the highly respected Chicago Council on Global Affairs. You have an unmatched ability to bring the world to America and vice versa. So today with my German colleague we are the world. Here you recognize the traditional and well-known French modesty…
It is always a pleasure to come to Chicago, a vibrant and fascinating city where we French feel at home.
For me, talking to Americans about the French-German friendship sends a strong message.
Indeed, America played a major role in the French-German relationship. We French will never forget that twice, during two World Wars, so many Americans risked and often sacrificed their young lives to restore our freedom. Six months ago, on June 6th, for the anniversary of D-Day, I went to West Point to bestow the Legion of Honor upon 45 American veterans of World War II. This was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
We will never forget either the critical role played by America after WWII in putting forward the Marshall Plan, thereby promoting both European integration and French-German reconciliation.
The European Union has many founding fathers, like Adenauer, Schuman and Monnet, but it has only one godfather, and this is the United States.
On a more personal note, I was posted to Bonn, Germany during German reunification. And I still have vivid memories of the fall of the Wall, the tears of joy of our German friends, as well as my own. It was an emotional experience that I will always remember.
I believe it is fair to say, and this is my first message for you today, that there is no closer relationship between two countries in today’s world than between France and Germany.
It’s true in the political field, with regular meetings at all levels of governments and our parliaments. There are for instance regular joint sessions of the French and German cabinets.
But beyond the political elites, the civil societies of the two countries are more and more intertwined. There are countless schools and sister-city partnerships between France and Germany. There is even a common history book. It means that the children and students in the two countries learn the same history with respect to WWII and the Holocaust. So you see how deep this endeavor goes in terms of the DNA of the two countries.
When you look back at our common history, with its so many wars and unprecedented human losses, the French-German reconciliation and friendship is a true “miracle” – to quote former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
This miracle, which is a source of inspiration in many parts of the world, from the Balkans to the Middle East, was made possible by the extraordinary political will and vision of outstanding German and French statesmen. The interesting thing is that these statesmen worked not only to develop the bilateral relationship but also to join French and German forces to build a united Europe. Since the Elysée Treaty, the French-German reconciliation and the European project have been the two faces of the same coin.
What makes France and Germany the main engine of the European Union has to do with the fact that the two countries represent 40% of the EU’s GDP and are the backbone of the eurozone. But there is more than that. France and Germany have a shared vision of the European project. Again, this is what the Elysée Treaty is all about. In our views, and this is my second message for you, the European integration process is like a rocket with three stages.
The first stage is the single market. And the fact is that the EU is today the world’s largest single market founded on the free movement of goods, people, services and capital. In this respect, the EU is already a great success story.
The second stage of the rocket is the monetary Union. There is no doubt that Germany and France are the driving force behind the euro – and have been from day one. The eurozone is today back on the right track, and it is to a large extend the result of the Franco-German – or German-French – leadership. I will let my German colleague speak about it.
More fundamentally, the European integration process is a political project bringing old Nations together in a way that is unprecedented in world history. This is the third stage of the rocket. And this is what the recent Nobel Peace Prize bestowed upon the European Union is all about.
For our generation, the EU is the vehicle to achieve stability and prosperity but also to have a stronger voice in world affairs. This is part of the European dream. The EU is using its soft power to promote democratic values, the rule of law and human rights throughout the world, but also to campaign against climate change and poverty.
To give you just an example, the EU accounts for 60% of the world’s total development aid. And in terms of hard power, since 1999, the EU has been developing a crisis-management and rapid-response military capability and has carried out some 24 military and civilian operations overseas, at times with the support of NATO. The fight against piracy in the Horn of Africa is a good illustration of this.
In this respect, if the French-German relationship is the main engine of Europe, there’s nothing exclusive about this relationship, of course, and Europe needs the commitment of all its member states. That is naturally the case for the United Kingdom, whose role in Europe we consider absolutely crucial. For example, the Franco-British relationship is Europe’s pillar for defense and security issues. Together, France and Britain account for 60% of the total military spending of the 27 members of the European Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Against this backdrop, my third message is that the transatlantic partnership has never been as important as it is today as one of the backbones of the “multi-partner world” that is taking shape – to quote Secretary Hillary Clinton.
The more Asia is rising, the more the transatlantic partnership is relevant and important and vital for America and for Europe.
It’s true on the strategic and security front. NATO remains an unmatched alliance and anchor of stability.
The U.S. and the E.U. are each other’s closest allies to face global challenges like the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (cf. Mali, Iran).
More broadly, one of the key challenges of our generation is to make sure that the emerging countries find their place and their say in the international institutions. That’s why we French push hard for the enlargement of the Security Council, to make sure that major countries like India and Brazil – and Germany too, by the way – become permanent members. In the same vein, we consider that the G20 has a growing role to play, in parallel with the G8, because it includes several of the emerging countries I was referring to.
The importance of the transatlantic partnership is also true on the economic front.
The EU and the U.S. are the backbone, the anchor of the world’s economy. They together account for about half the world’s GDP and nearly a third of international trade. Moreover 15 million jobs on the two sides of the Atlantic are directly linked to the transatlantic trade and cross-investment.
Confronted with growing competition from the emerging countries, the U.S. and the U.E. have to strengthen even further their partnership. That’s where a free-trade agreement between the two sides of the Atlantic can be of critical importance.
In the same vein, I believe it is fair to say that for you as well as for us, innovation is number one, number two and number three priority.
So it should come as no surprise that scientific and university partnerships are today the most dynamic and promising domain in the French-American relationship – and one of my key priorities as ambassador.
Let me conclude on this positive note. The transatlantic connection is deeply rooted in our common history and in the values that we share: the values of freedom and democracy coming from the American and the French revolutions and that are at the core of our common DNA.
Let’s never forget that these values remain today our best guide,
I would even say our best moral compass, to confront together the current challenges that America and Europe face.