Secretary-General, dear colleagues,
I should first like to thank my friend Traian Basescu for his hospitality. He knows that Romania has a special place in the hearts of the French people. Holding this summit in Bucharest is a symbol of the new face of our European continent, freed from former divisions.
This is the first time I have the honour of speaking before the North Atlantic Council. I know that France’s relations with the Atlantic Council haven’t always been calm. Many used to say that France advocated for others what she didn’t do herself. I should like to clarify this and face up to my responsibilities. France’s defence effort won’t be reduced regardless of budget difficulties. In today’s world, reducing our effort would be irresponsible.
The Atlantic Alliance is our alliance: France is one of its founder members and main contributors.
I should like to thank President Bush for what he has said. We need NATO and a European Defence. We need the United States and the United States needs strong allies. For France this opens the door for a transformation of her relations with NATO. I’m not saying this here before saying it at home. I faced up to the debates at home in order to come and say this here.
We’ve got the same values; we are friends.
On Afghanistan, it’s essential for us to win. But there’s a communication deficit in all our countries. We shouldn’t be losing the communication battle when we are fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida. Afghanistan will be rebuilt and at peace only if there’s a long-term military effort. This is why France has taken the decision to send an additional battalion to eastern Afghanistan. And France will also take command of the central region from this summer.
We have to win. We are committed for a long time until victory. There’s no other solution.
It’s in this spirit that, in agreement with my friend Angela Merkel, I propose that in 2009 the 60th anniversary summit be held in Kehl and Strasbourg, two cities located on the Franco-German border. It will be the symbol of Franco-German friendship, European reconciliation and the transatlantic partnership. It would conclude the process of transforming France’s relationship with NATO.
It is with pleasure that France today welcomes Croatia and Albania into the Alliance. We all hope that a solution can be found for FYROM but we stand by our Greek allies. When you want to join NATO, you have to make a minimum of effort. On Georgia and Ukraine, we don’t accept any veto by anyone. These two countries are destined to join NATO. But there must be agreement at least to discuss the date and terms and conditions. I greatly appreciated Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech yesterday evening when he said: "we’re not afraid of Putin, as we showed when welcoming in the other East European countries". But we want to check that they are ready politically. It’s a question of the date, the timetable. Let’s not make it a political problem. These countries are destined to join NATO.
Just as in Afghanistan, the Alliance and European Union are engaged together in Kosovo. Kosovo is a success for NATO and Europe. This isn’t said enough. It was worth waiting four months. Let us also extend our hand to Serbia. We need her to stabilize the region.
Tomorrow, Vladimir Putin is coming to join us here. Let’s talk to him frankly. He does so when he has problems including when he’s talking about his country’s interests. We must do the same thing. But his offer to cooperate in order to facilitate overland transit for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) through Russian territory is a sign of goodwill.
I should like to raise the issue of anti-missile defence. It’s a fact that when it comes to ballistic proliferation the threat is growing. Some of us are preparing to address this threat with anti-missile defence capabilities. For France, such capabilities can provide useful additional resources in the event of a limited strike, but they will never be able to be enough to protect our vital interests. The ultimate guarantee of our security lies in nuclear deterrence. We have discussed this with the United Kingdom. We recognize that the initiative taken by the US and others is useful. France will participate in it and adopt a pragmatic approach. Let’s see how it’s going to evolve.
This summit is extremely important. It is providing an opportunity to bolster the Alliance and strengthen Defence Europe. I’d like once again to thank President Bush for what he said. It is unprecedented. It’s better to have strong friends. France will respond to this overture.