Ambassadors’ Week from 28 to 31 August 2017
Opening speech by the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, on the occasion of Ambassadors’ Week.
Paris, 29 August 2017
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
France in a changing world
I’m pleased to welcome you today to this first Ambassadors’ Conference since our presidential election. It’s being held against a background of profound change. In saying this, I’m not talking only about my election. I’m describing the state of mind of our fellow citizens, who voted into the second round two candidates proposing to radically review the way France has been governed over the past 30 years – a desire for transformation resulting from French people’s acute awareness that the world around us is itself changing and that, in that context, nothing is worse than doing nothing.
For some people, the response involves self-absorption, closing-off, a renunciation of history, a kind of withdrawal behind what they hope are hermetically-sealed borders. Personally, I’ve chosen the path of a France regaining its position among the nations in Europe, addressing the challenges of today’s world and clearly making its viewpoint heard.
This is the path French people chose, with the stringency and probably the impatience that are appropriate when the impression is that decisions must be taken quickly. Let’s make no mistake: the world’s eyes are glued to France. The transformation we’ve embarked on is – I’m convinced of this – a central precondition for Europe’s transformation, geared to the future and to its peoples. And Europe’s transformation on the basis of a shared vision is the precondition for a new, more stable world order, defusing power rivalries.
You’re therefore being called upon to become the ambassadors of France’s transformation, to convey worldwide the message of a stronger, more united, more open France, keen to hold aloft, wherever it can, the flame of multilateral action, political dialogue and crisis resolution. The transformation of France that we’re beginning has two indissociable goals.
Firstly, the goal of making us stronger, restoring our ability to innovate, to produce, to reduce unemployment, particularly among the youngest people. And secondly, the goal of enabling France, within a revitalized Europe, to hold its position in a world order that has been turned upside down.
I’m not going to describe to you today the direction the world is taking – you’re more familiar with it than anyone. Nor shall I be listing the regional situations France is confronted with. They’re your bread and butter, and it’s you who clarify them to us. And don’t expect me in this speech to name all the countries or regions where you work, thinking they’ll somehow be granted recognition. Each one has its relevance in a diplomacy that seeks to be global and comprehensive.
Rather, what I really want to affirm to you are France’s ambitions in the world as it is, because we’re going through a period of intense questioning of diplomatic certainties and a blurring of the lines the world has known for the past 25 or 50 years. It’s the 1989 order that is today being shaken up – an order based on a globalization that became ultraliberal and on a single superpower.
Today we have a duty, with our allies and all our partners, to build a stable and fair collective order on new foundations. To build anew this world order, France’s diplomacy must be based on three strong approaches: our security, which is part and parcel of the world’s stability; our independence, which requires us to revisit the terms of sovereignty, including European sovereignty; and finally, our influence, which goes hand in hand with the defence of universal public goods.
Security and stability
French people’s security is in fact the raison d’être of our diplomacy. Our fellow citizens obviously expect the state to guarantee their security. This security is that of their families, their loved ones, but it’s also – and we can see this in the strong feelings and the outpourings of solidarity demonstrated when attacks have taken place, as again in recent weeks in Spain, and in several places in Europe and Africa – about the feelings of our whole societies.
This requirement runs deep, it’s visceral, and we must address it unflinchingly. True, the choices to be made between security and freedom pose a complex equation for us at national level. But we’ve made our choices, they are clear, in keeping with our values and our republican tradition, and we’ll take responsibility for them in the bill which will be voted on in the autumn and will enable us to emerge from the two-year-long state of emergency.
This security goes hand in hand with stability, which itself is a geopolitical challenge whose complexity you’re aware of. As a member of the Security Council and a nuclear power, France must be capable of playing its role as a counterweight when imbalances appear. In particular, it must maintain ties with major powers whose strategic interests diverge [and which] may sometimes enter into conflict on certain points. That’s the very purpose of the constant dialogue I’m having with American President Donald Trump, as with many other leaders.
I want a France that provides solutions and initiatives when new crises loom, and a France capable of both making itself heard globally and intervening with regional organizations, as we’ve done, for example, in the Sahel. Ensuring our fellow citizens’ security makes the fight against Islamist terrorism the top priority of our foreign policy.
Yes, I’m talking about Islamist terrorism and I accept complete responsibility for using that adjective, because nothing would be more absurd than to deny the link between the terrorist acts we’re experiencing and an interpretation of a kind of Islam which is both fundamentalist and political.
There’s no point in being naively optimistic in this respect, any more than in having a fear of Islam which conflates Islamist and Islamic, and tends to place under suspicion the millions of Muslims living in Europe who have no link with these fanatical doctrines. And I’m not forgetting, here, those Muslims who sometimes risk their lives by rising up against such murderous obscurantism.
Syria and Iraq
Our efforts in the fight against this terrorism focus on two major areas today: Syria and Iraq on one side, and Libya and the Sahel on the other. As soon as it extended into Syria and Iraq, Daesh [so-called ISIL] started planning attacks targeting our interests, our lives and our people.
Yes, Daesh is our enemy. The return of peace and Iraq’s, then Syria’s, stabilization are, in this respect, a vital priority for France. This is why we’ve got to help trigger in Iraq, in some respects, as in Syria above all, an inclusive political transition in which people will be fairly represented and put our effort into rebuilding those two countries.
In Syria, we’ve got to end the war; in both those countries, we’ve got to win the peace. For Syria, it’s to this end that I called for us, back in May, to adopt a different approach. The Astana Process had excluded us from a resolution of the conflict in terms of military de-escalation. By introducing substantial dialogue with the Turks, Iranians and Russians, we were able to make concrete headway on the situation.
Firstly, by setting out a common goal and priority: defeat the terrorists and rebuild Syria’s stability; secondly, by laying down red lines. The first is an end to the use of chemical weapons, and we’ve got – I must say this – concrete results on this point since the discussion we got with the Russians in Versailles. The second concerns humanitarian access to the conflict zones. Conscious of the remaining risks, particularly on the latter point, I’ll continue to pay very close attention to this.
Finally, we took the initiative of an international contact group bringing together the main players involved in Syria. Now accepted by our interlocutors, this group will allow us to inject fresh momentum into the UN-led process. Jean-Yves Le Drian’s efforts, in particular, will allow this group to become operational at the UN General Assembly in September.
It goes without saying that rebuilding the rule of law in Syria one day, which France and Europe will contribute to, will have to be accompanied by justice for the crimes committed, particularly by the leaders of that country.
Libya and the Sahel
Libya and the Sahel are the other source of instability. The situation in Libya has made it a refuge for terrorists. In July I therefore decided to bring together the two main protagonists in the crisis: Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj on the one side, and the head of the Libyan national army, Khalifa Haftar, on the other.
The Celle-Saint-Cloud meeting on 5 July allowed us to make progress on reconciliation between Libyans, under the aegis of the United Nations. In New York in a few days’ time, we’ll be ensuring that the Celle-Saint-Cloud road map is properly implemented, supporting the action of the new UN Special Representative, Mr Ghassan Salamé.
This reconciliation – which is only a start and is set to be even more inclusive and bring together other leaders in Libya – was an essential stage of the political process which is the only way of eradicating the terrorists there. We must also protect Libya’s neighbours, and especially Tunisia, against this risk.
This will be the purpose of a forthcoming visit by the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Because the networks are mobile and organized, we must also prevent the support bases – which have become sanctuary areas for Islamist terrorism – from being established in Africa, particularly south of Algeria and Libya’s borders.
In this regard, my predecessor’s decision to commit France rapidly to Mali and, more broadly, the Sahel was a credit to our country and a good decision. It remains an imperative. It also calls for consideration about the future.
In visiting Gao and then Bamako, I wanted to support the collective effort of the region’s countries within the G5 Sahel; the purpose of the military battle we’re fighting in the region, in particular through the Barkhane force, is actually the fight against terrorism. And in this respect I’d like the priorities to be re-evaluated in the coming weeks against the yardstick of this priority goal.
But our military presence is meaningful only in the framework of in-depth political work; that’s why more must be done on implementing the Algiers peace agreement, especially as regards the domestic situation in Mali.
But we must also do more on the development aspect; that was the purpose of my visit to Bamako, accompanied by the Armed Forces Minister and the Foreign Minister; we launched an alliance for the development of the Sahel with our main partners in July. In this respect, I’m counting on you to mobilize all possible support for our security and development drive for the Sahel.
To this end, together with Jean-Yves Le Drian, I’ve decided to appoint a special envoy on the issue. There too, we want effective action: we must make progress with our security mission, our armed forces and this commitment to development, which is essential for stabilizing the whole region, because the terrorists are fuelled by our inability to stabilize it and allow it fair development.
Eradicating Islamist terrorism also involves drying up its funding: that’s the ultimate link that exists between immigration and terrorism. Networks trafficking people, drugs and arms across the Sahel are today very closely linked with terrorist networks. So dismantling them is an absolute priority; it’s the very purpose of the action we’re taking on the ground, the action we’re taking with all the regional organizations and the African Union. Both at the G7 and at the G20, progress has been made, particularly with strengthening the FATF [Financial Action Task Force], on which France will focus its efforts.
Today, terrorism and its funding have been fuelled by regional crises and by divisions: divisions in Africa and divisions in the Muslim world. In a way, this is also what the current Gulf crisis is bringing to light; that’s why, as soon as the crisis erupted between Qatar and its neighbours, I wanted to give France a role supporting mediation. I don’t underestimate any of the interests at play in the region.
But it’s essential, in this context, for us to be able to talk to all parties, with two aims in mind: firstly, to preserve the necessary stability of the region, without which we’d be adding a new crisis to the existing ones; and secondly, to obtain transparency on all forms of terrorism financing, because on this issue we mustn’t be naïve at all about what’s been done or what’s sometimes still being done in coordination with terrorist movements that we’re fighting in some theatres of operations.
This is the work which we must continue in the coming weeks and months, and which we’re embarking on. One of the unmentioned factors in this crisis is the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and their respective allies. We’ll achieve our goal of combating terrorism only if we avoid the prisms that force us to choose between Shias and Sunnis and, in a way, confine ourselves to one camp.
Other major powers have made that choice recently; I’m convinced that it’s a mistake. And the strength of our diplomacy, too, is this ability to talk to everyone in order to build factors of stability and combat all forms of terrorism financing effectively. So I’ve established close dialogue not only with Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf countries but also with Iraq and Iran.
Iran’s nuclear programme
With this in mind, I want to confirm here, very clearly, France’s commitment to the Vienna agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme, which I hope will be strictly complied with. The agreement – and I say this in the presence of Laurent Fabius – was improved thanks to France’s intervention, and especially his intervention, when it was being negotiated. There’s no alternative to the nuclear non-proliferation system, and in this regard we’ll be implacable on its implementation.
But the framework of that agreement is the right one: it may be built on by work for the post-2025 period, by essential work on the use of ballistic missiles, but in the situation we’re experiencing, the 2015 agreement is what enables us to establish a constructive and stringent relationship with Iran.
I’m also paying close attention to our relationship with Lebanon, a country gripped by the tensions and contradictions of the region. I’ll soon be hosting the Lebanese Prime Minister, and then the President, in Paris. The country is currently facing a critical situation, with great courage and a great sense of responsibility which France must support, for the sake of our secular relationship but also because these problems concern us and commit us.
All in all, if we want results in this fight against terrorism and its funding, we must maintain existing links with everyone and have a clear agenda and established priorities: the ones I’ve just recalled. That’s why I’d like to convene a conference of mobilization against terrorism financing, in Paris at the beginning of next year.
There’s another challenge related to our security and the world’s stability, namely the migration crisis. This crisis is largely the result of the deep-seated situations of regional destabilization that I’ve just mentioned, but there are many other factors: climatic, diplomatic, political and developmental. For our fellow citizens, it embodies the globalization that touches the heart of our societies.
There too, we must take action without denying our values: taking in migrants is a human duty, it’s a matter of dignity and of being true to what we are, what we believe in, and it’s a considerable challenge for all the countries of Europe, because they’ve been weakened by the rise in illegal migration since 2014, and because they’re each tackling their own challenges.
Here I want to stress once again the distinction between economic migrants and refugees, even though it in no way contradicts the need to protect everyone’s lives and respect everyone’s dignity. But it remains an omnipresent distinction in our national and international rights. It’s therefore relevant. True, in recent months the Balkans route has gradually closed down. But there are still nearly three million refugees in Turkey, and the Balkans route is still active, with people-smuggling networks still present and continuing to operate. In this regard, lending assistance to Greece is still an imperative duty.
Since the beginning of the year, the central Mediterranean route has experienced a significant reduction in migrant numbers. But we still can’t say today whether this reduction will last. However, there are nearly 800,000 refugees and displaced people currently waiting on the Libyan side; so there’s a genuine threat – linked to what I’ve just mentioned – that we have to live with. And it’s particularly West African nationals, generally ineligible for asylum, who are currently in the region.
Italy and Libya are expecting enhanced cooperation from us, which we must grant them and which has brought its initial results, particularly with the stepping-up of coastguard activities. Finally, the western Mediterranean route towards Spain is becoming a concern again. In this context, France has finalized a comprehensive, coherent plan in recent weeks to get a full understanding – on the basis of the efforts already made – of the whole migration route, from the countries of origin to the destination countries.
That’s what led us to adopt a joint declaration in Paris yesterday, in an unprecedented format bringing together – around France – Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, Niger, Libya and the European Union, through very concrete measures, greater control prior to Libya and the possibility of identifying, on closed lists controlled by the UNHCR, the weakest and most vulnerable people with the right to asylum; by sending European teams, in coordination with the UNHCR, we’ll be not only more human but also more effective; but by organizing the return of thousands of migrants currently in Niger and Chad to their countries of origin, we’ll also be responding to an African inter-regional challenge.
This action will take time and is difficult, but with concrete, precise measures, which have been decided, and clear finance, I think they’re an essential response to the challenge we face today. There again, it’s a humanitarian, security and development job.
To implement this plan, I’ve decided to appoint an ambassador tasked with coordinating all migration-related negotiations, and an operational group has been established under the Foreign Minister’s supervision, which will make regular progress reports with all the stakeholders and enable us to work very closely with the European Union and African Union on the issue.
For Africa isn’t only the continent of migration and crises: it’s a continent of the future. For this reason, too, we can’t leave it to face its demographic, climatic and political challenges alone: our businesses, our students, our researchers, our artists must take an interest in it. I’ll soon be visiting Ouagadougou to convey this message, through security, development, diplomacy, economic ties and innovation; the strategy I want to implement consists in creating an integrated approach between Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe.
An approach in which the countries of the Maghreb are obviously our privileged partners, as I wanted to show during my visit to Morocco and in our regular discussions with Algeria and Tunisia. We must bring the continents of Europe and Africa closer together at last, via the Mediterranean. To that end, the Maghreb and every aspect of our cooperation – economic, political, cultural – will remain a key priority for France.
The need that is driving so many Africans to leave their homes, turning the desert and the Mediterranean into cemeteries for millions – Africans who are manipulated and left destitute by the networks of traffickers I referred to earlier – the roads they take must become paths to freedom uniting Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa.
For it is in Africa that the future of the world will largely play out. France must not be some post-colonial country vacillating between weakened political leadership and unhealthy repentance; the countries of Africa will be our major partners. And we must continue to learn from them, just as they can learn from us. To fuel this exchange, in the coming weeks I will be establishing a Presidential Council for Africa – an unprecedented structure focusing on the expectations of our young people.
This Council will transform the way we conduct our Africa policy by surrounding me with a group of dedicated people from the civil society sector. Africa is a perfect illustration of the fact that a foreign policy concerned with restoring security must activate three major levers almost simultaneously. They are what I call the three Ds: Defence, Development and Diplomacy.
The Sahel is an excellent example of this, but it’s a model that’s valid everywhere. Let’s start with Defence – we can and must be proud of our armed forces. Indeed, one of my first trips abroad was to visit our troops in Gao.
My goal is that – from the standpoint of quality, deployment capability, and responsiveness, as well as in the new cyber warfare field – our armed forces will prove that they are among the very best in the world and the best in Europe, protecting France as well as our continent.
That is why I have expressed my pledge to raise our country’s defence spending to 2% of our gross domestic product by 2025, with an increase of more than €1.5 billion starting in 2018. But our security cannot be reduced to the efforts of our armed forces, as valuable as they may be; our military operations will be fully effective only if they are part of a comprehensive approach. I want the support of our diplomatic network and its contribution to the five major strategic functions of our 2013 White Paper to be taken into account during the current strategic and national security defence review being overseen by the Minister for the Armed Forces.
With regard to Development, I have established the goal of investing 0.55% of our national revenues in official development assistance by 2022, which represents a considerable effort in the budgetary context over the next five years. This effort must be accompanied by a change in method, as the French Development Agency is now doing, on the one hand working closely and symbiotically with all other relevant French actors, including our armed forces, our local governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, and on the other hand, more effectively and more directly reaching the beneficiaries of that assistance in our partner countries.
I also want the bilateral component of our development assistance to play a greater role in the years to come. Education will be our priority, because an alternative must be provided to fundamentalism and obscurantism. The other priorities of this renewed partnership will be the role of women, the fight against climate disruption and access to carbon-free energy, and the eradication of pandemics including HIV/AIDS, which still poses a grave threat to the African continent, despite all the progress that has been made.
And finally, Diplomacy. In recent years, funding in this area has been progressively decreased, even though you are all dedicated to ensuring and preserving the strength of the diplomatic corps through innovation and unwavering commitment.
I will personally see to it that you have the resources you need to accomplish your missions, and I know that the Prime Minister is very vigilant on this point. Ensuring the security of our personnel, which remains an absolute priority; running one of the rare universal diplomatic networks in the world while constantly adapting it to new realities; paying our dues to international organizations; and financing our cultural, humanitarian assistance and development cooperation programmes – for that, 2018 will be a year of budgetary stabilization.
If security is a priority, it’s because our independence – the second area of focus for our diplomatic corps – relies upon it. By “independence” I in no way mean splendid isolation. I am simply drawing the lessons of the multipolar, unstable world we live in, in which every day we must manoeuvre by ourselves on the basis of our interests. For that we must be mobile, autonomous, capable of forming alliances and expertly playing the multilateral game, both embracing the tradition of existing alliances and seizing the opportunities that come our way to build ad hoc alliances that allow us to be more effective.
France will be able to assert its priorities only through independence – an independence we embrace, but without arrogance. This means that first and foremost, we must have a full and active presence in multilateral bodies, and foremost among them, of course, the United Nations.
It’s no coincidence that the UN Secretary-General was my first international visitor in Paris. I never lose sight of the fact that our country belongs to all the important bodies of these institutions and has the honour of hosting several of them on its soil: the OECD, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, the Council of Europe, and UNESCO, whose missions I view as fundamental. The French candidate to lead that organization has my support.
It is also why I want us to establish new multilateral formats when necessary, as we are doing with Syria. The crisis with North Korea should also be dealt with collectively. With the leaders in Pyongyang having once again demonstrated their irresponsibility, I want to emphasize France’s solidarity with Japan. We will continue to call for uncompromising policies to be implemented with regard to North Korea, amid a growing ballistic and nuclear threat that is also of concern to Europe. France, which is in contact with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, stands ready to take any new initiative liable to put an end to escalation, bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, and rigorously implement the resolution adopted on 5 August.
Part of multilateralism is also the ability to organize the major projects that, in turn, determine the structure of multilateralism. I say to you with the utmost seriousness that if we do not have the political will, other great powers will avail themselves of these instruments. And they have already begun doing so – first among them China. China has made important commitments – I will come back to the climate in particular –and offered signed pledges, but its values and interests are sometimes not the same as ours. We must therefore take these initiatives into account, but make a point of revitalizing and offering consistency and coherence to current forms of multilateralism, in which we play a key role.
China, as I was saying, has taken important initiatives in recent years – the New Silk Road is a perfect example of a major Chinese geopolitical project that we must take into account from the perspective of our European interests.
Indeed, over the past few years, major diplomatic efforts have been made to rebuild a solid partnership with China, based on a historic tradition. I want to continue this effort and forge a solid, enduring relationship with China – our neighbour in the Security Council – that will help safeguard international stability but leave no ambiguity over the balance and values underpinning it.
Japan and India
I also attribute great importance, of course, to our partnerships with Japan and India, which I will visit before the end of the year, particularly as part of the International Solar Alliance. Ségolène Royal has agreed to assume responsibility for that Alliance, which will make it possible to coordinate this effort and bring together all the partners and forces that we can usefully mobilize.
Middle East peace process
Finally, with the UN Secretary-General undertaking an important visit to the Middle East, it is fundamental for France to continue weighing in on the Israeli-Palestinian question. We’ll pursue our efforts with the UN to achieve a two-state solution consisting of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in security within internationally recognized borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. I hope to visit the region this spring, stopping in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
EU and Brexit
You see, the kind of independence we are talking about here is not what’s meant by those claiming to be primarily concerned with sovereignty, who seek refuge behind borders they hope are hermetically sealed – it’s the kind that allows France to make its voice heard, to advocate for its interests on the international stage, the kind that allows it to influence the course of the world rather than being its hostage. The kind that ensures we are not in thrall to the superpowers, but rather are their interlocutor. The sovereignty we gain from this kind of independence is open to the world, and it must be collective in nature when the stakes are larger than our national framework.
For France, Europe is where we must build the instruments of our power and respond appropriately to the challenges facing us; Europe is where our sovereignty lies.
I spoke out in support of our ambitions for Europe during the presidential campaign, with deep conviction and despite all the nay-sayers who thought that defending Europe was passé, a losing proposition. I sought to flesh it out as soon as I took office, travelling to Berlin and making the fundamental alliance between France and Germany not the answer to all our problems but a stepping stone toward their resolution, and to subsequently convince all our partners of this.
I presented, together with the Chancellor, a protection agenda capable of bringing Europeans around to the idea of the European enterprise, because this agenda is at the very heart of European sovereignty. Our citizens expect Europe to protect them from the course of world events; that’s the legitimacy of this Leviathan, and we have forgotten that; it does not mean that Europe has to be involved in every detail of daily life and that, by default, political conduct will become bureaucratic. No. This protection agenda that we have been implementing for four months now has four main areas of focus.
The protection of workers, which is linked to the reforms that we are carrying out in our countries, and, in this connection, the revision of regulations concerning posted workers. The reform of the right to asylum and European cooperation on migration, which is key to collectively protecting us against the risks that I spoke of earlier. The definition of a trade policy and instruments to monitor strategic investment in a spirit of reciprocity because Europe must become a full economic power that can protect itself – as the United States does and as we have, to some extent, forgotten to do – against dumping or behaviour that flouts international law.
Lastly, the development of Defence Europe, an idea that we have been discussing for so many years, but regarding which, at the instigation of the European Commission, and supported by the Franco-German alliance, concrete progress was made at the most recent European Council with the creation of a fund, a Permanent Structured Cooperation, which we started to make a reality at the summit and the subsequent Franco-German Council of Ministers on 13 July.
We have achieved some initial results on each of these issues; indeed, they are essential to this sense of credibility and to helping many of our fellow citizens accept the European idea.
After the forthcoming German elections in a few weeks, I will therefore propose making further progress toward revitalizing Europe. Not, I assure you, changes to treaties that have already been tied up, not institutional obsessions, but, in practical terms, a dozen issues on which we can refocus our European ambitions and make Europe attractive to our fellow citizens again. Because we now need to undertake an overhaul, because our European conviction requires us to; it requires us not to allow Europe to get bogged down in routine or technocratic quarrels. It requires us to not leave the need for change and for protection to nationalists of all persuasions. It requires us to uphold the initial promise, which healed our post-war continent: peace, prosperity, freedom. In short, it requires us to take action in order to avoid disintegration.
France will therefore make proposals to strengthen Economic and Monetary Union, increase convergence between our social and fiscal policies, ensure that the EU is more in line with what is important to young people, especially in terms of culture, as well to enhance Defence Europe, strengthen Europe’s migration policy and develop a Europe that is truly focused on climate and energy. These are all of the challenges we face today in our country, with which the government is grappling every day, but our Europe, as it did when programmes like Erasmus were created, must rekindle its ambition, i.e. provide concrete responses to our fellow citizens’ concerns, on higher education, culture, the climate and our collective security. This will be the thrust of the proposals that I will make to our partners in the next few weeks.
In the digital field, which obviously forms part of this ambition, protecting our data, regulating the Internet giants and supporting global leaders can only be achieved at the European level and will be part of this initiative, but by the end of September at the Tallinn summit I hope that we can take an important step forward on this issue.
The overhaul that we plan to propose must be based on trust and debate; it must involve everyone, especially Europe’s youth. I think that the French referendum in 2005 – which made us so reluctant to make any new changes on Europe – and what has just happened in the United Kingdom show that the time for overhauling Europe behind closed doors, or within certain official circles, is over.
This overhaul can only be achieved through an organized, democratic debate, which our societies need. Europeans need to retake ownership of the European idea. This is why we are going to launch democratic conventions in the next few months in France and in other willing countries in order to ensure that our citizens are more involved in the debate on the future of Europe.
In the coming months, we will need to negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU. My message is simple: I prefer to build the future rather than to mull over the past. Our goal is not to manage but to transform, and Brexit happened because for years, we no longer dared to make proposals, we did not even dare to meet in the simple Euro Area format, in order not to upset the Brits or the Poles. And what thanks did we get into the bargain? Come on! Brexit should not sap all our energy; Europe has suffered too much as a result of becoming a crisis management agency, but Brexit should provide us with two essential thoughts: When Europe is just a market, it ends up being rejected, and that is why we must rebuild an ambitious and protective EU. Above all, this unprecedented situation should force us to be more innovative; we should contemplate a Europe based on several formats, go further with all those who want to move forward, without being held back by the states that want – and that is their right – to advance slowly or not as far. We need to move away from a constricted framework in which we would have to move forward in the future with the agreement of 27 states, or do nothing, or with the agreement of 19, or do nothing. This is not the case: we have always moved forward with a leading group of willing countries, followed by a few others. We have created a static arrangement; but what does it achieve? Irritation. Here again we need to rekindle the initial ambition.
We must also have the courage to re-examine the arrangements that have sometimes made Europe inexplicable or unbearable to Europeans themselves, move towards radical administrative simplification, and more subsidiarity, and Brexit should not cause us to lose sight of the debate about this, which was instigated by the UK. And my commitment to revising the directive on posted workers is fully in line with this goal, which I discussed a few days ago in the Eastern European countries. This struggle calls the apparent consensus into question; I fully embrace that, because a lazy consensus has often prevailed over the last 20 years.
Of course it be would easier not to roil the waters and allow those who undermine the European project from the inside to prosper; it would be easier to accept the criticism of certain states that tell us that we are closed off, that we do not carry out any reforms, that our labour market is not efficient, to tacitly accept that several economic actors in France are also using what they are openly denouncing within the projects they are leading and to allow certain countries to open up these channels in Europe and to flout any rules of collective solidarity. But that’s not the way to love Europe; it is also not what led to the creation of Europe. The single market is not a set of markets that are simply open to each other; it is a principle of convergence, it is the willingness to move in the same direction, to share a common goal, to be able to discuss our common standards, not to seek out the lowest bidder in social or fiscal terms, or in terms of protection, because we more or less know how the story ends in this regard.
If we decide that Europe represents our common future, we owe our citizens ambitious compromises, regular re-evaluations, because the situation is no more static in Europe than elsewhere.
What our people expect of this more comprehensible Europe, of this Europe that should better protect them, is that it should be able to establish itself in a globalized world perceived as being increasingly brutal, certainly not by closing itself off, but by enforcing respect for the rules that ensure fair trade and reciprocity in the opening-up of trade.
Whether in terms of the major Internet platforms or the commercial and financial powers, Europe is the right forum if it is well placed to play its role, if it has the necessary instruments, if it has the trust of the member states – in short, if it acquires true sovereignty on behalf of our countries and vis-à-vis the rest of the world.
But allow me at this stage to dispel any doubts you may have. I am making security and independence a focus of our foreign policy, but the goal is not to make France a small, over-cautious country that jealously guards its peace; on the contrary, the goal is to use these principles and key arguments to serve what is greater than us, to make them the foundations for increased influence, anchored in our values and our ideals; all this to give voice, once again, to this universalism which embodies us so profoundly.
Indeed, when we look at the world around us, one clear fact strikes us; Europe is one of the last havens in which the ideals of the Enlightenment – elective and representative democracy, respect for human beings, religious tolerance and freedom of expression, and belief in progress – are still widely shared, and still nurture a collective vision. I call these ideals our common goods. France must tirelessly advocate them, because they are central to its vocation, and because this is how France stands in solidarity with the world.
Our primary common good is our planet. France made a strong contribution to this commitment by hosting COP21 in 2015, which led to the Paris climate agreement, an example of the new form of multilateralism, open to non-state actors and based on science. It is a French success, a French diplomatic success, for which I would like here to congratulate you; it was spearheaded by my predecessor and it is your success as well as his. I will do everything possible to preserve this agreement and ensure its best possible implementation. This is the aim of the initiative I proposed on 1 June in response to the American decision, and it’s also the thrust of the summit that I have decided to host on 12 December, on the anniversary of COP21, together with the World Bank in particular and all our partners that would like to be involved in it – two years after the signing of the Paris Agreement – in order to review progress and mobilize the necessary funding.
At the UN at the end of September, I will also argue in favour of developing and adopting a Global Pact for the Environment, under the auspices of the President of the Constitutional Council. A group of international experts has been focusing on this pact, which is leading to real progress.
We’re due to take major initiatives in the next few months in this respect, not just in terms of law but also in support of biodiversity and the numerous topics that the Ministre d’Etat, Nicolas Hulot, presented at the beginning of the summer within the framework of the climate plan he is spearheading, with the essential coherence between our national, European and international agenda.
It is this coherence which will see the Minister make very clear commitments soon to bring France into compliance to, again, preserve its ability to drive this international momentum.
It is important to develop close dialogue on this issue with partners who have decided to take ambitious steps in this field. China, in particular, comes to mind as an essential partner in the light of the recent decisions made by the United States, and also India, which we will be visiting at the end of the year.
Many countries faced with the ravages of climate change and large-scale pollution have adopted innovative policies and expect us to provide unwavering support. Our shared determination, our ability to innovate, our scientific and economic partnerships can genuinely change the course of events.
The second common good is peace, which enables everyone to choose how to live, build their path, start a family and dream every possible dream. Ah! We may seem extraordinarily naïve in uttering these words, or maybe we seemed extraordinarily naïve when we uttered them only a few years ago, but history tells us otherwise. We have forgotten that 70 years of peace in Europe marks a break with our shared history. But nevertheless our Europe achieved it.
But threats are at our door and war is on our continent. In Syria, of course, but also in Europe, and so we must not limit our efforts to maintain dialogue with Russia, nor lessen our demands to resolve the Ukraine crisis and all the frozen conflicts on our continent.
France and Germany will continue to do all they can together to implement the Minsk agreements in the so-called Normandy format, while many individuals are still dying today in Donbass. I call upon all forces present to respect the ceasefire agreed last week. Our security is at stake, but so is the very idea that we have of a peaceful Europe. NATO still serves its full purpose in these situations. The summit organized in 2018 will be, in light of this, an opportunity to consider the way in which we can breathe new life into this institution.
Our third common good is justice and freedom. Justice and freedom are the living basis of the fundamental rights for which millions of women and men fought and continue to fight every day. This legacy is constantly evolving, consistently challenged by dictators, criminals and traffickers of all kinds, and must be the lifeblood of our collective work. Our diplomacy must continue to actively defend the fundamental freedoms: the place of women, the freedom of the press, and respect for civil and political rights around the world.
Human rights are not solely Western values. They are universal principles, legal standards freely adopted by all countries worldwide which we must tirelessly explain, defend and improve. I will therefore visit the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights at the beginning of November.
It is my wish that the French legal tradition, which many of you in this room uphold, can not only receive full recognition – which is already the case for the most part – but influence all our partners who sometimes take other paths or lose their way in the face of certain threats.
I also wish to pay particular tribute to the international organizations such as the IOM, the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross – whose president is deservedly the guest of honour at our conference – but also the numerous non-governmental organizations that, against the most dangerous backdrops, combat violence against civilians and are beacons of our humanity.
This is why dialogue with everyone, which I consider a fundamental aspect of our diplomacy, must not fail to underline these key elements. Our diplomatic and economic exchanges with Russia, Turkey and China cannot justify bashful avoidance of human rights issues, because to do so would be to betray ourselves. We must respect those on the other side of the table, their own history, their own development, without avoiding such dialogue.
Because that is what built us also, because it is integral to our dignity, because it is one of the reasons for which we are fighting the terrorism I spoke about earlier with so much determination. And this is what our fellow citizens expect of us. They do not understand the indulgence with which some people are treating the regime which is being created in Venezuela.
Let me also say how worrying the crisis in Venezuela is. A dictatorship is attempting to buy time, causing unprecedented humanitarian distress through worrying ideological radicalization, even though the country’s resources remain considerable. I wish to examine, with governments in Latin America and Europe, how to avoid more escalations, including at regional level.
It is also my duty to speak openly to support the European Commission when it believes that the authorities of a member state are implementing a policy which is contrary to the EU’s fundamental principles or wanting to promote judicial reforms which are incompatible with the EU’s principles. And I am sometimes surprised when those who, in our country, purport to defend the same rights or interests are outraged by the fact that we can tell the truth to a member state or support the Commission as it takes action.
Our last common good is culture. When democracy is threatened, when war descends, cultural assets are in danger everywhere. The alliance led by my predecessor, supported by many of you, which aims precisely to protect cultural assets in all such situations, will continue and I will commit our diplomatic force and action. This also ties in with the work that we are carrying out in this country to develop access to culture as one of the means of empowering the defence of our model of civilization in the face of terrorism. We must lead this fight everywhere in the world where these cultural assets are threatened, because they are assets that belong to everyone.
The universalist solidarity that France uses in defending humankind’s common goods depends on one condition: France must itself set a good example to the world. This is why influence cannot be achieved without attractiveness. The first source of attractiveness is without any doubt the economy. We can make speeches like the one that I am making today, but if we settle for a weak economy, we are simply not consistent in our message. We are not giving ourselves the means to succeed.
If we do not try to pull out all the stops nationally to practise what we preach, provide education and universities that are up to this challenge and economic power which enables us to meet such a challenge, we’ll be incongruent. We must continue to develop our economy, our source of attractiveness, because it is a powerful attribute and because it is a priority for diplomatic action.
I wish to confirm here what was agreed several years ago. Economic diplomacy is a priority for your network and I wish to confirm this. Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also wishes this and I support him in that. To achieve it we must first put more effort into helping our SMEs penetrate the markets of the countries where you represent France.
I call upon you to support them and develop the network of international volunteers, a remarkable tool to help young French people find jobs and gain an international perspective. We must broaden their horizons. You must also help draw new investment to France to drive job and value creation. In this respect, Brexit is an opportunity. The industrial and financial strategies adopted by the big sovereign funds are also a key aspect in the context of economic diplomacy.
I call upon you to take initiatives to attract new talent to our country using programmes such as the French Tech Ticket programme, offering new incentives, adapting our visa conditions and drawing on our priorities, especially the fight against climate change, and the academic excellence which we must and want to spread.
The Prime Minister and I have chosen to allocate responsibility for these policies to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. He is working with his colleagues in their fields of expertise to achieve this. Our success will be defined by an increase in the number of exporting companies and the long-term establishment of their exports.
We are doing less well than Germany and Italy in this regard. This will also be the target for the new leadership of Business France. The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs is also responsible for France’s brand abroad. This is a major aspect of your work. It is key for our attractiveness to commit all your services to improving France’s image in the eyes of opinion leaders. I highly commend the government’s strong commitment to the tourism industry, which is a key sector in this context of economic attractiveness.
The Prime Minister set out the road map and priorities for action during the Interministerial Council of 26 July. The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs will once again bring together his colleagues and all of the relevant stakeholders on 10 October with a clear goal: to welcome 100 million tourists by 2020. We must act determinedly to achieve this. The end of the state of emergency will boost the effectiveness of our work, but it will require the commitment of each individual to turn our diplomatic action into tangible results for the daily lives of our fellow citizens: job creation and activity across France.
I am relying heavily on the discussions of this week to draw up a new road map for our economic diplomacy. Following this conference, your minister will submit the road map to the Prime Minister and it will play a key role in our country’s recovery. I know that I can count on your personal commitment to this task.
Another key aspect of our attractiveness is student diplomacy. France hosts some 300,000 foreign students every year in our universities and grandes écoles¹; but it is not enough. The number of students has stagnated while student mobility worldwide has increased by 25% over five years. The United States continues to attract an ever-increasing number of students, as does the United Kingdom, but France is failing to do so and was overtaken last year by Australia.
This requires us to engage in a more resolute strategy to build large universities in France with international visibility. It will be the responsibility from secondary education onwards for the Minister of National Education and the Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation to build the components for success. What is good for France, its young people and its students is good for its international attractiveness, and it is this essential step that the government is currently taking.
But our strategy for attracting foreign students must be more offensive and seamless. From university reform to visa requests in the Campus France offices that you run, from a simplified arrival in France to the signature of new academic cooperation agreements in your countries of residence, everyone must pull in the same direction.
Countries in the Francophone world must send more students to France, particularly at Masters and PhD level, in the same way as Latin America. I want us to draw more upon the network of French lycées abroad and create more attractiveness grants for the best students. I want us to become Europe’s leader in online courses.
Attractiveness diplomacy should also draw upon French expatriates and I know that this is something that you already do. French nationals abroad are in the privileged position of being able to compare their country of origin to their country of residence on a daily basis. They see our weaknesses but they are often better placed to see the strengths that we fail to fully utilise.
They are willing to commit further to France’s recovery, to its attractiveness and to economic, cultural, educational and linguistic ties which we can develop in each of these countries. I know their concerns, for example in terms of their children’s education. The budget for the AEFE [Agency for French Education Abroad] will be maintained from 2018. I know, Minister, that you attach particular importance to it.
They are also worried about their security, something which we are allocating greater resources to. It is our responsibility to ensure that expatriation is not a rocky road, but a fulfilling experience. In this regard, the digitization of administrative procedures is something that should be sped up. I will come back to all these issues at the beginning of October to underline this commitment at the Assembly of French Nationals Abroad.
I also wish the French language to regain its rightful position among the factors influencing attractiveness. It must receive your utmost diplomatic attention. We hide behind the large numbers, behind the 300 million French speakers in the world, most notably due to Africa, with very optimistic projections for 2050.
But this must not hide the much more mixed, and even worrying, realities. Here, too, we need to be on the offensive. Our Francophony is an outstanding opportunity, present on all continents with France at the helm, France’s representation on every continent thanks to its presence overseas. In this regard, and in others, I’d like our overseas territories to become a key player in our outreach and development.
The French language is sustained by all the French-speaking communities which, on every continent, hold this vitality within them. The French language must therefore be promoted through initiatives which we must reorganize and develop: our audiovisual services, France Médias Monde and TV5 Monde, the Alliance Française network and, even if I think this has been said often, I wish to see through the rapprochement between the Institut Français and the Fondation Alliance Française, through digital tools, through use of economic Francophonie, together with the private sector, through the introduction of active learning methods within our partners’ education systems.
The French language should be promoted through cultural action, cinema, art and reading, notably for young people. It is therefore significant that France is the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which I will be attending. It is this sort of initiative that we must continue to develop. La Francophonie and its community are not merely a distraction which will be tagged on to everything else, they are central to the fight that we must carry out on every continent, the fight to defend our values, to meet our development objectives and defend the shared assets that I spoke about earlier.
And, as every one of you knows, when you meet a foreign economic or political leader who learned French in one of our lycées, who went on one of our academic, economic or cultural exchanges, there is something that connects us, there is, at that point, a link, no matter how tenuous, which we can call upon in the worst circumstances and which enables us to sort out a situation, restore common sense, security, stability. Everything is interconnected and those who think that we can cast aside the French language as a sideshow are wrong. We inherited this, and so we think we can forget about it, but we must develop it further, because it is a tool for achieving the attractiveness and influence I have mentioned, and our ability to convey our message everywhere. This is why I will bring together intellectuals, academics, artists and companies in the new year to strengthen the position of our language in the world.
Our objectives need to be ambitious, and in the first half of next year I will present a comprehensive plan to promote the French language and multilingualism worldwide, in liaison with the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and its member countries. Indeed, it is thanks to this collective strength that we can attract global events such as, for example, I hope, the World Expo, and succeed in another key field for France – sport – as we will see in a few days with France’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. For that too is an aspect of our attractiveness, our credibility, our strength and that French pride which helps ensure our influence and promote our values and priorities together.
As such, I would like not to congratulate – for that would be premature – but thank already the team that will bear France’s colours in Lima in a few days for its commitment to this challenge.
The world of tomorrow
Lastly, France can only be attractive if it influences the rules that apply internationally. I want it to be more affirmatively involved in the bodies that design and decree them and, more generally, for France to once more become a place where the world is thought out. What I mean to say is that there are many changes in economic, industrial and technological spheres that will profoundly affect our lives and our ability to innovate and produce, and will impact on an everyday basis our approach to secrecy and individual freedoms.
Digital technology will have a profound impact, which has already begun. These technological changes will deeply change our ability to innovate and produce, and behind all that are new standards that will emerge, along with dominant actors in this world of digital technology and emerging artificial intelligence – and these giants are primarily American.
We have French and European champions to build, and that will be one of the priorities of the government’s policy. But that also requires a capacity – which we have sometimes neglected more than certain European neighbours such as Germany – to define the standards that will govern these spaces. If we want to be successful in autonomous vehicles, then we need to be defining standards at European level, and at least in Franco-German partnership if we wish to be leaders – and that has to be the case. In artificial intelligence too, we need to set down the major rules, and all these changes will result in profound disruption concerning bioethics, individual freedoms and our fundamental rights.
We need to design them, in liaison with our key partners, because it is France’s role to create the multilateral regulatory framework for this new world in order to promote its own interests too, and to do so at European level so as not to endure “de facto” regulation – survival of the fittest – as we do today.
On all these subjects, I want France to be deeply committed, which requires your everyday work and the mobilization of all economic and social stakeholders who are competent for these subjects, as well as the essential academic and scientific circles and the best lawyers to make us one of those places where the rules – and thus balances – of tomorrow’s world are designed. And one of those places where we will ensure that globalization – which is happening in any case – is not exempt from all rules and does not become the property of the few – as that would make it the enemy of our own interests.
All this new responsibility is ours and must encourage us to philosophically and legally define the rules of this new world. Merely limiting it to legal reflection within our borders would be insufficient: we need to lead this battle at European and international level, as pioneers.
And in this knowledge society that is flourishing before our eyes, our country will need to once more become a centre of international expertise and debate on the global order. That is why I would like France to launch a series of annual international diplomatic and legal conferences dedicated to the world’s organization, the first of which will be held in Paris in summer 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen, the profound changes that we see under way everywhere are indeed a considerable challenge and an immense responsibility for our country: a challenge because the aim is to enable France to take control of its destiny in the world’s future and to affirm its ambition to be a great power of influence that counts in a multilateral world. That means taking back control of the levers of power: economic health, competitiveness, and ability to educate, innovate and influence.
That’s the challenge of the transformations we want to bring about, but it’s also a responsibility: it is up to France, in this new global context, to define a new form of humanism at the heart of these changes, which concern the very notion of humanity. Above and beyond security and sovereignty, France needs to affirm its identity. It needs to know what it is and what it wants to become. It needs diversity, humility and pride, because France, so long as it has the will and the means, will always be an original voice in the concert of nations: a voice of experience and hope, aspiring to a multilateral order of progress and justice, concerned with all crises and attentive to all global, environmental, digital and development issues.
In this respect, we are a great power through our ambitions: great thanks to our ideals and great thanks to our hopes. We have to fully affirm this, and it’s central to your role. It requires France’s diplomacy to be comprehensive, combining the economy, defence, education, culture and the environment. That is the key to our influence.
I would like to thank Jean-Yves Le Drian for contributing his experience, his determination and his taste for concrete results to this unique department, alongside Nathalie Loiseau and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, as well as your new Secretary-General, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne.
For me, having begun to meet you, what is important in conclusion here is to commend your devotion and that of your teams, as well as your courage, at a time when you are increasingly exposed to dangerous situations. I would like to particularly commend the staff of our post in Kabul, which on 31 May suffered an attack on an unprecedented scale.
Faced with danger, and in all crisis theatres, you maintain France’s voice and interests while ensuring the safety of French people. As such, I would also like to thank most warmly the staff of the crisis unit and all those who contribute to assisting French citizens in difficulty, including now the victims of attacks on our home soil.
I know the sacrifices that you have made, and the burden that the instability of diplomatic life can place on each of you and on your families. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the contribution that all the staff of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs make, through their sense of the state’s role, their commitment and their knowledge of the world, to ensure the safety and protection of French citizens and France’s outreach.
I ask you all to contribute your proposals, your initiatives and your actions to promote together and bring about this hope of a France that recovers its confidence in its own future and is capable of addressing expectations of it worldwide, but also in our own society. Together, we will address just those expectations.
It is up to us, together, to sketch out a new template for civilization, where inequalities and insecurities are contained, where justice is defended and the planet protected, and where culture, creativity and memory are respected. This project is our identity. When so many are losing themselves in the search for a fantasy identity, in a past which never existed and which was restricted within national borders, you uphold French identity, because it’s only ever been built through these struggles, by pushing the boundaries and in its most difficult moments.
We can make sure that the future is for dialogue and not war, cooperation and not discord, shared prosperity and not crises; this is the whole purpose of our policy, as, I am sure, it is for your vocation. Thank you./.
¹Prestigious higher education institutes with competitive entrance examinations.