French Foreign Secretary at Raisina Dialogue

Raisina Dialogue - Speech by Mr. Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, Secretary-General, Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

  • S.Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, India
  • Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, Secretary-General, Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs
  • General (Retd.) David H.Petraeus, U.S. Army, Retired
  • Samir Saran, Vice-President, Observer Research Foundation (moderator)

The challenges that 2017 presented were tectonic and unprecedented. A new fervour of nationalism and identity reasserted itself amidst a fatigue for globalisation in certain quarters. As new social and political actors gained prominence, the centrality of the once-dominant liberal world order eroded. This shifting landscape was further catalysed by digitisation, automation and interconnectivity. Disruption will continue to reverberate throughout 2018, and what our new equilibrium will look like is unclear. In the interim, we must reconsider the status quo and adapt our social, economic and political frameworks to manage this uncertainty. This panel will deliberate the strategies, formats and ideas to respond to the dramatic transitions in the New World Order.

New Delhi, 18 January 2018

It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Delhi and I would like to thank again the Observer Research Foundation for its kind invitation. This Raisina Dialogue comes at a very appropriate time. As you may recall, January comes from ’Janus’, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions with two faces, one looking behind and the other one looking ahead. This is exactly what you have been doing here over the last three days.

2017 was undisputedly a disruptive year. This has been discussed extensively in this forum: pundits missed Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory; news actors emerged on the international scene and tried to secure areas of influence; traditional alliances shifted; multilateralism was challenged and probably weakened; references and benchmarks derived from post-1945 and post-1989 world orders were shaken up. The consequences of these changes will still be felt in 2018.

But I would like to recall that 2017 was a year of tremendous change in my country too. Eight months ago, France, like everywhere in Europe, had the choice between an open and a closed vision of society. Traditional parties were torn apart internally. And France finally chose Europe, partnerships and mobility. Last year saw the youngest president ever come to power in France. Last year saw the French people confirm their desire to open up and transform their country in depth. Last year resounded in my country like a wake-up call vis-à-vis a globalized world perceived as increasingly brutal and uncertain.

This panel aims at discussing solutions to respond to disruptive transitions. I am not a miracle-worker but I’d like to suggest four priorities – in a way four challenges – to build tomorrow’s new world order: security, independence, influence and solidarity. As a matter of fact, these four priorities are precisely the ones assigned to French diplomats by President Macron. But these four priorities also reflect, in my opinion, a broader vision for tomorrow’s world order. Each of them requires a solid methodology.

1. First priority : security

2018 will not be spared by conflicts, tensions and terrorist threats. We have made progress in the fight against ISIS in Irak and Syria, but the ideology is not dead and spreads into new territories. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and migration will remain challenges for the stability of many countries. We will keep monitoring closely what is happening in different parts of the world, be it the Korean peninsula, the South China Sea, Sahel, Libya or the Middle East. We will expect our major allies and partners, including the United States, to get more involved in Africa.

In response to that, we need a method. Our method is based on a combination of dialogue and firmness, in accordance with our UNSC permanent member’s responsibilities. Dialogue because we need to talk to everyone, even if – or I should say all the more so when – strategic interests diverge. Dialogue does not mean complacency but helps build diplomatic roadmaps. Dialogue comes hand in hand with firmness, because there are principles on which we cannot compromise. Firmness may imply the use of military means to preserve our collective security, as France did in Mali, but a long-term political solution should always be the ultimate intended goal.

2. Second priority: independence

That’s something India and France historically have in common. Independence does not mean splendid isolation, but the capacity to make our own decisions and choose our alliances to defend our values and interests. For France, independence is inseparable from Europe, because only Europe can guarantee genuine sovereignty.

The method here requires pragmatism and flexibility. A strong Europe is a must for a more stable world order. The EU therefore needs to be reformed to fully become a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. We want a Europe ready to act with allies and partners sharing the same values. However, all Member States cannot move at the same speed. We need sort of coalitions of the willing, working by projects and willing to go further on a case-by-case basis, be it in the defense or economic fields.

3. Third priority: influence

The battle of soft powers rages on. Artificial intelligence and digital technologies change the way we think and act. Extremism and obscurantism threaten our societies. ‘Fake news’ – an old story - have re-emerged as weapons for States to impose their own vision of the world and influence the rules of the game.

The answer can only be democratic. Neither repression not increased militarization of the cyberspace can be considered viable solutions. We need on the contrary to put the emphasis on education and pluralism, on circulation of ideas and people, to encourage the emergence of free societies. But we also know that democracy is fragile, it should never be taken for granted and demand the utmost vigilance to preserve our values.

4. Fourth and last priority: solidarity

This typical French word ‘solidarity’ is hardly translatable into English. It means that we need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to address today’s challenges. Globalization is indeed increasingly rejected as the source of the most blatant economic and social inequalities. The temptation to resort to unilateral visions and actions is back.

The method for restoring ‘solidarity’ can only be achieved through multilateralism, which has come under severe attack recently and needs to be reinvented. Because global challenges can only be tackled through collective action, after taking everyone’s interests into account. Climate change is a striking example: 2017 has been one of the hottest years on record. The poorest countries are among the most affected while not being responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. On our way to COP24 in Poland, we need to stick to the targets set in the Paris agreement and mobilize the necessary funding. This is what we tried to do with the One Planet Summit held last month in Paris.

We also have to think about how to react to new forms of multileralism that emerge outside well-established formats such as the Bretton Woods institutions or the UN system. France is not per se opposed to such initiatives. But we must ensure that these initiatives contribute to defining the rules of a game in which we will all be winners, based on reciprocity, efficiency and transparency. As President Macron pointed out during his recent visit to China, efforts should not be one-way, they cannot serve hegemonic intentions. We are ready to work towards that end.

*

Here are the few introductory remarks I wanted to make. My apologies if I have spoken for too long, but it seemed important to me to explain how France sees its position today and wishes to address today’s challenges, in a world that has been completely turned upside down. I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have. Thank you./.

Last modified on 30/01/2018

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