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Twenty-second Ambassadors’ Conference/foreign policy

Published on September 2, 2014
Opening speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Paris, August 28, 2014

(…)

Mr President of the Senate,

Foreign Minister, cher Laurent Fabius,

Ministers,

Parliamentarians,

Ambassadors,

Once again we meet for this conference, which has become a major milestone, a ritual, but this year takes place in a particularly difficult context.

In the heart of the Middle East, a barbarous organization is attempting to take on the dimensions of a state in order to impose nothing less than a caliphate in the region.

In Eastern Europe, a conflict that has already left 2,000 dead jeopardizes the principles that have underpinned our collective security since the end of the Cold War.

In West Africa, a major public health threat is added to the spectre of terrorism, overwhelming countries that up to now had been regarded as some of the world’s most dynamic economically.

These crises, which may seem disparate, can no longer be considered discrete or regional; they are global and international. They are not foreign, they concern us directly. Just because they are occurring far away does not mean that they do not have ramifications right here. So they concern us all on an almost personal level.

When a civilian aircraft is shot out of the sky over Ukraine, when fighters of hate are being trained to carry out their criminal assignments in our own countries, and when journalists are kidnapped and horrifically murdered, we are all concerned.

France is mindful of the extreme gravity of these threats.

France cannot remain indifferent to such threats or stand by and watch. That would not be in keeping with its history, and even less so with our status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It would not be compatible with our clear interests or with our vocation as a great country governed by values. The point of our foreign policy is to strive for peace and security in the world. That is the crux of the tireless diplomatic effort led by Laurent Fabius, whose work I once again applaud. (…)
Ambassadors, I’ve stressed the gravity of the threats. I don’t want to further darken the picture, worry our compatriots, but at the same time, nothing would be worse than suggesting the world isn’t dangerous. It is. (…) One hundred and eighty thousand deaths in Syria, that’s no doubt one of the largest postwar tragedies… What has been going on in Gaza for too many years now. What might happen in Iraq, with the extermination of a number of minorities. What might degenerate in Africa. What might flourish everywhere – terrorism – with its networks and ramifications. We can deplore all this; we must act.

We must say to the public, and I’m thinking of the French, that the best protection, the best security, comes through dealing with problems, not ignoring them. I know the temptation exists to say that none of this is our business, that it’s all too far away. Why should we mobilize our efforts in Africa or elsewhere? Is that really our place? Do we still have the means, the resources to do it? Should we be spending money while others do nothing? I know full well that many families are having these discussions, and not only political families. But acting as though all this doesn’t exist would be the worst possible attitude, the worst possible behaviour.

One hundred years ago, Europe plunged the world into a century of horrors. One hundred years ago… The work of an Australian historian, which received wide coverage, describes the chain of events that led up to that catastrophe. It’s called The Sleepwalkers. If you are sleepwalking, you are walking without seeing anything; you seem to be awake but you are in a deep sleep. It’s a risk that may not concern us individually, but can sometimes affect us collectively. Let’s not be sleepwalkers who are walking as though the world didn’t exist. Let’s stay awake, vigilant – that is what history has taught us.

Our foreign policy goes well beyond our interests. It is designed to be useful to the whole world. That is why, ambassadors, you play a very important role. When it comes to our policy, you are decisive players. I want to applaud both what you are doing as well as all French civil servants abroad who are working to expand France’s influence and prestige.

So together, with courage, let us fight all the necessary battles. Those of security, development, the environment and growth, but especially the battle for peace. That is the battle that France has always fought. And that is what is collectively our source of honour and pride.

Long live the Republic and long live France!./.

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