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"Through diplomacy, France means to be at the center of the world."

"Through diplomacy, France means to be at the center of the world."

Published on September 2, 2016

Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Paris - August 30, 2016

Prime Minister,
President of the National Assembly,
President of the Constitutional Council,
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, initiator of this conference of ambassadors, which has become a summer—or rather end-of-summer—tradition, as we return to work,
Members of the government,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,


France is a country whose role, diplomacy, defense and culture, and values we promote, give us a special responsibility in settling major global issues. This has been particularly true this summer 2016, during which the world has faced major threats.

The first is that of terrorism, which has struck France in recent months, as well as our European neighbors and so many world countries, on every continent.

France is waging this war at home and abroad, on our own territory and in theaters of overseas operations. That—combating terrorism—was what underpinned France’s intervention in Mali in 2013, and remains the basis of our presence in the Sahel through Operation Barkhane.

Combating terrorism is also what justified the mission I entrusted to our forces in November 2014, as part of the global coalition against Daesh [so-called ISIL] in Iraq and Syria. In July, I further stepped up our support for Iraqi forces with a view to taking back Mosul.

This continuous action since 2012 is bearing fruit. Daesh has been weakened in the Levant, and is losing ground, despite still holding territory and continuing to commit terrible massacres. But what is most serious is that Daesh is proliferating elsewhere, in Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Somalia and in Nigeria, with Boko Haram, and recently even in Asia, in Bangladesh. And I could go on.

The whole world is therefore concerned and will remain so. Our duty is not only to act, but also to prepare for this war, which is set to be long, and to work with all our partners to banish this scourge.

France enjoyed solidarity from Europe after the November 2015 attacks, and I have not forgotten that our European partners have provided us with reinforcements that allowed us to redeploy our soldiers where they were most needed.

Since then, we have continued to work with our European partners to coordinate our services and databases, and to monitor the travel of jihadists. At the same time, we have intensified our cooperation with the United States and the Atlantic Alliance countries, and are in regular contact with Russia and other players.

But we have to be realistic: there can be no victory over terrorism unless the crises that provide it with such fertile ground are resolved. This is not the case today.


Syria has been suffering a terrifying tragedy for the last five years. Three hundred thousand people are dead, five million are refugees, and nine million have been displaced. Aleppo, Syria’s second city, which was long a symbol of culture and freedom, is besieged as we speak. It is bombarded and starving: a large-scale humanitarian disaster is under way. Bringing an end to this carnage is therefore long overdue, and France is now calling for an immediate truce. Similarly, it has been demonstrated by a UN report that the Damascus regime has used chemical weapons against its own people, after 2013, having already committed violations in 2013 and used chemical weapons.

So it has been proven—although this in no way excuses Daesh, which may also use chemical weapons—that the regime uses forbidden weapons to bomb its own population. These crimes cannot go unpunished, and France is working on the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution. Jean-Marc Ayrault has taken this initiative to condemn these abominable crimes and prepare sanctions for the perpetrators.

Here too, nobody—and I mean nobody, no member of the Security Council, no permanent member of the Security Council—has anything to gain from the use of chemical weapons becoming banal. I therefore call upon everyone to shoulder their responsibilities.

As early as 2012, France understood that the Syrian conflict would have serious consequences for the region, for Europe and for our own security. Today, the increasingly massive presence of foreign forces in Syria demonstrates the internationalization of the conflict. For almost a year, Russia has been assisting the Bashar al-Assad regime, which uses this support to bomb not only rebels, but also the civilian population. This plays into the hands of all sorts of extremists.

Now Turkey has decided to deploy part of its army in Syria to defend itself against Daesh—which is perfectly understandable, after the attacks the country has suffered—and to control its border, but also to carry out operations against the Kurds, who are themselves combating Daesh with the support of the coalition.

These multiple, contradictory interventions run the risk of fanning the flames. The absolute priority must, therefore, be an end to fighting and a return to negotiations. This path towards peace exists, and has been promoted by France since the Geneva meeting in June 2012. It was, moreover, confirmed by Security Council Resolution 2254 in December last year. It involves the establishment of a transitional authority and negotiation between the regime and the opposition. This approach has, however, never been genuinely and seriously implemented. The regime and its supporters continue to believe in a military solution, yet the answer is political. And this is, once again, what I would like to say to President Putin at the G20 and, if nothing happens in the meantime, when I receive him in Paris in October.


I said the same thing to President Rouhani in Paris in January when he came on a visit—the first visit by an Iranian President in 17 years—a few months after the nuclear agreement with Iran, which was a diplomatic success, even if we have to be extremely vigilant as regards its implementation.

France would like Iran, which is a great country, to be fully reintegrated into the international community. But if Iran is to achieve that, it has to help pacify the situation in the region. France is prepared to facilitate this process with the Gulf countries, and you all know what trusted relations we have managed to forge with these countries.

This is a situation where our mediation and political intervention can be useful. We have ties with everyone: it is Yemen that is in genuine chaos, and we need to convince the various parties to resume talks as soon as possible.


The same sense of realities led me to establish cooperation with President Sisi in the area of defense and economic development. Egypt is an essential player for regional stability and faces a terrorist threat, including in the Sinai but also, indirectly, because of its long shared border with Libya. In Libya, institutions have collapsed and divisions have deepened. Militias have prospered and Daesh has ended up gaining a foothold, particularly in Sirte.

It is being driven out, but the solution is Libyan unity around a government of national accord. It is in this spirit that I have invited Prime Minister Sarraj to visit Paris in the coming days. Above and beyond Libya, we are, of course, supporting Tunisia, a friend that has again been hit by terrorism, and we need to ensure that all the assistance promised to that country, which recently formed a new government, is provided.

Beyond Libya and, more widely, the Maghreb, Africa is gravely affected by insecurity, which undermines its economic development. We are seeing it particularly in Nigeria, an important country and the 20th-largest world economy, which is suffering from terrorism. And that is why, with the neighboring countries of Lake Chad, we are working to reduce the influence of this sect and ensure that what was decided in Paris, firstly, and then in Nigeria—the multinational force—is truly implemented to fight this terrorist system.


Security is also a matter of development. France provides its assistance and mobilizes its European partners, as it did in Valletta last year, with the creation of an emergency trust fund. As far as France is concerned, which has to lead by example in this area, euro20 billion will have been invested in Africa over five years by 2018, benefiting the poorest countries.

This is what we have to do. Our primary mission is to combat terrorism and the causes of terrorism, and also the consequences of terrorism by addressing the refugee situation in particular, while acting to resolve the sources of these conflicts and thus always play our role in contributing to peace.


In the Middle East, I regret to note that the conditions are still not in place for direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But nothing could be worse than the status quo. France therefore took the initiative to organize a conference in Paris, which took place in early June under the chairmanship of Jean-Marc Ayrault. A method was decided. The priority is for the work to lead to concrete measures that can be proposed at the end of the year to the various stakeholders, so that they—and they alone—do the work that is expected of them: namely, negotiation and the solution of which we know the parameters, where two states can live in peace and security.


But peace is also in play at Europe’s borders. We had forgotten that the worst could happen, even so close to what we feel to be our shared life in the European Union. Two years ago, borders were violated by force, setting an extremely serious precedent. Once again, we took the initiative, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and worked hard to try to bring about a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

Let me remind you that it has caused the death of more than 5,000 people and, still today, incidents affect both the civilian population and soldiers. The Minsk agreements were born of this process we called the Normandy format and were a major step forward. But these Minsk agreements are taking a long time to be implemented, and the situation suddenly worsened this summer. The risks of an escalation are high.

So again, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, I have taken care to make contact throughout August with Ukraine’s President Poroshenko and President Putin in order to encourage the dialogue to be resumed. We have two goals for the end of the year: firstly, security, through gradual demilitarization and the establishment of a genuine ceasefire, controlled and verified by the OSCE. The second is the holding of elections in the east, in accordance with Ukrainian law and international standards. The two go hand in hand.

The effects of the Ukrainian crisis show through in the relations between Russia and the EU member states. This situation is, in my view, highly damaging, as it comes, first and foremost, at a heavy cost for both sides, for all the players, and hinders many economic projects because of sanctions. It is therefore in all our interests to get out of this situation as quickly and effectively as possible.


This also applies to France’s relationship with Russia, which is a historic, strong relationship but one which sets high standards, and always has done. Regardless of the history between us, and of geography that might seem to separate us, there is a great deal that justifies us having a high level of cooperation with Russia. So France is doing what it has to in order to encourage the settlement of a number of conflicts, but Russia also has to do its bit. I do, of course, have in mind the Ukrainian crisis which I just described, but I am also thinking of what is happening in Syria, where it is essential that Russia should be a player in negotiations and not a protagonist in the action.


Through its diplomacy, France means to be at the center of the world—the emerging and developing worlds, as well as the world which seeks to attain wealth, or at least a share in it. With China, we have strengthened our comprehensive strategic partnership, particularly in the fields of civil nuclear energy as well as infrastructure, urban development and green growth. Let me remind you that China and France have worked together to achieve decisive progress for the climate. The bilateral declaration that President Xi Jinping and I drew up on the eve of COP21 helped sketch out what would become the Paris Agreement. The bond between China and France is therefore strong, particularly in this area, and I will have the opportunity to confirm this once again during the G20 summit in China.


India also welcomed France as guest of honor for its national day. That was a privilege that showed the scale of our cooperation in all areas, including defense—we are all thinking of a number of orders—and also new technologies. In January, Prime Minister Modi and I launched the International Solar Alliance in Delhi. Ségolène Royal is working to ensure this alliance will be as strong as possible, with technologies that our Indian friends are in the process of developing.


With Japan, we share common values and the same priority given to—and I say this before the G20 summit—growth and innovation, and also a similar determination to be able to foster development projects vis-à-vis Africa. That is what Japan has just done, and it is a major step that the country has just taken. We also have very high-quality cultural exchanges. In 2018, to celebrate the 150ᵗʰ anniversary of the Meiji era, we will share a number of initiatives.


In a few days I will be going to Vietnam; it will be the first visit by a French president since 2004. The aim is to promote economic cooperation with Southeast Asia, where growth is exceptional, as well as culture and Francophony. Vietnam is a Francophone country. There too, we are bound together by a history that is turbulent but means that we are also aware of what can be common ground, including with our citizens of Vietnamese origin, who are very interested in what can happen today in Southeast Asia.


Looking a little further, towards Oceania and the Pacific, towards Australia (I am not forgetting New Zealand), our relationship has also been taken to a new level this year by the Australian government’s decision to entrust the construction of 12 future submarines to DCNS. This contract will unite our two countries for decades, something which, here too, helps understand what is going on in that part of the world, where France is highly regarded, including for its presence in the Pacific Ocean, and also its influence and contribution to security.


France is also highly regarded on another continent, in Latin America, as I observed during my round of visits this year to Peru, Argentina and Uruguay. Major change is under way in Latin America. Firstly, in Cuba, where the end of the American embargo, which has for too long hung over the island, is in sight. I recall that I was the first Western head of state to visit Cuba and to receive Raúl Castro in Paris. He was particularly helpful in fostering the historic agreement concluded between the Colombian government and the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] to bring an end to a 50-year-old conflict that caused more than 250,000 casualties.

We must remember what happened in terms of hostages, and I have Ingrid Betancourt in mind.

I congratulated President Santos on this success. Colombia has made a courageous choice, which I hope to see ratified by its people. France stands beside Colombia for the agreement’s implementation.

Latin America is, however, seeing some situations of concern. In Brazil, despite the success of the Olympics, the political crisis has added to economic difficulties. France trusts the Brazilian institutions and people to overcome these difficulties, which can be settled in the long term only by compliance with the law.

I am also concerned about what is happening in Venezuela, where there are major tensions which, there too, could degenerate. We call for the resumption of dialogue between the government and the opposition to avoid clashes that would be tragic for the country and the region.


France’s role—above and beyond what it can do on all the world’s continents and the relations it can establish with countries with which it has decided, long ago or more recently, to cooperate or intensify its relationship—is to contribute to global regulation. The G20 will be held in China in a few days’ time. Our aim is to define the rules of play on the international stage: rules of transparency, cooperation, development and growth. It is also to call into question a number of practices, particularly in the taxation and social areas, which affect the conditions of trade.

I want to be clear on this: France rejects unregulated globalization where social models are forced to compete in a race to the bottom, and where inequality grows. But I wish to be just as clear that France is for open trade, on the basis of reciprocity, transparency and respect for public goods, the environment and culture. That is why, on this basis, France was able to approve the agreement between Europe and Canada.


However, the discussions right now on the treaty between Europe and the United States—some call it TAFTA, others TTIP or the Transatlantic Treaty—will not be able to produce an agreement by the end of the year. The negotiations are bogged down, positions have not been respected, and the imbalance is obvious. So the best we can do is accept this with a clear head, and rather than prolonging a discussion which can’t succeed on that basis, it would be better to ensure that we warn all parties that France won’t be able to approve an agreement prepared in this manner, without the essential basis for a positive conclusion. France prefers to face facts and not cultivate an illusion—that of concluding an agreement before the US President’s term of office ends.


There are, however, opportunities for the international community to agree on essential issues. We have been capable—such as in Paris in December, when Laurent Fabius was President of the COP—of getting a climate agreement. It is very important to move beyond promises and take action. The COP President, Ségolène Royal, is working on this. We have a meeting in Marrakesh in November, and I will be there to take stock of how all the initiatives announced in Paris are progressing.

But the first priority has to be the entry into force of the agreement by the end of this year, which is far from certain. That is why I ask you, Ambassadors, to redouble your efforts to encourage your countries of residence to ratify the agreement before the meeting in Marrakesh. France has done its job. Parliament adopted the text on 9 March 2016, in line with the commitment of the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment. I would like to thank both the National Assembly and the Senate for this. The ratification instruments are ready to be deposited. The European Parliament will take up this issue in October. So all European countries—yes, all of them—need to ratify the agreement before the end of the year.

I would also like the United States and China to confirm their determination to ratify it at the G20. But to ensure we mobilize all those who are willing, a meeting will be organized on 21 September at the United Nations General Assembly in order to speed up the process.

The second priority is to step up the various economies’ level of ambition to decarbonize. Here too, France has shown the way with its Energy Transition Act. But we’ll also need to be ahead on carbon pricing, and that is what we will do in the next Finance Act. We are also going to propose a price band to our European partners to help ensure the decarbonization of their economies.

The third priority is African access to renewables and access for all Africans to electricity. This is a key aspect of climate justice.

$10 million were put on the table, of which $2 million were provided by France and which we must implement. Ségolène Royal has visited some 20 African countries and the African Development Bank to collect the list of expected projects relating to wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectricity, geothermal energy, etc. The report will be presented as planned to the United Nations Secretary-General on 20 September, and I will attend a meeting of African countries on that occasion. We have a moral duty to Africa. Promises have been made, financing has been gathered, this is an emergency situation, and France will make sure that we live up to the commitments that have been made.

As I said, with the Paris Agreement we were capable of bringing a landmark diplomatic event to a successful conclusion, yet it has never been viewed as a conclusion, as an outcome, but as the start of a process. For those who doubted this emergency, this year has been the hottest since climate statistics began, with attendant disasters.

The fight for the planet is also that for development and—as I have said—we must honor the pledge of $100 billion per year from 2020 to combat global warming. There again, France must set the example. We have therefore increased our financial contribution, the Official Development Assistance budget increased in 2016 to euro106 million, and in 2017—the arbitration was done by the Prime Minister and me—Official Development Assistance will further increase to be in line with our commitments.

Today, half of the financial transaction tax has been earmarked for the fight against global warming and it will be further increased next year so that a yet bigger share of the tax can be allocated to these goals. Other decisions are to be announced soon. To start with, the end of the process of creating closer ties between the Caisse des dépôts et consignations and the French Development Agency, whose 70th anniversary we are about to celebrate.


I recall that General de Gaulle had this intuition, including during the darkest hours, to tell the countries which fought alongside us and were not all independent at the time, that we would be present through that Agency.

The Agency’s capital base will be increased by the end of this year and its intervention capacity will increase from euro8 billion to euro12 billion. In November, Prime Minister Manuel Valls will convene an interministerial committee on international cooperation and development. On that occasion, France will create new means of action for the most vulnerable countries.

In addition, I have decided to maintain, despite all our constraints, the contribution of euro360 million per year to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the period 2017-2019. It is very important that France lives up to the statements it has made. President Jacques Chirac had already wanted us to show such a will with UNITAID—and here I commend Philippe Douste-Blazy—because it was what France wanted to show, that it was capable of this. We were then able to maintain this contribution to the Global Fund at a high level.


France’s outreach also involves its capacity to promote culture. In these times when obscurantism is a threat, when we must defend diversity and dialogue among civilizations, this is ultimately our prime duty. Victory over barbarism will not only be a military or political one, it will also be a moral, spiritual and cultural one.

Initiated by France and the United Arab Emirates, a major ministerial conference on the protection of the heritage of humanity—that which is under threat—will take place in Abu Dhabi next December. Jack Lang is in charge of organizing it. Our goal is that the international community, the great museums of the world and sponsors worldwide make concrete commitments: to combat trafficking in cultural goods and create the conditions to shelter artworks under threat and rehabilitate destroyed sites.

In another area, that of democracy and transparency—which also helps promote our values—France will host the fourth Open Government Partnership Global Summit. Seventy countries will be represented and civil society involved to a great extent, and the aim will be to promote citizen participation and democracy.

What all these initiatives involve, as I was saying, is France’s outreach, our will to support the key idea of Francophony. Francophony goes far beyond defending a language, which is not only ours but is spoken by an increasing number of people worldwide. Francophony also involves a vision, a conception of the world, its organization and its values. It is a message which we send in the name of freedom and rights. That is why the OIF [Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, international Francophone organization] summit to be held next November in Madagascar will be an opportunity to take new initiatives. But there can be no Francophony if the French themselves do not contribute to it. The French do not necessarily do this the most readily, but they must become aware of the fact that linguistic diversity is an asset, not simply for our country but for the development of many continents. In this respect, I wish to commend all the work of our teaching staff in lycées and other French schools abroad. I also wish to stress the extent to which our representatives of French nationals abroad and all the French abroad also further France’s outreach, Francophony, culture and the economy.

Time and again, in the countries I visit, I have met French nationals abroad, who form a very diverse community that includes dual nationals who have lived there a very long time, and who love France without fear of losing their ties to their country of origin. There are also economic players who dedicate themselves to promoting our exports, and young people, many young people who undertake voluntary work in business, culture or humanitarian action. I wish to commend this mobilization of France, of France as a whole, in support of our values.


The key issue that will again mobilize us in the coming months and possibly the coming years is the future of the European continent. This is what has happened with the Brexit vote, it is not just another crisis, it is the very crisis of the European Union. The British referendum campaign showed where the separatist temptation can lead and illustrated the arguments used by populists all over the world—not only in the United Kingdom, Europe or even the United States—to advocate parochialism and exploit people’s fears. This process undermines European integration and will inexorably lead to a break-up and the return to national borders if we fail to stop it.

We must become aware of what is at stake. We still tend to think that what we have known will always remain, namely democracy, Europe, values and secularism. We have always imagined that what has been in the past will continue in the future, but no, it’s a fight, it’s a battle, and we must be fully aware of it to be able to act accordingly.

We saw another example of what Europe was, unfortunately, unable to do, or could only do in a disorganized fashion, with the influx of refugees in 2015, which revealed deep divides within our continent. This led certain countries to withdraw and others to open up, only to realize (as was France’s position, which deserved to be listened to from the outset) that we simply had to (although it was a brave decision) protect our external borders, ensure compliance with the Schengen Area to welcome those who were entitled to enter and send back those who had no right to live in Europe, and to do so with dignity, solidarity and efficiency.

So nothing will be possible in Europe unless trust is restored. Trust from the people of Europe, many of whom no longer understand the meaning of the European project, trust between the states, which see the EU either as having too much discipline or too much solidarity. Trust in European institutions, whose procedures—and this does not only apply to European institutions—are no longer suited to the urgent challenges currently facing us. So we need new impetus.

The Bratislava summit on 16 September is imminent. This will be an opportunity to set out the political foundations for this new impetus, with a road map for the months ahead. As I see it, the two essential issues for the future of Europe are to protect its citizens and to prepare for the future. This can help to restore trust and a sense of direction. These are not institutional negotiations which we can do without, they are real and substantial changes.

So I’m putting forward five proposals for the Bratislava summit.


The first is a plan to protect Europe’s external borders. This is essential for security, as it will allow us to control immigration and welcome with dignity those who have a right to asylum. This can be achieved by systematically checking all persons entering and exiting the European Union and deploying new European border guards, and in this area too, France has shouldered its share of responsibility.

The second proposal involves European defense. This issue is as old as Europe, but it turns out that, historically, we did not begin by addressing defense but rather the economy and then our currency. Now it is probably time to reverse this process, not in order to undermine our past achievements, but to acknowledge that what constitutes solidarity is first and foremost preserving what is essential to us and being able to take action, as France does, to control our own destiny and that of the world. So Europe must build up the necessary military capabilities and industrial resources to create its strategic independence, and I propose that a European security and defense fund be created. And then, eventually, states which want to set more ambitious targets can set up permanent structured cooperation, as is provided for in the treaties.


The third proposal is investment in the future. There was the Juncker Plan, and I would like to commend that initiative by the President of the European Commission. Today, I would like to propose doubling the Juncker Plan and extending it, for research, training, and digital and energy infrastructures.

In the Euro Area, we need tax and social harmonization. It is not possible to have the same currency and the same disciplines if there are distortions which remain, hampering the construction of a genuine common area.

I have made a proposal—it’s not new—to create further financial capacity for the Euro Area. The Euro Area has its own projects which it absolutely must finance through its own means.

The fourth proposal is to take action so that together we can combat social and tax dumping and go further to ensure that major IT multinationals who come here to feed off and sometimes capture our value, while never giving back any of the profits which these major companies make in the countries where this wealth was created, pay tax.


Finally, my last proposal is for Europe to give hope to its young people. If the new generation loses faith in Europe, there will no longer be a Europe. There are initiatives which enable these young people to believe that mobility and free movement is an advantage, but for who and at what price?

There is the Erasmus Program, which has already been extended to apprentices. This is a good start, but we must go much further. All young people should have access to a European program, to travel for training, for jobs, for civic engagement, to discover Europe’s heritage, for climate commitments.

Europe’s youth need hope, especially at a time when historical progress is being undermined.


The British people’s decision to exit the European Union isn’t a temporary decision, it isn’t a decision of the moment and we mustn’t force the British people in the decision they have taken, we must simply respect it. This decision is irreversible and we must take on board all its consequences.

Once it has left, the United Kingdom will no longer have a say in European decisions. Who could understand that? Nor will the United Kingdom be able to have access to the internal market, unless it agrees to its four freedoms—i.e. among other things, freedom of movement—and if it agrees to all the regulation, and even the budget contribution.

I’m well aware these are difficult decisions for Theresa May’s government to take. She’s asking for time—a period to prepare the negotiation, no doubt—but it won’t be possible to prolong the timeframe for invoking Article 50 without causing uncertainty and instability, which would be neither good for the UK nor acceptable for Europe.

France’s position is that everything must be concluded by 2019. That’s the time we must leave for preparation and above all for negotiation.


Ambassadors, it is by remaining faithful to the message that France is sending—a message of respect, openness, solidarity, democracy and freedom—that France will continue to be listened to, respected and valued.

At a time when extremism is feeding off people’s fears, including among our major partners, at a time when others are seeking to make us doubt our shared destiny, I would like to highlight an obvious fact which I have observed since I have been French President. The world knows—perhaps even more so than the French people themselves—what France represents. Not only because it is the nation of human rights, not only because it has always stood alongside countries fighting for their freedom, but because it is able to talk to all parties, and to take initiatives. Because it does not see its role as a permanent member of the Security Council as being to prevent or to block, even though this is sometimes necessary, but rather to take action, to find political solutions to crises.

So compromising our values would not only be a step backwards for our rule of law, but would also endanger our national cohesion, even though we are aware of the extent of the threat. It would also undermine our international influence.

France is strong when it is itself, not when it tries to be something else. So when faced with intolerance, hatred and obscurantism, France must never abandon what it truly is. It has the resources to act, internally through the force of law, externally through our diplomacy and the strength our armed forces, as well as taking economic action.

I would like to commend all the companies which are working for our exports, as well as all the researchers and innovators who allow us to showcase French technology around the world. I also want to highlight the role of the artists and creators who help France to be always valued and admired. And I want to highlight our ability to welcome people to our country.

If France were to shut itself off and to tell foreign students that they must no longer come to France to work, if it were to doubt how it could contribute to globalization and were to constantly look at how it could shut itself off or withdraw, such a France would not be true to its history and would have no future.

Aside from defending its interests, France has always seen its role as to be of service to the world, to strive for peace, development and the protection of our planet. And we have shown this. With this climate agreement, what will go down in history is not simply that it took place at the very time when France was hit by terrorism and when all countries wanted to show their solidarity, and it was a very important gesture. This agreement will go down in history because it will now be implemented everywhere and will change the world. France must always have within it this hope that it can change the world.

That is the cornerstone of the foreign policy which I have been implementing for over four years, first with Laurent Fabius and now with Jean-Marc Ayrault and the government of Manuel Valls—a foreign policy which you will help to implement in each country in which you have the honor to represent France.

Long live France and long live the Republic!

Speech by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris - September 2, 2016

Members of Parliament,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we wrap up the 2016 edition of Ambassadors’ Week, I want to review its main lessons. I hope you found the variety and depth of our discussions to be illuminating, and that they gave you the information you need to convey the message that France sees the state of the world with clarity and is actively seeking solutions to the major challenges we face. I would like to thank this week’s organizers, beginning with Secretary-General Christian Masset, Hervé Dejean de La Batie, his entire staff, and all the staff members who worked on this event.


When President Hollande put me in charge of our diplomacy last February, I was very mindful of the difficult time we were going through. 2016 brought its share of tragedy and exposed our country to the devastating effects of terrorism. Of course, our thoughts—like yours—go out to all the victims, and to all their family members who are living with the emotional and sometimes physical consequences of this tragedy. The past year has also driven home the deep-seated turmoil in our world, at a time of mushrooming crises. I will not go into each one, as President Hollande has already elaborated on how France is coming to grips with them.

What I will note is their diversity and the variety of their origins. Some are deeply rooted in the societies and political systems of various nations; others stem from social tensions against a backdrop of economic problems and the abrupt adjustments they generate, raising the specter of downward mobility. Globalization is overturning traditional structures and exacerbating ethnic concerns. Populist movements in Europe, the United States and elsewhere are feeding off of this and posing a challenge to our representative democracies. Traditional geopolitical conflicts are reawakening; they sometimes offer the nostalgic illusion of regained power. Yet power relationships have deeply changed, with state power weakening and the emergence of actors that seek to undermine regional orders—think Boko Haram—or constitute a more global threat, like Daesh. And technology offers them a more effective way of spreading their message.

Shifting power relationships are generating confusion and blurring the usual points of reference. The rise of emerging countries is less linear than might have been imagined a few years ago; it is not filling the vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal from the scene, particularly in the Middle East.

Our traditional mainstays of support have been undermined, making the world a more instable, less predictable place. The appeal of European integration has been tarnished by doubts coming from the Europeans themselves, and the BRICS—some of which are in crisis—are not really managing to unite. In the United States, a presidential candidate is proposing radical shifts that are troubling to the entire world.


The norms and institutions on which the international order is based are being weakened by unprecedented protests. Collective security mechanisms no longer play a sufficiently protective role—this is tragically the case in Syria. The universality of human rights is being called into question, populist trends foster authoritarian and even autocratic abuses, as well as a form of legitimacy by plebiscite, leaving little room for opposition. They promote an absolute concept of sovereignty.

Finally, our world is a world of inequalities. In Europe and in the United States, the pursuit of an economic model that increasingly rewards capital over labor is expanding the gap between rich and poor. Combined with a digital revolution that creates few jobs, this development is hurting the middle class and the poor, who are left vulnerable to the temptation of extremes.

In emerging countries, the slowdown in growth is hindering the process of political modernization and social transformation. While continuing to deal with the dual challenges of inequality and poverty, Africa has an economic model that is still too dependent on the export of its raw materials. All these aspects add up to an uncertain world, but in the face of uncertainty, there is no room for discouragement or resignation. Never giving up, even in the most difficult circumstances, is France’s true strength. As you know, it is precisely for this reason that our country is relied upon and respected. It is because France’s relationship with the world is characterized by solidarity that when she herself is struck in the heart by the despicable barbarity of terrorism that there is a global wave of sympathy for France.

Your mission, ladies and gentlemen, is to be true to our country’s commitment to peace; to be true to its commitment to rebuild a more just and compassionate world, giving all nations the opportunity to embark on the path of sustainable development; to be true to our country’s commitment to the universal values of freedom that, despite a trend toward relativism, remain as meaningful as ever. This was the spirit in which a few days ago, you received guidelines on strengthening our efforts to promote human rights, something that is in no way incompatible with defending our interests, including our economic interests.

For I am convinced that our identity is strongly tied to the Enlightenment values that are also the values of our Republic. Throughout the world, many have adopted the three words of our national motto—liberty, equality, fraternity—which are a beacon of progress. Remembering this, in our internal discussions, is a sign of responsibility. Some of you have witnessed the devastating impact that our political excesses have had abroad. We must now calm down. I am calling for a return to reason and good behavior. That is how we will get back to basics and engage in a discussion of ideas. Instituting bans can create stigmas that end in rejection. That is not France. When France rejects others, it does not solve any problems, particularly the problem of integration. It is no longer in sync with its own values.


Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In an uncertain world, our values are of great help, as I just noted. They are our strength, and they inspire us to move forward with a great initiative: Europe.

Over the past few years, Europe has been confronted by a “polycrisis,” to use Jean-Claude Juncker’s term, that has put it to the test: a financial crisis, an economic crisis, a security crisis, a refugee crisis, and a humanitarian crisis. It has always found a response, although what with last-minute summits, the process has sometimes obscured the result. Likewise, its decision-making abilities have considerably improved.

Who would have guessed that an agreement would be reached in less than six months on the creation of a European Border Guard Corps, a subject that was first broached, particularly by France, 10 years ago?

But there’s still a long way to go. Implementation must become a real political priority, because for all too long, Europe has made decisions without a concrete impact, giving the impression of collective impotence. So it’s not surprising that over time, people’s confidence has been eroded.


The British referendum revealed the magnitude of this loss of confidence. The British people’s decision is a grave one indeed. In view of our historic friendship with the United Kingdom, France would have preferred to continue building Europe with the UK, but the British people have spoken and their decision must be respected. Nothing would be worse for Europe and for our democracies than to let uncertainty drag on. That’s why the British authorities must accept the consequences of this vote by activating the process provided by the Treaty to initiate the UK’s orderly exit from the European Union.

In this way, in a manner characterized by clarity and mutual respect, Europe will overcome a difficult that is weighing first and foremost on the UK. Naturally, we must look at how to preserve, in a new configuration, our two countries’ support for the place and role of Europe in the world. This is a task that France is preparing for.

By the same token, as I told the German ambassadors in Berlin last Monday, I don’t think our analysis of the EU’s status must be overdetermined by the result of the British referendum, first, because for many this vote hinges on factors specific to the UK and its domestic politics. And second, because, despite the prognostics, this decision wasn’t accompanied by a rejection of the idea of Europe, but on the contrary, made many Europeans aware of their fundamental attachment to Europe. It would therefore be a mistake for the EU to overestimate the impact of the UK’s departure, and it would be in its interest to stand firm on its principles, and to revive the desire for a common ambition. For Europe, the main challenge in fact is making sure that the 27-member Union is stronger than when it had 28 members.

Even before the British referendum, my work with my German colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier was motivated by the need to reinvigorate the European project, and that issue is indeed at the heart of the discussions that got under way and will give rise, on September 16, to the adoption of clear guidelines at the Bratislava summit. That’s another thing we’re working on. President Hollande spelled out our objectives: to protect the EU’s external borders; monitor European territory in the face of threats; give a new impetus to a European defense system; double down on the Juncker plan, making it a model of growth based on investment in the industries of the future; strengthen social justice and tax fairness; implement programs fostering mobility and youth employment.

By focusing on these priorities, Europe will meet the aspirations of its citizens and will regain their trust. In that way, Europeans will once again fully realize that our continent’s integration is a unique historic experience that will continue to safeguard peace and prosperity.

I deeply believe that changes in the world, the threat of terrorism, the fear of decline, call for building “a Europe that protects.” I know that’s not a new slogan, but these aren’t just pious words, nor should they translate into a desire to turn inward. We must now show that they go hand in hand with our continent’s ongoing unification, and—most important—we must take action.

Europe must first protect its citizens by giving itself the means to guarantee its security, to retake control of its external borders, and respond to turmoil in the world. That doesn’t mean closing the borders and questioning Schengen. It’s a historic achievement in the building of Europe. We are well aware that, to the contrary, our common counterterrorism effort requires strengthening cooperation with our partners.
The EU has just adopted a comprehensive security strategy. It is up to us to implement it, through our capacity to conduct operations and institute mechanisms for that purpose, through the investments of member states in their defense systems, and by expanding our industries. But most important, we need a Europe whose political will is strong enough to help resolve the conflicts that threaten it. That is how we will build a true security and defense union.


The “Europe that protects” is also a Europe capable of promoting its social model, and thus its interests. To expand internationally, our companies need rules deriving from a multilateral framework, or trade agreements negotiated with third countries. They must be solidified, but Europe cannot pay the price alone.

A transatlantic partnership can therefore be conceived only if it is based on balanced concessions and full reciprocity, otherwise there will be no treaty with the United States. The example of the treaty with Canada shows that when we give ourselves the means, it is possible.

Within the EU, the free movement of workers can and must be compatible with the fight against social dumping. As Prime Minister Valls reminded us yesterday, this issue lies at the heart of current negotiations on worker postings. We must move forward on all these issues. With Germany first, because our two counties transcended their pasts to bring about the integration of our continent, and they retain their strong momentum. And with our other partners as well, because Europe needs unity, and we have everything to gain by strengthening our dialogue with all Europeans. Harlem Désir and I are counting on you to contribute to this effort, whether you are posted in an EU member state or in a third country.


In an uncertain world, our commitment to peace is our compass. As a permanent member of the Security Council, France contributes to this aim through its ability to speak to everyone. That is of course the case in North Africa and the Middle East, whose proximity makes turmoil there as existential for France as for Europe.

Let’s face it: Security in that region is our security, and this security is being threatened by Daesh, which prospers in areas of instability and frustration. We will win the war that Daesh has declared on us, and not only because we are part of a coalition with close, robust allies. But if France is a particular target and has paid such a heavy toll, it is precisely because it is France, because it embodies a certain idea of tolerance, dialogue, and coexistence. We will never renounce these values of which we are so proud, and which are the opposite of that organization’s deadly obscurantism.

With Daesh losing ground, the challenge is also to prepare ourselves to win the peace. We will succeed not by military means alone, but by seeking political solutions and negotiation. This is particularly the case in Syria, Libya, and between Israel and Palestine.


In a devastated Syria where Daesh and Bashar al-Assad’s regime rival one another in horror, weapons will not resolve this conflict. No one will win this war, and whatever happens, after five years of atrocities and more than 300,000 dead, the Syrian regime will not be able to survive this tragedy. Bashar al-Assad will no longer be able to govern this country in peace because, despite the glimmer of hope elicited by the announcement of a cessation of hostilities, the regime and its backers are locked in a spiral of violence that prevents the cease-fire and hinders the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Russia and Iran are fueling this effort, which will lead to a dead end. This already complex civil war is about to take on a new Kurdish dimension. The sacrifice of the people of Aleppo is a tragedy that shocks consciences and must at all costs be stopped.

Let’s be consistent, persistent and determined.

The UN report on the use of chemical weapons requires us all to face up to our responsibilities and to return to a political solution. Let us give peace a chance; that is what France wants to achieve at the Security Council. We want these crimes to be strongly condemned within the framework of a resolution under Chapter VII which would impose sanctions on the perpetrators.


In Libya, the terrorist threat and the proliferation of trafficking also pose pressing challenges. Despite the skepticism, the Government of National Accord has been established under the leadership of Fayez Serraj, whose courage I applaud once again.

In order to eradicate Daesh, it must now take control of all institutions and the entire territory. But it must reach a compromise with its Parliament in Tobruk and General Hifter. France is ready to support its efforts, notably in conjunction with the regional powers, starting with Egypt.


In the Middle East, some believe that the situation between Israel and Palestine, which continues to deteriorate every day, is not the current priority; this is a mistake because there can be no peace in the region without resolving the conflict that is fueling the violence and propaganda of radicals on all sides. We have a duty not to give up. We therefore had to take the initiative. And the fact that thirty or so of our partners came to Paris on June 3 proved we were right. Of course, there is still a very long way to go. The most difficult thing—bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis together around the same table—remains to be done. But France has already managed to put the peace process back on the agenda. Thanks to its efforts, it has managed to mobilize the international community once again, and the initiatives of some partners—at times modest but real—like the United States, Egypt and Russia, bear witness to this. France will not give up and will do everything possible to achieve the goal of holding a conference with the parties by the end of the year.

I want to say once again to our Israeli and Palestinian friends: If you really believe that the two-state solution is the only possible solution, dare to implement it, take the risk of peace. It’s a difficult choice that involves painful compromises. There are no other alternatives, France and the international community will stand alongside you.


There are many other conflicts to discuss, notably the tensions in eastern Ukraine which Germany and France are trying to resolve within the framework of the Normandy format. In this respect, the ceasefire agreement reached at the end of the summer must be upheld and could serve as a basis for making progress toward implementing the political component of the Minsk Agreement.

In the Donbass region and elsewhere, our ability to establish dialogue with Russia is at stake; Russia is a partner of France and a major country that has legitimate aspirations to play a role on the international stage. We want to ensure that our efforts are in line with each other and when that’s not the case we should not shy away from accepting our differences in order to work more effectively toward reconciling our points of view There is no alternative, especially if we want to find a solution in Syria. But we have to be aware that forming an alliance with Moscow is not enough to bring about a miracle. We also want sanctions to be lifted; this can only be achieved if Russia implements the commitments it made within the framework of the Minsk Agreements.

And I would like us to pursue the major partnerships that we’ve developed over the last few years on the American and Asian continents. With the long-term interests of France in mind, the economic and political emergence of these regions may appear to be constrained by a slowdown in growth and the slow pace of change in the areas of democracy and human rights, but I remain convinced that the economic opportunities and the political role that Asia and Latin America are destined to play at the global level justify our efforts to continue developing solid partnerships with these two regions over the long term.


Lastly, a few words about Africa, which is a region that is witnessing growth, innovation and an expanding middle class, but which is also frequently undermined by demographics that put a strain on the economy and society; on top of this the continent has some chronically weak states. Terrorist groups are taking advantage of this in the Lake Chad Basin, in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa. In Mali and the Central African Republic, France has assumed its responsibilities. It has done so in many other countries, as was recently the case in Burundi, by playing its full role at the Security Council.

Our efforts to demonstrate that there can be no development without security are beginning to bear fruit, especially at the EU level. However, beyond that, I believe that the fates of Africa and Europe are inextricably linked. Europe will not succeed if Africa fails. We must therefore support our African partners in achieving their aspirations: aspirations for democracy and respect for human rights; aspirations to catch up economically and to create opportunities that will make it unnecessary for their young people to follow the migrant routes in order to leave their countries; aspirations to benefit from globalization and, in general, kick start economic and social development.

This shows the importance of relaunching our development policy, which is underpinned by the historic success of the summit on sustainable development goals and COP21. Our diplomatic corps did its utmost in this respect; it must remain fully mobilized. Last year, President Hollande wanted to increase funding for the French Development Agency’s operations by a further €4 billion per year between now and 2020, half of which will be allocated to climate change. At the same time, in order to give substance to our priority to support the most fragile, he decided to allocate €400 million in additional funding per year over the same period in the form of grants.

André Vallini and I are happy to confirm that we have started to implement these commitments. Thanks to the reform of AFD, implemented under the energetic leadership of its CEO, and thanks also to €85 million in additional funding for official development assistance, which I achieved through the 2017 finance bill. I believe these changes fully justify, as announced by President Hollande, a new meeting of the Interministerial Committee on International Cooperation and Development (CICID).



World developments and the resulting challenges to our diplomatic policy have a direct impact on the women and men who support it. These challenges are changing the work of diplomats, require the development of new skills, and demand ongoing commitment. I know, and as you see every day in your interactions, at headquarters as well as within the diplomatic network, that this commitment is shared by all members of our ministry and is based on a sense of dedication, professionalism and passion.

Over the last few years, the ministry has undergone major reforms in order to adapt to new challenges, modernize the civil service and contribute to the efforts to control public spending. More than half of the measures identified within the framework of the MAEDI 21 project have, for example, been implemented under the leadership of the secretary-general. Our agencies have been reformed in order to ensure greater coherence and increased effectiveness. The critical importance of transparency will be reaffirmed at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit, which France is due to host at the end of the year.

The ministry will be strengthened by all of these reforms. The expansion of its scope will provide us for the first time with the whole range of instruments of external action. And the proposals that arose from the White Paper on partnerships with regional authorities are aimed at enhancing the coherence of France’s international action beyond the role of the state. The fact that our interlocutors—and companies in particular—recognize the impact of these changes is also a source of satisfaction.


Economic diplomacy remains a priority, as you know, since you devote 40% of your time to it on average.

The second session of meetings with entrepreneurs provided another opportunity to build direct relations with SMEs, very small businesses and mid-caps; I hope these will lead to business opportunities, contracts and jobs.

Despite a relatively unfavorable economic environment, marked by a slowdown in the global economy, the stabilization of the euro and rising oil prices, our foreign trade is recovering. It was worth €75 billion in 2011, and our deficit fell to €45 billion in 2015. This is the result of the reforms initiated in 2012 which helped improve the competitiveness of French industry. It is also the result of our efforts to restructure our industrial sectors and take positive action to promote exports.

Matthias Fekl is leading efforts to ensure that Business France facilitates the internationalization of SMEs and mid-caps by simplifying our support mechanisms and making them more understandable, in close collaboration with all stakeholders, chambers of commerce and industry and foreign trade advisors. More companies should therefore receive support for their projects allowing more of them to enter the export market. 117,000 firms exported goods and services in 2011, and 125,000 firms did so in 2015. I am counting on you to aggressively pursue all of the efforts that have been initiated.


As we all know, the sector that has suffered the most as a result of the attacks is tourism in particular. After 2015, when the number of tourists exceeded 85 million, 2016 will undoubtedly be marked by a drop in the number of international visitors. This is also due to a combination of factors, including the downturn in the economy of several countries of origin. But does that mean we should stop trying to attract 100 million tourists per year by 2020? I believe otherwise. First of all because our country is demonstrating exemplary resilience, with broadly stable results at the regional level, despite the attack in Nice. And because the level of French and European visitors remained stable in many places, some overseas markets grew and some activities were extremely successful. The best response is therefore to mobilize our efforts.

And in order to address the worrying situation in Paris, I established an emergency economic committee on tourism which I will reconvene in the next few days. Together with the mayor of Paris and the region, I launched a campaign to promote the destination of Paris, which has just been extended to other regions and allocated additional funding. Our ambitious efforts to streamline this sector will continue beyond the emergency phase and at the 2nd annual tourism conference which I will chair in the fall alongside tourism professionals.

Your role is obviously essential. Thanks to your networks you have the ability—in collaboration with Atout France—to prevent a distorted image of the reality in our country from being spread abroad. I am counting on your dynamism and your enthusiasm. France’s commitment to addressing the key issues concerning civilization is essential in a world facing fanaticism and violence. President Hollande mentioned the international conference in Abu Dhabi on the protection of heritage in danger, whose success you will help ensure.


Our soft power helps to promote dialogue among cultures on a daily basis. Our external cultural action has undergone considerable changes, especially over the last few years. In the face of competition, we have developed a comprehensive approach that is part of a new vision of the correlation between cultural, scientific and economic challenges. The remit of our departments and institutes has been expanded to include creative industry exports, gourmet cooking, sports diplomacy and the promotion France’s appeal to students in collaboration with CampusFrance. Like the conductor of an orchestra your role was to make sure all of our efforts abroad are in harmony.

I want to resolutely continue to promote the values of tolerance, humanism and openness within this remarkable cultural network which includes the schools managed by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE). The success of a large number of initiatives within our network and in Paris aimed at promoting the discussion of ideas reflects the vitality of international intellectual dialogue. I therefore urge you to invite intellectuals, researchers, artists and engaged citizens, French citizens and French speakers all over the world to take part in the second Night of Ideas organized by the Institut français on January 26. Culture is key to promoting France’s influence and raising its profile. You can count on my total commitment.

Cultural reaffirmation also contributes to the fight against radicalization. The ministry has a responsibility to contribute to this effort and this is the goal of the international strategy that we just presented and which must now be implemented. We can take pride in the fact that a female diplomat is playing a key role in this area.

Given the expansion of international collaboration, I would like to task an ambassador with coordinating our efforts to combat terrorism and to represent France in the meetings devoted to this issue.

In each of your countries, you must therefore provide feedback on all experiences that we might be able to draw on, and conversely you must explain our best practices.


Ambassadors, before I conclude I would like to talk about our resources.

I am aware of the efforts that our ministry has made in order to help—as is reasonable—control public spending. Further savings will be required in 2017 but at a level consistent with the streamlining, modernization and sound management initiatives already introduced. My main goal with respect to the budget process was to not to exceed the job cuts that we had already approved within the framework of the three-year budget period and I succeeded. This will notably help avoid—as the secretary-general announced—another round of personnel changes in our embassies.

Furthermore, I secured an addition €62 million in funding for security. This will be used to ensure the security of our networks abroad, including our schools and high schools, the security of French communities and will contribute to the fight against terrorism. It will lead to the creation of 67 jobs.

For the first time in many years, the funds managed by the Security and Defense Cooperation Directorate will increase. The resources of the crisis and support center, which, thanks to its recognized expertise, has been tasked with managing the Interministerial Victim Support Unit, which is activated in the event of an attack, will also be strengthened. Giving priority to security is in my view justified: The Department of Diplomatic Security will become a full-scale directorate. I will ask the secretary-general and the Administration and Modernization Director-General to start working on this immediately. All in all, for the first time in several years, the increase in funding for security and official development assistance will allow the ministry to increase its budget.


It just remains for me to express my appreciation for the work you and your teams do every day, on every front, sometimes in difficult conditions. You deserve the nation’s gratitude.

In the face of turmoil and the complexity of the world, you have an increasingly difficult task. The best way to tackle this is by setting a good example. This is a collective imperative first of all, because that’s what the members of this ministry expect: our working methods must evolve further, notably with a view toward achieving a better work-life balance. Significant progress has been made and I am particularly delighted to note that our heads of mission now include 48 female ambassadors, i.e. twice as many as five years ago. We must keep working tirelessly to combat all forms of discrimination, all outdated notions, whatever they may be.

Leading by example is also an individual imperative because we represent France and embody its values. This must go hand in hand with an attitude of openness to society which will help us gain a better understanding of who we are and what we do. This will help our compatriots understand the incredible work that all personnel members of this ministry do day after day in the service of France. Because what unites us is our love of France, this sense of pride in what our country stands for, this passion to serve it wherever you represent it.

Vive la République et vive la France.

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