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Official speeches and statements - February 14, 2017

Published on February 14, 2017

1. Germany - European Union - Fight against terrorism - Speech by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Prime Minister, following his meeting with Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany - excerpts (Berlin - February 13, 2017)

(Check against delivery)

Chancellor,

Ladies and gentlemen,

FRANCO-GERMAN TIES/EUROPE

It was very important, a few weeks after my appointment as Prime Minister, for me to be able to pay my very first European bilateral visit to Germany, and I want to thank the Chancellor warmly for her invitation today.

The Franco-German axis is not only the result of history, particularly important in these troubled times, when the discourse of nationalism, fear and self-absorption is growing louder in Europe and the world. It’s also a tangible daily reality, whose full strength and scope I’ve seen for myself in recent years in my previous post as Minister Delegate for European Affairs and then as Interior Minister, just as the French President is keen to maintain the extremely close, trustful and constructive dialogue he has had with you, Chancellor, for nearly five years. By coming here today—just over a year after I took part, at your invitation, in a German cabinet meeting—I wanted to strongly reaffirm my personal commitment, that of my whole government and of France to maintaining this dialogue and trust until the last day of our action.

This solidarity between Paris and Berlin is more necessary than ever, at a time when some people are raising the specter of disunity in Europe, when the international situation is changing and when we are facing major global security, migration, environmental and political challenges.

Our shared responsibility, above all, is to provide very concrete answers to those who doubt Europe’s added value, and to supply tangible evidence that we are stronger together when it comes to addressing European citizens’ concerns and aspirations.

It’s in this spirit that, in a few minutes’ time, I’ll be discussing with the Chancellor several of the priority issues to which we must continue providing common responses.

SECURITY

Our first priority is to ensure European citizens’ safety in the face of the terrorist threat. In recent years, our two countries have experienced traumatic attacks of unprecedented violence. I want to reiterate, on behalf of all French people, our support and friendship to the families and victims of the terrible attack that struck Berlin on 19 December. And once again I want to express my very heartfelt thanks to the German authorities and people for the signs of friendship and solidarity France received during the tragic events we’ve experienced over the past two years.

You’re aware, Chancellor, of my tireless commitment as Interior Minister, with Thomas de Maizière, to ensure the EU played an active role on this issue. A great deal has been done, but given the persistent nature of the terrorist threat, we must do more, and more quickly.

We must continue providing this joint impetus in order to further the European security agenda. Firstly to ensure that the projects under way, most of which we launched together—on the interoperability and interconnection of European information systems and on the strengthening of our external borders—are completed as quickly as possible. And secondly to map out new ways forward for the coming months so that the EU fully tackles the issue of cyber security and encryption, the Schengen Borders Code is further strengthened with a view to facilitating checks within EU territory, and radicalization is combated more effectively. All these issues could provide a useful focus for a road map. Our interior ministers are currently working on this.

Europe’s security isn’t played out in Europe alone. We must build our full strategic autonomy. Everyone must do their bit in this: Europeans must get their act together in this field and cooperate more amongst themselves.

ECONOMY

Our shared duty is also to ensure the stability and rapid development of the European economy and the Euro Area, in order to foster growth and employment. Frank dialogue between France and Germany has done a great deal, in recent years, to get policy in Europe moving on the issue. Together, alongside President Juncker, we supported the creation of a euro300-billion investment plan, and we now support doubling this. Together we’re promoting responsible discourse on implementing the common rules we’ve set ourselves. France has argued for a more rational and intelligent implementation of those rules.

But it’s also made the necessary efforts to implement them, and that’s tangible: our deficit has returned to less than 3% and our debt has stabilized. That’s essential for the country, whose public accounts had to be restored to a sound footing. And it’s also a sign of credibility in the eyes of our partners.

MIGRATION

Protecting the European project also means continuing to champion our own values. I’m thinking in particular of the rule of law: I’m aware of your commitment to it, Chancellor, and Europe must be uncompromising on compliance with it, both at home and on the part of its partners.

I’m also thinking of the humanist values that must prompt Europe to face up to exceptional migration flows by accepting in a dignified way all those who must be taken in. Chancellor, France stands fully alongside you in upholding that message you were brave enough to express strongly. We too have upheld it, in France, by protecting and ensuring decent accommodation for tens of thousands of migrants who flocked into makeshift camps.

This humanitarian challenge can’t be resolved without a great spirit of responsibility and an acute sense of reality. On these issues too, the Franco-German axis is a reality. It’s materializing, in particular, in the fact that our two countries now speak as one and take a common position on the reform of the asylum system in Europe.

FOREIGN POLICY

On the major regional and international issues, Berlin and Paris also speak as one. Whether it be about the fight against terrorism at international level, the situation in Syria, dialogue with the United States, Russia, Iran or the situation in Ukraine, the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate or the role of NATO, our two countries share the same concerns and the same priorities.

CULTURE

Finally, our common values also come alive in art, culture and language. This evening I’ll have the opportunity to celebrate our shared vision of culture’s central role in opening up our societies and pay tribute to our rich cooperation in the area. The Berlinale film festival provides an opportunity to see this, presenting several films co-produced by France and Germany. (...)

The Frankfurt Book Fair is further proof of this, having made France its guest of honor this year. (...)

On all these subjects, as on many others, my government and I will continue playing a totally active role, alongside you, to make every day useful to our two countries, to Europe and, through it, to the world. That’s the commitment which I made to the French President and which I make alongside you, Chancellor, today.


2. Syria - Statements by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, during his joint press conference with Mr Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria (Paris - February 10, 2017)

Once again, I had a meeting with Staffan de Mistura, firstly to show him—as I told him, but I’ll repeat to you—France’s support for his mission. It’s a mediation mission, which he’s carrying out with great courage and perseverance. And it provided an opportunity to take stock of developments in the Syria crisis, before the resumption of the inter-Syrian negotiations, which we’ve been urging for a long time. They’re due to get under way again in Geneva on 20 February 2017.

We all know that the situation on the ground remains critical. Amnesty International’s report was published a few days ago and mentions the situation in Syrian prisons and the horrific acts committed by the Syrian regime. It reminds us of the horror of this conflict, which has gone on so long, killed so many and destroyed so much, and resulted in so many refugees.

Every day, we’re increasingly mobilizing to bring about a real cessation of hostilities on the ground and so that the political transition can be implemented, because there’s no other option. At any rate, this is what France firmly believes.

The agreement on the cessation of hostilities, which was concluded in Astana, has begun by markedly reducing the level of hostilities. But there are still too many violations of this truce, of which the stakeholders in Astana presented themselves as guarantors.

Admittedly, we’re waiting for these parties to implement the decisions taken in Astana. This is what I again repeated to our Russian, Turkish and Iranian interlocutors. But it must clearly be noted that these violations are being committed above all by the regime, even though it benefits from support, in particular from Iranian or Iran-backed militia.

We’re also seeing how very difficult it is for humanitarian aid to get through—the regime is blocking it. In January, only one humanitarian convoy arrived safely, which means that 900,000 people are still awaiting aid. That’s how things are on the ground, and, I repeat, it’s imperative for the truce to be fully observed and for all people in need of this humanitarian aid to benefit from it.

There’s a humanitarian imperative, but also a moral and political one. If there’s inadequate progress, the negotiation we’re urging won’t get off to an auspicious start, and this is an absolute priority for us.

France would like these negotiations to resume swiftly, but also—as we said after the Astana meeting—under the aegis of the United Nations, because the international community is guarantor of the political transition process. And we’d like the discussion and subsequent negotiation to be conducted not just on the basis of the Geneva Declaration but also Security Council Resolution 2254.

This basis was agreed by the international community. It’s an essential starting point for a vital transition to bring peace to the country. And bringing peace to the country is also an essential contribution to making the fight against terrorism a success.

We’re engaged in the fight against terrorism, in the international American-led coalition. In a few weeks’ time, we’ll have another meeting in Washington with the members of that coalition in order to take stock.

And we know that the new American authorities are very determined to fight Daesh [so-called ISIL] and the other groups, such as al-Nusra in Syria. This is what we firmly believe too; it seems necessary to us.

But at the same time we firmly believe that there won’t be lasting success in the fight against terrorism if we can’t build a peaceful political transition in Syria. Otherwise there will always remain pockets of resistance and breeding grounds for continued fighting by terrorist groups, which break up and regroup. So there needs to be coherence in the way all the simultaneous battles for peace are conducted.

These negotiations must be credible and the parties must come in good faith because we’ve experienced disappointments in the past. In Geneva last year, the regime, through its intransigence, made any dialogue impossible. Today, its attitude makes us fear a repeat of this kind of scenario.

This is why we’re expecting a great deal from all partners—and particularly Russia and Iran, and also the Turks, who are warring parties to varying degrees on the ground—so that they play their part to the full. They need to make the regime see sense, so that the representatives of the opposition and representatives of the regime can get round the table and negotiate, I repeat, in good faith.

This is why France has stepped up contacts with the Russians, with Sergei Lavrov—whom I regularly talk to—in the past few days and weeks. But I’ve also been to Iran and Saudi Arabia and spoken to the new American Secretary of State, which I’ll be doing again in Bonn next week. We’re stepping up contacts to recreate the conditions for hope of a negotiation.

As regards the opposition, it’s desirable for the negotiators to be representative of the opposition’s diversity—of course, with the High Negotiations Committee, led by Riyad Hijab, and I’d like him swiftly to form a delegation which is inclusive and brings groups together. This should include, in particular, not just representatives of the armed groups which were involved in the truce agreement, but also other opposition figures who share the same goal, that of a democratic transition in Syria.

We must agree to make gestures to ensure everyone is happy. This at any rate is what we’re recommending for the negotiations with the High [Negotiations] Committee, which is currently meeting in Riyadh. Everyone must demonstrate—I repeat, once again—their sincerity and goodwill. And I know Riyad Hijab well, I’ve had the opportunity of meeting him frequently, but I think he has a role to play so that this delegation is as broad and inclusive as possible.

Once again, I’ll end, as I began, by thanking Staffan de Mistura. I know that he has an extraordinarily difficult task. But he has great courage and conviction, as I’ve already said and repeat again. And France wholeheartedly supports and trusts him.

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