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Official speeches and statements - December 14, 2020

Published on December 14, 2020

1. Iran - Execution of Ruhollah Zam - Statement issued by the Spokesperson of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign affairs (Paris - December 12, 2020)

Ruhollah Zam, a journalist who had been sentenced to death, was executed in Iran today.

France utterly condemns this serious infringement of the freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Iran. This is a barbaric and unacceptable act that is contrary to Iran’s international commitments. France reaffirms its unwavering opposition to the death penalty everywhere and under all circumstances.

2. United Nations - Human rights situation in the DPRK - Joint Statement by Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US (New York - December 11, 2020)

Today, following an Any Other Business (AOB) discussion in the Security Council on the issue, I am delivering the following statement on behalf of Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US on the serious threat posed to international peace and security by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s long-standing, systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights.

The egregious human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is well known to the international community and has been documented, inter alia, by reports of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (COI) as well as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK. The COI determined that the DPRK commits crimes against humanity and that "the gravity, scale and nature of [the DPRK’s] violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world" and that those crimes are committed "pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State."

An estimated 100,000 persons, including children, are imprisoned in political prison camps, where they are subjected to torture, forced labor, summary executions, starvation, sexual and gender-based violence, and other forms of inhumane treatment. Many are detained in these camps because of the DPRK’s system of guilt-by-association, which allows for up to three generations of family members, including children, to be imprisoned along with the accused. Women in particular are subjected to multiple and serious human rights violations by State security and police. Indeed, OHCHR highlighted in a recent report, published in July 2020, that many women who are forced to return to the DPRK are subjected to human rights violations, including those involving torture, ill treatment, and sexual abuse.

The DPRK government seeks and in many ways has achieved total control over the lives of the North Korean people. Defectors have reported that everyone age 12 and older is required to attend public executions, which serve to remind citizens of the consequences of opposing the government. Universal human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, movement, and religion or belief, are so severely restricted that they are in practice non-existent. Foreign media are banned, and radio and television are fixed to state media channels.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled the country. Governments along the way often detain and forcibly repatriate asylum seekers. When they are forcibly returned, would-be defectors are reported to be subjected to torture, sexual violence, imprisonment, forced abortions, and in some instances execution.

The DPRK is using the global pandemic to crack down further on the human rights of its own people. We are deeply disturbed by a reported uptick in executions related to COVID-19, as well as strict controls on movement in and around the capital. The government’s decision to prioritize its weapons programs over the needs of its people and their isolation from the international community, is inevitably worsening the impacts of the pandemic on the North Korean population.

Today, Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US reemphasize the importance of a discussion of this topic in the Security Council as the DPRK’s human rights violations pose an imminent threat to international peace and security. The DPRK government diverts resources away from its people to its illicit ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Indeed, the DPRK’s human rights violations, including forced labor, underwrite these programs. In order to ensure international peace and security, it is imperative that the DPRK shall abandon all nuclear weapons, its ballistic missile programs and its existing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions. The failure to respect human rights is also part and parcel to the DPRK’s hostile policies towards its neighbors, including the issue of international abductions of Japanese and other citizens. We strongly urge the DPRK to resolve all issues related to these abductees at the earliest possible date, in particular their immediate return.

One day after we celebrated International Human Rights Day, we also express our gratitude for the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and ongoing reporting by non-governmental organizations, to bring to light the DPRK’s malign actions. To conclude, we urge the DPRK to end its human rights violations, engage credibly with the international community on its human rights record and to allow the UN human rights mechanisms free and unhindered access to the country.

3. Germany - Joint interview given by Mr. Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, Finance and the Recovery, and Mr. Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, to Les Echos - Statements by Mr. Bruno Le Maire (Berlin - December 10, 2020)

Q - Germany withstood the first wave of COVID-19 well, but France is currently managing to halt the spread of the pandemic more effectively. What lessons do you draw from this?

What strikes me is the fact that Germany and France adopted the same economic responses: short-time working, State-guaranteed loans, exemption from business rates and solidarity funds for SMEs and VSEs. And we’re adapting each of these instruments in line with the situation. Out of this unprecedented economic crisis we’ve built even closer Franco-German cooperation, and above all a European economic model of solidarity in the face of the crisis.

Have Germany’s rigorous fiscal policy and strong exports played a decisive part during the crisis?

The reforms Emmanuel Macron has been conducting for the past three years have yielded results: at the beginning of 2020, France had one of the best levels of growth in the Euro Area. The decisive issue for the future of the EU is to return to sustainable growth. This involves continuing the structural reforms and swiftly implementing the 100-billion euros recovery plan, which is based chiefly on the decarbonization of industry. We obviously need very close cooperation with Germany, particularly in the industrial sectors. More Franco-German cooperation means more growth for the whole of Europe.

The EU agreed a 750-billion euros recovery plan, but Poland and Hungary are holding things up. Should the other States abandon the principle of the rule of law to save that of solidarity?

Poland and Hungary need the recovery fund and those countries are major beneficiaries of European funds. It’s therefore in the interests of people and businesses in those two countries that the deadlock over the recovery plan and European budget is broken as soon as possible. Our unity is at stake; firstly with regard to China, which could emerge as a winner from the crisis and is aiming for greater autonomy; and secondly with regard to the crisis itself, which requires us to show solidarity. Do we want to remain in the global economic race? If so, we need the European recovery plan to come into force as swiftly as possible.

Do you fear a significant wave of bankruptcies in the EU in the next few months, which would lead to another banking crisis?

We anticipate fewer bankruptcies in 2020 than in 2019. The State responded swiftly and on a massive scale to protect our economy and provide the necessary liquidity for businesses. There are no particular concerns regarding either banks or savers’ deposits. The latest reform, which creates a safety net in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), provides an additional guarantee for savers.

Isn’t it time to speed up banking union by agreeing on a European guarantee fund?

The priority is clear: to coordinate our economic policies. Peter and I made this choice from day one of the crisis. We’ve got to strengthen this coordination even further. Beyond the immediate response to the crisis, we mustn’t lose sight of the goal of Euro Area integration. Firstly as regards the capital markets union and banking union. The biotechnology sector, with the development of coronavirus vaccines requiring billions of euros of investment, shows us the extent to which innovation needs deep capital markets. Secondly as regards the continuation of work to create a genuine budget for the Euro Area.

The European budget needs new resources: does the European digital services tax have any chance of seeing the light of day?

Digital giants are the first to benefit from the crisis and pay a much lower level of tax than European SMEs. It’s both unfair and utterly inefficient. We still want an international solution as soon as possible, in the framework of the OECD, for fair, efficient taxation of these giants. I hope the next American administration will help us on this. If not, the European Union will have to shoulder its responsibilities and introduce European taxation.

What are you expecting from the Biden administration in terms of trade policy?

We’ve got to leave behind the era of trade disputes between the EU and the United States. We’re partners, not opponents. If we don’t, and we keep imposing retaliatory measures, there’ll be only one winner in the Airbus-Boeing case: the Chinese aircraft manufacturer Comac.

Can the EU and the United States find a common line vis-à-vis China?

The pandemic confirmed to us that Europe’s sovereignty and autonomy are essential. So the task will be to relocate part of the value chains to Europe. I’m thinking of the sectors we’ve already talked about: batteries, semiconductors and space. We must finally take into account the climate goals in the way we trade. Global warming is the fundamental challenge for us all.

You’ve increased the number of joint industrial policy initiatives. Is French-style interventionism winning the German Government over?

We changed the political logic in a few months by investing massively in critical technologies of the future. Take batteries: until now, China and South Korea have supplied us with 85%; from 2021, we’ll be producing them ourselves in Europe. We want to do the same for semiconductors: today, Europe accounts for only 10% of the global market of 440 billion euros. We’ve agreed with Germany and 11 other EU countries to design and produce in Europe the chips which operate our smartphones and computers. Likewise, thanks to the initiative Peter took with Gaia-X, we’ll be able to stock our sensitive data completely securely.

How much will that cost the taxpayer before the European chip industry can compete with that of Asia and the United States? (...) Is this the price of European sovereignty?

You’re right, sovereignty comes at a price. But it enables us to go on playing a leading role in the global economy. We’re focusing on the strategic technologies in which Europe already has solid businesses. In the semiconductor industry, for example - I’m thinking of STMicroelectronics - and the hydrogen industry - I’m thinking of Air Liquide.