Official speeches and statements - January 11, 2021
Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will visit Egypt on January 11.
The minister will take part in a working meeting devoted to the Middle East peace process together with his Egyptian, German and Jordanian counterparts. This is the third meeting in this format. In the positive regional context linked to the normalization and re-establishment of relations between Israel and several Arab states, the aim is, at the same time, to help bring about the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, with a view toward resolving the conflict within the framework of international law and the agreed parameters.
Jean-Yves Le Drian will also have bilateral exchanges with the Egyptian authorities. The minister will notably discuss the regional crises on which our countries maintain close dialogue, especially Libya, the Middle East peace process, Lebanon and the eastern Mediterranean.
I thank the Special Representative, Mr. Ibn Chambas, for his briefing. I would like to underline two points.
First, on the elections that have recently taken place in several West African countries.
Those elections are a sign of the consolidation of democratic institutions in the region. However, they have posed a number of challenges. Some were marked by high tensions and restrictions on civil freedoms. France condemned the violence that caused a number of deaths on the margins of some of the elections.
In Guinea, we encourage all stakeholders to take responsibility and exercise the utmost restraint. We also call on the authorities to take concrete decisions regarding dialogue and openness towards the opposition. The issue here is to allowing reconciliation among all Guineans. They deserve a peaceful political climate and an effective improvement in governance, which are the foundation of the country’s development.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the objective of all must now be appeasement. We note that President Ouattara announced new gestures during his investiture speech. I am thinking in particular of the appointment of a Minister of National Reconciliation and the reform of the Independent Electoral Commission. These are positive initiatives. Other measures could usefully be taken to contribute to the appeasement and reconciliation process, particularly with the view towards the legislative elections.
Finally, in Ghana, the elections were held in exemplary conditions that are a credit to the country’s democratic tradition and to the civic sense of the Ghanaian people.
My second point refers to the situation in the Sahel.
Despite immense challenges, the elections in Burkina Faso and the first round of the presidential election in Niger were held without major security incidents and in a serene atmosphere. In Burkina Faso, the entire political class demonstrated a spirit of consensus. In Niger, President Issoufou’s decision to not run for a third term was a factor in reducing tension. As a primary partner to Niger, we will continue to closely follow the preparation for and holding of the second round of the presidential election. In this regard, we deplore the attacks of January 2, which claimed the lives of several civilians, and extend our condolences to the people and government of Niger.
The security situation remains the main challenge in the Sahel. France pays tribute to the memory of the soldiers who recently lost their lives, including five French nationals. This painful news should not overshadow the successes of the Barkhane operation and the G5 Sahel. The terrorists continue to harass, but they are being pushed back. And the joint operations of France and its partners will continue.
The mobilization in the face of the magnitude of the challenges in the Sahel remains insufficient. In the spirit of the Coalition for the Sahel, we should combine security support with support for governance, human rights and development. At the national level, we encourage the authorities of the Sahel countries to strengthen the presence of the State in outlying areas. At the international level, the G5 Sahel joint force deserves greater support, including from the United Nations. We also welcome the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. We encourage its implementation in a more pragmatic and concrete manner. It must rapidly produce the results expected by the populations.
The Prime Minister made a statement on the implementation of the trade and partnership agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom signed on December 30, 2020.
After nearly 10 months of intense negotiations, on December 24, 2020 the European and British negotiators reached an agreement on future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. It was signed on December 30 by the President of the [European] Commission and the President of the European Council on the one hand, and the British Prime Minister on the other. It comprises three texts: a trade and cooperation agreement, a civil nuclear cooperation agreement and an agreement on procedures for exchanging classified information.
Given the late completion of the negotiations, since January 1, 2021 these agreements have been implemented provisionally to begin with, and will be approved by the European Parliament and adopted by the Council of the European Union only once they have been translated into all of the European Union’s languages.
The completion of these unprecedented negotiations aimed at organizing the exit of a European Union Member State was facilitated by the Member States’ unity and solidarity in support of the European negotiator, Mr. Michel Barnier, to defend the European Union’s interests.
This solidarity is also an essential asset which must be preserved for the next part of the process concerned with actually implementing the commitments made. The Europeans come out of these negotiations conscious of their strength, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic at the same time increased their solidarity economically and in terms of health. In the coming months, the European Union will have to ensure that the measures to implement the agreement are as robust and precise as possible. The European Union must therefore be able to react swiftly and in accordance with its interests should disagreements arise, particularly on fair competition conditions and fisheries.
Thanks to the 2019 withdrawal agreement, the fundamental interests have not been challenged (regarding peace in Ireland, European citizens’ rights and financial regulation).
The agreement signed on December 30 enables the cost of separation to be mitigated: in the field of goods trade and transport, in the security field to maintain a level of police and judicial cooperation in the interest of all citizens, and, of course, in the field of fisheries. In addition, the European Union has been able to strictly frame the scope of partnership in other areas like financial services, and to guarantee respect for fair competition conditions, particularly in the areas of State aid, of health, environmental and social standards, and of rules of origin. Even though the no-deal scenario was anticipated and prepared for, the cost of a no-deal would have been much greater for all economic stakeholders, starting with fishermen, who would have had to undergo the closure of British waters.
The United Kingdom’s situation is now clear: as it is no longer a member of the European Union, it no longer enjoys its benefits. It thus returns to a system of customs, health and phytosanitary declarations and checks at the EU’s borders. Economic operators may request exemptions from customs duties, but on condition that they observe the rules on the origin of goods. The UK no longer enjoys the free movement of services or freedom of establishment. There is no longer any automatic recognition of qualifications. Finally, the UK no longer enjoys the free movement of people. British and European people will no longer be able to travel, study or work freely, as they could when the UK was in the EU. However, the EU and the UK have decided on visa exemptions for short visits of up to 90 days. Travelers will be subject to the customs and veterinary rules applicable to third countries.
The agreement lays the foundations for a new and ambitious relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Indeed, it is the most advanced trade agreement between the European Union and a third country. Following its withdrawal from the European Union, the UK also remains a major partner of both the European Union and France, particularly in terms of diplomacy, defense and security.