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Official speeches and statements - January 13, 2021

Published on January 13, 2021

1. Syria - Return of seven young French minors - Communiqué issued by the ministry for Europe and foreign Affairs (Paris - January 13, 2021)

France proceeded with the return today, Wednesday 13 January, of seven young French minors who were in north-east Syria.

These particularly vulnerable minors were received in accordance with permission given by local leaders.

On their arrival in France they were handed over to the French judicial authorities and are in the care of social services.

France thanks the local officials in north-east Syria for their permission and cooperation.


2. Environment - One Planet Summit - Pledges for action to support biodiversity - Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic (Paris - January 12, 2021)

On January 11, 2021, the fourth One Planet Summit brought together decision-makers from around the world to accelerate international action for nature.

The Summit’s participants included 11 heads of State and government (Canada, Costa Rica, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom), as well as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Prince of Wales, and the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

The main achievements at the end of this Summit are as follows:

  1. Protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems

    France and Costa Rica launched the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which aims to create the conditions for the adoption of an ambitious nature protection target by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at the end of the year. To date, these efforts have brought 52 States behind the Coalition, committing to work for the protection of 30% of terrestrial and marine spaces by 2030.

    As far as France is concerned, the President of the Republic announced his commitment to applying this level of protection to our marine territories in 2022. Moreover, he announced the publication of the French Strategy for Protected Areas, in order to document the planned trajectory to achieving the goal. The human resources of the public agencies concerned will be stepped up in the next three years, including through civic service recruitment.

    A new Coalition for an Exemplary Mediterranean in 2030 was launched today by France, Spain and the Principality of Monaco. It is built around four commitments: (1) developing a network of protected areas; (2) ending overfishing; (3) fighting marine pollution and ending single-use plastic; (4) greening maritime transport. This Coalition will continue its efforts to bring on board other Mediterranean rim States, as well as regional and local actors, civil society and the private sector. The Summit of the Two Shores and the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille will help generate momentum.

  2. Promotion of agroecology

    Acknowledging that agroecology helps preserve biodiversity while addressing the Sustainable Development Goals and creating jobs, this One Planet Summit decided to make it a key aspect of international efforts.

    This issue is particularly important in Africa, where the effects of climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss are combining and threaten many countries’ food security. As such, a program has been established, called the "Great Green Wall Accelerator" (GGW Accelerator). This multi-stakeholder initiative aims to catalyze financial efforts by all donors, giving new impetus to this ambitious African initiative, launched in the 1980s, to green the Sahel. The initiative’s partners have pledged almost 14 billion euros (16.85 billion dollars) in international finance for the 11 countries concerned by 2025.

    Some 14.3 billion dollars has already been budgeted. The President of the European Commission announced that it could contribute more than 2.5 billion euros in its upcoming programming that is being prepared. More than a hundred private companies, grouped around the IAM AFRICA (International Agroecological Movement for Africa) charter, have also committed to contribute to the implementation of agroecological transition objectives in the Great Green Wall countries. A secretariat, attached to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), has been created to follow up on these commitments. The President of the French Republic committed to following up on the initiative at the next Africa-France Summit, set to take place in Montpellier in July.

    The French President announced French support for the planting of 7,000 km of hedgerows by 2022, confirming the new impetus given to the agroecological transition in French agriculture under the national recovery plan.

  3. Finance for biodiversity

    At the instigation of HRH The Prince of Wales, the Natural Capital Investment Alliance was announced. HSBC Pollination Climate Asset Management, Lombard Odier and Mirova are already participating. It brings together financial actors wishing to increase their investments in biodiversity restoration, and aims to raise $10 billion for nature by 2022.

    The Summit laid the foundations for a coalition for convergence of climate and biodiversity finance, aimed at building more synergies between climate action and biosphere conservation. Its members will work to increase the share of their climate finance that also benefits biodiversity. This principle was supported at the One Planet Summit by Canada, France, Norway and the United Kingdom.

    Nationally, France indicated that at least 30% of its climate finance would have biodiversity co-benefits by 2030. This target will be reached by 2025 for finance provided by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

    The Summit generated political momentum, particularly from Canada, France and the United Kingdom, for the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD). This initiative, promoted by public and private stakeholders, including 50-odd leading financial institutions, will develop a framework for measuring the risks, impacts and benefits of economic activities with regard to biodiversity - like the TCFD for the climate.

    Lastly, Canada announced a contribution of up to 55 million Canadian dollars (35.3 million euros) to the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund, to support sustainable management and restoration of land, particularly in Africa. France also announced it would join the initiative. With this announcement, which will help foster additional private sector investments, the Fund could achieve the goals set when it was launched, at the December 2017 One Planet Summit.

  4. Protecting forests, species and human health

    France launched the PREZODE (PREventing ZOonotic Diseases Emergence) initiative, which will establish unprecedented international cooperation between research actors and health vigilance networks, supported notably by the FAO, for the prevention of new pandemics originating from animal reservoirs. Created in liaison with numerous European research actors, the initiative now has more than 400 researchers and human, animal and environmental health actors involved worldwide.

    The One Planet Summit was the opportunity for a stocktake of the Alliance for Rainforests, announced at the 2019 G7. Germany and the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced their membership of the Alliance.

    During the debate on imported deforestation, in addition to national strategies developed notably by France and the Netherlands, the European Commission and Parliament announced a timetable for strong decisions to fight imported deforestation during 2021. The French President indicated that, in addition to these decisions, France would implement its national plant proteins strategy, published a few weeks ago. In addition, he called for cooperation between Europe and Africa to multiply the production of plant proteins using agroecological methods, with the aim of enhancing food security in Africa while contributing to the EU’s plant protein supplies.

    The French President reaffirmed his determination to follow up on all these commitments, and scheduled the next stocktake to take place during the IUCN World Conservation Congress, to be held in Marseille from September 3 to 11, 2021.


3. Foreign trade - Brexit - Interview given by Mr. Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 24 (excerpt) (Paris - January 9, 2021)

(...)

Well yes, there is less traffic because many businesses planned ahead for Brexit and therefore built up stocks before the end of the year; so we must remain very cautious and see how things go at the border when we have a more regular, more standard flow.

Moreover, we’ve prepared things. We spent three years preparing, investing, recruiting customs officers, investing in lorry clearance sites to ensure that, as soon as Britain was no longer in the single market and was therefore a non-European Union country, all the necessary checks - customs checks, phytosanitary checks, health checks, administrative checks - are properly done.

This preparatory work by customs, under the leadership of Olivier Dussopt and, before him, Gérald Darmanin, is bearing fruit.

We must now tell businesses - and they know it - that things are different, in spite of everything, because once again, as soon as Britain is no longer in the single market, there are new checks, new constraints, new administrative procedures. As you know, we regret the fact that Britain has left the European Union, we would have preferred it to stay, because obviously, even with this agreement which limits the constraints, which limits the disruption, there are necessarily differences compared to the pre-existing situation.

There have already been some nasty surprises: for example, customers of the British grocers Marks & Spencer [in Paris] haven’t had their sandwiches, the shelves have been empty, and it’s the fault of Brexit, the shop’s bosses say. Whose fault is it? What’s getting in the way? Is it the ultra-prepared French customs service that hasn’t given the green light, or is the problem coming from elsewhere?

I don’t know exactly about the Marks & Spencer sandwiches, but yes, there will be disruption, particularly with perishable products. It’s right to check that European sanitary and phytosanitary standards are being properly observed so that European consumers are properly protected, especially now that products are coming from a country that is no longer part of the European Union.

So for the British it’s the return of duty-free: British travelers are allowed to make tax-free purchases in airports and ports, a duty-free shop has reopened in Calais, and some people are also asking for big duty-free zones to be created - even across the whole town - for businesses, cutting the formalities, the cost of those formalities, they argue, by 20%. Are we heading for that duty-free world?

As soon as Britain becomes a non-EU country, they do have access to duty-free, like the other countries outside the European Union, except that there are no customs tariffs, so the advantage of duty-free is much less significant than when it’s a country that has very significant customs tariffs with the European Union.

There need to be mechanisms tailored to visitors from third countries, yes; this incidentally is what we’re doing; nevertheless - and this is why in the agreement with the British there are guarantees, safeguards - we don’t want the British to create, through free ports or unfair practices, a kind of dumping - fiscal dumping, social dumping, environmental dumping - or use State aid that would give businesses advantages, when those businesses also, ultimately, benefit from easier entry into the single market than other countries, with the zero quotas and zero customs barriers which are at the heart of this new agreement on the future relationship.

Oddly enough, the fate of the City, London’s great financial center, hasn’t been resolved by this trade agreement, and we saw on Monday that practically all the European share trading which was carried out in London, 30% of this trading has moved to the continent. Paris has benefited a bit from this. Is this a long-term trend? Are we going to take over from the City of London?

Yes I think so, and this is also what we told the British. To enter the single market, especially financial services-related matters, you’ve got to be located in the single market. And admittedly the Paris financial center has huge advantages in terms of attractiveness, there are also a number of players in financial services who have already moved to France or elsewhere in Europe and we think this trend is going to increase. You know, you can’t have everything; you can’t want to take back sovereignty and then want exactly the same access to the European single market as the various European countries have, with the few constraints that exist into the bargain.

It’s a historic choice which, in my opinion, is the wrong one; it’s wrong for the British and wrong for the Europeans. Look at what’s happening in the world! We’ve got very strong economic and political powers - the United States, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Russia - playing a more assertive role. We Europeans, reunited, united, together, will be stronger than everyone staying within their own borders and everyone for themselves, as Michel Barnier would say.

So we can clearly see that the British, by making that choice, indeed, have supposedly regained sovereignty, but in practice they’re gradually going to lose it because, for example, on financial services, businesses which are going to want access to the European market will have to move to the European Union. (...)


4. Brexit - Customs formalities - Press release issued by the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and the Recovery (Montreuil - January 12, 2021)

Olivier Dussopt, Minister Delegate for Public Accounts, attached to the Minister of the Economy, Finance and the Recovery, and French customs have provided an initial update, one week after Brexit: an effective smart border and hauliers who must plan ahead more for their customs formalities in order not to be held up at the border.

On January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom left the European [Union] Customs Union, leading to the restoration of the border and customs formalities.

Given the distinctive features of the cross-Channel border, the restoration of the border was organized according to specific, innovative methods based on extensive automation (the “smart border"). The method of organization envisaged became operational on 1 January and enabled flows to be handled satisfactorily.

Lorry traffic was concentrated in Hauts-de-France and is gradually returning to its normal level, which it could reach within about 10 days.

To maintain reasonably fluid trade, it is essential for economic operators (importers, exporters, hauliers) to prepare their customs and health formalities before goods arrive at the border, otherwise lorries will be held up pending their completion.

We remind you that since 1 January it has been compulsory for businesses to submit an import or export declaration in advance (according to the direction of travel) for all trade in goods. To facilitate transit across the border at Calais, the use of a transit permit is very highly recommended.

Without a declaration, it is not possible to cross the border

French customs will be especially vigilant in the coming weeks with regard to the completion of formalities.

In some cases (depending inter alia on the nature of the goods), these formalities are accompanied by customs or health checks. These checks are necessary to protect the territory, consumers and economic and financial interests of France and the European Union.

To help businesses plan ahead for their formalities, information, guides and FAQs are available in French and English on the website douane.gouv.fr, together with useful contact details.

French customs’ 40 regional economic action hubs are at their disposal, as are customs services at the border, some of which are open 24/7.

Olivier Dussopt says that "more than a week after the UK left the internal market and customs union, we can see that the smart border established by French customs is proving effective. With the gradual return to a normal level of traffic, it’s now important for all lorries to turn up at the border with customs and veterinary formalities carried out in advance. Maintaining a smooth flow depends on this forward planning."


5. United Nations - Mali - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations, to the Security Council (New York - January 13, 2021)

[translation from French]

Mr. President,

I thank Special Representative Annadif for his briefing. I would like in particular to thank him for the work he has conducted over the past five years at the head of MINUSMA.

Last October, our Council reiterated the priorities: political and institutional reforms with a view to the elections, the implementation of the peace agreement, the stabilization of the Centre and the fight against terrorism.

Today, the situation appears contrasted.

The current climate is favorable to progress in the implementation of the peace agreement. Meetings of the agreement’s monitoring committee have resumed. Members of the signatory groups are part of the government. The parties have agreed upon a road map that includes the objectives that we have set in terms of integrating former rebels into the national forces, institutional reforms, and development of the northern regions. Beyond these commitments, this Council expects concrete results by the renewal of MINUSMA’s mandate next June. I know that the Malian parties are fully aware of this.

With regard to the stabilization of central Mali, the initial results in the fight against impunity, including the opening of proceedings and the holding of hearings, are encouraging. More needs to be done to enable lasting reconciliation. MINUSMA continues to play a useful role. I am thinking of its military operations coordinated with the Malian army and its community dialogue programs.

In the area of fight against terrorism, one year after the Pau Summit, the overall assessment is positive. Many terrorist elements, including several high-ranking leaders, have been neutralized. Coordination between Barkhane, the national armed forces and the G5 Sahel Joint Force has improved thanks to the setting up of a joint command post in Niamey. The Mali army remained fully committed, despite political changes.

However, many challenges remain.

2020 was the deadliest year of the decade in the Centre, where the crisis has taken deep root. The latest attacks, where French soldiers have unfortunately been victims, show that terrorist groups retain a capacity for nuisance. The return of the State and public services throughout the whole of the territory remains insufficient.

This mixed picture forces us to step up our efforts.

Actions in terms of security must be accompanied by the return of administrations and services to the population. These efforts will make it possible to restore confidence between the State, local authorities and the people living there and to combat the hold that terrorists have. Special attention should be paid to development projects and humanitarian assistance, bearing in mind the integrated approach carried out by the Coalition for the Sahel. Preserving the humanitarian space and the protection of humanitarian and health workers are crucial. France commends the work of the European Union and its Member States in these areas.

In military matters, the internationalization of efforts has continued in recent months, with the increase in the work of the Takuba Task Force. Mali’s armed forces must step up their reconstruction while maintaining their operational commitment. The European Union mission EUTM Mali, which recently expanded its scope of action, can help them do so. The G5 Sahel Joint Force also plays an essential role and deserves enhanced support, including from the United Nations. We welcome the support provided by MINUSMA through the tripartite mechanism, funded by the European Union. But we must go further.

Finally, it is essential that the implementation of the MINUSMA adaptation plan continues, so that its effectiveness can be strengthened. I encourage contributing countries to respond positively to the Secretariat’s requests to fill the force’s capacity gaps.

Mr. President,

In this decisive period, a consensual and peaceful political climate is needed. Mali cannot allow divisions that would only undermine the objectives of the transition, the main one remaining the March 2022 elections. In this context, France supports the efforts of ECOWAS, which once again visited Bamako to take stock of the organization of the elections.

Thank you.


6. United Nations - High level meeting on international cooperation in combating terrorism 20 years after the adoption of resolution 1373 (2001) (s/2020/1315) - Statement by Mr. Nicolas de Rivière, permanent representative of France to the United Nations to the Security Council (New York - January 12, 2021)

[translation from French]

Mr. President,

I would like to thank the Tunisian presidency for organizing today’s debate and the speakers for their introductory briefings. Since the adoption of Resolution 1373 20 years ago, the Security Council has continuously strengthened the normative framework of the fight against terrorism. We must continue to implement it rigorously, and to develop it if necessary, as long as terrorism continues to kill. France has more than once suffered this painful experience. I would like to express our solidarity to the victims of terrorism, to whom justice must be served. Those responsible for terrorist acts must be prosecuted as closest as possible to the places where they have committed their crimes.

I would like to emphasize four points.

First, the fight against terrorism cannot be conducted without the support of civil society. I welcome the intervention of Mrs. Fatima Akilu and, through her, women, youth and non-governmental organizations. Their role is invaluable in combating the barbaric ideologies of terrorist groups. In zones of conflict and in Nigeria in particular, France will continue to support, in partnership with UNICEF and civil society, projects that seek to protect children and combat the stigmatization of victims.

We must also mobilize ourselves more and more each day in the face of the use of the Internet and social networks by terrorist groups. The current pandemic has further increased the influence of these tools. France has mobilized to bring about European-level regulation of online terrorist content to prevent its appearance and remove it within an hour. But the effectiveness of these tools depends on their application by all. In this respect, we call on States to join the Christchurch Appeal launched by France and New Zealand with Internet companies and civil society organizations. We need a common framework to regulate online terrorist content.

Third point: the fight against the financing of terrorism. This is an absolute necessity because even if you don’t need much money to kill at random in the street, you do need money to carry out a terrorist action. Resolution 2462 adopted by our Council was an important step, but we must go further, given the risk of new technologies being misused for terrorist purposes, particularly the growing use of crypto-currency. Certainly, the fight against financing of terrorism should not be carried out to the detriment of humanitarian action, which must be preserved. In this regard, we call on all States to join the Appeal for Humanitarian Action launched in 2019 by France and Germany.

Finally, the United Nations must continue to offer a coordinated approach and to strengthen the capacities of States in the face of the terrorist threat, particularly in Africa. Peacekeeping operations have adapted to the terrorist threat by strengthening their intelligence capabilities. In Mali, for example, MINUSMA supports the Judicial Pole specialized in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime and the prevention of violent extremism in prisons. UN support must go beyond the security and judicial response. This is the aim of the Coalition for the Sahel and we also welcome the appointment of a UN Coordinator for Development in the Sahel.

I would like to conclude by recalling the importance for the respect of the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law in the fight against terrorism. This imperative will guide our engagement in the review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy next June.

Thank you.