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Official speeches and statements - July 20, 2021

Published on July 20, 2021

1. Iraq - Attack in Baghdad (July 19, 2021) - Press briefing by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris - July 20, 2021)

France condemns in the strongest possible terms the heinous attack carried out by Daesh yesterday against a market in Baghdad, resulting in the death of several dozen people, including children. France extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of those who died and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.

France assures the Iraqi authorities and the Iraqi people of its wholehearted solidarity in the face of this especially cowardly act of terrorism, which took place on the eve of the festival of Eid al-Adha. The perpetrators of this horrifying crime must be prosecuted and convicted. Together with its partners, France will continue to stand alongside Iraq in the fight against terrorism.

2. European Union - Meetings between Franck Riester and several European commissioners (Brussels - July 19, 2021) - Press briefing by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris - July 19, 2021)

Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, is meeting today in Brussels with Valdis Drombovskis, European Commissioner for Trade, Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, and Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.

This visit falls within the framework of preparations for the French presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2022 and the regular dialogue between France and the European Commission, notably on trade policy issues.

The Minister Delegate will discuss transatlantic relations with his interlocutors in follow-up to the EU-US summit on 15 June, which facilitated the renewal of transatlantic trade relations, notably including the resolution of the Airbus-Boeing dispute and the creation of a US-EU Trade and Technology Council.

Mr. Riester will reiterate France’s global support for the new trade strategy presented by the European Commission in February, whose goal is to provide balanced responses to the challenges posed by the health crisis, trade tensions, and the environmental and climate emergency.

He and his interlocutors will review the trade agreements currently being negotiated. On that occasion he will stress the need for a perfect match between the EU’s trade agenda and the imperatives of sustainable development, the fight against climate change, particularly the inclusion of the Paris Agreement as a crucial element of these accords, and respect for ambitious social norms. He will reaffirm in particular France’s position on the EU-Mercosur agreement, which cannot be ratified as it currently stands, as well as our full support for the signing of the EU-Mexico association agreement.

Aligning our trade policy with our sustainable development goals also means developing autonomous EU instruments such as the carbon border adjustment mechanism and the legislative initiative on combating imported deforestation. In order to better protect our companies and jobs from unfair and coercive practices, the Minister Delegate will advocate the adoption of the Commission proposal to give the EU a tool to combat the distortive effects of foreign subsidies on the domestic market and the formulation of a European law on companies’ duty of vigilance. He will especially emphasize the importance for the EU to have an effective instrument to defend itself against coercion.

Finally, the Minister Delegate will underline French concerns over new Russian trade barriers affecting champagne producers and will draw his interlocutors’ attention to the difficulty of supplying lumber to French and European industries because of tensions on international markets.

3. European affairs - COVID-19 - Excerpts from the interview given by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to BFMTV/RMC (Paris - July 19, 2021)

The English dubbed today, Monday, "Freedom Day", the end of nearly all health restrictions at a time when, only on Saturday, the United Kingdom had more than 50,000 cases; they’ve almost reached the peak they had in the winter. How would you describe the British Prime Minister’s strategy? Is it bold, stubborn, irresponsible?

THE MINISTER - No, it isn’t for me describe that; there has been a debate in the UK, so you can see that everywhere in our countries, sadly, the pandemic is still there and vaccination is the weapon. The British...

The British are further ahead with vaccinating than we are.

They’re a little further ahead than we are, even though things are going at a more sustained pace here, but they’re a little further ahead, and as you know, things have already been delayed opening up again in the UK...

By a month, yes.

By a month, which clearly shows that even in a country which has vaccinated people, which has indeed vaccinated people even a little better than here, there’s been this caution, so today there’s the lifting of restrictions, which we’ve already had here, mostly, but it also shows that we’ve got to strike this balance...

But is what Boris Johnson is doing irresponsible?

No, I don’t think it’s irresponsible; there are things we aren’t doing here, such as the generalized lifting of the requirement to wear a mask, but that was debated in the UK as well. As we’ve seen, Prime Minister Johnson himself was a contact case again, so the pandemic isn’t over. Everyone is finding their own balance and pace. What I see, looking at Europe, is that countries which opened up again sometimes too quickly, perhaps recklessly - nightclubs without restrictions, as we saw in Spain...

You mean the Netherlands for example, Spain?

The Netherlands, perhaps - this isn’t about pointing the finger, it’s about learning lessons to ensure it doesn’t happen too quickly and with no precautions, here or elsewhere.

Just one point on the United Kingdom: a French person or a European going to the UK must spend 10 days in quarantine; that’s not the case for a Briton coming to France. Might you impose this kind of quarantine measure?

We’re thinking about it, but as you know we have health criteria; it seems to us that the measure the UK is taking isn’t completely well-founded scientifically. We consider it excessive, because it’s based on the spread - without going into too much detail - of the South African Beta variant, which in reality is now quite well controlled. It’s the other variant, Delta, that we’re more worried about. And what we’re doing for the UK and every other country is that we have scientific and health criteria. At the weekend we stepped up measures vis-à-vis the UK: it’s not a quarantine, if you’ve been vaccinated and you come, return from the UK, no problem; if you haven’t been vaccinated, you must have a compelling reason for returning to France and must self-isolate.

So since this weekend, for a number of European countries - the UK, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and the Netherlands, I think - you need a test under 24 hours old. Do you know how many checks on this have been done in the past 24 hours? Has it been stepped up?

No, I don’t have the number of checks, but it’s been stepped up...

Because there have been eye-witness accounts, for example at Orly airport, where yesterday we saw that travelers returning from Spain were not really subjected to tighter checks and it was very haphazard. And basically, their tests were never verified.

Yes, I saw - I experienced it myself, but we’ve said very clearly to the airlines, the airports, that you’ve got to take things extremely seriously. (...)