Official speeches and statements - August 17, 2021
My dear fellow citizens in France, its Overseas Departments and abroad,
I am speaking to you this evening as we continue to resolutely battle the virus and are doing everything in our power to ensure that the economic and social recovery is as strong as possible in our country, because a few thousand kilometres away, a historic shift is occurring in Afghanistan - far from our borders but with major repercussions for the entire international community, for Europe and for France.
After a war lasting 20 years, following the decision taken first by President Trump and then by President Biden to withdraw American troops, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell within a few hours to the Taliban, without resistance.
The American and international intervention began exactly 20 years ago, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the refusal of the Taliban regime that then held power in Afghanistan to turn over Bin Laden, the organizer of those attacks.
For 13 years, from 2001 to 2014, our country was engaged militarily in Afghanistan.
In October 2001, President Jacques Chirac decided that France would take part in the international effort out of solidarity with our American friends and allies, who had just experienced a horrific attack on their soil. With a clear goal: to fight the terrorist threat that was directly targeting our territory and that of our allies from Afghanistan, which had become a haven for Islamist terrorism.
In June 2011, President Nicolas Sarkozy begin an initial drawdown of French troops.
President François Hollande then decided to completely withdraw our combat troops in coordination with the then Afghan authorities and our allies. The French military intervention thus definitively gave way, on December 31, 2014, to the civilian effort that we continued to undertake for the Afghan people, with whom our ties of friendship are deep and longstanding.
Our fight in Afghanistan was just, and our engagement there was to our credit. France has only ever had one enemy: terrorism. Our military interventions are not intended to replace national sovereignty or to impose democracy from outside, but rather to defend international stability and our security. The establishment of credible political processes is our priority in every instance. It was this fundamental principle of our foreign policy that we applied in Afghanistan and that we are continuing to apply.
A large number of French army units passed through those valleys during those 13 years: legionnaires, riflemen, servicemen, Alpine chasseurs, marines, airmen. And it is to them that I want to speak first this evening. To those who fought, to the families of those who died or who were seriously wounded - we will not forget our soldiers. We will not forget our dead. Ninety in total.
On August 18, 2008 - 13 years ago almost to the day - 10 French troops and an Afghan interpreter were killed and 21 French troops were wounded in the Uzbin Valley ambush.
France’s fight served a purpose and did us credit. One day it will bear fruit, and I ask you to remember that.
At this very moment, the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating swiftly and sharply. As I speak, the Taliban have assumed control of nearly the entire country. They entered Kabul and control the city with the exception of the airport, where activities are being coordinated by the Americans. The Afghan president left the country. Commercial flights have ceased.
This shift, which we were prepared for, calls for immediate decisions and initiatives on a par with the gravity of the situation, in order to respond to the humanitarian disaster.
The absolute priority is to ensure the security of our compatriots, who must all leave the country, as well as Afghans who have worked for France.
Our citizens have been evacuated in stages during recent weeks, in anticipation of what would happen. We are in contact with all French citizens who wish to return home, whether they be at the military airport, the civilian airport, or on the historic grounds of the Embassy, where the situation remains troubling. I want to take this opportunity to thank our representatives on the ground - our diplomats, police officers and military personnel - for their commitment and their courage. I also want to thank our American allies, who have been indispensable to carrying out these evacuations.
France is one of the very few countries that decided it had to have the means on the ground until the very end to protect those who worked for us. In recent weeks, we also made plans for evacuations operations.
We were therefore able to welcome all Afghan employees of French entities in Afghanistan who could be in danger, together with their families - more than 600 people - and assume care for them under good conditions.
France is currently protecting the European Union delegate and has provided protection for Afghans who work with the European delegation. France has also provided protection and support for all French personnel of nongovernmental organizations who wish to leave the country.
Operations have been under way for several years now to welcome Afghan civilian personnel employed by the French armed forces, along with their families. Our duty and our sense of integrity demand that we protect those who help us: interpreters, drivers, cooks and so many others. More than 800 people are now on French soil. Several dozen people who assisted the French armed forces are still on the ground, and we are mobilizing all of our efforts on their behalf.
Many Afghans - rights workers, artists, journalists, activists - are now in danger because of their activities. We will help them as much as we possibly can, because it does credit to France to stand by those who share our values, taking into account necessary adjustments to our capacity. I want to thank the associations, collectives and local governments who will help welcome them. In order to proceed with their evacuation, which can only be conducted in close coordination with American troops on the ground, I have decided to send two military aircraft and special forces. They will be on the ground in the coming hours.
Apart from these urgent measures, I intend to take several initiatives on behalf of France in close coordination with the other European nations and our allies.
We will continue to focus our efforts first and foremost on actively combating Islamist terrorism in all of its forms.
Terrorist groups are present in Afghanistan and will seek to take advantage of the destabilization. The UN Security Council will therefore have to present a responsible, united response. I addressed this point with Prime Minister Johnson and we will take joint initiatives in the coming hours. The restoration of stability will demand this sort of political and diplomatic action within the Security Council. Afghanistan must not again become the terrorist haven that it once was. This is crucial to peace and international stability, in the face of a common enemy: terrorism and those who support it. In this regard, we will also do everything we can to help Russia, the United States and Europe to cooperate effectively, because we share the same interests.
The destabilization of Afghanistan will likely also increase the flow of illegal migration to Europe. France, as I have said, is and will continue doing its duty to protect those who are in the greatest danger. We will fully participate in an organized, just international effort. But in the days to come, Afghanistan will also need its vital forces, and Europe alone will not be able to assume the consequences of the current situation. We must plan and protect ourselves against large illegal migratory flows that endanger those who are part of them and fuel trafficking of every kind.
In conjunction with the Federal Republic of Germany - and I spoke about this with Chancellor Merkel just a few minutes ago - and other European States, we will therefore put forward an initiative to immediately implement a robust, coordinated and united response to combat illegal flows, to promote an effort characterized by solidarity and unified protective criteria, and establish cooperation with transit and host countries such as Pakistan, Turkey and Iran.
Finally, we must continue to defend our principles, our values, which make us what we are.
The history of Afghanistan did not begin in 2001. We intervened in a country shattered by 40 years of war, a great country in upheaval.
And we French can understand this. It took us centuries of fighting, of mistakes, of progress and reversals to build a nation that embodies the greatest human hopes: equality regardless of origin, gender or religion and the freedoms of choice and conscience.
And we know that these battles must be waged anew each day.
The challenges facing Afghan men and women in the coming weeks and months will be terrible, enormous.
The Afghan people have the right to live in security, with respect for all. Afghan women have the right to live in freedom and dignity. Afghanistan’s future is in its own hands, but we will continue to stand with Afghan men and women in a spirit of comradeship - by supporting Afghan civil society and doing our duty to protect those whom we can protect; by saying very clearly to those who choose war, obscurantism and blind violence that they are choosing isolation; by always standing with those who fight for freedom and women’s rights, who send the world the same message that we do. That is the choice of reason, the choice of who we are at our core.
Vive la République.
Vive la France.
Frédérique Vidal, Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, very proudly welcomes the 2021 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) - better known as the ShanghaiRanking.
The Minister particularly applauds the fact that Paris-Saclay University has moved from 14th to 13th place after distinguishing itself in mathematics in May to rank first worldwide for the second year running. Sorbonne University has moved up four places, ranking 35th worldwide. Paris Sciences et Lettres University and Université de Paris remain in the world’s top 50 and top 100 respectively. The Minister also congratulates Toulouse’s National Institute for Applied Sciences and Montpellier Business School on entering the ranking.
The excellence of French universities and their strong links with national research bodies have enabled France to remain in third place worldwide, behind the United States and the United Kingdom.
Apart from the fact that 30 French institutions have remained in the 2021 ranking, Frédérique Vidal is delighted to see the position of French universities strengthened within international rankings. It is a major factor in the international recognition of our higher education and research institutions’ excellence and attractiveness in a period in which our country needs its scientists more than ever to address the global challenges of the coming years.
This bears out the higher education and research policy conducted by France in recent years. This dynamic has been reinforced since 2017 by the implementation of new forms of experimental groupings of institutions and will be reinforced further in the framework of the multiannual Research Programming Act of 24 December.
With an unprecedented euro25 billion of additional support over the next 10 years, research programming will enable France to continue to stand out among the major scientific nations. This investment will aim to create a shared ambition with Investments for the Future, the recovery plan, the Horizon Europe research program and State-region planning contracts.
As a reminder, French universities were already singled out in the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects in May 2021: 83 French institutions featured in it, including 40 in the world’s top 100 for at least one subject (up 3 compared to 2020), enabling France to come first and third in mathematics, and third in ecology and oceanography, among others.
"I wholeheartedly congratulate the institutions honored and, through them, all the teams contributing to them every day. Once again, France’s influence extends to the highest international level thanks to its excellent universities, schools and research bodies. More than ever, the new models of university established in 2018 are proving their worth: three out of four of the French universities ranked in the top 100 are a result of this policy of grouping institutions together. This French progression also reflects our ambitious higher-education and research policy: large-scale investment through the Research Act, the deployment of PIA4 [fourth Investments for the Future program], supported by the recovery plan and a significant increase in the higher education, research and innovation budget since 2017, the confirmation of new excellence initiatives, etc. Our ambition is to take the next generations of scientists in France to the highest international level," said Frédérique Vidal.
About the Shanghai Ranking
The purpose of the ranking, carried out by China’s [Shanghai] Jiao Tong University since 2003, is to assess higher-education institutions’ commitment to research activities. The world’s 1,000 best universities are ranked according to six weighted criteria: the number of alumni who are Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners (10% of the global score), the number of teacher-researchers who have won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (20%), the number of Highly Cited Researchers (20%), the number of articles published in Nature and Science (20%), the number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index Expanded and the Social Sciences Citation Index (20 %), and professors’ academic performance, using the five previous indicators divided by the number of permanent teacher-researchers (10%).
3. United Nations - Afghanistan - Statement by Ms. Nathalie Broadhurst, deputy permanent representative of France to the United Nations, chargée d’affaires a.i., to the Security Council (New York - August 16, 2021)
(Translation from French)
Thank you Mr. President,
I thank you for organizing this meeting at a tragic, historic moment for Afghanistan. This is indeed a serious time, as a page is being turned and the future of this country that has suffered so much is more uncertain than ever.
We have heard the Secretary-General express his concern and we share it. Our eyes are on Kabul, where the peace and security of Afghanistan, but also of the region, are at risk.
I would like to begin by reiterating our strong condemnation of the violence and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that are occurring in Afghanistan at this time. All parties to the conflict must respect their obligations, especially the protection of civilians. We call for an immediate ceasefire and respect for international law.
In the midst of this violence, I have a special thought for all those who have built today’s modern Afghanistan. They must be protected. Their protection, but more broadly the protection of civilians, especially women and children, must be an absolute priority. Those responsible for abuses will not go unpunished. This Council must remain attentive to the evolution of the situation.
Civilians, especially women and children, must not be forgotten. Women must be protected and their rights respected. The democratic advances, the fight against organized crime, in particular the fight against drugs, the protection of cultural heritage, all these advances that have brought Afghanistan into the concert of nations for twenty years, must not be erased. The third priority is of course Afghan unity. Peace can only be achieved if everyone participates.
Finally, the security situation must not overshadow the urgency of the humanitarian situation. The conflict is augmenting the number of displaced persons and is rising the already immense needs of the population. Humanitarian aid must reach everyone. Access for medical and humanitarian personnel to all those in need, as well as their protection, must be guaranteed.
In conclusion, Mr. President, I would like to remind you that France stands by the Afghan people and all of its partners in order to move forward on the road to peace. And the first of these partners is UNAMA. I would like to salute the courage and the work of all the teams of this mission, which is absolutely remarkable, under the leadership and coordination of Deborah Lyons. I would also like to commend the work of Jean Arnault. The United Nations has an essential and indispensable role to play in Afghanistan, but it cannot do it alone. The international community’s resolute commitment to the Afghan people will be just as decisive in the months and years to come.