Interview given by the President of the Republic
Q. – Closing the Calais "jungle" was difficult. What do you think of the developments in immigration policy in France?
THE PRESIDENT – Eric Besson was right to be firm. Having that area where no law applied was intolerable. We still need to deal with one issue, that of the two types of court – administrative and ordinary courts (1) – which take decisions on the detention of illegals. In my view, there should be only one. And if there has to be a reform of the Constitution for that, so be it.
Q. – The economy is showing some encouraging signs. Are we emerging from the crisis?
THE PRESIDENT – This time last year people were predicting violence in the suburbs, an explosion of social unrest and paralysis overseas. One year on? France has to revise her growth forecasts upwards because they were too pessimistic. Of all the industrialized countries, France has suffered the least from the crisis. This year GDP will fall by around 2%, when we had predicted 3%, and the signs of recovery are more marked than anywhere else in Europe, as August’s 1.8% rise in industrial production shows. The government has managed this unprecedented crisis in the best possible way. We have implemented a bank plan, a car industry plan and an economic stimulus plan which have been imitated the world over… this strategy is bearing fruit: the results are there, but the crisis won’t be over until unemployment falls.
Q. – But the deficits are worsening, and the debt is soaring dangerously…
THE PRESIDENT – First of all, with an 8.2% GDP deficit in 2009, France will do better in relative terms than the other countries. Secondly, those shouting loudest are those who had been letting the deficits get out of control for years and who, curious paradox, were criticizing our economic stimulus plan deemed too timid. With the crisis, France has lost €57 billion of revenue, which explains the worsening public accounts. We have now put the depression behind us, but if we relax our efforts, the economy risks relapsing and the state of our public accounts will be worse. In fact the G20 was unanimous on this point: growth has to be supported. This is the priority. This is how we will fight the deficits. Moreover we will continue cutting current public spending. I remind you that we have reduced the number of civil servants by 100,000, whose cost accounts for nearly half France’s budget. France had created a million public jobs since 1992. Who could imagine us being able to continue in that vein?
Q. – A majority of the French are still worried about the introduction of the carbon tax…
THE PRESIDENT – The French have understood that the environment impacts on public health, so it’s a priority for our future. It’s urgent to modify our behaviour, to produce green and consume green. Households will be fully reimbursed for this tax, down to the last euro, as soon as next February. Why will France be heeded in Copenhagen? Because she has gone on the initiative. We are going to persuade the whole world to make commitments to protect the planet’s future. Also we will get the carbon tax at Europe’s borders. So, finally, imports will finance our social model. (…)
Q. – The United States is preparing to send a further 13,000 troops to Afghanistan. Should France also strengthen her contingent there?
THE PRESIDENT – Should we stay in Afghanistan? My answer: yes. And stay to win. Not against Afghanistan, but for Afghanistan. If we leave, it’s Pakistan, a nuclear power, who will be threatened. But France won’t send one more soldier. I firmly believe there need to be more Afghan soldiers. They will be the best at winning this war, because it’s their country. But they have to be paid more to prevent desertions to the Taliban.
Q. – If Iran doesn’t agree to cooperate with the IAEA before the December deadline you have set, what sanctions will have to be taken?
THE PRESIDENT – Let’s wait for the IAEA inspections. Iran and her leaders now have their backs to the wall. It would be good news if they allowed these inspections to be completed. Otherwise they would have to bear all the consequences. And in this respect I welcome Russian President Medvedev’s recent statements.
VACLAV KLAUS/LISBON TREATY
Q. – What do you think of Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s refusal to sign the Lisbon Treaty?
THE PRESIDENT – This refusal is especially unacceptable since the Czech Parliament voted in favour of the Treaty and the Czech government is in favour of its ratification. But the Czech President won’t be able to hedge his bets. The time to choose has come for him and it won’t be without consequences. In any case, this question will be resolved by the end of the year.
TONY BLAIR/EU PRESIDENT
Q. – Once Lisbon has been ratified, can Tony Blair be a good candidate for European Union president?
THE PRESIDENT – It’s too early to say. There will be a discussion. There are two schools of thought: do we need a strong charismatic president or a president who facilitates the quest for a consensus and organizes the work? Personally, I believe in a Europe which is politically strong and embodied by a person. But the fact that Britain isn’t in the euro remains a problem./.
(1) From her past, France has inherited two types of court. When the State, a local authority or a public service is involved, the administrative courts have jurisdiction, the Conseil d’Etat being the highest one. All other disputes are referred to the ordinary, i.e. civil and criminal, courts.