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New Year's Greetings to the Foreign Diplomatic Corps

New Year’s Greetings to the Foreign Diplomatic Corps

Published on January 25, 2010
Speech by the President of the Republic

Elysée Palace - Friday, January 22, 2010

Mr. Prime Minister,

Mr. Minister of Foreign and European Affairs,



Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you here today. I want to extend my sincere New Year’s greetings to you personally and to all your loved ones, and I ask you to convey my greetings to your Heads of State and Government and to your countries, which you do such a fine job of representing in France.

Your Excellency the Papal Nuncio,

Thank you for your kind words. Please convey my most respectful wishes to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

You will understand my wish to send a very special message to the Haitian chargé d’affaires, whose country has just experienced an unprecedented catastrophe. I would like to ask him to convey the deep sympathy and absolute solidarity of the French people to his authorities, to President Préval, and to the Haitian people. French teams are still at work on the ground today to save the maximum number of lives. France will continue to stand alongside the Haitian people tomorrow to help them recover from this tragedy. The international conference I wish to see must enable Haiti to put an end, once and for all, to the terrible fate that has seemingly plagued it for so long. This conference will be held as soon as the conditions are in place and as close to Haiti as possible so that, as soon as it ends, the Heads of State and Government can report its results to the Haitian people themselves and thus assure them that the international community will remain fully mobilized on their behalf over the long term. In my view, we must not wait too long to hold this conference, because the needs are immense and it is urgent.

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

2009 could have brought a great economic depression, probably even worse than the 1930s. All the elements were in place for there to be drastic consequences for world order.

Of course, 2009 will remain engraved in our memory, with the trail of injuries it inflicted upon our people—the injuries of unemployment and insecurity. But 2009 will also remain a year of bold decisions taken by some 20 heads of state and government. Together we successfully halted a financial implosion, rejected protectionism, and moved forward with a coordinated budgetary recovery at the same time as we launched a new wave of regulation, which was imperative.

We also saw some progress—limited but absolutely unprecedented—on that other great global issue, the fight against climate change, because unlike Kyoto, all the world’s nations made commitments.

On the other hand, none of the regional crises were resolved or even registered significant progress during the past year. Which begs the question: Why such deadlocks? And most importantly, how can we overcome them?

As we turn the page from 2009, we all have a sense of an overall lack of completion. So let us try to make 2010 a year of progress! Progress in the regulation of financial capitalism, progress in the fight against climate change—and in this regard, I can assure you that France will not renounce a single one of its ambitions; I will come back to this. Progress toward the resolution of crises that have persisted all too long in the Middle East, in the Caucasus, in Sudan, in Africa, in the Great Lakes region—the examples are legion.

You will find an active, decisive France standing side by side with you on these important issues, and indeed, I want to thank Bernard Kouchner, backed by Alain Joyandet and Pierre Lellouche, for his tireless work at the head of French diplomacy. Indeed, I want to thank them for showing a united front, which is extremely important when one is responsible for implementing the foreign policy of a great country such as France. You will therefore find a France that is mobilized in every arena—that of peace, that of development, that of the fight against terrorism, that of the fight against nuclear proliferation. A France that will celebrate the ties that bind it to Africa in a renewed solidarity. A France that believes more than ever that Europe has a major balancing role to play in building the world governance of the 21st century.

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

If we want to move forward in 2010, we must first raise an absolutely crucial issue, whose solution is urgent: that of world governance. We can no longer keep going the way we have been!

When the world established the United Nations, the organization had only 50 members. There are now 192 of us. The UN is unquestionably the most legitimate organization for dealing with global problems. But decision-making within the UN has become extremely difficult, not to say impossible, because of the diversity of situations and national interests. If this situation were to continue, it would jeopardize the institution’s very survival. In other words, this is a serious issue.

No single country can claim to lead the family of nations on its own. There is therefore a clear problem of leadership that we must discuss. With the emergence of new powers, we are seeing the outlines of a multipolar structure, which is perfect for paralyzing decision-making and incapable of benefiting it. This is not a criticism of any particular party, but unfortunately we must see the situation as it is.

But we cannot wait. The world has not only become global; the world has entered the age of immediacy. We are all interdependent, and things are moving faster and faster. When Lehman Brothers failed, it almost brought down everything with it in a just few hours, from New York to Hong Kong, from London to Mumbai. Governments had to respond in real time. With regard to the terrorist threat, with regard to the threat of major pandemics and even with regard to climate change, a long-term issue, we cannot wait decades for a system of governance worthy of the name to be put in place.

So what should be done?

The main lesson of Copenhagen is that it is no longer possible for 192 parties to negotiate according to the same procedures. One hundred thirty Heads of State made the journey to Copenhagen because they appreciated the importance of the stakes. Upon their arrival, they found an absolutely illegible text that had been negotiated for two years yet still contained 91 sets of brackets! In other words, 91 paragraphs whose survival no one could guarantee! There remained 36 hours, minus an official dinner, to reach a 192-party agreement. Who will stand up to defend such a process? This is what led me to propose upon arriving in Copenhagen that the negotiations should take place, Mr. Prime Minister, within a balanced, representative group comprising 28 countries. That number could have been 32, 34, 25…. The agreement that was adopted, which must now be ratified by all of our nations, contains 10 positive points. It is a good foundation on which to build this June in Bonn, and then in December in Cancun.

But I want to ask France a question: How are we going to move forward? By resuming 192-party negotiations as though nothing had happened? In that case, failure is guaranteed. I want to propose in your presence, Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs, a new, pragmatic approach that I hope will be universally accepted. The wise thing would be to pursue a two-track negotiating process: one involving all 192 countries, because it alone would establish the entire international community’s commitment, and that of the Group of 28, which has demonstrated its effectiveness and could enrich, stimulate and help advance the work being carried out by 192.

Starting in March, France proposes that we begin holding monthly meetings of the Group of 28 in New York or in Bonn at the ministerial or Sherpa level. They would issue proposals for the discussions that take place at the plenary sessions, thus ensuring that we would arrive in Cancun for an efficiently prepared meeting.

If I put an emphasis on Copenhagen, it is not only because the stakes of those negotiations are unprecedented, involving the very future of humankind. It is also because the path that was outlined—engaging in two-track discussions, with both a plenary session and smaller but representative formats—should, I believe, be adopted for other major multilateral negotiations. This would make it possible to adapt the so-called Group of 28—I’m not picky about the number. I want to emphasize the need—one that is more urgent than ever—to expand the Security Council through the interim reform proposed by France and the United Kingdom. France asks the Security Council to finally adapt to the realities of the 21st century by welcoming new permanent members: India, Japan, Brazil, Germany, and no doubt one or two African countries. How can it be considered natural for a continent of a billion inhabitants to have no permanent member on the Security Council? Or that not a single Latin American country has a permanent seat on the Security Council? What are we waiting for to lay the groundwork of this interim reform?

I have to warn you: If the United Nations is not in a position to take the necessary decisions in the very near future, then, Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs, informal forums such as the G20 will assume such responsibilities alone. For lack of anything better. If the G20 worked well, it is because the G192 does not work very well. Everyone should be aware of this reality.

I want to send the nations you represent the following message: All of us are deeply attached to the UN. The organization is our common asset. It can be reformed only if each nation agrees to assume its share of the effort and to make its share of the concessions in the common interest. That is what we’ve pledged to do this year, starting with the reform of the World Bank and that of the IMF. Let’s not leave the UN out of this great wind of change, which is absolutely necessary.

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

This essential consideration of the general interest, this constant search for compromise, for transcending the short-term defense of national interests, is the second necessity of our time.

Europe has no right to lecture the world! But Europe has learned a great deal from its long, often tragic history, and from the half-century during which it has built an ever stronger Union. What we’ve learned can be summed up in a few words: the culture of compromise. What we’ve learned is that the long-term interest of each of our countries is best served when we are capable of sacrificing some of our national interests in the service of a great shared ambition.

It is this very same culture of compromise that must inspire our governments. Of course, all nations, especially those who had to fight for their independence, are attached to their sovereignty. So is France! But capital movements, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, and terrorist or climatic threats know no borders.

If we want to respond effectively to the challenges of the 21st century, we must all, without exception, accept compromises, rules and disciplines negotiated with a concern for fairness. With a concern for reciprocity. With a concern for the common good. Each of our countries has rights and interests, but it has just as many duties and responsibilities toward the community of nations.

It was this shared observation that allowed us to reach an agreement within the framework of the G20 on a number of very difficult subjects, and France will ensure that the decisions taken will be implemented.

But now we must tackle even thornier issues. Let’s admit it: Public opinion in our countries is tempted by protectionism. We will be able to resist such temptations only if our people are convinced that competition on world markets is fair. This is something we must all be aware of. Nowadays, the most serious distortion of competition is of a monetary nature. We must work on this major issue. Let one thing be clear: France will not allow the euro—and Europe—to be the victims of the undervaluation of certain currencies.

Copenhagen showed that for the first time, all countries had the will to work together on a common goal, if not always in the same way. It is a revolution—incomplete but irreversible. In 2010, we will have to specify the numerical, fair commitments that will make it possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. France is working on concrete proposals, but let me note that we want to move forward on the question of innovative financing. We will not back down from the decisions taken on this topic in Copenhagen. A decision was made and it must translate into acts, notably for the poorest countries in Africa and elsewhere. We will not back down from the objective of a World Environmental Organization. When the time comes, France will present its proposals to the Group of 28, and in February it will host a ministerial meeting of the countries representing the world’s three major tropical forest areas and their partners to specify the means for their preservation.

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

You can count on a France that is active and engaged in the resolution of regional crises. Here too, I want to make a comment on methodology. If there is a lesson to be learned from the utter lack of progress in 2009, it is this: There was a troubling lack of collective will. A troubling lack of determination. Was it because of weariness? Was it because our energies were focused on the economic and financial crisis? Yet there is a truth that everyone must recognize: When peace does not move forward, it retreats. The lack of resolution and the resulting trail of violence nurtures frustration, rejection, hatred. 2010 must be a year of determination with respect to the settlement of regional crises.

First of all, in the Middle East. When will the litany of diplomatic speeches on the Middle East no longer be necessary? All the hopes born in 2009 were dashed. Opportunities were missed. I would go even further: Certain decisions did not help. And what a lack of boldness! Yet the parameters were already known; they hadn’t changed. They were known on territories, borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and the obligatory recognition and acceptance of Israel. Those parameters will not change. If everyone made the effort to engage just a little bit in some long-term thinking about what their people, their country and the region will be like in 30 or 50 years, the decisions to take would seem obvious: two States, naturally on the basis of the 1967 borders, living in peace and security and, I might add, in shared prosperity. How many decades will it take to make this point?

The United States of America, our friend and ally, has a key role to play in moving peace forward. I welcome and wholeheartedly support its decisive new commitment. Egypt is also involved and France stands by Egypt’s side. This is true within the Union for the Mediterranean, a priority for France. It is true in the unwavering quest for peace, as we demonstrated together a year ago in ending the fighting in Gaza. Together with President Mubarak, we will play a leading role. For starters, I will welcome President Mahmoud Abbas, who wants peace—a just and fair peace—to Paris in the near future. France will lend him its full support. We must take initiatives. If we do not take the initiative, the consequences will be tragic. Taking initiatives equals cautious audacity. Thinking that the status quo will lead to a solution is madness.

I also applaud the king of Saudi Arabia’s vision for his country and for the region, and the important role of Saudi diplomacy in line with the 2002 peace initiative.

I would like to say that I believe progress is possible, even in the Middle East! Lebanon offers us an example. After so many difficult, tragic years, the Lebanese have returned to the path of stability. No country is happier about that than France. All the conditions are in place for Lebanon to once again, and in complete independence, become the example of tolerance and multi-faith democracy that it once was. France will give it all the help it needs, as I told both President Sleimane and Prime Minister Hariri, whom I just received.

I welcome the deepening of our relations with Syria, which I am keen to pursue in 2010. It has a major role to play to contribute to stability and peace throughout the region.

Finally, I hope that this year the Iraqis will continue on the path of peace and renewal within a democratic system, which will restore their country to its place in the Middle East. France is happy to have renewed its multifaceted cooperation with Iraq. I want to thank Bernard Kouchner for the visit he made that made these renewed ties possible.

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

More than any other country, Iraq has been—and still is—a victim of terrorism. Al-Qaeda, which has suffered serious setbacks, is seeking to expand its reach from Afghanistan to Yemen, from Pakistan to the Sahel, and to the very heart of our democracies. Our countries must join forces against this threat.

In Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, the international community’s efforts are entering a new phase. On January 28, an international conference with President Karzai will be held in London at the ministerial level. We had proposed it along with Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel.

Beyond the commitments that will be taken, I would like to see progress on two points in London:

First, on a concerted approach to the gradual transfer of security responsibilities in the provinces and districts to the Afghan authorities, as soon as the level of security there is satisfactory. But make no mistake: This transition, which has already taken place in the Kabul region, is neither a retreat nor an abandonment. France will remain engaged as long as it takes and as long as the Afghans want it. But once the Allies and the Afghans have succeeded, we must draw the consequences and focus our efforts where they are still needed.

We must then agree on a reorganization of the international force, as the considerable resources that we are devoting to Afghanistan must be utilized in an exemplary manner.

The French military force, at about 4,000, is for the most part concentrated in Kapisa province and the Surobi district. There it is conducting a counterinsurgency mission with the support of our civilian capabilities, whose effectiveness is universally acknowledged. We have set two objectives: stabilizing the area in two years, and accelerating the training of the Afghan army and police.

But everyone knows that we will not have lasting success in Afghanistan if terrorism expands in neighboring Pakistan. Terrorism is taking a heavy toll on the Pakistanis. They are engaged in a courageous battle against this scourge. I will be visiting Pakistan this year to show France’s support for its government and to encourage it to step up the fight against all terrorist groups.

In the geographical heart of this arc of crises that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Indus lies Iran.

Despite all our efforts and the United States’ new commitment, despite ambitious cooperation proposals, the Iranian regime is sticking to the dead-end path of proliferation and radicalism. And now it is brutally cracking down on its own people.

Despite revelations about a new clandestine nuclear site, we once again extended an invitation to Iran to engage in sincere negotiations. Together with the IAEA, we put proposals on the table. But Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs, in order to have a dialogue, it helps to have two parties. Once again, nothing happened, except that during the time of these failed dialogues, Iran continued to increase its stockpile of nuclear materials. The time has come for the international community to draw the conclusions of these months of vain effort. We must clearly, firmly emphasize that for us, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. International stability is at stake. World peace is at stake.

The matter has been referred to the Security Council. Hesitating and equivocating in the face of such stakes would be assuming a heavy responsibility. France wants the Council to adopt strong measures and it wants the European Community, too, to assume its responsibilities. Let it be clear: There will always be an open door for dialogue, and France, which has respect and friendship for the great Iranian people, will always favor it. The sole aim of the sanctions is to credibly bring Iran back to the negotiating table.

We have the same approach toward North Korea, which must respect the international obligations it has once again violated. But France is not forgetting the harsh suffering of the North Korean people. That is why I wanted to open a French office for cultural and humanitarian cooperation in Pyongyang.

Beyond these two crises, this year, together with the community of responsible nations, we must pledge to begin building a new international partnership revolving around nuclear energy. In May, the major NPT conference will take place in New York.

As we enter an era of renewal for civilian nuclear energy, France is approaching it with confidence. France is in the forefront of those advocating universal access to civilian nuclear energy. Because France has made the fight against proliferation one of its priorities. Because together with the United Kingdom, it is the nuclear power that has taken the strongest steps on behalf of disarmament.

For the same reason, France, along with the IAEA and the OECD, will host a ministerial conference on the access to civilian nuclear power on March 8 in Paris, at which I will be presenting the French ideas. I would like to see this debate result in agreements on the revival of civilian nuclear energy in the world. For a shared vision of access to civilian nuclear energy will also help us respond to the challenges of global energy security.

Finally, at President Obama’s invitation, I will naturally attend the nuclear security summit in Washington on April 12. There we will mobilize the international community against the major risk of terrorists using a nuclear weapon.

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

If there is a continent to which the French feel close, it is Africa. For geographical reasons—the Mediterranean is not a barrier, it is our shared sea. For demographic reasons—one out of 10 French people has roots in Africa. And for historical reasons—this year, 14 nations with special ties to France will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their independence. The commemoration of that seminal moment is first and foremost their own affair, of course. But France wants to demonstrate its resolve to build a new partnership with them.

For France, 2010 will be the year of Africa. First with the France-Africa summit, which we will host on May 27 and 28. The entire continent will be convened, given that the scope of our cooperation has progressively expanded to the entire continent, with major new partners such as South Africa, Angola and Nigeria. We will also inaugurate a new form of summit by having businesses—those major players in development—join us in our work. I want this to be an opportunity for French companies to enter into clear commitments on behalf of the development of the countries that welcome them, in the framework of a charter of entrepreneurs in Africa.

Then on July 13 and 14, we will welcome, for a family meeting, the Heads of State that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their countries’ independence. It will be an opportunity to take stock of the renewal of our partnership, from defense agreements to youth training. Contingents from 14 countries will parade down the Champs-Elysées, because I want all French people, on that day, to solemnly express their gratitude for the help we received from African troops during the two World Wars. Under Jacques Toubon’s patronage, many events throughout the year will underscore the strength of the human ties between Africa and France.

Finally, even though it spans every continent, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, which will hold its summit meeting in the fall, will offer a new opportunity to celebrate the very strong tie that unites half of Africa with France: that of our shared language. I will do my utmost to expand your organization’s influence.

But the policy we want to conduct with respect to Africa is not just one of renewal; it is marked by a determination to bring about reconciliation. This was the case for Mauritania, following a process France supported without reservations and which led to the reestablishment of the law and the election of President Aziz. It was the case for Rwanda, following two conversations I had with President Kagame and thanks to the patient, determined efforts of Bernard Kouchner. I will travel to Kigali after visiting Libreville in February. A similar effort is underway with Angola, and I will do everything I can to bring to fruition the effort undertaken this year with President Dos Santos. Finally, such an effort is possible—and extremely desirable—with Côte d’Ivoire, as long as that country holds the elections that have been awaited for all too long.

For France, Africa is also a continent where progress on peace can and must be made.

In 2010, the fate of Sudan will be decided. All sincere supporters of peace in Darfur must take part in the talks that will resume in Doha. The elections scheduled for April—Sudan’s first elections in nearly 25 years—must be commensurate with the democratic ambitions enshrined in the 2005 agreement. Finally, less than a year before the date established for self-determination in the South, the Sudanese parties must settle without delay the fundamental issues that remain unresolved at this date.

In the Great Lakes region, the security of the entire population of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is not yet guaranteed. The French have been distressed by the images they have seen there. We must also acknowledge that progress has been made, but we must go farther. That is the purpose of the Great Lakes regional cooperation forum, which I proposed to bring together this year. I hope it will lead to concrete cross-border cooperative projects in order to provide the people with peace dividends.

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs,

The European Union has 500 million citizens. It is the world’s largest economy, with 30 percent of the global GDP. It is the world’s leading industrial power. It is the world’s leading agricultural power. It alone provides more than half of all development aid. Its 27 countries, when they work together, are capable of mounting such operations as Atalanta, which has been a real success.

But two things were missing in order for us to emerge as a top-ranking player on the world stage: We lacked updated institutions. This has now been remedied with the Lisbon Treaty. But we lack a collective will. A fundamental question remains: Do the 27, collectively have the will to transform their Union into a first-class global player? That is the crucial question. And Europe can’t blame anyone else if it doesn’t play that leading role. It has only itself to blame.

But France’s answer to this question is “yes.” France has the will to see Europe play a leading role. In order for that to happen, we must take major initiatives in 2010. First, we must adopt a genuine common economic strategy. If we Europeans want to emerge from the crisis stronger, we must be capable of acting together in a truly coordinated manner, as we did during the financial crisis. I am pleased that President Van Rompuy decided to include this issue on the agenda of the extraordinary meeting of the European Council on February 11. The first decision by the stable President of Europe is an excellent one.

The EU must also better defend its interests. Ladies and Gentlemen, make sure your countries receive this message: We will impose the rule of reciprocity. Resolutely fight dumping of all kinds. And France is demanding that Europe adopt a carbon tax at its borders, as the U.S. Congress is preparing to do. It is the only intelligent way to draw the consequences of the half-agreement reached in Copenhagen. This tax will be imposed on all nations that refuse to take or fail to respect the essential commitments to save the planet from disaster. Finally, Europe must have a genuine energy policy that guarantees its long-term security.

The European Union is right to be a model. But it must be neither naïve nor weak.

Europe has always been a land of immigration. It must remain so, but on the basis of a firm, controlled policy negotiated with the major countries of origin, and fully implementing the pact adopted under the French presidency.

The Europeans must adopt the tools that are necessary to their security and defense. We are doing this within the NATO framework, but we must also do so within the framework of the EU. Security also means the ability to respond to emergencies, such as the Haiti tragedy. That’s why France is urging the creation of a European civil security force using pre-identified national assets that could be deployed very swiftly.

United and determined, Europe can assert itself as a crucial player, and France will contribute to this with all its strength. This year, France will continue its cooperation in every area with the United States, and we hope for President Obama’s success. I will visit the United States this spring. France will continue to develop strong partnerships with the major emerging nations: with Brazil, with which we are establishing absolutely unprecedented cooperation programs; with Egypt, which I mentioned; with India, which I will visit again and which has a major role to play in the global balance; with China, with which there will be an exchange of visits at the highest level in 2010; and with Russia, in the framework of a year of exceptional cultural exchanges. And I want to tell you how easy it is to work with President Medvedev.

At the same time, the EU will assert itself without complexes, both in global negotiations and on the occasion of its summits with our major partners. And don’t come and tell us that this duality is complicated! After two World Wars, Europe engaged in a process of union that is without any historical equivalent. For 50 years, it was the major stake in the tensions between the two great powers. United for 20 years, Europe is progressively asserting itself as a force for balance and as an important player in development and peace.

These, Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs, are the messages that I ask you to convey to your Heads of State and Government as we begin this new year.

You see, faced with difficulties, France intends neither to give up nor to back down. Now more than ever, it is determined to contribute to building a better world. Without arrogance but with conviction. And France wants to build this world with each of the nations you represent. For in a globalized world, every nation, large or small, industrialized or developing, has a contribution to make to our shared edifice. And each nation, in return, must receive the respect, solidarity, consideration, and friendship of all.

Happy New Year, Mesdames et Messieurs les Ambassadeurs./.

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