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Launch of the frigate “Aquitaine”

Launch of the frigate “Aquitaine”

Published on May 1, 2010
Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic (excerpts)

Lorient, May 4, 2010

For me, it’s very symbolic and very important to be here in Lorient at the headquarters of DCNS [French shipbuilding company] for the launch of this European Multi-Mission Frigate (FREMM), “Aquitaine”.

I’d like to deliver the following messages to you:

I’ve always believed in France’s industrial vocation. There are no great countries in the world which aren’t sustained by industrial ambition.

Countries which have abandoned their manufacturing are countries which have gone back down to the second division. A great country must have a strong manufacturing sector. This doesn’t mean we don’t want research laboratories. It doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in the service industries. It means that if we give up manufacturing, we’ll be giving up all the rest.

I will never accept France’s de-industrialization. France has an industrial tradition, a powerful industry. France knows how to build cars, trains and planes.

France must retain a strong civilian and military shipbuilding industry.

This is the heart of the economic strategy I want to see adopted for France and it explains all the decisions the government has taken.

Abolition of the taxe professionnelle (1), a tax which existed only in France and nowhere else, means that French industries can be competitive. Saying that one is in favour of industry and then taxing industry is doing the opposite of what should be done. With the crédit impôt recherche [R&D tax credit], we have the world’s most beneficial tax system for encouraging research. Without research, there’s no future for our industry. I want now to come to the shipbuilding industry itself and talk about DCNS.

In 2003 DCNS changed its legal status (2) and its workforce may legitimately have been worried, as one is before every change. Thanks to the adaptability of the DCNS women and men the change of status has been a success.

I have come today to a company which has a full order book for four years, and which, thanks to the FREMM programme the Defence Minister and I have decided on, has the prospect of ten years’ work ahead of it.

The women and men of DCNS must know that our aim isn’t to stabilize employment at DCNS, it’s to expand it. The State will remain a DCNS shareholder, not a sleeping shareholder, but one who invests and makes clear choices. When you say, M. Boissier [DCNS CEO], that your goal is to double DCNS’ turnover in ten years, this is the goal which your shareholder, the State, is setting you.

DCNS will have the resources for its development, but it mustn’t work solely in the military sphere. Of course there’s the military work – Scorpène [attack submarine], FREMM programme, Barracuda [nuclear attack submarine class] and all the prospects opening up before us.

But we, the State shareholders, will support the diversification of DCNS’ activities. I’m thinking of nuclear technology whether or not for submarines, and renewable energies with floating offshore wind farms, these are intelligent projects, ones which, thanks to your teams’ skills, you can envisage.

The dismantling programmes, especially submarine ones, are important to us; so please remember that your shareholder will give you the requisite resources and is encouraging you to develop them.

Let me add that we aren’t a financial partner, we are an industrial partner. The State isn’t a hedge fund. Of course we are keen for DCNS to make profits. What’s important to us is for you to be competitive so that it’s easier, for both ministers and me, to sell abroad the products manufactured here.

I pay tribute to the Moroccan authorities (3). I am well aware of the priority you attach to selling a FREMM to Saudi Arabia. This will be at the heart of my talks with the King of Saudi Arabia. I know how many visits and hours of discussions we needed for the submarine programme with Brazil. I know your expectations vis-à-vis our Greek friends whom we are so strongly supporting. I know how important the [corvette] programme with Bulgaria is to you.

I am proud to be part of the DCNS sales department. (…)

Finally, I would like everyone to understand that what we have seen is the finest reward for the DCNS workers, managers and engineers. They can be proud of their work and thus of demonstrating that in France we can remain a land of production and be competitive, that manufacturing isn’t finished, can’t be written off, and that the workers who, for decades, worked before you to create this industrial skill potential didn’t work for nothing. Yes, DCNS must take on apprentices, attract young people, because if we don’t pass all this know-how on to the young, it will be lost. (…)

I had a prepared speech, it was certainly excellent, but I preferred to speak to you from the heart, because what is at stake here – I believe this deep down – is France’s future, the credibility of French power, the future of shipbuilding and the future of employment areas here in the heart of Brittany, in Lorient. (…)./.

(1) a local business tax based on capital and turnover.
(2) from government administration to that of a stand-alone company.
(3) Moroccan and DCNS have just finalized a contract for a FREMM.

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