THE PRESIDENT – Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I’m very happy to be having a meeting in Paris with the new British Prime Minister, whom I’d already had the opportunity of meeting for the first time five years ago, and on several occasions since. I look forward to seeing him again in London for the 70th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s Appeal of 18 June; we’ll be having a working lunch.
We’ve had an extremely fruitful discussion. You know how committed France is to this partnership and strategic alliance with the United Kingdom. We have many things to do together bilaterally, but also within Europe. I told David Cameron how happy I’d be to work hand in hand with him both in Europe and also in the framework of our G8 and G20 activities.
We share exactly the same analysis of the situation on the major issues of Afghanistan and Iran – where we see completely eye-to-eye –, the same ambition on climate change and the follow-up to the Copenhagen conference and the same determination to provide 21st century solutions to our century’s problems and ensure that the G20 remains an operational structure to which participants will bring new ideas to build a new international monetary order. We are resolved to bring our two countries closer together, talk without taboos about defence, where we have a lot of things to do together, and regulation, including our shared determination to tax the banks, as we had pledged.
I also said to the British Prime Minister that we had to understand where the red lines were; for the British in particular on [financial] services – we’re going to work together. We’re even ready to put joint papers on the table in order to think about the ways and means of boosting European growth.
In short, this was his first visit, but it’s very promising, at any rate, as regards our desire to work together and the confidence with which we’ll be doing so.
I also told David Cameron how honoured France was that the new British Prime Minister chose France for his first visit. It’s symbolic, but we greatly appreciated it. We’re genuinely convinced that we’re going to work hand in hand, that this is only the beginning, and there’s really a huge amount to do!
Q. – [in English] If I could ask you about things that I am told that you have said in the past. You said that you loved Gordon Brown, the last British Prime Minister. How do you feel about the new one? And it is also said that you told your MPs that David Cameron, like all the rest, will start a Euro-sceptic, he will end up a Euro-enthusiast. Do you still think that tonight?
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you for being blunt, so surprising when it comes to British journalists! Firstly, I want to tell you something: my idea of the relationship between the United Kingdom and France is one I had well before I was President of the Republic, well before I knew David, well before I knew Gordon Brown, well before I knew Tony Blair.
You British journalists are very meticulous, and you know perfectly well that I’ve always developed the idea that the Entente Cordiale was a bit limited and that we had to do something more, something bringing us closer together, and which goes well beyond me personally or whoever’s in 10 Downing Street. First comment.
Second comment: I’m not the one who appoints the British Prime Minister. And I will work wholeheartedly with the Prime Minister the British have chosen. In the same way, David Cameron’s duty is to work with the French President the French choose.
I’m going to make a third comment: when someone is beaten, you don’t turn your back on him. In my political life, a long one, I’ve had some successes and a number of failures. You see, I’ve always remembered those who, in defeat, were always there for me. And I am convinced that David, as I know him, also has this sort of humanity. So I have a thought for Gordon and Sarah Brown. They’ve left, but I too, I know that one day I’ll leave. David knows perfectly well that one day, he’ll leave too.
I’d like to tell you one final thing: I’ve known David Cameron for a long time, because whenever I’ve been to the United Kingdom, I’ve always thought it important to see and talk to him, including right in the middle of an electoral period. I’m not sure that all the European leaders who went to London did likewise. When I did this, I had told Gordon Brown, who told me that it was absolutely normal to do so.
I think I know David Cameron a bit: he’s someone I like because he wants to change things. Now, after the internal political debate in Britain – listen, I’ve got quite enough work with the French political debate! So, when I say we’re working well together…
On Europe, I wouldn’t be so bold as to make a judgement like that on David, or on anyone else in fact. What I’ve said is that I myself, in my political life, I was less European at the beginning of my political life and I’ve become more European. Why? Because I’ve understood one thing: if you want to change things, you can’t do it on your own, you have to create solidarities. I’ve said this for me and if it’s valid for me, it’s valid for everyone else. We need Britons in Europe. It’s absolutely strategic. I am sure that a man like David Cameron, who has ambition for his country understands this too.
Thank you for asking me this question, because had you not done so, it’s not certain that I myself would have put it on the table.
EUROPEAN STABILIZATION MECHANISM/FRANCE/GERMANY/SHORT-SELLING BAN/ FRANCE/UK/FINANCIAL SERVICES
Q. – There still seem to be some problems in putting the European stabilization mechanism in place. And secondly a lot of people regret Germany’s unilateral ban on short-selling on European debt. What did you and Mrs Merkel say to each other this afternoon on these two issues and perhaps on others?
THE PRESIDENT – I said the same thing as David Cameron and I said over dinner: there’s been a lot of nervousness for a while now. And we heads of government and heads of State have to address this nervousness calmly, with the will to agree and cooperate. Because at stake here are the savings of the Europeans, British, French and Germans, Europeans’ jobs. We aren’t speculators playing on the market. We are responsible for the futures of several tens of millions of inhabitants. So just as we want to work hand in hand with David Cameron, I said to Angela Merkel – but she’s absolutely convinced of this – that there can’t be disagreements between Germany and France on such important matters. Similarly, Britain isn’t in the euro but in the EU 27, if Europe’s three largest countries – Britain, Germany and France – become divided, that won’t lead to anything good.
So on my relations with Angela Merkel, we’re doing the utmost to ensure they are harmonious, that they are enhanced, complement each other, and show a common will. There’s no disagreement between us.
Indeed this is why we discuss things. In the same way that I said to David Cameron: “if one day there’s a red line…” He told me that financial services in particular were crucial for him; so our teams are going to work to see how we can move forward with regulation and at the same time understand that our British friends, who have invested a lot in the financial services, wish to be able to go on investing in financial services, which is totally normal. We’re working virtually daily with Angela Merkel. And that’s what Europe needs.
Q. – [In English] It isn’t personal because you weren’t involved in the decision, but don’t these events inside the Euro Area prove that Britain was right to stay out of the Euro Area and should go on staying outside it? I’d like you both to answer me on this.
THE PRESIDENT – Listen, I was Budget Minister during the ’93-’94 monetary crisis. At the time, as you will certainly remember, there was a monetary snake allowing currencies to fluctuate within a 15% band.
Every country was carrying out competitive devaluations, it was an absolutely unprecedented shambles which cost millions of jobs. I remember the devaluation of the lira, the devaluation of the Swedish krona. I am among those who think that we are stronger united than isolated. It’s a political choice which made me support the euro from its creation.
I’d like to say a second thing to my British friends. The euro is a success since in a short time it’s become the world’s second currency. So let’s not reduce the euro’s achievements to the past few days. Do you want me to talk about the dollar crises of the past ten years? Have they prevented the dollar from being the world’s leading currency? Let’s all be a bit objective and a bit calmer in the face of these events.
Finally, I will fight for us to go further – David is right – in the Euro Area’s economic government, its harmonization; I’ve been fighting for this for very many years. There’s a positive side to the crisis in that it’s speeding up acceptance of ideas which, at the outset, seemed over-ambitious. When you see the problems, it’s plain that this is what’s needed. When you think that the Euro Area heads of State and government hadn’t ever had a meeting before last year’s Elysée summit when there was the crisis. Now this year, we’ve already had three Eurogroup meetings. Things are making headway. Keep your euros if you’ve got any! Britain will decide what she has to decide; I’m sure the decision will be a good one.
Q. – President Sarkozy, I wanted to ask you if you were in favour of the sanctions Mrs Merkel was envisaging for countries which don’t stick to the budgetary rules?
THE PRESIDENT – I agree with the Chancellor – we talked about it this afternoon – on the principle of new sanctions. Because a financial penalty, what’s the result when a country which has an excessive deficit is given a financial penalty? It has a larger deficit. So we have to devise more effective penalties. The Chancellor has made some proposals, personally I have proposed a suspension of voting rights.
So there’s total agreement between the Chancellor and me on the principle, on the principle of thinking about new sanctions.
And on the pact, it has to evolve. Perhaps more criteria, more transparency for greater efficiency. It’s what, between now and June, we’re going to work on in the Euro Area framework. And on the economic strategy with David Cameron in the European Union framework.
Thank you everyone, we had said two questions. We’ve had them, haven’t we?