18th Ambassadors Conference
Elysée Palace - Wednesday, August 25, 2010.
"Mr. Prime Minister,
Mr. President of the Senate,
Mr. President of the National Assembly,
Mr. Minister of Foreign and European Affairs,
There are moments in history when fate wavers between the best and the worst possible outcome. Moments when all that has been achieved can be lost or, conversely, when all that has been achieved can lead to lasting progress. We are today at one of these moments.
This is the case for the international community’s action in the arc of crisis that stretches from the borders of Pakistan to the fringes of the Sahel, encompassing obviously Iran and the Middle East.
It is the case in Europe, where the Treaty of Lisbon and decisions taken to deal with the financial crisis are opening up prospects still to be developed if we are to make the European Union a global player.
It is also the case for the global economy, which has not yet resumed the path of solid and sustainable growth, while the G20 must prove that it has the determination to pursue the necessary, essential reforms.
At the big table where the decisions are taken, new actors have joined the recognized powers. With good reason, these new actors are calling for their rights to be recognized. France supports them, but she tells them that they also have to accept that with these rights come duties and responsibilities. And these new actors have to recognize that their amazing success means that they must go beyond the rigid defence of their national interests and make their contribution to resolving the world’s problems.
At this moment in history when fate hangs in the balance, we need determination and unity in order to tip the scales in the right direction.
If we are divided and hesitant, if the recognized powers and the major emerging countries don’t manage to come to an agreement on the goals to be achieved and means to achieve them, if we aren’t able to act together, collectively to combat the challenges of terrorism, proliferation and climate change, then nothing will be possible and we will have failed in our duty.
So at this moment, France must assert her vision and her determination. She must try to bring together and focus everyone’s efforts on the objectives the G20 should adopt.
The fight against terrorism remains an absolutely major priority for France.
All analyses confirm that since 2001 al-Qaeda’s ability to launch devastating attacks on Western countries has been significantly reduced. On the other hand, al-Qaeda and those who claim to represent it have increased their hold in certain States in an arc stretching from Pakistan to Mali.
Each country is confronted with a specific situation. There is no operational coordination between the groups operating from one end of this arc of crisis to the other. But if the situation were to deteriorate, there would be a huge risk of seeing the emergence of a continuous chain linking the terrorist bases of Quetta and southern Afghanistan with those of Yemen, those of Somalia and those of the Sahel. There is here real concern about an arc of terrorism.
As regards Afghanistan, the fashionable view – heaven knows there are fashions in such things – is one of doom and gloom. Every day, we are told that the Taliban are coming back, as if the die has been cast, and we were going to abandon the Afghan people.
The reality is that despite significant losses, the Taliban remain strong in the south and east. On the other hand, there is no major violence in the rest of the country. The coalition and Afghan government have managed to adapt their strategy and are continuing to do so. We will succeed by resolutely pursuing our action and fully shouldering our different responsibilities.
Our responsibilities and those of our allies consist in defending the Afghans in the regions where the Taliban are posing a threat, training the Afghan security forces so that they can fight by themselves and providing civilian aid to the people tailored to their real needs.
Moreover, this is what France is doing in her area of responsibility, Kapisa and Surobi. The human toll is heavy, and this week sadly grew even heavier. But I ask each of you to imagine what the human cost would be if we weren’t there. Let’s remember what the Taliban did in the past and the thousands, or even tens of thousands of Afghans they continue to kill.
On its part, the Afghan government must improve the country’s governance, as Bernard Kouchner has reminded it, fight corruption and drug trafficking and very probably offer reconciliation to those who renounce violence and cut off all ties with al-Qaeda, respecting the Afghan institutions. Lastly, the Afghan government must take serious action to prepare itself to take responsibility for the security of the provinces and districts considered stable enough to be transferred to Afghan control.
At any rate, our action in support of peace must not be subject to artificial timetables or what I’d call the whims of the media. We know what the whims of the media led to during the 20th century, as anyone with a bit of a passion for history knows perfectly well. We have, in my view, realistic political objectives, and these objectives, this policy is to achieve a gradual and ordered transition between the allies and Afghan authorities. So France will remain engaged in Afghanistan, with her allies, as long as necessary and as long as the Afghan people want.
No victory will be possible without the support of Pakistan.
That country is courageously dealing with the impact of the unprecedented floods. It is facing enormous economic and social challenges. It must defeat terrorism at home, that’s what I said to President Zardari on 2 August, and France will stand alongside Pakistan in this fight against all forms of terrorism. I told the Pakistani President that the less ambiguity there is over the Pakistani forces’ commitment to combating terrorism, the more the international community will be convinced that it makes sense to help its government.
In Yemen, the stability of the entire Arabian Peninsula is at stake. A year ago, when an armed movement was spreading and threatening to spill over into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, several countries, including France, assumed their responsibilities. A fragile truce replaced the violent clashes. But the problem remains. Let’s remain extremely vigilant with respect to the situation in Yemen.
On the other side of the Gulf of Aden, in Somalia, the stakes are absolutely critical: the deadly attacks in Kampala in July showed that Islamist al-Shabab militias now have the capacity to take their battle far beyond their borders. I tell you: their victory in Mogadishu would make Somalia a forward base for al-Qaeda, that would be a disaster. It would complete the destabilizing of an entire region already made vulnerable by the conflicts in Sudan.
France is contributing to regional stability through her military presence in Djibouti, Chad and the DRC. She will step up her effort in Somalia in response to requests from the African Union. After training 500 soldiers in Djibouti, 2,000 Somali troops are currently being trained in Uganda, while the African AMISOM force, for which we have already trained 5,600 men, will be strengthened.
Everyone has to understand that Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan present challenges to the security of every French person. These aren’t far-off events which have nothing to do with us.
Of course, there will be no purely military solution. The European Union, the leading aid donor, must maintain its effort, but we will continue to be present in that part of the world so long as the piracy problem continues.
Lastly, in the Sahel, the barbarity of al-Qaeda’s Maghreb branch was demonstrated once again when it refused all offers of negotiation and murdered Michel Germaneau. These terrorists are trying to expand their hold in the vast desert regions where the States are struggling to assert their presence; in an area the size of Europe, what do you expect them to be able to do on their own?
For the first time, in July, the terrorists were dealt a severe blow thanks to an attack led by Mauritanian forces with France’s support. Let me tell you: that day marks a major turning point. The only strategy can’t be to pay ransoms and agree to releasing prisoners in exchange for hapless innocents taken hostage. That can’t be a strategy. France lends full support to the governments that ask her to train, equip and advise the mobile forces they need in order to destroy the groups threatening to destabilize the whole Sahel.
France also stands alongside Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya: their fight against terrorism is also ours since their security can’t be separated from ours. I remind you that the Straits of Gibraltar are 12 km wide.
At the heart of this arc of crisis of course lies Iran. The regime exerts its control through crackdowns and extensive use of executions, including the most medieval form: stoning, with which Mrs Mohammadi [Ashtiani] is now being threatened. France feels she has responsibility for Mrs Mohammadi. Iran is fuelling violence and extremism in the region and is today the main threat to international security in a key area: proliferation.
I want to be clearly understood: France is in favour of the development, in strict compliance with international standards, of nuclear-power-generated electricity. As I said during the presidential campaign – moreover, it created controversy at the time –, I remain convinced that civilian nuclear power is an energy of the future and that no nation can claim for itself the exclusive right to possess the technology or enjoy the benefits. Iran has the right to civilian nuclear energy and this is why France welcomes the start-up of the Bushehr power plant, whose fuel is and will be exclusively supplied by Russia.
The problem isn’t here, it lies elsewhere.
Nearly a year ago in Pittsburgh, together with Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, we revealed the existence of the secret nuclear facility Iran was building for her proliferation activities. I said at the time that we would need to impose sanctions on Iran if she didn’t change her policy. We are at that point now. The Security Council, United States, European Union and others have taken measures, and even unprecedented measures – cher Bernard Kouchner – for the Europeans. It was high time. Because everyone knows the grave consequences of a policy that would allow Iran to continue her nuclear arms race: it would lead to widespread proliferation in the region, or to military intervention; in any event, it would be an absolutely huge international political crisis.
So we are going to implement these sanctions. I urge all countries to do the same. It’s sometimes said that sanctions don’t work, or even that they lead to war. That’s wrong. Sanctions don’t work when they are too weak or haven’t got a clear objective. Ours is simple – to make Iran understand that her choices come at an increasingly high cost, and that there is an alternative: starting negotiations; but serious, concrete negotiations going to the heart of the matter. Is Iran ready for that? This is the crux of the matter. We will see in Vienna in September, as regards the supply of uranium for the civilian reactor in Tehran.
I hope that a suitable agreement is reached in the coming months, that Iran complies with the law, and that the international concerns are lifted. Those of Iran’s neighbours must be taken into consideration and they will have to be consulted on any agreement.
But if a credible agreement couldn’t be concluded, Iran’s isolation would increase inexorably, and if a threat were to become clear, we would also have to take steps to protect and defend those States feeling threatened.
Some people claim that the violence spanning this arc of crisis has a single cause: the lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That’s wrong. Those who kill in Baghdad, those who murder in Kandahar want to destroy their enemies in Iran and Afghanistan. On the other hand, who doesn’t understand that a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians would transform the political situation on the ground in the whole of the Middle East?
Here too, the outcome is not certain, but all that’s required is commitment and determination. A peace agreement, whose parameters are familiar to everyone, can be signed within a year. The revival of direct negotiations on 2 September is creating enormous expectations. These must not be dashed. A viable, democratic Palestinian State, established on the basis of the 1967 borders, is a right for the Palestinians and, at the same time, the best guarantee for Israel of her security and complete integration in the region in keeping with the Arab Peace Initiative. It’s also the only path, in the interest of both peoples, to reducing extremism and restoring their faith in the future.
France is proposing to host the second Paris Conference in Support of the Palestinian People to finance the completion of the building of the future State’s economy and structures.
And France, together with the Egyptian co-chair, would like the second Union for the Mediterranean Summit to be held in Barcelona at the end of November. This will provide the opportunity to adopt several major economic projects that will demonstrate the capacity of all participating countries together to build a future for all the Mediterranean peoples. We have waited too long! Everyone knows on what condition peace can be signed.
Peace between Syria and Israel is just as possible. France, who has renewed a regular dialogue with Damascus helpful to the entire region, is involved, alongside Turkey, in seeking an agreement. Bernard Kouchner and I have entrusted Ambassador Jean-Claude Cousseran with a mission to this end; he has our full confidence.
At a time when hope is returning to the region, it would be intolerable for Lebanon once again to lapse into violence. France welcomed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Bashar al-Assad’s joint visit to Beirut. She lends her full support to Lebanon’s democratic institutions, to President Suleiman and Prime Minister Hariri. France is the friend of all the Lebanese. This stability is the entire raison d’être of the international community’s efforts in Lebanon. And the whole purpose of the UNIFIL mission is to ensure Lebanon’s peace and sovereignty, which all Lebanon’s neighbours must respect.
In Europe too, fate wavers between the best and the worst possible outcomes. Last winter it was the worst: for commentators and even the markets, the Greek debt crisis had suddenly become a crisis of the euro, whose viability was being called into question.
Allow me, now that the storm has passed, to remind you of a few simple truths.
Firstly, there was considerably less damage to the public finances of the Euro Area than those of the United States or Japan, whether you consider the deficit or debt criteria. Incidentally, it’s extraordinary how commentators change tack. A few weeks ago I was in Canada, at the G20 summit and everyone was highlighting Europe’s economic inadequacy and praising the new-found economic strength of America and Asia. Today, commentators are writing the exact opposite.
Secondly, contrary to what is too often said, the Europeans were able to react effectively when Greece had to be rescued: €110 billion was mobilized, and when it came to rescuing the whole Euro Area, we managed to mobilize €750 billion.
Certainly, it would have been better to take swifter action. But we mustn’t forget that in Europe the decision-making process involves 27 sovereign nations. What history will record is that, as always, Europe overcame its difficulties by choosing solidarity and unity.
What history will record is that these problems provided the EU with the opportunity to make new progress.
What history will record is that once again, despite initial differences in approach, Franco-German understanding allowed this European progress to take place. At the crucial moment, Franco-German understanding was key.
EU INSTITUTIONS/EUROPEAN ECONOMIC GOVERNMENT
What I take away from this ordeal is that we must strengthen the effectiveness of the European institutions. The next step will be the economic government. Government of the 27 to start with and, whenever necessary, that of the 16 members of the Euro Area. But, Ambassadors, just a few months ago, the words “European economic government” were taboo. They couldn’t be used, except in the case of France. Today, all of Europe agrees that a true European economic government is not just necessary but is even essential. We are now going concretely to put it in place. France and Germany have made ambitious proposals which Mr Schäuble and Mme Lagarde presented at the Council of Ministers meeting. As early as October, the European Commission will take the necessary decisions on the basis of proposals by its president, Herman Van Rompuy.
But Europe can’t limit itself to economic issues, however important they may be.
There are all the security and defence issues. We won’t defend Europe with walls of procedures and paper battalions.
To defend against threats to our vital interests, we have nuclear deterrence. But in the face of the new challenges, the Europeans are lagging behind, at a time when they also have to participate in ensuring the security of the seas – essential to our trade –, of space and now cyberspace.
France is prepared to undertake concrete projects. I heard our British allies’ statements on bilateral cooperation with France. We will be discussing this with them without taboos in November at the next Franco-British summit.
I will have the opportunity to go to the NATO summit at the end of November in Lisbon to adopt a new strategic concept. Our structures will have to be reformed, streamlined and adapted to the new international situation. The new threats call for a revamped and closer relationship between NATO and the European Union.
Our shared interests with Russia must lead us to develop, if Moscow so wishes, an unprecedented partnership for the security of the entire European-Atlantic area. I will never stop reiterating that the Cold War is over. Next month, France will make specific proposals to Russia pertaining to her relations with the EU and NATO, and with a view to the OSCE summit to be held in Astana in early December.
With 500 million citizens and an economic clout accounting for nearly 30% of global GDP, more than 35% of the global total of direct investments abroad, and even nearly 60% of all official development assistance, the EU holds the necessary cards to assert itself as a global economic power.
But it must have the will to play these cards shrewdly, as part of a coherent strategy aimed at concrete results and reciprocal benefits.
Europe is the world’s largest market, Europe is the world’s leading importer. We mustn’t have any inhibitions here. But we mustn’t hesitate to exploit this toughly and firmly to open markets until now far too closed! Yes, I criticize a certain European naivety in trade relations.
We mustn’t hesitate to fight to impose compliance with the rules of fair trade! That isn’t protectionism. We mustn’t hesitate to combat fiscal dumping, social dumping and, cher Jean-Louis Borloo, environmental dumping! We can’t go on imposing on our manufacturers and farmers rules which are binding on those producing in Europe, and exempting from these rules those producing outside Europe, since this would mean us continuing to import products manufactured without complying with any social or environmental rules. Saying this isn’t violating freedom of trade, it’s simply asking Europe to be less naive when engaging in its trade negotiations. The European Union must also give itself the means to remain in the vanguard of global competition.
France, it seems to me, will be heeded on this subject that much more if she sets the example by what she’s doing for herself. It’s our ambition – that of the Prime Minister, ministers responsible for the economy, and mine – to reduce the competitiveness gaps with the highest performing countries and improve our growth potential. This is why we’ve removed tax from, freed up overtime, decided not to replace one of every two civil servants [taking their retirement], abolished the taxe professionnelle [local business tax] – a tax which existed only in our country and was hitting business investment. I see politicians on all sides criticizing, rightly, the low level of our companies’ investment, but the taxe professionnelle was hitting the investments. This is why we have adopted the most attractive tax instrument for supporting research of all the OECD countries and granted our universities full autonomy, launched the “big loan” and, of course, we’re going to reform our pension system. Europe demands this, but on her side France will go on cutting her public deficit. It will be 6% in 2011 and 3% in 2013.
From this point of view, the competitiveness issue is essential and I’m perfectly aware that our tax systems must be instruments to fight outsourcing. This is why I genuinely attach great value to the work Christine Lagarde and François Baroin are doing to harmonize German and French tax systems.
Finally, on 12 November, France will assume the G20 presidency for one year, and on 1 January, France will assume the G8 presidency.
These are two very heavy responsibilities. The G20 accounts for 85% of the planet’s wealth and was created on the proposal of France. Until now we have experienced a G20 in times of crisis which, basically, was enthralling but fairly straightforward. We didn’t have a choice, we had to take risks and act.
And the G20 did a huge job which I won’t go over again, especially as the Seoul G20 in November will be the opportunity to take on board the consequences and conclusions of everything we decided.
But now we face another question. We are in a situation of relative calm and I perfectly understand that there is the temptation to limit the G20’s ambitions to implementing the decisions that were taken, supplementing them in 2011 by a few useful measures. I’m not mocking it. It’s very good. Perfect. A “management G20” would succeed a “crisis G20”.
I’d like to say that this isn’t at all how I see things. The G20’s credibility is clearly at issue. Sticking to this “management G20” would condemn the G20 to getting bogged down. And worse, condemn the world to new crises.
Until now, no one around the G20 table has had the idea of saying: “we’re stopping”. Driven by the urgent needs of the moment, everyone said to themselves: “we absolutely must invent new things”. Now the crisis is abating and everyone is a bit out of breath. “We’re going to catch our breath. Let’s manage, calm things down. Basically, let’s return to the usual humdrum routine”.
This isn’t how France sees things. I’d like to say that paradoxically it’s easier to be bold when the world is on the brink of a precipice than when calm has returned. Today, we have the choice: either to complete the projects under way, deal with unforeseen developments as they arise, and limit our ambition to that; or – and this is what France is proposing – to add new projects, the ones that have remained at a standstill for too long, and on which global prosperity and stability depend. France will offer her partners the choice of action and ambition. Only the G20 has the specific weight, legitimacy and decision-making power to give these projects of the future the essential impetus.
Personally, even though we are going to consult our partners, I identify three:
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY SYSTEM REFORM
The first project which must be completed as soon as next year is the reform of the international monetary system.
Who can deny that the instability in currency exchange rates is a fundamental threat to world growth? How can businesses plan their production and exports when the euro suddenly shoots from dollar-euro parity to $1.60, before tumbling back down a few weeks later to $1.27?
Who can go on arguing that we’re going to be able to produce in the Euro Area and sell in the dollar area with such an erratic monetary system?
Post-war prosperity owed a lot to Bretton Woods. Since the early 1970s, I want to say this even if it seems excessive, we have been living in an international monetary non-system. We’re no longer in the Bretton Woods system, we haven’t thought about an international monetary system, there isn’t an international monetary system.
Of course, France isn’t arguing for returning to a fixed exchange-rate system. But France is arguing for the creation of instruments preventing excessive currency volatility, the accumulation of imbalances, and the search for an ever-higher level of foreign exchange reserves for the emerging countries which have been faced with sudden, massive withdrawals of international capital.
I am well aware that this is a sensitive subject and France is going to suggest discussing it with her partners without taboos. For example, I shall propose holding an international seminar bringing together the top international monetary specialists perhaps – why not? – in China. Think about it: Bretton Woods took a year of work. It’s perhaps not unacceptable to think that we can organize an international seminar of the top international monetary specialists in China, a major power, to think about what monetary system could succeed Bretton Woods?
And France will go a bit further by proposing the study of three tracks:
1. Personally, I’m sure that we must strengthen our crisis-management mechanisms. Listen, since 1990, I’ve counted them: the emerging countries have experienced 42 episodes of sudden international capital withdrawals, jeopardizing their stability and growth. 42 times, a country has lost all its reserves, since 1990.
We must rethink these international guarantee mechanisms so we have more efficient, faster multilateral instruments to prevent and handle these crises. The IMF’s instruments are currently under study. The world must be capable of swiftly mobilizing colossal sums to deal with irrational market speculation.
I’d also like us to discuss the international doctrine on capital movements. For years, we lived with the illusion that the opening of capital markets was always progress. Reality has shown us this wasn’t the case. It’s legitimate for countries that are highly dependent on foreign capital to be able to take measures to regulate it in the event of a crisis. The best guarantee against a rise in protectionist risks, in this area as in others, is the development of multilateral rules. It’s rules which protect freedom. It’s the absence of rules which destroys freedom.
Secondly, we must consider the suitability of an international monetary system dominated by a single currency in a world which became multipolar a very long time ago. That makes no sense. It’s a fact: the accumulation of foreign exchange reserves in certain countries corresponds to the United States’ deepening current balance of payments deficit. I’m not criticizing anyone by saying that.
In London, the G20 countries decided on an exceptional allocation of 250 billion in Special Drawing Rights. This international asset is today a subject of growing interest. We are nowhere near establishing the global currency Keynes proposed with the Bancor. But at the end of the day, the availability of an international reserve asset not issued by a single country would, it seems to me, help strengthen the stability of the whole system.
3. Finally, we must find ways to improve the coordination of the economic and monetary policies of the major economic areas. With the G20, we established in Pittsburgh the framework designed to allow each of us to conduct the appropriate economic policies.
But we must go further and define a new framework for consulting, for example, on foreign exchange developments. This forum is currently the G7 group of finance ministers, chère Christine, and central bank governors. But, finally, I’m sorry, but how today can we talk about exchange rates in the world without China? Sorry, that makes no sense at all. We must discuss the best response to this question, which is absolutely inescapable.
There’s nothing sacrilegious about talking about these subjects. Nothing. Discussing them calmly, within the most legitimate, most effective forum – the G20 – is something to be desired. Why wait? In fact, wait for what? Probably the next crisis, but this time the next crisis will have incalculable consequences because the States will no longer have the means to do what they did?
COMMODITY PRICE VOLATILITY
France’s second project for the G20, which is no less ambitious and will of course, as usual, initially arouse sarcasm, but on which I won’t give way, is the control of commodity price volatility. It’s disastrous. You just have to see what’s happening with wheat.
Last spring, producers were appealing to us for help – Bruno Le Maire will correct me if I’m wrong – because prices were collapsing. Less than six months ago, I personally went to Seine-et-Marne to sound out our cereal growers who explained to me, rightly, the situation of virtual bankruptcy they found themselves in. Even today, six months later, there only needs to be a bad harvest in Russia, or a disaster somewhere or other and these same commodity prices rocket. But who can think such a system can work? Work without leading to tragedies. Have we already forgotten the hunger riots in Haiti and Africa when the prices of certain foodstuffs suddenly skyrocketed? I remind you that this was in 2008. And between 2008 and 2010, no one did anything.
And who has forgotten the tragic consequences for the global economy of sudden rises in oil and gas prices, followed by equally sudden and equally inexplicable drops?
So who will dare say the subject is too difficult and it’s better to do nothing? I know who. In France, I have clearly identified those who think it’s better to do nothing. But at the end of the day, we aren’t going to do the same thing in the world. These are after all items for our agenda. France is going to propose to her G20 partners – since, if we’re going to take on the presidency, we may as well do something useful – that we tackle this issue pragmatically and with ambition. I think three subjects could be studied.
First, I want to raise the issue of the actual functioning of commodities derivatives markets. I know that this is something one shouldn’t say, but why regulate only the financial derivatives market? France has succeeded in convincing the whole world of the need to regulate the financial markets. I’d like someone to explain to me why on earth what we’re going to do in the financial sphere we couldn’t do for the derivatives market, which functions just as badly, for commodities.
Extending regulation to commodities is possible and desirable and it’s essential. It isn’t our job to finance speculation. Let no one come and tell me that this is the market economy, no one knows how this market functions, no one knows those operating in it and no one understands how it functions.
Secondly, with regard to agricultural commodities, several avenues could be explored without preconditions: first of all market transparency, that would be useful; stock policies; the creation, by international financial institutions, of tools enabling importing countries to protect themselves against exchange rate volatility.
Finally, energy prices. France has been given a mandate to propose measures for Seoul and the 2011 Summit to curb price volatility. We will propose transparency measures and a substantive dialogue between producers and consumers. When the barrel price fell to around $40, France said: “it’s a serious miscalculation to welcome it”, because, obviously, if you complain about the barrel price when it’s $120, there’s little chance of being heeded.
The third and final project which will be proposed for the French G20 presidency: global governance. I spoke to you about it at length right here a year ago.
The G20 decided it would be the “main global forum” for economic and financial issues. But it must still give itself the means to work more efficiently. Shouldn’t we create a G20 Secretariat to continuously monitor the implementation of the decisions taken and deal with issues in conjunction with all pertinent international organizations? Obviously, there is a G20 presidency which moves to the following president without transition, but who monitors all the extremely important and highly technical decisions we have taken? The aim isn’t to create a new administration, but at the end of the day…
Shouldn’t the G20 also be including new subjects on its agenda, such as development? Shouldn’t we, for instance, be adopting in that forum rules of good conduct and best practices for official development assistance? For example, rather than bleeding right to the last drop of blood countries which have nothing, shouldn’t we take the view that respect of the International Labour Organization’s famous seven standards are a prerequisite for any payment of official assistance? All the same, is this possible? I’m not saying there has to be a single social model, I’m saying that the ILO has standards, I think it’s seven or eight, I can’t exactly remember.
I am also keen for us to be able to debate innovative financing at the G20 and in particular a possible tax on financial transactions which Bernard Kouchner talked about. Without this tax, the developed countries won’t be able to deliver on the development assistance and agreements, cher Jean-Louis Borloo, which we agreed on in Copenhagen. It’s so obvious. With whom and where will we find the money without innovative financing? All the budgets are in deficit. This financing is essential in order to meet the Millennium Goals.
And while we’re at it, shouldn’t the G20 be discussing the financing of a climate agreement? Implementing the Copenhagen agreement is crucial, whether we’re talking about “fast start,” innovative financing or forest protection. And I am planning to discuss this sequence, potentially leading to absolutely decisive progress, with President Zuma.
France will also suggest a broader debate on world governance. The G20 gave a decisive impetus to World Bank reform; it should do the same, in the coming months, for the IMF. Finally, how could it ignore the specialized UN bodies dealing with the economy, jobs and trade?
In this context, not sending a strong signal to the UN General Assembly in favour of an interim reform of the Security Council would be madness. After all, this reform has been under debate for 20 years.
Are we going to spend another 20 years on it? What’s the point of saying to our Israeli friends and our Palestinian friends: “go there”, if we ourselves, at the UN, remain nonplussed in the face of this reform which we all know is essential and on which no one dares show their hand. We need this interim reform. Well, the G20 will have to champion it.
I’ve spoken to you at length about the G20, but to end I’d like to say a word about the G8. Some have said it is condemned. Others predict a rosy future for it. The future will decide, but France believes in the G8’s future. As soon as next spring France will be very carefully preparing this summit. Because the G8 is formed of the great democracies which have a lot in common. This G8 will be preceded by the meeting of the relevant countries’ Interior Ministers which will discuss the destabilization of the Caribbean, West African and Sahel countries by drug traffickers.
The summit’s other major theme will be the partnership with Africa. I am more convinced than ever that success for Africa presents an opportunity for Europe, and failure for Africa would be a tragedy for Europe, that Europe and Africa’s destinies are absolutely linked and that we have no choice other than to work with each other. And, moreover, in Copenhagen, with Jean-Louis Borloo, we tried to ensure that Europe and Africa walk hand in hand. Africa has considerable potential. Africa has space. Africa has resources; Africa has young people and it’s wholly in Europe’s interest to talk to Africa with one voice, giving Africa the necessary influence in global governance and the necessary finance to develop. We haven’t got a choice. The Straits of Gibraltar are only 12 km wide and so we have no choice in the matter.
So ladies and gentlemen, you see the spirit which motivates me on the eve of this dual presidency. It’s one of high proactivity, great determination, together with the will to act collectively because, of course, at the G20 table, everyone must move forward, which makes the G20 presidency extraordinarily complicated compared with the European presidency which France has experienced. It’s even a lot more complicated because interests are contradictory, and yet, who can think that it isn’t in the interest of Indian and Chinese farmers as in that of French farmers to have a predictable commodities market? Who can think that a great country like China isn’t equal to its monetary responsibilities? And so, consequently, we have an opportunity to make the coming year a constructive year for international stability and world security. France will play her full part in it.
Ambassadors, I am counting on you, your minister, your ministers, to convey this message and on France continuing to come up with new ideas, since, fundamentally, France is true to her past when she champions new concepts and, basically, perhaps what the world has most need of in the 21st century is new ideas, new projects, new ambitions, for us to emerge from the humdrum routine which was certainly useful during the 20th century, dominated by two global conflicts, but we are in the 21st century and France is, it seems to me, ideally placed. She isn’t a superpower, she isn’t a minor power, but, at the heart of Europe, France is ideally placed to champion her new ideas.
So you see, it will be a great year, at any rate, an enthralling and action-packed year. I know that doesn’t frighten our diplomatic corps.