Lisbon Treaty institutions – EEAS – Roma – European defense/Franco-British summit – EU budget – European defense
LISBON TREATY INSTITUTIONS
Q. – (on establishing the Lisbon Treaty institutions)
THE MINISTER – The Lisbon Treaty establishes a stable Council president, with a High Representative for Foreign Affairs who chairs the Foreign Affairs Council. All the other ministerial councils are chaired by the Belgian presidency.
I believe the forthcoming Hungarian presidency’s ambition is to prioritize the Roma issue, which is good news as that country has experience in this area.
In the face of this stable Council, the Commission retains a very important role as defender of the general interest and initiator of legislative texts, and today the European Parliament has substantial powers.
I say this very solemnly: Europe must move forward with the people and not bypass them. We’ve got to try and make the institutions work in everyone’s common interest. In many spheres our nation-States have carried out transfers of sovereignty which give the EU the remit to act on behalf of the 27: as regards international trade, for example, we mandate the Commission, which negotiates on our behalf. In other spheres – such as defence –, there’s no transfer of sovereignty but cooperation projects between EU Member States, which are still to a large extent intergovernmental. Between the two, we’re together carrying out a range of measures in everyone’s interest. This is how we can best defend our social model and our countries’ interests in the face of globalization.
Q. – (on the establishment of the European diplomatic service)
THE MINISTER – I now come to the European External Action Service (EEAS). Under President Sarkozy’s leadership, Bernard Kouchner and I have done our utmost to ensure France plays her full part in this common diplomatic service we’re building. The idea is to increase the consistency of all the EU’s external policies, including in the economic, energy, monetary and development-assistance spheres, so that this Europe of 500 million inhabitants becomes both a player on the world stage and a force multiplier for every Member State. (…)
As we had wished, the EEAS isn’t attached to the Commission or Council but is a new service headed by the High Representative which is expected to bolster the EU, since it will have a Council mandate to carry out a number of actions on the world stage. Member States’ rights will be respected; in particular the EEAS will include staff from national diplomatic services, with these making up at least a third both of the total EEAS staff in Brussels and the EU delegations. This is very important if we want to instil a common diplomatic culture in countries with great diplomatic traditions, countries with more modest ones and staff who have come from the Commission. The Common Security and Defence Policy structures, whilst being integrated into the European External Action Service, are seeing their autonomy maintained. In fine, the organizational set-up should ensure the new structure operates efficiently, headed by a strong Secretary-General and assisted by two deputies. (…)
For France, there’s no question of the EEAS becoming a 28th diplomatic service. The diplomatic service will give greater weight to Europe’s action, in cooperation with the States. Baroness Ashton receives mandates from the States. The European Parliament, will, admittedly, try to put its stamp on this EU foreign policy, but – I stress this – there won’t be a 28th EU foreign policy.
In this sphere, as in the case of the Roma which I’m going to talk about in a moment, we simply want the application of the Treaty, the whole Treaty and nothing but the Treaty.
Even though it was dominated by the Roma issue, which got huge media coverage, the last European Council marked a genuine step forward. For the first time, it discussed the EU’s external relations with the major emerging countries, with, in particular, a long session devoted to relations with China. This is in fact the result of the stable presidency. France got – not without difficulty – the inclusion of the concept of reciprocity, particularly pertinent when it comes to access to public procurement, in the European Council conclusions.
Q. – (on the situation of the Roma)
THE MINISTER – I now come to the Roma issue, which was a concern for me well before I was appointed to the government. Indeed, as an elected deputy in Paris, I had to deal with it, daily, in my own constituency: after 1 January 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, I saw camps actually on the streets in the capital. Since my appointment, I have in the past year been three times to Romania and once to Bulgaria. I can assure you that President Sarkozy is aware of the scale of the problem facing us. With the enlargements, Europe has discovered the existence of 10 to 12 million ethnic Roma, nationals of several States, who have one thing in common: they live in dreadful conditions of discrimination and under-development, without access to schools, healthcare or housing. Of these 10 to 12 million people, around 9 million are European Union citizens – there’s no real certainty about these Commission and NGO figures, since many EU countries don’t identify these people in this way.
One can approach this human tragedy – which hasn’t been dealt with since the fall of the Berlin Wall! – in two different ways. Either you revel in a legal-ideological debate on article 3 of the Treaty and freedom of movement in Europe – but that won’t change anything in the lives of the children on the streets, compelled to beg, pickpocket or engage in prostitution – or, and this is the case for us, you take the view that the long-term solution is to deal with the problem at the root, in the countries of origin, by asking ourselves how the EU’s resources can help these countries integrate these people who, sometimes, as in Romania, account for 10% of the population. This is the nub of the problem, given that article 2 of the Treaty grants all EU citizens – regardless of whether or not they belong to a minority – the same fundamental rights.
The first European summit on the Roma was organized during the French European Council presidency. In April this year, I was the only European affairs minister to go to the second summit on the Roma in Córdoba, attended by the Roma NGOs, but not the governments, and where Mr Soros preached to Europe, explaining that in his private capacity he was giving the Roma more money than the whole of the European Union put together! So we need to mobilize Member States so that the obligations with respect to these people are fulfilled! And I want us to stop stigmatizing people, quarrelling and cursing and set to work all together.
In this respect, the government is taking formal note of the decisions the Commission announced today on the situation of the Roma, and the issue of freedom of movement and its application in France, particularly this summer. (…)
EUROPEAN DEFENCE/FRANCO-BRITISH SUMMIT
Q. – (on projects to pool the development and manufacture of defence equipment and materiel in the European Union)
THE MINISTER – Not one major joint defence equipment programme exists today in Europe – except those launched a very long time ago, with the most recent being the A400M. Because of the financial crisis, Europe is allocating on average less than 1% of its GDP to defence, which I find very worrying, in the light of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. I think historians will judge us very harshly since it’s as if we, Europeans, didn’t want to face up to reality: the words “nuclear deterrence” can no longer be uttered, unless it’s in the United Kingdom or France; we don’t want to look at the problem of anti-missile defence; and we refuse to take an interest in military space.
We are counting a great deal on the work done this summer with the new British government so that the November summit can provide the opportunity to move forward in the efficient pooling of defence capabilities, but I’m very concerned to see the tendency of Europeans to take the view that it’s enough to be a civilian power, using “soft power”. In the Middle East, until the initiative President Sarkozy has just taken with Mahmoud Abbas, Europe contented itself with paying over a billion a year to the Palestinian State – which, what’s more, still doesn’t exist – while not being present, any more in fact than the Russians, at the resumption of the dialogue [between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas]. As we can see, this “soft power” doesn’t constitute a common foreign policy!
All in all, every year, the French “pay” Europe €5 billion – 7 billion in 2013! This net balance between what France receives from the European budget and what she pays is, in a way, our right to membership of what I call the “the European express gold/platinum credit card”… It’s money we take from French taxpayers and give most often to the other end of Europe, specifically to build cohesion. So we want this money to be actually spent, and this isn’t the case today since, over seven years, out of the European Social Fund payments to Romania only €38 million has gone to help the 2.5 million Roma in Romania. So I welcome the fact that the Commission has today decided to do something about this. It’s high time since it’s extremely worrying that internal population movements are being caused by the existence of different types of social welfare systems: we shouldn’t allow internal immigration due to this to add to what for our countries is worrying immigration from outside the EU.
Q. – (on European defence)
THE MINISTER – (…). You ask me whether we’re making headway on European defence as regards permanent structured cooperation. To a large extent this will hinge on this November’s summit between France and the United Kingdom. However, there are areas where it’s working: with Atalanta, we’re seeing that the EU is capable of conducting together – and better than NATO – a serious military operation. What’s necessary is a minimum amount of capabilities and determination, while being aware that it isn’t possible for all 27 States to be interested in an operation in the Horn of Africa or in Antarctica and so we need a fairly flexible system.
We also need to survive a year of budgetary constraint, safeguarding our core defence capability (…). I think it’s possible and that we will continue to have forces allowing Europe to carry weight in times of crisis. I won’t bury this issue: we need to get this through to a number of Member States in which, I regret, defence issues are quite simply no longer on the current agenda. Personally, I’d like a forthcoming European Council to be exclusively devoted to Europe’s security and, at least, for us to ask ourselves if today it’s guaranteed. (…)./.