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Globalization/multipolar world – EU/defence – Afghanistan

Published on January 4, 2011
Hearing of Michèle Alliot-Marie, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, before the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee (excerpts)

Paris, December 15, 2010



THE MINISTER – Let’s start with my analysis of the world today, 15 December, a world shaped for the past 10 or 15 years by this reality we call globalization. It’s a world which no longer has any borders, leading to a number of consequences as regards terrorism and serious crime, for example – through trafficking in particular – but also more globally as regards health, sustainable development and climate change.

On the other hand, since the end of the Cold War, the world has become ever more distinctly multipolar. We’ve gone from a sort of monopoly at the time the Berlin Wall came down – the United States having been tempted, or at any rate had the idea, that it could promote a certain model – to the emergence of a totally different, genuinely multipolar world based on poles of roughly a billion inhabitants.

These demographic poles are also economic poles, because they represent major internal and technology markets: China has around 1.3 billion inhabitants and is expected to remain at about that figure; India is expected to reach 1.6 billion inhabitants in 20 or so years; the major hub centred on Indonesia and Malaysia is seeing an explosion in its population but also its technological capabilities; the hub of Latin and South America still has under a billion inhabitants, but it has extremely significant development potential; Africa will have over a billion inhabitants in the next 20 or so years and is very rich in mineral resources; and last but not least, the North America/Mexico group.

Europe, with its 450 million inhabitants, must wonder how to carry weight in the face of such blocs – what form should it take and with whom? Should it go east? But Russia, without rejecting ties with Europe, is retaining the idea – I’ve talked about this with Vladimir Putin, whose feeling is shared by Dmitri Medvedev – of acting in concert with her former satellite countries. So should Europe look south? It could form a bigger market with the Mediterranean rim countries, carry more weight and thus have the resources for research geared to technology.

So what are France’s role and interaction with Europe, what’s the future of our social model, what means are there to safeguard our economic, agricultural and industrial power? These are the questions we’ve got to ask ourselves in a world which, moreover, is far from calm: the many crises going on – be they open conflicts, as in Afghanistan, the Middle East or Sudan, or other types of crisis, as in Haiti – also reveal many tensions within the blocs.

I’ve been very struck to see the re-emergence, in Africa and the former Soviet Union since the end of the Cold War, of more and more ethnic conflicts, which is hugely revealing about the difficulties of coexistence in certain countries. We can’t ignore them, because they have repercussions – in terms of terrorism, certainly, but also in all other spheres, because of the instability they create. Considering, moreover, the future challenges with regard to water, climate and food security, it’s clear that tomorrow’s world will be no more peaceful than today’s.

Now, France has always had a certain idea of the world, and that’s true of only very few countries. Many are interested in their place in their region; they all know their interests; but only a small number have, like France, a global vision of relations with peoples. It’s that vision which we must – not in our personal interest but in the world’s interest – be capable of putting into practice. (…)


Q. – On the affirmation of France’s character and its projection around the world, the evolution of the Union for the Mediterranean, the Franco-British defence agreement, Christians in the east, the situation in Iraq, Iran, Côte d’Ivoire, Afghanistan, Guinea and Israel, relations with Algeria and the situation of Florence Cassez.

THE MINISTER – It’s really not the case that the Government’s trend is Atlanticist. A good relationship with the United States doesn’t constitute an Atlanticist trend! On the contrary, everything that’s been done shows our commitment to promoting European defence. I’ve been following this subject for a long time. The major problem is how much our partners are ready to put on the table. France and Britain are the two countries of the European Union that spend the most on their defence.

It’s clear, therefore, that we can’t finance European defence on our own. All the countries must really participate in it, and some must also be aware of their responsibilities. As I had occasion to say a few years ago, it’s no good talking about respect for the Maastricht criteria and at the same time forgetting that it’s we – because we’ve made the necessary investments – who go abroad searching for nationals of certain countries that are incapable of doing it themselves: perhaps the real costs should be taken into account.

Having said that, the Franco-German Council of Ministers, the letter addressed to Mrs Ashton on the need to move forward on European defence and the Franco-British summit are all actions which help boost the existence of Defence Europe. So there’s no Atlanticist drift. (…)
Regarding the Franco-British agreement, which isn’t Atlanticist drift but a way of boosting the existence of European defence, what strikes me as important in this agreement is that the British are getting closer to Europe. The research – which is extremely expensive – is essential from a strategic viewpoint. If you depend on someone else’s research, you also depend on them with regard to practice and therefore equipment.

You can’t have a defence industry without cutting-edge research. So it’s important to be able to do things jointly with those who account for the second budget in that area. What’s been done for years with the Saint-Malo treaty shows progress is being made on this. I think this agreement is important – as are the proposals on the Weimar Triangle, which must be reactivated. (…)


We’re not set to remain in Afghanistan for 20 years. The real aim, as in Africa – once the security problems are resolved – is for the Afghan government to be in a position to control its country and prevent it becoming a support base for al-Qaeda. When you go there, you understand why it’s a special place – a border in the mountains!
From here it seems very far away, but Central Asia is key to international relations: next to Afghanistan is Pakistan – who, by the way, has nuclear weapons – as well as China and India. So this is a central place for the world’s equilibrium and it must be a pole of stability. That’s why we’ve been trying for a few years to create the necessary context to achieve the establishment of a government capable of acting on at least the security and if possible the economic level, otherwise the people wouldn’t support it.

As for security, we’ve been training the Afghan forces for years. We and the Americans, mainly, train the Afghan special forces, army officers and soldiers. It’s going rather better today than I saw previously. We also train – it was the Germans who started in this field – the sécurité civile [emergency services including rescue, firefighting and medical services], police and, for two or three years, an Afghan gendarmerie.

However, we must deal at the same time with the country’s development. If we want to fight drugs, which are one of the Taliban’s sources of revenue, we must help that country develop, particularly on the agricultural level. As I had occasion to point out at the time, at the beginning we mostly financed large infrastructures. But what the women in the villages told me – I was the only one who could talk to them – was that they were still obliged to travel five kilometres in the morning and evening to go and fetch water, and that they had no health centre for their daughters! Things have changed now: we’re refocusing on actions which directly affect the people, which help them in their daily lives. By doing that, we’re helping the government.

In the same way, it’s important for Afghan justice to work. The village leaders have often told us that when they’ve wanted to catch a thief, they’ve been obliged to go and find the traditional justice representative for lack of civil courts. In other words, it’s traditional law – the law the Taliban support – which has been applied…

We’re currently dealing with all this. We’re not set to stay very long; we’ve never had the intention of being an army of occupation; but we must only leave the country when the State is capable of replacing us, which will happen gradually./.

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