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10th anniversary of the Foreign Press Centre

10th anniversary of the Foreign Press Centre

Published on February 10, 2011
Speech by Michèle Alliot-Marie, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, February 9, 2011

This centre has been hosting foreign journalists in our country for 10 years now.

A friendly place, it provides foreign journalists with somewhere to meet and work.

A place of interaction and dialogue, it helps keep them informed and contributes to dialogue and mutual understanding between each of our countries.

Employees from the Quai d’Orsay (1), Bercy (2) and contract staff work closely together there, under your authority, Director.

Everyone is helping make Paris a benchmark for the international press.
Ladies and gentlemen journalists, You’re in a tough profession, essential for our democracy, which carries serious risks.

Too many journalists are harassed because they symbolize human rights in the eyes of those who repudiate them. I don’t accept this.
When I learned last week that some of your colleagues had been jailed in Cairo, I telephoned my Egyptian counterpart to get them released immediately. I was listened to.

And who for a moment could forget Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, journalists who have been held hostage in Afghanistan for 407 days?

As is the case with all French hostages in Afghanistan, the Sahel, Somalia and Gaza, French diplomacy is making the utmost efforts.
Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to work in an atmosphere of mutual trust with journalists from the French and international press.

Be it analysing the challenges of a rapidly changing world or adapting the foreign policy tool to the realities of our time, the free press contributes to informing French diplomacy.

I. Analysing the challenges of an increasingly complex world is the first task of diplomacy.

The Tunisian crisis showed us the difficulty of this.

No one – be it French and American diplomats, journalists, commentators or researchers – was able to foresee how quickly M. Ben Ali would leave.

We have to be able to learn lessons from this.

We have to carry out closer analysis to anticipate crises and their repercussions more effectively.

A) Each situation requires precise analysis, tailored to the specific country concerned.

By way of example, let me come back to what’s happening in Egypt.
Egypt’s situation isn’t the same as Tunisia’s.

With nearly 85 million inhabitants, Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world.

She plays an essential role in international stability, particularly in the framework of the Middle East peace process.

The presence of a long-established, organized Islamist movement is part of Egypt’s political reality.

The process of political transition, urged by France, is under way. We welcome this.

Nonetheless, we must remain vigilant. The unrest continues daily. A new demonstration is planned for Friday.

B) In-depth analysis must allow us to act at the right time, the right level and in the right place.

- I sometimes hear it said that French diplomacy may have been too cautious.

Let’s be clear about things: it’s up to the Egyptian people, and them alone, to decide their future.

Non-interference is a principle of France’s foreign policy. This in no way rules out a constant appeal for ever more democracy and freedom everywhere in the world.

Promoting democracy doesn’t mean imposing leaders, political choices or diplomatic interests. It’s for the people themselves to make their choices. We talk to the interlocutors they select for us.

- But our responsibility is to anticipate crises and their repercussions on international stability.

That’s why I’ve decided to strengthen the Foreign Ministry’s forward planning directorate and provide it with a more diverse information capability and an analytical structure bringing together researchers and academics.

Moreover, France is more involved in the search for solutions to overcome crises or support States.

- I’m thinking about the Middle East peace process.

Today, a window exists to relaunch the peace process. We must seize this opportunity before it’s too late.

In recent days I’ve been able to discuss it with Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu, Salam Fayyad and Ban Ki-moon.

- I’m thinking about developments in the countries of the Arab world.
I discussed them with my Tunisian counterpart, Ahmed Ounaies, last Friday.

The Union for the Mediterranean’s ambition is to strengthen solidarity between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

Its goals are more relevant than ever, although I’m not unaware of the difficulties.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At a time when globalization is making the challenges of foreign policy more complex, France wants to make her voice, message and values heard.

II. My ambition is to provide our country with cutting-edge foreign policy, in tune with the realities and needs of the contemporary world.

Current events have shown how necessary it is to modernize the foreign policy tool.

A) Modern foreign policy must be more capable of anticipating developments in a country, a region, a geographic area.

I’ve decided to strengthen the Foreign and European Affairs Ministry’s forecasting capability, in order to foster:

- a 15- to 20-year approach to all the challenges posed by France’s presence in the world

- forward planning, in coordination with the action and operational needs of our foreign policy.

I’ve mentioned a few of the practicalities of this.

B) A modernized foreign policy is also a foreign policy more open to players in the social sphere.

Permanent, structured dialogue must be established between diplomats and players in the social sphere.

I want to launch a permanent training course open not only to diplomats but also to business leaders, members of other administrations, local authorities and also journalists.

I think you – like us – have an interest in more and better dialogue on the world’s challenges and prospects beyond the immediate present.
C) A modernized foreign policy must be able to work with all the players who help make our country’s presence felt.

- That’s true of French people abroad.

The election of deputies for French people abroad will strengthen their role in the national community.

- It’s true of businesses.

I want the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs to be able to help them in their development, particularly SMEs.

I intend to ensure SMEs have interlocutors in the Ministry available to listen to them, both at our headquarters and in our diplomatic posts.
It’s true of the Francophone world.

I want to put Francophony at the heart of our foreign policy.

Beyond linguistic issues, Francophony has a political function, serving dialogue between countries of the North and South. It can greatly increase our economic and political role in the international forums.

Knowledge of countries and players, an open-minded attitude, the role of Francophony: on all these subjects, the existence of a free, independent press is an essential tool. (…)./.

(1) French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.
_ (2) French Ministry for the Economy, Finance and Industry.

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