Skip to main content

Europe/trade/values/borders

Published on February 22, 2011
Association of European Journalists – Preliminary remarks made by Laurent Wauquiez, Minister responsible for European Affairs, at his press conference (excerpts)

Paris, February 15, 2011

(…) I’m quickly going to set out to you my guidelines, my vision of Europe, my efforts to get it moving. (…)

Let me sum things up with a simple idea. We have to make Europe wanted again. It strikes me that we’re at a totally paradoxical moment.
In one respect, our country has never needed Europe more. We’re up against continent-sized countries such as India, China, Brazil and the United States. We’re up against totally global issues such as global warming and financial speculation. Thinking European and framing our debates and our approach at European level is simply a matter of common sense.

At the same time, doubt about Europe in people’s minds, doubt about Europe among the public at large has never been as strong.

For me, resolving this paradox involves going back on the offensive and making Europe wanted again. (…)

One of the tasks I’ve set myself is to spur pro-Europeans back into action. Since 2005, I think that we’ve lowered our flag and that pro-Europeans have never really recovered from the shock of the referendum, which they took badly.

Yet there’s still a duty to educate, a duty to explain things, a duty to make Europe wanted. This is one of the tasks I’ve set myself: re-explain this tangible Europe, re-explain what it brings us, and make Europe wanted again.

I’m going to give three simple illustrations of this.

The first one is a Europe more on the offensive, especially on the economic front. In terms of emerging from the crisis, Europe’s main, sole task is to demonstrate its ability to defend us, create jobs and be a driving force so that the fabric of our various economies is repaired as swiftly as possible. In this respect, we’re convinced Europe must stop being, in a way, naive, especially in its trade policy approach. (…)

A very simple example: we export 4,000 cars to India every year.

Concurrently, India exports to the European Union – which is a totally open market – 200,000 cars. Are we or aren’t we determined to fight to get the principle of reciprocity applied? As regards opening up public contracts, 80% of our public contracts are open [to outside competition]. Only 20% of public contracts in countries such as China and Brazil are open. We compel ourselves to regulate State aid – in the aerospace and shipbuilding industries, for example. Can we continue, at the same time, to allow substantial State aid to be granted in a number of countries – particularly in South Korea, who is a major shipbuilder? (…)

Now I come to a second subject: European roots and values. It’s an issue very close to my heart. I’m not committed to Europe just because of bureaucratic integration. For me, Europe isn’t a set of institutions whose role we need to explain: the Commission, the European Parliament, the Council, the treaties. For me, Europe isn’t even a series or set of public policies – innovation policies or Erasmus, for example.

Europe is something much deeper. Europe refers to the long evolution of our civilization, the culmination of several centuries of history which has enabled Europe gradually to build a model of society and shared values. All this must be taken on board. It must be promoted, discovered and mulled over. It mustn’t be a source of shame. (…)

What makes Europe different from the other continents? Today, when we see the world hit by a whole series of environmental, social and economic imbalances, what gives Europe its strength and unity is that it upholds a development model based on the notion of balance. This point strikes me as being just the message the planet needs about emerging from this crisis. (…)

The third thing I think we’ll return to through your questions is the idea of a Europe that protects. In the European context, the borders – and the latest events have shown it again – are common borders. I believe very strongly that the borders of the different countries, especially those in the Schengen Area, mustn’t be regarded as solely the Italian border or the French border or the Spanish border: they’re European borders. And it’s our duty to defend them at European level, because they can’t be defended and handled by a single country facing migration far beyond the national scale. In this context, Brice Hortefeux and I are campaigning strongly for more headway to be made on the European approach, particularly on our borders. What does this mean? It means strengthening Frontex, it means strengthening all the RABIT [Rapid Border Intervention Teams] operations – which are under way particularly in Greece and have had very major results – and it means better work and greater European coordination between all the border guard operations. (…)

Still in the context of a Europe that protects, all the European countries are feeling the impact of an exponential rise in drug trafficking. In schools today, particularly secondary schools, our children are in danger of being exposed to drug trafficking. In France, eight in 10 lycées are potentially exposed to drug-trafficking-related difficulties. Can France handle this alone? Certainly not. There, too, we need a Europe that protects and enables us to coordinate our actions together. (…)./.

      top of the page