Visit to Germany
Berlin, June 17, 2011
GREEK DEBT/EURO AREA CRISIS
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Madam Chancellor, thank you, chère Angela. I must say France and Germany take the same position when it comes to the events affecting Greece and the Euro Area. The commitment of both France and Germany to defending the euro’s stability is total. The euro is a major step forward for Europe. It’s one of the conditions of our growth. Let me remind you that two-thirds of our foreign trade is with the European countries. So together we, France and Germany, support the euro with all our might.
The second point of agreement is that we, like our German friends, think a new programme for Greece is necessary. We welcome the Greek government’s efforts. We urge them to continue along the path of reforms and privatizations.
Thirdly, both France and Germany want a clear report from the troika [ECB-IMF-EU], because these aren’t just political subjects, they’re extremely technical subjects: the programme’s total value, the programme’s technical practicalities. It’s the troika that must make proposals to us.
Both France and Germany also want this new programme to be put in place swiftly. There’s no time to lose, and the deadline given by the Chancellor is also France’s. We’ll be having meetings throughout next week. The sooner the technical details are agreed upon, the better.
Fourth point: we want this programme to be carried out in full agreement with the ECB, and the Chancellor’s words on this subject are important. Of course, it’s a position shared by France and Germany; this new programme must be carried out in agreement with the ECB. And lastly, we’ve also found a solution to get the private sector involved on a voluntary basis.
The goal of my meeting with the Chancellor was to establish principles: relatively specific principles, but principles all the same. With those principles established, the implementation procedures can be laid down extremely quickly. So I think the meeting was very well prepared by our colleagues and in our telephone conversations, and once again it shows the strength of the Franco-German partnership.
I would add that, at the start of the young soldier [Gilad] Shalit’s sixth year of imprisonment, I, like Chancellor Angela Merkel, call for him to be released as soon as possible.
We can now answer your questions, if you wish.
GREEK DEBT/EURO AREA CRISIS
Q. – You’ve just told us that you’ve found practical ways to get the private sector involved in a new aid programme for Greece; can you give us any more details? Secondly, the markets are very worried about the risk of contagion from Greece to the other peripheral Euro Area countries. Do you really think you can provide concrete details as early as next week, because people have been talking about July and even September, and there’s real concern about this? Thank you very much. (…)
THE PRESIDENT – On this very difficult question about the private sector’s involvement, we set out four principles that strike me as very clear.
The first principle is the voluntary basis. That’s very important.
Second principle: we don’t want any credit events or payment default events.
Third principle: we want agreement on this plan with the ECB.
Fourth principle: we want to go as quickly as possible, without setting a date. But because September isn’t as quickly as possible, because in August we may be doing other things, and because we’re already in the last third of June, you can pretty much see what “as quickly as possible” means.
Q. – In view of what you’ve just said, do you think extending the obligations – the Vienna Initiative, in other words – is compatible with the four criteria you’ve just mentioned?
THE PRESIDENT – The question I’m being asked is: are we in tune with the spirit of Vienna? Is it Vienna or Vienna plus? I’d certainly say we’re following the spirit of Vienna, at least; that description suits us very well. What we must do is take some decisions, some key decisions so we can emerge from this crisis and Greece can rebuild herself. I believe what we’ve just concluded is in the tradition of Vienna. (…)
Q. – A question for M. Sarkozy: you praise the French nuclear industry, but in fact you’ve just replaced its figurehead, Mme Lauvergeon. Is it really all that satisfactory? And are you, as reported in the press, going to veto the appointment of Mr Draghi if Mr Smaghi doesn’t give way to a Frenchman at the ECB? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – I have to say I respect our German friends’ decision on their choice of energy mix. It’s a decision by the Germans for Germany; I don’t see why France should dispute or interfere in it, and, in the same way, our German friends also respect France’s decisions on her own energy mix. (…)
It goes without saying – I’ve always told the Chancellor this – that France is open to foreign observers or experts. With regard to Germany in particular, France’s wish is to pursue nuclear energy with the highest level of safety in the world, and there’s no safety without transparency, particularly transparency towards our neighbours and our German friends, whether it be about Fessenheim or any other power station.
Let me make it clear – the Chancellor put it very well – that I myself asked for international regulation of nuclear safety and for the Commission’s experts to be able to take part now in the process of transparency about safety. So – I’m very happy to say this in Germany
– French nuclear power stations are among the safest in the world, and you’ll have all the information on the safety of our power stations, and your experts will of course be involved so that there can be no doubt on that score.
On the third question, about the nuclear industry, you’re doubtless aware that Areva is made up of 40,000 people. And the credibility of the French nuclear industry can’t be reduced to the actions of one person, whoever it is – just as the credibility of a large newspaper like “Le Monde” isn’t called into question because you’ve decided to change the editor-in-chief. Am I to understand from your question that all journalists’ work is called into question because there’s a change of editor? Doesn’t the same apply to a large nuclear company as to a large newspaper company? I would add that Mme Lauvergeon has completed two mandates, 10 years at the head of a company; it was the end of her mandate. The government took the decision to appoint the company’s number two as head of the company. So there’s continuity. But I won’t say any more because – as I’m abroad and am also seeing Mme Lauvergeon on Monday – it would be rude to talk in public before that meeting with her.
Finally, as regards Mr Draghi, France, like Mrs Merkel, supports his candidacy to succeed M. Trichet. There’s an unwritten rule, but one which everyone knows well: it’s in the ECB’s interest to see the major countries represented on the six-member ECB Executive Board, and France can, perhaps, be regarded as a major country. And perhaps having two Italians on the six-member Executive Board might not be regarded as a very European solution. In my view, it’s common sense to say that. Moreover, Italy has given her word. I’ve no reason to doubt Italy’s word. Even though the career paths of each [candidate] are absolutely fascinating, they’re still less important than the general interest.
Q. – France is committed to military action against the Libyan regime. In Syria, too, the regime is violently attacking its people; why is France more reluctant? (…) As regards Syria, what in your view are the chances of arriving at a solution with Russia at the Security Council? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – Let me remind you that the French army intervened in Côte d’Ivoire, as in Libya, because in each case there was a Security Council resolution. They weren’t one-off decisions; the Security Council asked us to intervene in each case. As far as I know, there isn’t a Security Council resolution on Syria. So I don’t see where you’ve noted any reluctance. France, hand in hand with Germany, is arguing for stepping up the sanctions against the Syrian authorities, who are intolerably and unacceptably cracking down on the people. But there’s no Security Council resolution.
Furthermore, I saw a few weeks ago that France was being criticized for intervening too much. I’m pleased to come to Germany to make myself understood and say that we don’t want to intervene in Syria. We apply Security Council resolutions, and were there a stricter Security Council resolution on the Damascus regime we would quite obviously act accordingly.
And finally, on Libya, I want to say that things are progressing, they’re progressing in the right direction, and that I was very pleased about the German Foreign Minister’s visit to Benghazi, about the recognition of the NTC [by Germany], and that it’s high time for Libyans to be able to freely build a democratic future involving Mr Gaddafi’s departure after 41 years as dictator at the head of his country./.