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Schengen Area /EU budget /French Europe ministers

Published on July 7, 2011
Interview given by Jean Leonetti, Minister responsible for European Affairs, to “Agence France Presse”

Strasbourg, July 4, 2011


Q. – Poland, who took over the reins of the European Union on Friday, has criticized the egoism of certain states, accused of seeking to defend their interests rather than the common interest. Implicitly targeting France, she referred among other things to the introduction of restrictions to Schengen Area rules. What’s your answer to this?

THE MINISTER – I don’t think the Polish presidency was targeting any particular country. We’ve obviously got to fight egoism. But with the graduated response which is being proposed today, consisting firstly in providing immediate aid to the countries exposed to migratory pressure and, secondly, activating the safeguard clause in the case of a country’s failure [to comply with its obligations under the Schengen rules], we aren’t defending national interests but Europe’s interests.


Q. – On Wednesday the European Commission proposed an overall increase of 5% in the European Union budget for 2014-2020. What do you think about this?

THE MINISTER – We have to find stability, as every state does. We can think about spending and revenue. On the latter, France isn’t opposed to an international financial transactions tax. But rather than spending more, she wants us to think about spending better. We could consider reviewing European Union aid to those regions which have met the convergence objectives. We want a thorough assessment of a number of budgetary positions before any large increase in the states’ contribution is envisaged.


Q. – You’re the fifth European affairs minister to be appointed in four years: isn’t France sending a bad signal to her European partners by changing ministers so often?

THE MINISTER – Europe is at the heart of President Sarkozy and the government’s concerns. This was the case when, on taking up the [EU] presidency, he negotiated a simplified treaty which allowed Europe to get moving again at a time when it was going through a bad patch. The French presidency showed, in a tough period, the extent to which it was determined, proactive and capable of uniting Europe in order to address the crisis. And still today, in the face of the sovereign debt crisis some countries are suffering, the government is taking resolute action. Yes, there have been several people in succession, but there’s always been a strong political will./.

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