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Nineteenth Ambassadors’ Conference

Published on September 13, 2011
“Europe beyond the euro crisis” – Speech by Jean Leonetti, Minister responsible for European Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, September 2, 2011

(…) Europe will overcome this crisis and emerge, as always, stronger. I really feel that the depth and acute nature of the crisis will make us progress even further and faster towards integration. (…)

Europe is firstly a land of economic stability. For this it has to leave behind a certain naivety, gullibility, and become realistic. People seemed to believe that the euro was the magic formula which was going to allow our economies to be integrated and generate growth for everyone. Yet we had to face the fact that the inequalities remained. Because we’d forgotten that solidarity demands discipline.

We’ve now learned the lesson. An example is the Greek aid plan which combines the requisite austerity from the state being supported and solidarity from the whole of Europe. The same approach prevails throughout the discussion on the structural funds. With France and Germany’s initiative, the bulk of these funds must be used for growth, employment and development. (…)

Discipline and growth also feature in the Single Market Act. Discipline and growth must also be at the heart of the Financial Perspectives; France – supported by many states – has a strong position on this. It is better to “spend better” than “spend more”. So, as France has done, we’ve got to think about how to combine an austerity plan to get [public finances] back to balance, and spending which tomorrow will generate European growth.

As regards energy, there also has to be a balance between showing due regard for national sovereignty and thinking in depth about the necessary independence of our supplies. (…)

As for the European carbon border tax, it is becoming apparent that this too is a pressing, long-term need. (…)

Europe is also a land of political stability. Paradoxically, at a time when we need Europe most, a Euroscepticism, even populism, capable of destroying both the idea of a European people and the general idea of Europe is emerging in those countries that have traditionally been the most pro-European. So we must popularize Europe in order to prevent populism. This sometimes too abstract Europe must become a concrete Europe that people understand. In the Bible, the words “know” and “love” are a single, identical word. Perhaps if we understood Europe better and got our fellow citizens to know it better, they’d quite simply grow to love it.

Finally, let’s remember that political stability relies on defining simple things: namely, space and identity. There’s no concept of Europe without identity. There’s no concept of Europe without borders. So European integration clearly raises the issue of those borders.

I believe too strongly in Europe and its identity – and I’m sure you do too – to agree to its being diluted in an infinite space or reduced to an economic and financial organization. In defining our borders, we must obviously be truthful and strike a balance between our twofold duty not to create a succession of false hopes and to avoid the aggressive language of rejection. We must insist on strict respect for the accession criteria and set as an example Croatia, who has entered Europe on the basis of rigorous monitoring and compliance criteria.

We’re also committed to freedom, so we’re committed to free movement and to Schengen. But this Europe of freedom involves stringency. If we want freedom within our borders, our borders must be protected, and in the event of failure, the safeguard clause must work. We can enjoy internal freedom only through external security.
Now, once we’ve defined what Europe is – this fine idea, this beautiful region, this land of history and the future – we can indeed look calmly towards others. And that’s what France and Europe are doing. (…)

Europe can’t remain indifferent to the risks surrounding it. It can’t believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be solved solely through humanitarian aid. The European Union is both Israel’s main trading partner and, at the same time, the chief supplier of economic aid to Palestine.

The legitimacy of the High Representative, Mrs Ashton, and the European External Action Service – which enjoys France’s full support – is enabling Europe to become a peacemaker again. We saw it with the Arab Spring, which France fostered, encouraged and supported.

In the face of an extremely serious international situation demanding rapid decisions, President Sarkozy’s determination and courage, and Alain Juppé’s persuasive skills and strength of conviction, enabled the Libyan people to rise up against the tyrant and regain their freedom.

We’re proud that France and Europe played a role in this return to democracy.

This involvement at international level shows that Europe also has a requirement to act. The defence of freedom also raises the question of strength and independence. Let’s remember that France’s integration into the NATO military command didn’t reduce her freedom of action. It was France and the United Kingdom who led the military operations, under the UN’s authoritization. They did so completely freely, completely independently and on the initiative of France and President Sarkozy.

For all that, should we give up the idea of European defence? I don’t think so, and I therefore think that in this case too, the balance of the military action we took under the aegis of the international bodies must spur us on to continue the work we’re doing on the Common Security and Defence Policy. We’ll need this great European defence project in future years if we still want to be the defenders of freedom and democracy.

As you see, these three great equilibriums guide our action: an open and protective economy, strong, acute political cohesion, and the promotion of peace and respect for countries’ sovereignty. We’re thus building this Europe that protects states and peoples and projects us into the future and the world. (…)./.

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