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Visit to Poland

Published on October 3, 2011
Speech by François Fillon, Prime Minister, to the French community

Warsaw, September 29 , 2011



The Eastern Partnership Summit, whose ambition is to bring the European Union and six countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus closer together on the basis of the same principles and, above all, a common project, will be taking place here in Warsaw this evening and tomorrow. We’re more obliged than ever to join forces so that our continent continues to carry weight in world affairs.

We mustn’t conceal the fact that Europe is going through difficult times, and we have to confront them by showing initiative and solidarity. Yes, the European project today is under threat. It is under threat first of all from decades of deficit which must now be strictly brought under control. It is also under threat from speculation, which is based largely on mechanisms which encourage destabilization. And given this, I want to say that legitimacy is on the side of political will.

Legitimacy is on the side of democracy. Legitimacy is on the side of history, out of which the European enterprise was built and from which it emanated.

From the outset of the sovereign debt crisis – which we could sum up as the Greek crisis – major decisions were taken to guarantee greater stability in the Euro Area and ensure that it emerges stronger from this period of upheaval. As regards regulation, as regards financial supervision, Europe – under pressure from events – has made more progress in a few months than it has in 20 years.

We strengthened the stability pact. We institutionalized the Euro Area summits, and from France’s point of view these summits are a first step towards the formation of a genuine economic government of the Euro Area, key to the credibility of our currency. We created a European Financial Stability Facility, which is shortly going to receive new prerogatives.

And in this respect I want to warmly welcome today’s positive vote, the Bundestag’s positive, huge vote following that of the French Parliament. It’s excellent news. Excellent news, which is further evidence of the Euro Area states’ determination to do everything to ensure the stability and solidity of our monetary union.

The 21 July agreement laid the foundations for a resolution of the Greek crisis by fairly sharing the efforts required of Greece, the financial sector and the international community. Well, it’s this agreement which has to be methodically and swiftly implemented.

In the turmoil, some people talk about the possibility of a Greek default, others imagine the Euro Area split up, and others even propose the re-establishment of national currencies. I want to say that all these ideas are irresponsible. They are irresponsible because Europe protects us, and those employing these kinds of abstract arguments care not one iota about the devastating consequences they would have if by misfortune they were put into practice. They are irresponsible because Europe is a historical force. Because Europe is a political force which it would be insane to weaken at the very time important emerging powers are challenging our old nations.

We are absolutely duty-bound to support Greece. I was saying this earlier to the Polish President. We are duty-bound because Euro Area support for Greece means Euro Area support for the euro. It is the bulwark against speculation. It is a clear statement that the European project is a political project which transcends all other considerations.

When one child in a family walks more slowly than the others, you don’t let it fall over – otherwise the family no longer exists. So the issue of Greece isn’t only financial, it isn’t just a technical issue, an issue that’s only of interest to bankers, ratings agencies and all those who set themselves up as expert forecasters. It’s a fundamental issue, an issue that gets to the heart of Europe, its history and its future.

You who live here in Poland – a country that bears the harsh stamp of history – you know how much the European enterprise has contributed to the peace and prosperity of people on our continent. And you know better than anyone the meaning of national isolation, protectionism and withdrawal into separate communities.

I’m convinced Europe will get through this ordeal, but it will have to learn the lessons. What we need isn’t less Europe, it’s more Europe, and in particular more political Europe – which also means a real economic government, the path to which is currently being traced out through the difficulties. What we need is not illusory solutions where we shift the blame onto others, but collective responsibility. We must look at this sovereign debt crisis in a clear-headed way.

It’s pointless accusing the ratings agencies. It may please people, but it’s pointless. Incriminating the markets is pointless, too. Of course, they have their own way of doing things, and you can say that this way is often short-term, that it’s cruel and sometimes irrational. But the truth – the only truth that counts – is that states exposed themselves to this by resorting to huge-scale borrowing, living on credit on the back of future generations and always putting off the necessary reforms until tomorrow. In the 30 years I’ve been involved in political life, I’ve heard people say – and I must have said the same myself – that the world is changing, that there are emerging countries which are currently upsetting the balance and that we’ll have to adapt. But we’ve been constantly repeating all this for 30 years without ever learning the lessons. Today is the day of reckoning. The upheaval has now come about. And what we’re paying for, with our debt, is our inability to adapt to this new situation. It’s the bill for all those years of short-sightedness.

Well, these events must serve as a wake-up call. We French and Europeans – on both the right and left – all share responsibility for this debt, which has been undermining many countries for more than 30 years. We must act together with our partners to straighten out our economies, put an end to the spiral of borrowing and win back our sovereignty by reducing our dependence on the markets. (…)./.

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