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Military interventions abroad – Globalization/political responses – European defence

Published on October 11, 2011
Opening seminar of the Institute of Higher National Defence Studies and the National Institute of Higher Security and Justice Studies – Speech by François Fillon, Prime Minister (excerpts)

Paris, October 7, 2011



I pay tribute to the professionalism of our soldiers in all these crises. In the heart of Abidjan, the Licorne force has worked under particularly tough conditions. In Libya, our airmen, sailors and helicopter pilots from army aviation have had to demonstrate great adaptability and use high-technology equipment which has played a decisive role. We spearheaded this intervention with the United Kingdom, within a coalition broadened to include several Arab countries.

In Afghanistan, it has been a bloody year. Defending the Afghan people’s freedom has exacted a heavy toll on our troops and our security. But for three years, in Surobi and Kapisa, they’ve been ensuring the Afghan security forces’ increasing power, and we can be proud of the progress made thanks to them.

This year, we fulfilled the conditions allowing us to begin the handover of security responsibilities and the process of withdrawing our forces by the end of 2014, in accordance with the timeframe announced by President Sarkozy.

This also requires us to work out the terms of our partnership with the Afghan people beyond 2014. Hence the future Franco-Afghan friendship and cooperation treaty which President Sarkozy proposed to President Karzai in July and which we want to conclude before the end of the year.


Ladies and gentlemen, the more intense the pace of globalization, the more collective political responses have to be. This applies on the ground, but also to what we do as part of global governance.

However, by highlighting the rate at which emerging markets are catching up, the crisis has renewed protectionist and nationalist temptations. Some people have gone back to thinking globalization can be halted. Hoping to slow down the emerging countries and escape the effects of their catch-up is delusory. It isn’t just delusory, it would be immoral and against our interests too. Immoral because the rapid growth of those countries above all makes it possible for hundreds of millions of people to climb out of poverty. Against our interests because in a globalized world, sovereignty can’t be exercised in isolation. How could we have stopped the madness that took over the financial markets in autumn 2008 if we hadn’t decided to coordinate our action in the framework of what was to become the G20? In an interdependent world, the way in which power relations evolve can’t be reduced to simplistic formulas.

We have things to gain from globalization. Of course, we know its excesses, faults, shortcomings and dangers. The rise of the emerging countries is a source of tension, firstly because of the frantic search for guaranteed access to natural resources, but also because of the hike in commodity prices – starting with agricultural commodity prices – which can give rise to huge social tensions and destabilize states.
Hence our commitment within the G20 and G8: we want to ensure that coordinated, shared sovereignty is established, precisely to avoid globalization leading to “international anarchy”. This international anarchy would be the very negation of the state.

In this new global scenario, we have trump cards to play. The first of those trump cards is Europe: the Europe that’s often disparaged, questioned, pushed about, but the Europe that’s still there! According to the main parameters on which a civilization’s strength is based – democracy, wealth, education, social cohesion, technology, infrastructure, culture – well, according to those parameters, I say the Europe of tomorrow may represent the 21st century’s most coherent, prosperous and therefore influential area.

You’ll tell me that the crisis the European Union is currently undergoing invalidates this prognosis. But we’re going to overcome this crisis. We’re not going to give up Europe’s achievements; we’re not going to abandon 60 years of political construction; we’re not going to sacrifice the common destiny that enables more than 500 million Europeans to keep their place in a difficult, competitive, dangerous world of seven billion inhabitants!

I challenge those defeatists who claim that by isolating Greece, by letting her go adrift, we’ll save the others. If European solidarity is broken, then the crisis will spread to everyone. I challenge those populists who draw crowd-pleasing distinctions between efforts made to support the financial system and efforts made for the people. A financial disaster would bring about an economic and social collapse; by then it would be too late to remember that financial challenges are also concrete challenges.

I challenge those who whisper that the scenario of a gentle withdrawal from the euro is an option. The return of the franc, and the devaluation that would follow it, would condemn us to a long period of recession and ruin. We won’t protect our country by setting up new Maginot Lines, which would only increase consumer prices and punish our exports.

In reality, to respond to this crisis we need composure above all, and we need it firstly in the face of investors and markets that have lost their bearings; we must systematically implement the support plans and coordination tools we’ve decided upon at European level. And we also need more “political Europe”, more economic consistency, more tax harmonization and a more proactive approach to trade.

And to that end, we need strong leadership. The year 2011 has once again confirmed the vital role of France and Germany in driving Europe’s destiny. Our two countries must be the pioneers of greater budgetary and fiscal convergence.

They must join forces and give the Franco-German economic area a harmony that is as clear and vigorous as possible.

Admittedly, the crisis has revealed certain weaknesses in the European Union, most of which we knew well and were trying to tackle. But I’d like to tell all the pessimists that this crisis has led the European Union’s leaders to react.

We must strengthen the economic integration of the Euro Area by building the convergence we’ve lacked. We can’t hope to prolong indefinitely a currency that represents trade between territories with different fiscal, economic and social rules.

We’ve been working on this task for a year and a half, and I want to say that Europe has made more progress on issues of financial regulation and economic governance over this period than in 20 years. We’ve created the European Financial Stability Facility to help Euro Area states in serious difficulty. We now have European Supervisory Agencies for banks, financial markets and insurance companies. And finally, we’ve institutionalized the Euro Area summit.

The weakness of our countries today, the weakness of the Euro Area, is debt. The whole of Europe has set out along the path of budgetary discipline. And it’s high time to run our countries – and France in particular – as you run a family: in a wise, orderly manner!
We’ve set ourselves on a demanding path that is also compatible with maintaining economic growth. (…)

We’ve presented for 2012 one of the strictest budgets France has seen since 1945. (…)


In this context, we’ll try not to weaken our defence tool’s effectiveness, and we’ll combat the risk of a decline in Europe’s capability. At a time when the world is becoming increasingly armed, France cannot disarm. Her defence must evolve, and her defence tool must adapt to the changing threats.

We know the decisive role played in Libya thanks to the quality of our equipment, and I want to mention in particular the most modern equipment, which we’re encouraging some of our neighbours and partners to share: I’m thinking of the Rafale and Tigre, deployed from our air bases, the Charles de Gaulle and our amphibious landing ships. We want our defence resources to maintain that high technological performance that makes them credible.

With the exception of nuclear deterrence, this ambition must be shared by our European partners. The way to achieve this is by building strategic partnerships with our – particularly European – allies, along the lines of the one we concluded with the United Kingdom in November 2010.

This Franco-British partnership draws its strength from real geopolitical, scientific and industrial convergence and, at the same time, from a common vision of our defence and security interests. The NATO operation in Libya, which France and the UK led clearly, illustrates this magnificently.

Beyond this, our unique partnership should encourage our other European partners to build a more ambitious European defence and arms capability based on real military assets.

Europe must reinforce its defence capabilities. The initiatives taken in Brussels and supported by the Weimar Triangle countries, and Italy and Spain, to rationalize and pool resources and organize national programmes, are a step in the right direction, even though they’re taking a bit of time. For planning and command capabilities, the discussions must include all the member states and must be aimed at improving Europe’s overall ability to play a full role in managing crises.

Ladies and gentlemen, in a world where the threat is ever more diffuse, we shall have to increase our societies’ resilience in the face of all threats of destabilization. (…)./.

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