Sixteenth Franco-Russian Intergovernmental Seminar
In 2010 – and particularly in 2011 – we obtained exceptional results in terms of increased trade between France and Russia and the implementation of projects emblematic of French and Russian excellence in the field of technology. (…)
We’ve stuck to our commitment: not only is the political dialogue between France and Russia still just as substantive, as shown by the incessant contacts at the highest level between Paris and Moscow (…) but 2011 has also seen projects take concrete shape that testify to the exemplary nature of our strategic partnership.
I want to mention three in particular.
The successful launch of the Soyuz spacecraft from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana was the crowning achievement of several decades of Franco-Russian space cooperation. (…)
The second event I want to emphasize was the signature of the contract to sell Mistral-type amphibious landing ships.
And finally, the third was the inauguration of the North Stream gas pipeline in Germany, which highlights Europe and Russia’s well understood energy interests and, above all, energy security interests.
We also have an excellent relationship with Russia in most areas. We share many common interests in the framework of the G8, the G20 and the United Nations Security Council. On the fundamentals we have common positions that we confirmed again at our meeting, particularly in terms of reforming the rules of the global economy and giving them more stability and visibility. In this context, I want to say I’m delighted that Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization is finally within reach, following the agreement concluded with Georgia. It will be excellent news for Russia, France and Europe and – more generally – for all Russia’s economic partners.
At this intergovernmental seminar we’ve also shown we can broaden the range of our cooperation to new areas. So after agriculture and health last year, I want to welcome the new cooperation currently being embarked on in the fields of justice, cities and also transport. We’ve just adopted a very important declaration on civilian nuclear energy too that puts the principles of safety and security at the heart of our cooperation, which is clearly crucial in the post-Fukushima context. (…)
EURO AREA/DEBT CRISIS
Q. – The focus of European current affairs is the economic crisis.
Everyone’s talking about the situation in Greece, the difficult situation in Italy and the measures to be adopted by France as one of the engines of the European economy. Do you think Europe will survive this crisis? And a second question for both prime ministers: I’d like to know if the crisis could have an impact on economic and trade relations between Russia and France. Thank you.
THE PRIME MINISTER – Not only will it survive this crisis, it will emerge from it stronger, as has always been the case, moreover, with the ordeals Europe has previously encountered.
This crisis is, in quite broad terms, a crisis of states’ indebtedness, a crisis that’s ultimately linked to the dramatic changes that have taken place in the global economy and to a certain delay on the part of European countries in adapting their economic and social organization.
On 27 October we took some very important decisions at the European Council which should resolve the European crisis. The governments have also accepted their responsibilities. The countries in difficulty have already put in place the necessary measures; that’s clearly the case in Greece: measures reinforced by the arrival of a new government that has just gained the confidence of parliament, which will enable the very strict implementation of all the conditions set – particularly by the European countries and the International Monetary Fund – for payment of the aid necessary for supporting the Greek economy.
It’s the case in Italy with the new government of Mr Monti, who has made very major commitments that were reiterated yesterday evening in a telephone conversation between Mario Monti, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. At the collective level, a lot of progress has already been set in motion.
The European Parliament and Council have just adopted a series of reforms that give the European Union stronger tools in terms of economic and budgetary monitoring, because ultimately it’s a matter of fighting imbalances, particularly in the Euro Area, that have arisen without the European institutions being able to remedy them or adopt the necessary measures or indeed sanctions to ensure the European commitments are respected.
Finally, each of the European countries is currently implementing the necessary measures to put its public finances in order.
I simply want to point out that we’re surrounded by countries who have larger deficits than ours and are not – in the immediate future at any rate – undergoing the same financial crisis. Britain will this year have a budget deficit of over 9%, not to mention the United States, who has just decided on a spectacular recovery plan.
What I’m saying is that there are causes beyond states’ indebtedness that are linked to the organization of the European Union and the Euro Area. The European institutions must evolve to respond to the concerns flagged up during this crisis.
The European Central Bank has, since the start of the crisis, been able to take the decisions required to guarantee the effectiveness of monetary policy in the Euro Area. I’m convinced it can continue to do so, to adapt its decisions to the reality of the threats today facing all the Euro Area countries.
Ultimately – and I’ll finish on this – the vital issue today for the Euro Area isn’t inflation, it’s the slowdown in the economy. Together we must take every measure to ensure the European economy gets moving again and then, with enough growth, we’ll be able to tackle our current financial difficulties.
Q. – Did you discuss Syria and Iran during your meetings, and in particular the disagreements between the two countries on those subjects? Were you able to bring France and Russia’s viewpoints any closer? With a resolution on the horizon, the UN resolution on Syria prepared by several European countries, do you think that Russia – who last time imposed her veto – would this time be prepared to pass a resolution condemning the actions of Bashar al-Assad’s regime?
THE PRIME MINISTER – I discussed this issue with Vladimir Putin. I said just now that we agreed on nearly all the main international issues. There are a few areas of disagreement. The situation in Syria is one of them. We think this situation is growing increasingly tragic.
Already more than 3,500 Syrians have died; tens of thousands have been injured. The Syrian people are showing a lot of courage despite an extremely brutal crackdown, and in the face of this situation we’re more determined than ever to mobilize. We’ve done so by strongly condemning the crackdown, by calling for the departure of a president who in our view has lost all legitimacy because he fires on his people, by talking to the Syrian opposition and by adopting a number of sanctions decisions in the European framework.
President Bashar al-Assad has remained deaf to the international community’s calls. He hasn’t followed up on his promises of reform, particularly those he made to the Arab League. The massacres are continuing; diplomatic representations have been attacked.
Under these conditions, we think it’s essential to step up the international pressure to prevent the Syrian President from further threatening his people and the whole region’s stability. I want to point out – and it’s very important – that the Arab League has shouldered its responsibilites by deciding on some very strong measures: suspending Syria from its bodies and imposing economic and political sanctions. We support the Arab League’s efforts and in particular those efforts aimed at protecting civilians in Syria.
Of course – I’ll say it again – there’s no question of a military intervention in Syria, under any circumstances. We’ve presented a resolution to the UN General Assembly condemning the crackdown in Syria and supporting the Arab League’s efforts. We hope this resolution will receive the broadest possible support. (…)
Q. – You’ve just signed a joint declaration on civilian nuclear energy. (…)
THE PRIME MINISTER – (…) In the agreement we’ve just signed with Russia, we’re going to create the means to implement decisions for which I’ve been calling for several months, particularly after Fukushima. In particular we want to establish a rapid reaction capability bringing together our countries’ best experts and the equipment we need to tackle difficult situations should they arise.
When we examined what happened in Fukushima we saw that many things could have been prevented with equipment and technical capabilities used better over a shorter timescale. Likewise we’re developing, embarking on cooperation with Russia to ensure that safety standards worldwide are the highest safety standards. (…)./.