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New Year greetings to the foreign diplomatic corps

New Year greetings to the foreign diplomatic corps

Published on January 25, 2012
Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic

Paris, January 20, 2012

Thank you for your kind words. Please convey my most respectful wishes to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I have greet esteem for the Pope, as you know, and we all have very fond memories of his visit to France and the speech he delivered, Your Excellency, in this very room.
Ministre d’Etat,




Four of our soldiers have been killed. I want to pay tribute to their sacrifice. For a commander-in-chief, as I am, this is always a moment of great solitude as one contends with one’s responsibility and with the shattered destiny of those brave young men, who are a credit to the French army, who have a spirit of sacrifice.

France’s commitment in Afghanistan was decided about 10 years ago. I have stood by this decision in order to support the Afghan people in their righteous fight against the forces of obscurantism, barbarity and the return to a medieval environment in which women and little girls were made to suffer.

The governments that decided to send the French army to Afghanistan, I believe, took the right decision. But the French army is in Afghanistan to serve the Afghan people, to oppose terrorism and to oppose the Taliban. The French army is not in Afghanistan to be shot at by Afghan soldiers.

I have therefore decided to send the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff to Afghanistan immediately. Meanwhile, all of the French army’s training and combat assistance operations are suspended.

The Minister of Defence will report back to me, to the Prime Minister and to the Ministre d’Etat on what he has seen in Afghanistan. And if the security conditions for our troops, along with the conditions for recruiting Afghan soldiers to the Afghan army, are not clearly specified and safe, France will immediately draw the necessary conclusions. We are friends of the Afghan people, we are allies of the Afghan people, but I cannot accept Afghan soldiers firing on French soldiers.

If security conditions are not clearly re-established, it will raise the question of the French army’s early return to France.

That return was envisaged for 2014 at the latest. I will discuss this question with President Karzai during his visit to France.

The French army stands by its allies, but we cannot allow a single one of our soldiers to be wounded or killed by our allies. It is unacceptable and I will not accept it.

No doubt my following remarks will have a less tragic dimension. It is a difficult decision we will have to take in the coming days, but it is my duty to do so for the French and for our troops.

There is war. There are the objectives we have established, and then there are the security conditions that, if they are not clearly established, prevent us from doing the job we have to do. Everyone must consider their responsibilities. In any case, as commander-in-chief, I will assume mine.


Ladies and gentlemen,

2011 will go down in history as a year of upheavals. Upheavals with the Arab Spring.

Upheavals with the tsunami in Japan and the Fukushima disaster.

Upheavals in the Euro Area, with Greece, Portugal, Ireland and even Spain and Italy facing unprecedented difficulties.

Throughout 2011, France took the initiative. She took the initiative in Côte d’Ivoire, where for 10 years, the country – long portrayed as the Switzerland of Africa – had held no elections. France assumed her responsibilities, and France is proud to welcome President Ouattara in a few days for a state visit. She took the initiative in Libya to protect millions of Libyans and the residents of Benghazi from the murderous madness of a bloody tyrant. She took the initiative, together with our German friends, in Europe to provide the Euro Area with the governance and operating rules it was lacking. And she took the initiative at the head of the G8 and the G20 to evoke the major questions facing the world.


2012 will see us continuing to take the initiative as we contend with the many dangers we will find ourselves facing.

First, the danger to Europe. Let me be clear: the Euro Area remains in danger.

The banking crisis, the sovereign debt crisis, multiple difficulties. We achieved results in Ireland and even in Portugal. Now the entire Greek political class must understand that it can no longer put off taking decisions to resolve the problems Greece is facing. Our Greek friends must do what was done in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and even Germany and France. And the longer it takes, the harder and more painful it will be.

The first lesson of this crisis is that the euro, by virtue of its very existence, demands a level of economic integration that had been underestimated by the authors of the Maastricht Treaty. It’s good to have a vision of a common currency, but it’s a bit dangerous not to consider the conditions required for that currency to succeed.

We had to make up for lost time by instituting a certain number of rules, which we have done, that will allow the Euro Area to get out of the crisis it finds itself in today.

To the ambassadors of all the countries that are not on the European continent, I want to say that we have acquired a real economic government for the Euro Area, with a stable president and regular summits. The very idea of an economic government was taboo just a year ago.

That government is now an economic reality.

Why that government? It is the summit of heads and state and government for one simple reason: that democratic legitimacy can come only from the heads of state and government. The Commission has a key role to play: making sure the treaties and the deficit reduction path are respected. But even though the Commission is the Euro Area’s vigilant guardian, it cannot be its economic government, because one cannot both manage and punish. Otherwise, one punishes oneself.

I would also like to say that both Spain and Italy have taken courageous, remarkable decisions. And France wants to applaud the efforts of Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy. They can count on France’s resolute support, and on that of all their European partners.

But let’s remember that the Euro Area won’t survive through institutional mechanisms alone. We must now tackle the very core of our policies. We must clearly change our trade policy. Let me reassure you this is in no way a question of protectionism. It is simply a question of reciprocity. Reciprocity is a word that must become a reality in trade negotiations. And from this standpoint, Ambassadors, Europe is the most open continent in the world. That will continue, but Europe expects other parts of the world to be exactly as open as it is itself.

We must change our policy on competition. The Euro Area, the European Union is a single market; you can’t go into an analysis of the competition. Twenty-seven markets or 17 markets, depending on whether a country is in the EU or the Euro Area, form just one market, the single market. So there’s also a single competition, the competition of the entire single market. Europe must change its industrial policy to promote the emergence of large European groups, that topic being related to competition.



On the threshold of Europe, the Maghreb and the Mashriq are experiencing unprecedented upheaval. The people have mobilized in the name of the universal values that we hold dear: freedom, democracy and justice. It is our duty to support them with friendship and without interference.

Let us refrain from making hasty, premature judgments, and give the new leaders of the Maghreb and the Mashriq time. Building democracy, as France knows well, is not easy. The challenge facing the current democratic transitions isn’t so much the role of political forces that proclaim a strong tie to Islam. The challenge is for these parties to respect the rules and demands of democracy, which means accepting democratic changes of power and respecting minorities. Political minorities and minority communities must be respected; preserving this diversity is what makes the East so rich.

Father Lemmens, please tell His Holiness that France has not forgotten the Eastern Christians, wherever they may be found. The Eastern Christians are one of the East’s treasures. They are not alone. France will stand resolutely by their side. France is secular, France is democratic, France is republican. France watches over her territory to ensure that everyone may be true to their faith and pass it on to their children. But France wants the same to hold true for all religious minorities everywhere in the world. It is a very important subject that goes to the very heart of our convictions.

You also spoke about Judaeo-Christian roots, and you know very well, Father Lemmens, that this is a subject on which we see very much eye to eye. There is no civilization without roots. We will help these young democracies succeed. That is the purpose of the Deauville Partnership and the relations we have entered into with these new partners. Alain Juppé, to whom I would like to pay tribute, has just made a highly successful visit to Tunisia, and next month we will host the President of Tunisia, a country to which France feels very close, in order to forge an unprecedented partnership. 2012 will be the year that we lay new foundations for the Union for the Mediterranean.

2012, a year of hope for many people in the Middle East, but also a year of immense dangers.


In Syria, we cannot accept the fierce crackdown being imposed by the Syrian leaders against their people, a crackdown that is leading the country straight into chaos. And this chaos will benefit extremists of all stripes. Syria belongs to the Syrian people; she must finally be allowed to freely choose her leaders and determine her own fate. The Arab League is involved in courageous action. It must continue and the Security Council, whose mission it is, must provide it with its support.

We don’t want to interfere in Syria’s affairs and no one has tried harder than I have to reach out, with sincerity, to Bashar al-Assad. But there comes a point when everyone is confronted with the reality, and France will not remain silent in the face of the Syrian outrage.


There is danger in Lebanon, a country to which we feel so close. There have been French soldiers in Lebanon, under UN mandate, for almost three decades now. But those soldiers who are working for the UN are there to defend a sovereign, independent Lebanon. Not an enslaved Lebanon. A sovereign, independent Lebanon. Here too, France’s warning is clear. Anyone who attacks a French soldier will immediately be held accountable. We will not desert Lebanon, but we will not be party to the subjugation of Lebanon, whether from outside or within. France is the friend of all Lebanese people, without exception; and how could I mention the need for diversity in the Middle East and then single out our friends in Lebanon? We are friends with everyone, everyone without exception. But a free Lebanon, a sovereign Lebanon, a Lebanon that’s left in peace, not a subjugated Lebanon.


There is danger in Iraq, which is threatened by the resurgence of religious tensions and terrorism. The world needs a united, diverse Iraq. And the explosion of Iraq would be a great tragedy.


There is danger in Yemen, where the long-awaited democratic transition must be carried out in keeping with the commitments undertaken and in line with Security Council resolutions.


And lastly, there is danger due to the unacceptable paralysis of the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We need a swift and credible resumption of negotiations with a specific timetable and an oversight mechanism. How can we not see that the Arab Spring has made the situation of the Palestinian people even more unacceptable? How can we not understand this?! Everything may be changing in the Middle East but there’s a longstanding paralysis between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We must change methods; the Quartet is a failure. Let’s forget the diplomatic assumptions. Let’s stop being blind to the reality: it is a failure. Let’s change methods. We need to expand the negotiating circle. We need to remobilize the actors – all the actors – who can contribute to resolving this central conflict. France’s position is clear. We will never allow Israel’s security to be called into question. We say this to everyone. Israel isn’t alone. The birth of Israel, in the mid-20th century, is a major political event in world history, in the wake of the tragedy of the Holocaust. Those who threaten Israel’s existence have to know that we will never accept the disappearance of this country or a challenge to its integrity.

France’s position is clear with respect to the Palestinians. They must achieve a democratic, viable, modern state. How many more decades, when they have waited so long? And who can’t see that the best condition for Israel’s security is the existence of a Palestinian state?

France assumed her responsibilities when we had to vote on Palestine’s membership of UNESCO. It was a strong decision, a careful choice. How can we refuse to allow the Palestinians to become part of an organization that uses education and culture to promote peace?
France does not accept this status quo because this status quo carries so many risks.


Lastly there’s the question of Iran and her military nuclear programme. The IAEA revealed the progress made by the Iranian regime in its senseless race towards the nuclear bomb. The military base of Qom is beginning to produce highly enriched uranium. The Iranian leaders have lied, not just once; they’ve continuously lied to everyone.

Allow me to share two convictions with you; the first is that a military intervention wouldn’t solve the problem, but it would unleash war and chaos in the Middle East. And perhaps, sadly, even more than that.

Everything must be done to avoid a military intervention. And my second conviction is that time is running out. France will do everything to avoid a military intervention but there’s only one way to avoid it: a much stronger, more decisive sanctions regime which would involve putting a halt to the purchase of Iranian oil and freezing the assets of the Central Bank of Iran. Those who don’t want to step up sanctions against a regime that is leading its country into disaster, with the acquisition of a nuclear weapon, will bear the responsibility of the risk of an uncontrolled military response. Peace requires tougher sanctions in order to avoid the threat of this deadly spiral.

Our goal is to stand alongside the Iranian people, but in order to do so we must force their leaders to negotiate seriously before it is too late. And I thank Alain Juppé for all the efforts he is making to obtain a global consensus. I say this, moreover, to our Chinese friends as well as to our Russian friends: help us to guarantee peace around the world. We obviously need you.

We obviously need you. I stress these words.


Lastly, I will conclude with an issue that is dear to me, dear to France: global governance. I want to say two things.

The G20 is legitimate only if the G20 takes decisions. The G20’s strength lies not just in the fact that it represents 85% of global GDP.

Its strength – since it’s a small forum – lies in the fact that it takes decisions; not enough in France’s opinion, but it does take decisions. Let’s not allow the G20 to become paralysed. And I want to say to the Mexican presidency that we trust it to have an ambitious presidency. The G20 wouldn’t survive if it had to meet without having a major objective or without taking a major decision.

My second point regarding global governance: I won’t go back over the need for UN reform; I only want to mention that France will never give up her right to veto.

Furthermore, I don’t know of a single country with the right to veto that would say it would give it up. This would be a crazy idea; no one is asking France to do that, no one. But we must enlarge the Security Council.

To those who would like to replace France’s right of veto by European representation, I say “it doesn’t make any sense”. Because that would mean that this European right of veto would be condemned to paralysis. If we had had to wait for everyone to agree in Europe in order to intervene in Libya, we would still be talking about a Libyan intervention over the ashes of Benghazi. And at the time of the intervention in Iraq, in which France – thanks to Jacques Chirac – did not participate, what would have been the position of the so-called European representatives? It doesn’t make any sense. But we must enlarge the Security Council so that major countries are represented, since they have a rightful place there, and so that all continents are represented there.

We need new methods. I’m thinking of the WTO; finally, the Doha round is deadlocked. The Doha negotiations have failed. How many years does it take for us to draw the conclusions? And why have they failed? For a very simple reason: the parameters of the negotiations are wrong. The WTO round is a round of negotiations between, on the one hand, the poor countries, and on the other hand, the rich countries. This world existed 20 years ago; it no longer exists today.

Twenty years ago we could say “on the one hand there are the poor countries, and on the other hand there are the rich countries”. Today there are the developed countries, as we say, the poorest countries and, in the middle, the developing countries, the emerging countries that are closer to the industrial and rich countries than to the poor countries. Beginning a trade negotiation based on the myth of a binary world is doomed to failure.

I want to add that I don’t believe in negotiations that involve 170 to 175 parties, where you sign an agreement on everything and really you sign an agreement on nothing. In the WTO let’s make group-to-group negotiations possible: China with Europe, Japan with the United States, Africa with Europe. Let’s change our methods. This is the 21st century; the rules of the 20th century can no longer work.


So, in conclusion, perhaps you will find my remarks sombre. But there are grounds for hope. I see them in the development of Africa, which constantly astounds us. So many observers and so-called specialists told us that Africa was doing badly. Africa is developing economically and making democratic progress before our very eyes. Cher Abdou Diouf, this is excellent news. What happened to the failure of Africa we were told about? Many African countries have growth rates that we envy. And democratic progress in Africa is undeniable. The development of the South American continent is also good news. Its stability, but also its development revolving around countries like Brazil, which is achieving remarkable results. Let’s not forget the discussions on the fight against global warming. Just because it’s not in the news, that shouldn’t mean that it’s no longer a matter of concern for the leaders of countries. I stress it because the EU will shoulder its responsibilities; but the EU’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t exceed 11% of the total and is continuing to fall.

Ambassadors, thank you for your attention. I would like in turn to extend my wishes to each of your countries, to each of your leaders, and to yourselves. What would I like to wish you?

Well, that your governments keep you here in Paris in 2012. After all, isn’t that the warmest wish you can extend to the people that you respect and love? And that you live and continue to live in the most beautiful capital – if I may say so – in the world?

May 2012 allow you to remain in Paris, before you take a new step in your illustrious careers in 2013, so that Paris may serve as your springboard.

Happy New Year to everyone! Thank you./.

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