Europe/integration – Arab Spring/Syria – CSDP
You know what I firmly believe: France today needs more Europe.
The Europe we want is first and foremost a Europe that keeps its sights set on the “de facto solidarity” dear to the founding fathers.
That solidarity is the result of common policies. Today we want to consolidate it – all 27 of us if possible, but also more select groups of vanguard countries wishing to make extra progress on integration, particularly in terms of the Euro Area and Schengen Area.
The Europe we want is also a Europe where enlargement goes hand in hand with deepening and where the added value Europe provides is combined with ever greater closeness to citizens.
Finally, the Europe we want is a Europe which, from the situation in the nations it comprises, can draw the strength to project its values onto globalization while being determined to define and defend its own interests, without naivety.
So for France, Europe must today move forward in three directions.
The first is deepening and integration, to overcome the debt crisis and get back onto the path of growth, competitiveness and employment.
In addition to the purely economic and financial challenges, the crisis has brought about a real awakening. For the first time in the history of the European enterprise – despite the continent’s new-found peace and unity, despite the construction of the Euro Area and Schengen Area, despite all the common policies we’ve been able to introduce – we’ve understood that the European process may not be irreversible.
We must rediscover this irreversible European dynamic. (…)
The second direction in which the EU must move forward is in stabilizing its great southern and continental neighbourhood.
The Arab Spring showed us we were wrong to believe that stability, security and the fight against terrorism justified a certain indulgence towards regimes that flouted people’s aspirations to freedom and respect for human rights. Today, while we know the path towards democracy will be long and demanding, we also know that the aspiration to democracy is universal. That’s why, without ever compromising on its values, the EU must support the Arab transitions with all the tools it has available.
In Syria, the EU was the first to impose sanctions against Bashar al-Assad and the accomplices of his crimes against humanity, while Russia and China still prevent the Security Council from speaking out.
The freezing of assets, visa bans, the oil embargo: we took strong measures without delay. Today we’re working on new, even tougher sanctions with a view to the Foreign Affairs Council of 27 February.
Bashar al-Assad will fall. He’ll have to answer for the massacre of his people. The EU is today united in supporting the Arab League’s initiative and strengthening the Syrian opposition. Along with the 13 [countries] which voted in favour of the draft resolution blocked by Moscow and Beijing, along with our regional allies and of course Turkey, I call on the EU to lend its full support to the group of friends of the Syrian people, an idea President Sarkozy put forward and which the Arab League decided would meet in Tunis on 24 February. (…)
COMMON SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY
The third direction in which Europe must move forward is in asserting itself in the face of globalization, in relation to the large emerging countries but also against threats to peace and security. (…)
To enable the EU to assert itself in the face of crises, I have constantly argued for concrete progress on European defence, and in particular on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The EU must take on board all the consequences of the reduction in its defence budgets by moving towards more pooling of resources. In the face of the security threats directed against it, it cannot make do with soft power.
The intervention in Libya showed the limits of the CSDP. But it also highlighted real leadership by the Europeans in NATO. A year after the Weimar initiative, we also obtained the first important results at the [EU] Council last December: the decision to launch new CSDP operations – in the Sahel to fight al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and in the Horn of Africa to strengthen regional maritime capabilities against piracy in support of Operation Atalanta; the decision to undertake 10 or so projects identified by the European Defence Agency to pool defence capabilities; and the decision to activate the EU’s operations centre for CSDP operations in the Horn of Africa. We’d like to continue making progress, including towards a permanent capability to plan and conduct EU operations, on the basis of Catherine Ashton’s excellent report on the CSDP last July. For France, the bilateral pooling initiative with the UK through the Lancaster House treaty goes hand in hand with this strengthening of the CSDP.
Europe is today at a turning point. But I’m convinced that it has equipped itself with effective means to regain stability and growth.
Even so, France doesn’t want a European Union that’s wrapped up in managing the crisis. Europe has finally discovered that it’s no longer the centre of the world, but it mustn’t forget that it’s still the world’s leading economic power: in tomorrow’s world, it will have a major role to play as a centre of democracy, prosperity and stability.
I’m convinced that we share this major European ambition. And I’m convinced that we share the same determination to go on asserting it beyond our borders.