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Franco-British summit

Published on February 21, 2012
Statements by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (excerpts)

Paris, February 17, 2012

THE PRESIDENT – Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, on behalf of François Fillon and the government members present here, I’d like to warmly welcome our British friends: David Cameron and the delegation accompanying him. I believe it’s David Cameron’s eighth visit to France since he’s been Prime Minister.

Franco-British relations are excellent. We have priority areas in this cooperation. First of all, France and Britain have made an absolutely strategic choice, namely the choice of nuclear energy. Our cooperation really is remarkable. We’re going to develop it, on both the civilian and military levels, following the Lancaster House treaty.

The second major subject of cooperation between our two countries is defence. Let’s be clear about it: Britain and France account for the bulk of Europe’s defence policy effort, while each retaining national sovereignty. But our British friends have a great army and a great military tradition; France likewise. We work together.

The third priority area is foreign policy as a whole. I want to pay tribute once again – and believe me, I mean this – to the British Prime Minister’s courage. When it came to facing up to the Libyan crisis, David Cameron was convinced from the first minute that we had to act and that we couldn’t let a bloody dictator continue to inflict suffering on his people. And this gave rise to the whole operation in Libya and the success we know. But today, and Alain Juppé will correct me if I’m wrong, we really have very similar views about Syria – the Syrian scandal, because it’s a scandal for a dictator to be able to massacre his people –, Iran and Afghanistan, and a shared determination anyway to ensure democracies don’t suffer the diktat of dictatorships in their countries.

There have also been subjects where we’ve had our differences – which are, incidentally, traditional subjects that relate to the traditional positions of France and Britain regarding Europe. We’re also in the process of organizing things in such a way that we can find common ground. I’m convinced Europe needs Britain, and I’ve been convinced of it for a very long time. We’re in the process of establishing with David Cameron some working methods that will enable us to reduce the differences and understand each other’s red lines: the single market for our British friends, and the responsiveness of the Euro Area for us, the French. And we’re in the process of organizing things in such a way as to enable Britain and France, most probably in agreement with our German friends like Chancellor Merkel and perhaps also our Italian friends, to better take into account our respective problems in order to ensure we look to the future, with our specific issues, in the same direction.

There you are, David; welcome to France. We’re happy to be hosting you and your government ministers, and we congratulate you on all the efforts you’re making, in a period which is very difficult for all those with responsibilities. And essentially, we share many firm beliefs.


Q. – Thank you very much, Mr President and Mr Cameron. You waged a war together a year ago, and then sometimes you gave the impression of being at war with each other. Your relations seem to have improved.

THE PRESIDENT – I love Britain very much, as you know, and I’ve always been convinced of her importance. I’ve always thought that the Entente Cordiale had to become an Entente Amicale. David Cameron is a brave man. It’s easy to work with a brave man, because you know where his red lines are. I don’t need to talk to him for long to know the nature of Britain’s specific issues. This started before him and will go on afterwards. But what we’re trying to do is bring our viewpoints closer together. Yes, we’ve had differences, but perhaps in David’s shoes I would have defended Britain’s interests just as he’s defended them. Those are our respective roles; but never, ever has there been any personal conflict. Heads of government and heads of state are there to defend their country’s interests; and they’re there to try and make others understand the vital interests as they see them.

Let me tell you that on Europe I think we’ve found something interesting that we’re going to work on. David Cameron is very committed to the single market and to the British being associated with the successful functioning of the single market. And we’re committed to the Euro Area being able to take decisions more quickly, given the specific constraints we have to overcome. There you are – I think we can bring things closer together.

When we’ve had to face up to international crises, David Cameron and I have always been together, sometimes even just the two of us.

When we wanted to come to the Libyan people’s aid, believe me, we both upheld that position at the European Council. There weren’t many people who were on our side – not many. And when we had to intervene to prevent the massacre in Benghazi, you could count on the fingers of one hand the people who were ready to move from words to deeds; and that’s what counts.


Q. – To pick up on what you were saying just now, Prime Minister, what do you mean by going further to try to ensure things change in Syria? What routes, what concrete actions could you take today? The question is also addressed to you, of course, Mr President.

I have a second question for you, Mr President, if you will allow me. In recent days and weeks, you’ve made repeated references to the German model: do you draw any inspiration from the British model, and if so, in what area?

THE PRESIDENT – I see two areas in which we can go further on Syria. First of all, there’s the Tunis meeting, where Alain Juppé will represent France and co-chair that meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister.

Going further, it seems to me, means two things: first of all, stepping up the sanctions, not against the Syrian people but against the leaders.

Secondly, thinking about what we can do to help the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime unite and represent a credible alternative, as David Cameron very rightly said. The main obstacle – we have to call a spade a spade – isn’t simply being blocked by this or that country at the United Nations. We can’t carry out the Libyan revolution without the Libyans, and we can’t carry out the Syrian revolution – you understand what I mean by “revolution” – without the current opposition in Syria making an effort to unite and organize itself, so that we can support them more.

We won’t tolerate a dictator being able to massacre his people. But the revolution won’t be carried out from abroad; it will be carried out from within. That applies to the revolution in Syria and elsewhere, everywhere in the world: Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. That, it seems to me, is the lesson we’ve learnt from the latest events. We’re ready to do more, but we say to all those who want democracy in Syria, “organize yourselves, unite, tell us how we can help you, and we’ll help you more”.

I think that’s the line we must take. We could never have done what we did in Libya if our friends from the NTC [National Transitional Council] and the inhabitants of Benghazi hadn’t risen up. Of course, I’m not saying they haven’t done so in Syria, with extraordinary courage.

On your second question; in Europe, we all have to learn from each other. I personally admire British people’s ability to remain true to their history and traditions and embrace modernity; the certainty that Britain’s way of life, tradition and identity are unlike any other; and, at the same time, to have a language – English – globally recognized as the world’s second language (…). The question was, “what do you admire?”. I think that to feel so British, so special and, at the same time, to have made your language one of the world’s major languages, to keep your traditions and embrace modernity – this is pretty remarkable.

And then, also, our British friends will be involved in a number of events in 2012. The organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London will give us the opportunity, for once, of going to the Olympic Games without travelling too far. And, of course, I’m also thinking of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II; I have fond memories of the welcome she extended during my state visit in 2008 and want to respectfully pay tribute to her. That’s another thing about the British: they’re staunch defenders of the City as a financial centre, highly enthusiastic about all new technology and, at the same time, so united in celebrating this Diamond Jubilee. That’s no doubt [the sign of] a strong country, a great country, one which doesn’t break with its traditions and which embraces modernity. If we French have something to say in all this, perhaps it’s what brings us closest to the British: the long history we’re so proud of, which we’re not really keen to share with others, and this readiness to embrace modernity. That’s something our two nations have in common.

Q. – I’ve got a question on the Lancaster House treaty. To what extent are present and future projects that arise from this cooperation – I’m obviously not talking about the nuclear aspect – open or not open to the other European countries? We’ve often heard it said – in France at any rate for a year now – that the door isn’t closed to the Germans, in particular, but this will be under Franco-British leadership. Do you share this point of view? (…)

THE PRESIDENT – As regards the military nuclear issue, we can’t be open to the others in Europe, since, as you know, this is a British and French matter. But military nuclear cooperation between these two countries is already a first. A major decision has been taken.

As for the other projects, given our financial constraints on both sides of the Channel, if other countries want to contribute financially to our projects, the door is open. But I’m going even further, and Gérard Longuet will correct me if I’m wrong: if, on certain subjects – I’m thinking of the drones in particular – we can find cooperation with other countries which may be interested in making a financial contribution – I have one [country] very clear in my mind – we’ll do so, and we’re already working on this. You can imagine what the projects we’re supporting represent technologically. If other countries have the same desire and want to lighten the financial burden, we say to them, “welcome”. David Cameron and I are simply pragmatic; we want this to move forward. And the only red line we’re laying down is that our projects are open to the others, provided they want to go as fast as us. Thank you everyone./.

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