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France Foreign Policy

Published on May 29, 2012
Interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the newspaper Paris-Normandie

Paris, May 18, 2012

Q. – You say you have a feeling this ministry will be the one you’ll like best. You seem very relaxed about it.

THE MINISTER – I’ve liked every position I’ve held, but at a time when everything is international the Foreign Ministry takes on a special dimension. That’s what makes this mission exciting – all the more so because it’s carried out directly alongside the President of the Republic.

Q. – Only this morning, you set a few things straight on Europe 1 regarding your appointment.

THE MINISTER – The facts are simple: I’ve worked on international problems with François Hollande for a long time; when he was elected, he told me he wanted to put me in charge of this ministry.

Jean-Marc Ayrault confirmed it. It was important to set about this a little ahead of things, because there were major engagements to prepare for and international leaders to meet: the G8 for example, and the NATO summit. I obviously remained discreet – diplomacy requires it – but that doesn’t mean letting people say any old thing.

Q. – There’s one assumption about foreign affairs that people can’t get over, namely that you should foreseee events before they occur. One thinks about Tunisia, where France took her eye off the ball. What’s your view of that assumption?

THE MINISTER – In this post, you need both foresight and the ability to react to the unexpected. In our open and violent world, you may have to face a crisis at any moment. We have a special unit for that. But you must also be able to anticipate things. You’ll often hear me uttering two words to define our foreign policy: influence and coherence. Diplomatic, economic, cultural and scientific influence, influence via Europe and the international organizations. Influence by applying our principles: sustainable development, peace, respect for individuals. That’s the influence we must develop. That’s only possible by being coherent in international action and regulation, and coherent in our political choices.

Q. – Afghanistan, Syria…

THE MINISTER – Iran, Mali…

Q. – Those conflicts are so serious that one wonders how you’re going to approach them.

THE MINISTER – Straight after our interview, I’m meeting my ministers delegate and heads of department to review the urgent problems.

First thing this afternoon there’s a Council of Ministers meeting; then I’m flying with President Hollande to meet President Obama and Mrs Clinton. On Saturday, New York and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. On Sunday, Chicago for the NATO summit. I’m applying this principle: face up to the immediate present and prepare for the future.

Q. – You’ve just mentioned Iran. There’s a lot of speculation about a military intervention by Israel. You fear that prospect, I believe.

THE MINISTER – It’s still a constant concern. We don’t want Iran to possess a nuclear weapon, because of the risks that represents. At the same time, any pre-emptive attack would carry many risks.

Q. – This ministry also – and this is little known – has an economic dimension.

THE MINISTER – Of course: it’s also about boosting France’s economic weight, her industrial and scientific capabilities, the essential growth dimension, the attractiveness of our SMEs for innovation and exportation. All this has an impact on our everyday lives./.

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