France/US/Visit to the United States
I wanted my first trip outside Europe to be to the United States of America, so that I could meet President Obama. The meeting at Camp David and the Chicago summit offered an exceptional opportunity, and I thank Barack Obama for seizing it and for enabling us to have a long conversation this morning.
This was the first time we’d met. It is not the last. There will be many other times, and over as long a period as possible. For me it was very important to reaffirm here today the importance of the relationship between France and the United States. In terms of our history, first of all, in terms of the important events that have brought us together, but also in terms of the differences that have sometimes arisen and that, each time, have been overcome. Because we live in a world where there are causes that we – France and the United States – share: the causes of freedom and democracy. Through our history, our culture and the ordeals we’ve both undergone, we possess ties which ensure that, when France and the United States agree, the world can move forward.
I discussed major issues with President Obama. First, the economy. Growth must be a priority, at the same time as we put our public accounts in order through budgetary agreements. President Obama indicated his agreement on this aspect of growth, although it is up to Europe itself to organize its own proposals on growth. I also stressed the situation of the Euro Area, and our possible renewed concerns about Greece. And we are both convinced that Greece must remain in the Euro Area, and that every effort must be made by the various parties to achieve that aim. The Greeks will again be consulted in June, and I wanted to send a signal to the Greek people to say that their place is within the Euro Area, that efforts must be made, and that there must be solidarity. Our economies are interdependent. What happens in Europe has repercussions on the United States, and what happened in the United States had repercussions on Europe. We are therefore connected. And the more consistent our actions are, the more effective we can be.
On another subject, Afghanistan, I reminded President Obama of the commitment that I made to the French people: the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2012. I also made it clear that there would always be support for Afghanistan, of another kind, in an alternative form, but which would be provided in cooperation with our allies and as part of the process currently under way, as part of what’s known as ISAF. Which means that we can uphold our commitment while supporting Afghanistan in a different way. But I believed that the deadline of the end of 2012 for our combat troops was the goal. We will talk about this again at the Chicago summit, but I think that we will be able to find ways of allowing our allies to continue their mission and allowing France to keep the promise I made to the French people.
Regarding Iran, we again agreed it should be possible to start negotiations, but with the necessary firmness so that Iran does not, at any time, have access to nuclear technology for military purposes.
And on other issues – Syria and the Arab Spring countries concerned by the Deauville Partnership – we recalled the strength of the commitments, and I shall pursue them.
But the important thing to affirm today is the responsibility that we have. The United States of America and France are countries that influence the world’s destiny and we must work together as friends, in cohesion as well as in partnership. France is a country that wants to protect its independence but which at the same time is conscious of its alliance, its friendship and its relationship with the United States. It’s by being both independent and, at the same time, linked through this partnership that France and the United States will be most effective in addressing the challenges we face.
I’d like to thank President Obama for knowing so much about my life before I became a politician. I don’t want to say anything that could be taken to mean that there’s something wrong with cheeseburgers. As for the car that I owned until just recently, I hope that I won’t need to use it for a long time./.